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03 December, 2007

Against Empowerment

Sometimes being a giant word nerd gets me in trouble.

Have a look at the dictionary definitions of 'empower', would you? Here's an indicative one, right up at the top.

1. to give power or authority to; authorize, esp. by legal or official means: I empowered my agent to make the deal for me. The local ordinance empowers the board of health to close unsanitary restaurants.
2. to enable or permit: Wealth empowered him to live a comfortable life.

There's a wee usage note a little bit down about usage of the word 'empower' in movements and as a political buzzword.

Every so often I see something going around -- how dare someone say such-and-such a thing is empowering. Do you really think you're empowered by that? This empowers me. Etc.

I don't get the appeal of empowerment.

The thing is, if you look at the word, 'empowerment' is all something that's granted by someone else. Delegated power, existing only on the whim of the authority figure that grants it. It's not genuine freedom, because it's entirely contingent on the powers that grant it choosing to continue to do so. It's a form of self-determination that depends entirely on buying into a particular power structure, accepting a particular authority, doing whatever it is that one does to win the 'empowering'.

Where's the finding genuine actual power that doesn't depend on someone or something else's stamp of approval? I want to see more people talking about real power, real decision-aking, the things that people do for themselves, the manifestation of their hearts, not the things that are granted to them by the mainstream world, or their political subcultures, or their social organisations and disorganisations, for the sake of their allegiance to those structures, for their conformity.

Yeah, it's nice to get the recognition that comes with someone else granting one power. Gods know it's a trip and a half to play that game; I can't say that I don't get a lot of kinky fun out of playing with it. But it's the deeper thing that isn't a game that matters there, the acting from the center and the heart; all the gameplaying empowerment toys that come of d/s wouldn't mean a damn thing if it weren't for the way I get my feet settled on something solid, a place to stand, to use this here lever from.

I'm not going to settle for empowerment when I can have the real power that comes of acting truly as myself, doing the things that matter to me, choosing what I think is best for me and mine, and working to make a world where those choices are easier to do. The Power Fairy can come and bestow on me all the empowering they fancy, but there's the real world to live in that suffers from an excess of getting along with an authority because keeping my head down provides bennies.

So long as I'm merely 'empowered', whoever or whatever gave me that can take it away again.

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