Empowerment: I hate the word but I love the concept

Empowerment. Grr! Every time I hear it, it makes the hackles on the back of my neck rise. Its a matter of redundancy, you see. You don’t need the “Em” or the “Ment”. Power is fine. Its like Pro-Active. Grr! That means exactly the same as Active. However, I do understand that you need to distinguish between being pro-active and being re-active. And I can see how you need all those extra letters to make it clear that it is not just about power but taking back power over our lives. And if a few extra and technically unnecessary letters are the price for effectively communicating this understanding, I shall live with it.

Empowerment. What an amazing concept! Having the power to choose how we live our lives. You may be wondering what I am whittering on about. I live on an island rescued from Nazi oppression and returned to a democracy over 65 years ago and has had a free democracy all of that time. Well, yes, that’s true but that doesn’t make me completely free. There are still loads of decisions made for me without my permission. Lets take a silly thing like my electricity. The one supplier, Jersey Electricity, buys the bulk of its supply from the French company EDF and 80% of their electricity comes from nuclear power. Now regardless of whether I think nuclear power is a good or bad thing, I have little choice but to use it. The only other choice was to manufacture my own power and take my entire house off-grid – a task that would have been very expensive as well as a challenge to find the room for all of the batteries we would have needed. Recently, the States of Jersey has passed a law requiring Jersey Electricity to buy electricity from anyone who produces it locally. This means that I can now choose to turn my home over to green power of my own at a more leisurely pace as funds allow. In fact, I can choose to start producing more electricity than I need and sell it to Jersey Electricity so that other households could use less nuclear-generated power. The 21st Century has seen lots of opportunities open up to give us more choices. I can choose to buy Fair Trade goods if I don’t like the way Third World producers are treated by other coffee manufacturers. I can choose to travel anywhere in Europe for fun and/or profit without needing permission. I can choose to travel the world because methods of transport are easy, fast and cheap.

Empowerment. The concept is wonderful but it is also scary. As we gain more power and control over our lives, we lose any excuse for not having the choices we want. We can’t blame anyone else for our choices when we have to power to make the ones we want. If we don’t like where our choices have taken us. We can choose to change those choices and go down a new path.