I have been doing some research for The Lost, which is the fifth book in the Sage Seed Chronicles series. At the same time the United Stated is in it’s last frenzied days before the national election. These two elements are strangely related. Let’s whittle things down to their historical basics and take a look at how we work as societies.
Different cultures arise to fit the needs of the people and the situations of their life. The conditions they adapt to will shape how they survive. Being social/political beings we naturally establish patterns and structure that works for the situation. We adjust our lives and our culture so that our strengths and skills work for our advantage as a society.
Lets say that a group of people emigrated to the desert (various examples in Africa, Mongolia, United States and Australia). Those with any hunting skills will develop tools and start looking for game. Others will start exploring for shelter, water and plants. People with knowledge of building or crafting will immediately look at resources available and start fabricating. From these humble beginnings a culture/political structure develops. Everybody’s task is important to the group as a whole. Time marches forward and the people adapt to the changes by tweaking and reconfiguring what works.
To be realistic there may be some occupations that have more danger. The hunters could be killed by the fierce but tasty triple horned snarloptipus. Since they are risking their life to bring down that beast they get more honors. But the water bearer can ruin his health in the drudgery of continually hauling heavy water to the community. His task is important as water is necessary for life. He just hasn’t the glory of triumphantly bringing the dead snaroptipus into the village square and telling the gathered crowd of the dangerous battle that he won. That doesn’t mean he is less valued.
Our world is infinitely more complex than the culture I just described though we still have jobs that contribute to our society. The hunters are the farmers, fishermen and ranchers. The death defying risks have been vastly diminished but they still provide the food that ends up in the grocery stores. Hydrologists and plumbers bring us our water. We have teachers, builders, doctors, electricians, woodworkers, road builders and upholsterers. These jobs are very important to our basic world. What would happen without these occupations? So when did it get to be okay to attach less value to these people and more to those that collect and hoard shiny objects and use those glittery items as power.
Where things get unbalanced (and frankly..dangerous) is when a lot of power is attached to one group of people and that power grows out of proportion to the rest of the population. They start controlling the benefits and the decision making..perhaps even the knowledge. When you remove hope and the opportunity to make a decent life for yourself and your family very real societal problems develop.
One of the reasons I enjoy writing science-fantasy is that I can make my own world and deal with the evolution of things from a simpler standpoint. But.. you know.. when you distill the elements of this world to it’s basics you have the same problems. They are just easier to study and analyze in that form.