I read a blog entry the other day that gave my comfortable perspective a major jolt. Dave Hingsburger is a writer/public speaker from Canada. His career has been spent on issues revolving around disability. Reading his blog entries always challenges my mind and my long held beliefs, and that is a very good thing. I decided that one of his recent posts needed to be circulated as much as possible, and so I have included it here. I encourage all readers to visit his blog, CHEWING THE FAT, on a regular basis. Doing so will be like an aerobic workout for your brain.
There are some words which just piss you off. I hate this word.
"We empower our clients."
First - they don't belong to you - so drop the 'our'.
Second - no one empowers anyone else.
It's a trick word, it allows me to oppress you for years and then when I get tired from holding you down and decide to let you up on your knees I can sound like I'm munificient because I'm releasing the grip a bit.
Empower is only a word an oppressor can use.
Taking courses in counselling and looking at the dynamics of power, one thing was made quite clear to me, my job is not, ever, to empower anyone. I am not God - I can't gift power. My job is to help people discover the power they've had all along, and then help them learn to use it. Power come from taking breath.
We do not give people with disability a voice. They've always had it. Choosing to listen is a choice that the powerful make. But the voice is not our gift, God did that.
We do not give people with disabilities rights. They've always had them. Choosing to respect those rights is a choice that the powerful make. But rights are not our gift, citizenship did that.
We do not give people with disabilities power. They've always had it. Choosing to allow power to be used is a choice that the powerful make. But power is not our gift, life did that.
Why do we always want to see ourselves as liberators, when the liberation needed is from the liberators.
Try it on for size yourself. Imagine your boss says, "I empowered you to succeed" or your spouse says, "I'm proud that I empowered you to make dinner". Don't you feel like putting your fist through the computer screen.
Nails on a chalkboard.
Always said with self concious self satisfaction.
It's a word about me - not about you.
Never enough to challenge us, but enough to require gratitude, a 'thank you'.
I really, really, really hate that word.