It can be trickier than we think to right the wrongs of the past.
I live in an affluent country and enjoy a high standard of living compared with most on the planet.
Should I feel guilty? What should I do about it?
Giving time or money to worthy bodies who raise the quality of life and opportunities for those in most need is a no-brainer.
But as most of these bodies will tell you, giving effectively is more difficult than it first may seem.
This is especially true when it comes to equalising opportunity.
If the ‘system’ has grown to favour particular sections of society no amount of one-off compensations will change the underlying injustice. They will merely bring temporary relief.
My latest novel, Infinite State, describes a concerted push to build in a permanent correction to the distribution of global wealth. Spearheaded by Magda Honne, U.N. Secretary General, it comes as part of the re-starting of the global economy after a monetary scandal brings the world to its knees.
Sound familiar? In the novel, the idea is to give greater credit margins to the countries most disadvantaged by colonialism in all its forms. I won’t spoil the plot by saying what happens.
Truth is, the problem of slavery & exploitation is deep, complex and ongoing. Not least because many of the perpetrators are long dead. There is also the complication of class and power politics.
The European colonial empires were built by a tiny minority of ruthless plutocrats who exploited and enslaved their own populations before moving on to Africa & Asia.
Though we think of colonial misdeeds as the sins of whole nations, they were, in reality, the crimes of a tiny ‘elite’. The ‘ordinary’ populations of their countries had no vote and mostly lived in squalor.
Without in any way wishing to downplay the terrible plight of those who live now in the shadow of that colonial slavery, we must all acknowledge there are new forms blighting our species. The growing unfairness of the market economy and its super elites or the rise of State Communism to name but two.
Can we take a different path?