Singapore is still in the “we are first world, neighbours are third world” narrative. This narrative itself is pretty third world.
We ought to look beyond being a first world country, to be a post-first-world country instead. A post-first-world country would be one that is beyond the glitter of modern buildings and infrastructure.
I observed during my recent trip to Europe that a large proportion of the population live in buildings of old. They didn’t seem to have “updated” the cityscape by tearing down the old buildings and by building contemporary looking ones. The point is this: the old buildings were at one point in history the most contemporary possible. They were once the first world of their time.
Many European countries were great colonial powers, which meant that they had achieved first world status pretty long ago. The current old buildings would have been the glitter of modern buildings.
A set follows a peak, and it would be a mistake to mistaken a set for a decline. That set is, on the contrary, a move into the post-first-world, and that is what Europe has crossed into.
Closer to home, there were empires and kingdoms in Asia that are synonymous with the ancient. Take for example the Tang dynasty golden age. Or the famed Bhutan. They has to be first world at one point in history. That the Bhutanese still dress their traditional gowns, not merely for commercial purposes, in modern day today, they have seemingly arrived at peace and harmony with themselves as a society, and not chase after a first world, like first world Singapore.
To rehash, many European countries are seemingly backward and perhaps seemingly in decline. However, in actual fact, they might be done with that first world race and are, or rather, have for the longest time been stabilising society with the resources accumulated. This in contrast with wasting resources on chasing the first world.
If the European societies remain stable, the clothes of today would take their place as the traditional wear 500 years from now, just like how Bhutanese gowns is treated as traditional today.
One should be able to go as far to agree that the remaining uncontacted civilizations in the Amazon are in fact post first world, at complete harmony with their environment.