The human history is a story of development in many ways, especially in science and technology. It includes better facilities in health, education and other sectors. But whether it is also the story of empowerment is a debatable claim. I presume that empowerment goes along with decentralization of power. (I accept that it is not an exact mathematical equality). But once people are empowered, they would be capable of taking decisions for themselves. Surely we are not throwing away all forms of governments, and it is required for common matters. The main question, I would like to address here is how empowering our systems are; what are the merits and demerits of empowerment.
First let us start from the families. Parents want their children to grow, have good jobs and want them to settle well. Do families consider the children empowered enough to take decisions on crucial matters in life (especially career choices, choice of lifestyle and marriage and others)? I am not saying that a dialogue and discussion are not required, but whether they are empowered (along with all forms of growth) to take the final decisions.
Many companies claim education doesn’t make them employable. Some would say today’s education is not modified enough for the present needs or for the future needs. Beyond these, it is also important to ask, whether the education is helping in the task of creating matured, critical, compassionate citizens of our country who are capable of decision making.(This is very crucial to ask when we see rising fundamentalist tendencies around the world; even the educated crowd values emotions more than facts).
Does the political parties empower the followers? (In many cases, relations or friends are only favoured). The agitations around the country are definitely a sign of certain degree of empowerment, as people are asking for their rights. Even after many years of reservations, the situation of dalits and tribals have not improved in the same way as the rest of the Indians (except may be for a creamy layer). Why they are not given equal opportunities in terms of good education, healthcare and other benefits, instead of giving only reservation. Going beyond the questions of education, healthcare and other benefits, empowerment is a condition in which people in the lower strata would ask uncomfortable questions and disturb the status quo, which is not much comfortable for the higher class.
Now I look at the religious circle; as I am a catholic, let me critically look there. Definitely education, healthcare facilities are provided in the best way by the church (with many institutions being there; not perfectly done, but still). But beyond that, are they empowered? Are the laity treated equally as priests? Are the opinions valued? The church is slowly changing (probably a little too slow).
Another example from recent times is seen from the publication of the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia. It was criticized by many for accepting the grey areas in decision making rather than following the strict black-white models. Pope exhorts the priests to help the people to build their consciences. (Definitely it is not just the priests, the entire community is helping. The emphasis here should be on building the conscience and not on priests). Thus the people (all) should be empowered to take their decisions. And it is not the responsibility of the church (or the priests) to take decisions for them, but to guide them or to dialogue with them. I find this decision very empowering and decentralizing the power structures. Definitely the church has many areas still to look into. Similar experiences or instances could be seen in other religions too.
Empowering the people is true development. The authorities (religious, political or any other) may not be so comfortable as they would loose the power to take decisions for the people. It would definitely lead to greater decentralization. Another bitter truth is that it calls for greater responsibility from people who considers themselves empowered or those who are taking decisions. Two questions could be,
- Are the people empowered to share the power and make crucial and critical decisions in their personal and community lives? (check for the efficacy of your work)
- Are you willing to share the power? (check for my intention)