The problems that exist around the world are now so manifold that one hardly knows where to begin. (See Chapter 3 – for the sake of brevity I will desist from peppering the text with the hundreds of examples that could easily be inserted.) And all the while such established problems fester or are confronted with only half-hearted resolve and little, if any, success, new difficulties continue to arise. Viewed this way we have reached a situation that is out of control. Indeed, one could ask the question: why do anything? Our situation is hopeless. We might as well give up.

One can regain a belief in the possibility of success, that we can be the masters of our destiny, by recognizing that all the problems that exist, all the problems that we create, are tied to a specific set of underlying causes. Indeed, these causes are actually the root problems. Everything we experience and fight against, all the different manifestations of discrimination, conflict and destruction, are merely symptoms of these underlying problems, and for such symptoms to disappear the problems themselves must be solved.

It is not the purpose of this book to conduct a full examination of our underlying problems. (Such an analysis is given in the work, Freedom From Form.) But one unifying issue can be addressed here. All the surface problems that we create reflect a single commonality: power that is abused. We are trapped in a situation that has been described as Natural Law, or “Might is Right.” Under this system the mighty believe that, given their strength, they have the right to behave in any way that they choose. They have yet to learn that power does not imply or infer right.

Of course, it is not as if this, the risk of abuse of power, has not been recognized by societies throughout through the ages. In response we have developed systems of checks and balances, systems that are used to limit the accumulation, and abuse, of great power.

In the modern context the starting point of such a system is to create a strong government, a democratic government, which then protects us from abuse from other social institutions, such as religions and corporations (and also conquest from other nations). The separation of church and state is a basic social check and balance. (This is because if the two were to collude, their power would be absolute.) As to corporations, the government, supposedly, protects us from their abuses, through regulation and the enforcement thereof.

We then have checks and balances within the government itself, to protect us from it. For instance, most democracies divide their governments into three parts: executive, legislative and judicial. They separate government power, to limit the power of any one part and, counterintuitively, to provide each part with sufficient power to offset the other two should they attempt to collude. (It is a very fine balance.)

In the United States, there is a further check and balance built into the structure of having both federal and state governments. Neither has all the power, and they tend to offset each other.

Lastly, there is the check from the people themselves, through the power of the vote and, if all else fails, through the power of rebellion.

Unfortunately, in the present day, and this imposing edifice notwithstanding, one of our underlying problems is that the system of checks and balances has in many important ways failed. Corporations collude with governments, so in many cases we are not protected from them. And the media, which functions as an independent check on the government, and also to an extent on corporations, turns out to have no effective check on itself. Its security shield of “freedom of the press,” which does have tremendous value, since it guarantees the survival of its ability to criticize other institutions, also serves to protect it from all criticism of itself.

In addition, in many societies (in particular non-democratic societies) such checks and balances do not exist at all; or through corruption, or poor design, they are inoperative.

What is one to do when the system – of checks and balances – that protects us from the overall social system, fails? The answer is that the solution lies with you. We are now at the final level, the check that is provided by the individual. It is the only one left. You must exercise your innate power to transform the system. You must act – we can introduce the concept of “activism” here – to bring about positive social change.

You should not be intimidated by the word “activism,” though. Activism is as simple as casting a vote, such as against a politician who uses negative campaign advertising. Another example of activism is choosing not to buy a product that is advertised using fear, guilt, sex, or the idea that if you buy it you will be cool. The next level of activism is simply to follow up these “acts” with letters, to the politician and the company, explaining your decision: that it is an insult to you for them even to think that you can be influenced in these ways.

Of course, activism continues from here. It gets more and more active, as the balance of this book will describe.

To close the introduction, I'll make two simple points:

1. You have probably heard of the saying: “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” In today’s world, where there are so many problems, including problems to which you, personally, contribute, this really is true. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

2. This is your world, and this is your life. The world needs your help. It needs to be changed for the better. And you are the only one who can do it. But this is not a negative responsibility, something that is unpleasant and which you might want to avoid. It should be fun. This is your life, and you want your life to be fun. You want to be happy. So have fun, change the world for the better, and be happy, really happy, at your tremendous accomplishment, as a result.

© Roland O. Watson 2005