What Detroit’s Bankruptcy can Teach us about Resilience

What is Empowerment?

Empowerment is a term that we hear about in the news more and more these days. A quick google search for the term “empowerment” shows results referring to women’s rights, mental health and the role of employees in a business setting.

It’s clear that organizations and people in all walks of life like to use empowerment as a positive term, and for good reason. Empowerment is chock-full of positive connotations and good vibes. But what does it mean? And more importantly, how do we actually become empowered?

As much as I don’t want to use this source… Wikipedia provides an excellent definition of empowerment, which is quoted below.

The term empowerment refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way. – Wikipedia

And this makes sense when you think about it. Every business, charity and organization preaches how they love and aim for empowerment. Businesses want to empower their employees to strive for greatness, while charities want to empower people to better their lives. But how? What are the magic ingredients that you, or the organization(s) that you’re involved in, need to add to achieve empowerment?

Two words: Self-reliance and resilience.

Empowerment through Self-Reliance

In a previous article we determined that true self-sufficient living is impossible but that we should strive to be more self-reliant. Briefly, self-reliance can be thought of as a way of living where you produce as much as you can for your own use, but do so in the confines of a community. By understanding this concept, we can learn a lot about empowerment and how to attain it.

If a company wants to empower its employees, it has to provide them with some measure of autonomy and self-determination. Human beings do not like to be controlled. We are all individuals who want to be in charge of our own lives. Forcibly following instructions from a boss that we don’t respect, or anyone for that matter makes us feel powerless. Take this comic strip for example. To be empowered,  people must have autonomy and a feeling of complete control over their jobs and lives. This could be something as simple as making their own schedule to more of a say in your companies strategy and direction.

Whatever the case may be, empowerment is synonymous with becoming more self-reliant. And self-reliance is all about taking control of you life away from society’s institutions. Producing and preserving your own food, having an alternate energy source, and developing financial independence are all important steps towards gaining independence. By doing so, your reliance on grocery stores, the power grid and your employer diminishes. Providing us with the power and freedom to quit your job, find one that empowers you or follow your passions (whatever they may be).

Empowerment through Resilience

Picture the life of an average, everyday working Joe. Let’s see what a typical day might look like for him (or her).

  1. Wake up at 7:00am.
  2. Make breakfast or pick something up on the drive to work.
  3. Arrive at work at 8:00am when their shift starts.
  4. Perform their employer-sanctioned duties, which is often the same everyday.
  5. Eat their pre-made or purchased lunch for the day.
  6. Finish their shift.
  7. Drive home, maybe pick up some groceries on the way.
  8. Relax, grab a beer and watch some Netflix.
  9. Eat dinner.
  10. Do some work around the house.
  11. Go to sleep.
  12. Repeat.

At first glance, you might think that this is a pretty normal day. But, there are a few things that are really quite scary about it.

  1. This person’s day is completely controlled by his job.
  2. This person is completely reliant on his utilities, the grocery store and his employer.

A life of dependence on society and its provisions is scary, mainly because society is such a fragile system. We’ve seen societies collapse before. And it’s happening all over the world even now. The stock market crash of 2008 decimated the economy and scared millions into adopting a survivalist or prepper mentality. And rightly so! They wanted to become more resilient, and less dependent on society for their well-being.

Becoming more resilient to society’s fluctuations and instability is the ultimate form of empowerment. Resilience is the ability to withstand traumas, or deviations from the norm of life. Survivalists and preppers are masters of this by constantly preparing themselves to be as resilient as possible, no matter what happens. You too can increase your level of resilience and do so without having to buy an acreage for a homestead.

Case Study: Detroit

A great example of this in real life is Detroit. Detroit is a legendary city that was once an economic capital of America. The city is credited for inventing the automotive industry and is home to many great sports teams. But, despite this it filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Why?

Detroit was, for years, paying its debts on borrowed money. Driven primarily by the decline of the American automotive industry, and the collapse of the market in 2008. It’s population peaked in the 1950’s at 1.8 million residence, but has recently been called the home to 700,000 people. The economic disaster that the city faced hit its occupants completely unprepared, and they fled in droves.

Detroit is now promoting the concept of urban homesteading, which involves:

  1. Reducing the resources that you use.
  2. Raising animals and producing your own food.
  3. Food Preservation through canning, drying, freezing, cheese-making and fermenting.
  4. Community food-sourcing (ex. Foraging, Gleaning)
  5. Reusing, recycling and repairing.
  6. Composting.
  7. Natural Building

This is a clear case of the government asking its citizens to adopt a way of life that reduces their dependence on society. And, it’s in response to an economic disaster that disrupted the city’s ability to provide its citizens with what they need to survive.

The scary thing is that this could happen to any city, including yours. So why not take the proactive step of  getting into urban homesteading and become more resilient and self-reliant.
You will develop a level of autonomy and control  over your life that will empower you all the way to your dreams.

Please leave us a comment or five! We love hearing your stories.