I’d always understood that society is not equal. Everyone knows that there is a wide spectrum of economic standing ranging from billionaires to the truly destitute. What changed, for me, was an understanding of the truths that hide behind the statistics.
Through the necessary research for Rotten Gods I discovered just how many humans occupy the poverty stricken end of the scale, and this understanding came through travel in the Middle East, Asia and East Africa. When we read that 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day it tells a story, but doesn’t evoke sympathy like a mother begging for money to feed the skeletal child she holds in her hands, or shanty towns, with endless row after row of makeshift housing, or children sifting through rubbish at a dump for food.
I also learned that financial comparisons can be meaningless. The buying power of money is hugely variable. You can buy a rice and curry meal from a street vendor in Yangon for the equivalent of fifty cents, then walk into the centre of the city and spend fifty times that amount for a similar meal at a restaurant frequented by Western aid workers and travellers.
Through my research I came to understand that many of the economic and legal systems in place, throughout the world, have the effect of either maintaining inequality or widening the gap. The rich are able to use the system to protect their wealth and power, the poor have no such ability.
Not all inequality is economic, in many countries certain races or religious groups also suffer political discrimination. This has been the case, in several different ways, with the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq. The massacre in Rwanda came about because the Hutu majority was tired of being repressed by the Tutsi minority.
Inequality can be gender-based. In some cases, such as most Arabic states, and to a lesser extent, Western countries, one gender has an unfair stranglehold on most of the wealth and power.
Some groups, such as the Rohingyas, have no political or economic power at all.
Inequality underpins so much of the violence and conflict in the world today. From Syria to Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, I personally believe that inequality is a more pressing concern for the human race than even Climate Change. History tells us that inequality ultimately becomes instability. The Arab Spring, London Riots and even the Occupy movement that spread across the West a few years ago are just early signs of what is yet to come.
All people, everywhere, will fight for a better life, and the informative power of the internet is showing the destitute that better lives are possible.
I wrote Rotten Gods as a work of fiction, but I wrote it angrily, in the spirit of wanting to change the world. It hasn’t worked yet, but I’m still hoping.