A simple online dictionary definition of empowerment is “the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization”. This definition appears to imply empowerment from an external source. I realize the wording is such that the source of empowerment is unspecified. When I read about delegation of power and authority, I think in terms of something or someone doing the delegating.
To empower thus is to authorize. To authorize is to establish that someone or something is an author, someone who makes things happen. A human subject of authorization can thus manipulate any target toward whatever they will for it. Authorization denotes not just the brute force to accomplish such a thing, but the moral privilege if not obligation to do so. That means everyone is somehow left with no endorsement to counter the individual thus empowered.
Words like “empower” and “authorize” are commonly used in circles, mundane and esoteric, official and informal alike. It is easy to be mired in a sea of debate and contradictory assertion when trying to wrap our heads around the implications of their meanings. Some claim they are immune to abuse, for example, because they are empowered by their rights. But if there is no might or power beyond that of the idealized concept of “right” itself to protect them, then their ideals dissolve in the face of violating force like so much smoke on a windy day.
Those who monopolize the power to force compliance realize it isn’t enough to sustain their positions. They take advantage of the loose nature of social cohesion in those whey rule. Then they can claim “special status” by virtue of authoritative idealism to confront thinking contrary to their purposes when threats do not suffice. Authoritative structures can be, therefore, passed off not just as natural entities or “corporations”, but as supernatural ones. As such authority organizes into hierarchies.
The notion of “hierarchy” describes sacred or sanctified authority. It often relates to religious priesthoods, but generally refers to the chain of command of any organized group. Groups of this kind form structures of authority where dominion flows in a single direction, where the source of rule authorizes the next stages in the flow. Such, for example, is a pyramid structure hierarchy. Therein, the flow is top to bottom. Therein the top authorizes and empowers each level to act as representatives of its authority on the levels beneath them.
In the above scenario those so empowered dominate “beneath” them in the name of the authorizing ones. Even in the most benign and “enlightened” instances the system compromises the freedom of those that are ruled. It is not uncommon, therefore, for human nature to prompt even the best intentions regarding authority structures to pave the way to the hells of human enslavement. In the latter cases, authority is tantamount to tyranny, and empowerment regains its idealized and meaningful status when directed to break the yoke of authorization. It is no surprise that enslaving establishments tend to promote anything that can be turned against such dynamics of just outcome.
It’s been argued that religious faith leads to empowerment. Ethnic, gender and global identity-sense have also been touted as paths to empowerment. I can agree with the above, unless these areas of human experience have been co-opted by an establishment of social dominance. It doesn’t take a genious, therefore, to discern that even the most sugarcoated tyranny amounts to a slave culture; just like the most well-treated bovines are still prone to end up in the slaughterhouse.
In recent decades, individual identity in much of the world has been twisted into a me-cult of ego worship. Punctuating this is a counterpoint of fear, guilt and humiliation posing as objective commentary and moral imperative, facilitated all to easily by the rapid advancement of mass media technologies that serve rather than expose the establishment.
I use the term “establishment” in a general sense. No matter which of its myriad incarnations draws our attention it still expresses the same essential nature spanning all geographic areas and historic periods. Power is the name of the game. It is the power to dominate other human beings, and to claim all available resources.
Sometimes, as if pushed by a perverse romanticism, we like to think we live in a dark age, and in the past all was better. We might want to consider the myth of the great golden age being nothing more than our tendency to sugarcoat our yesterdays and provide a safe haven in the past to protect our sensibilities from an uncertain future.
It’s not that peaceful cultures with near-ideal conditions never existed. I am certain they did even if the validity of specific examples is a matter for debate. The Caribbean islands, environments that would rival any mythical paradise, hosted a variety of native cultures. Many were violent cannibals and others quite pacifist and friendly, and yet they occupied the same general geographic area during the same time period. Such extreme variety in behavioral inclination in various indigenous groups was found in many geographic areas prior to periods of urbanization and central authority.
The current dominant culture derived from West European colonials is, on the other hand a derivative of Imperial totalitarianism marked by an addiction to technological “progress”, all in a veneer of moral superiority, ethical refinement and democratically inclined civil pretense. Of course the centers of indoctrination for children, teenagers and young adults known as schools would disagree with my assessment, but that is no surprise.
The dominant cultures of our time thrive on perverse empowerment. They feed on the draining of authority from the individuals that make up a society, either to blatantly empower an insatiable minority, or on the pretense of empowering the collective group as an entity unto itself. The latter is reminiscent of a kind of communal or hive mind effect in the more extreme versions of the occurrence.
I want to point out that perverse empowerment feeds upon and flourishes through the misery it happens to be creating in its given conditions, regardless of what they are. That misery can only be orchestrated by haters of humanity. Thus, the current global “establishment” appears to hold a policy of extreme disdain for all who are not of their minority groups.
Perhaps it is a matter of the psychopath not trusting what they do not understand: the healthy human psyche. Regardless, I believe racism as it is touted to today is a divide and conquer tool used on the majority of humanity because it is easier to get people to hurt those who are different.
In the face of becoming aware of the above state of affairs some believe that doing away with the perverse minority will solve the worlds ills. If you, however, manage to remove the immediate perpetrators, then others will rise from lower levels of the social pyramid. The social niches where psychopathic disposition thrives are symptomatic, not causal. As such they will always extend a siren call to candidates until the essence of psychopathy itself is cleansed from the collective psyche of humanity.
This may not be as tall an order as it appears if we think in terms of the species participating rather than the burden falling on a few individuals. Nevertheless, it is not easy to imagine just how the whole species will or even can be involved in any direct manner. Even so, I view it as humanity’s evolutionary imperative at this time.
The stakes are very high. Our planetary environment is in need of healing, but unless we remove humanity from the equation altogether, the healing of our psyche as species is a priority. This is best preceded by the healing of the individual psyche, where each human being must choose to take the initiative.
We are speaking of a form of empowerment that differs from and even opposes that mentioned in the title and elaborated in this writing. It is the natural and healthy empowerment of the individual. It is a vitalizing dynamic that is free of the necessity to authorize for authority already lies within. Natural individual human empowerment is exemplified by the sincere human heart shining its light to activate the path that expresses the truth of the integrity of that individual.
It leads to action that is therefore right, wherever one is drawn to apply it, under whatever circumstances and cultural, racial and/or religious context. In this chosen path, however, it is still one’s own responsibility to cover the bases that call to be covered to heal and attain the freedom that only living in integrity can offer. This is the freedom of true empowerment, a subject for another day.