Seems like we’ve transitioned from being powerful to being empowered. The first implies an internal drive, the second is derived from outside ourselves. Being powerful is a state of mind, of body, of soul. Being empowered is something that someone (something) else grants to you, which can be taken away at any time.

It’s a wonderful thing that the state, federal, and local governments are busily empowering those citizens who up until now didn’t have a voice, didn’t have a say, didn’t have a choice. But aren’t those people just the least bit concerned that, since their power emanates from on high, that there exists the slightest possibility that it can be snatched away at any time? Especially since the very same people who are engaged in empowering those poor souls who have been repeatedly told that they have been oppressed by—guess who? The government!

The government—that creature that told the previously unempowered people in the first place that they couldn’t marry, couldn’t have abortions, couldn’t vote, is now the same beast (but with different players) that is providing the empowerment notion to them. Yes, marry whom you want! Who’s to say any differently? (Um, you did). Yes, have an abortion! Who says that you can’t? (Um, your predecessors). Yes, vote! We’ll protect your rights! Haven’t we always? (Um, I think I’m getting a headache).

So, if the government first said no, you don’t have these rights, and is now fighting for these rights against—the government!—sounds to me as though all of these rights flow from the government tap. They’re not innate, they’re not natural, they are not God-given, or rise ineluctably from the well-spring of whatever makes us conscious and sentient in the first place. They apparently are part and parcel of the social contract that we enter into with the people who rule us—sorry, the people who are fighting for our rights!—and like any contract, when it comes up for renewal, all of the terms are subject to re-negotiation.

Doesn’t that sound empowering?Powerful sounds more like the kind of term we should be used when dealing with the government. “This much and no more” rather seems to be the kind of stance we’d be better off taking when it comes to how much control we’re willing to cede to the type of people who like to be in control.

A powerful citizen deals with his government as an equal, or more: the person whom the government exists to serve. An empowered person is a weakling, who is fostered and protected by the government, against—the government!  This whole circular oddity reminds me of the commercial where the business guy says he’s going to stick it to the man! and his underling asks, but aren’t you the man?  Oh, yeah.

Those people in the West Wing who are going to bow up and Speak Truth to Power—who are they going to talk to? They are the Power!

At some point, we may realize that there is no escape from responsibility. You either have control over your life, you either have the power to effect your own change, or you rely on others to empower you. Which is the same thing as saying that they are granting you rights, which, in the end analysis, includes the very right to life. And what can be granted can be taken away.

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Filed under Critical Thinking, Politics

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