Their power — our powerlessness.
Our power — their powerlessness.
Each calls the other into being
The world is a puzzling place. Like Alice in Wonderland, people rush to go nowhere, too many things don’t make sense, and the threat of losing one’s head is ever present. It seems as if humanity has fallen down the rabbit hole and cannot find a way out. Yet, there is hope. If we can understand how we got here and what keeps us here, we can go forward.
Society is divided into two groups of people: a few who wield immense power and the rest who feel varying degrees of powerlessness. As a result, conflicts over power dominate life. Between individuals, the struggle for power kills intimacy. On a social level, competition drives down living standards. On a global scale, the battle for dominance threatens human survival.
My experience as a physician compelled me to write this book. As the sister of a disabled child, I thought that doctors had the power to end suffering, and I wanted that power. After I graduated from medical school, I learned how powerless doctors actually are. Most of my patients’ problems were rooted in family dynamics, financial difficulties, and conflicts at school and at work. I studied psychotherapy in the hope that combining mind and body skills would be more useful. It was — I could help people move from uncommon misery to common misery. The problems created by alienation, oppression, and exploitation remained beyond my control.
After listening to thousands of people’s stories, I have concluded that social power is necessary for human health. Most people lack the happy, healthy, fulfilling lives they deserve because they are kept powerless and mistakenly accept this state of affairs as natural or self-inflicted. In fact, most human suffering is preventable.
A just world is possible. Human beings create society, and we can change it. The need for change is urgent. Everywhere, there is injustice, anguish, and anger. This book explains how society shapes people, how people shape society, and how powerlessness can be converted into the power to transform the world.