Entitlement. It’s getting something because it is your right to have it, and it’s not about earning it. Empowerment,  however, is different.  It’s about building confidence and capacity in order to gain access – to rights, resources, information or services – in order to shape on’s life and surroundings.

That crossroad where entitlement and empowerment meet is charged with emotion.

Those of us in a dominant status group may be so used to certain rights and privileges, we feel entitled to them and abashed at the thought we wouldn’t have them and feel those without aren’t doing something “right.” Those of us in a non-dominant group may struggle toward empowerment in order to get glimpses of a life others take for granted, wondering why it has to be so hard.

There are a plethora of indicators, but none that give a sense of the overall feeling people have about their lot. With the recent roller-coaster economy, more people are realizing that what they thought they were entitled to – a job, a house, a retirement –  is no longer in their grasp. And those who still “have” are probably holding on a lot tighter.

But what does that mean for us – all of us?

Germany, among other nations, has adopted kurzarbeit – shortened work hours so more people can keep their jobs. In contrast to lay-offs, with kurzarbeit everyone loses a little so everyone can keep a little.

I wonder if this feeling can extend to other areas – beyond a paycheck? Spreading opportunity (becoming collectively empowered) would do more to move our entire lot forward than having the dream of being able to move into one of the narrowing slots reserved for those who are entitled.

I find it telling that folks in the middle class tend to give more (percentage-wise) to charities than those in more affluent groups. Chances are they have a better idea of what it’s like to need a break and that sometimes it has more to do with circumstance than personal character.

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