Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Saul Alinsky on the Community Organizer

Here we go, folks.  Here's how Saul Alinsky describes the Community Organizer.  Read to the end.
(All quotes are taken from "Rules for Radicals.")

“As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be....  That means working in the system....”
“Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and chance the future.”
“A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives; agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values....”
The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself.”

"Radicals must be resilient, adaptable to shifting political circumstances, and sensitive enough to the process of action and reaction to avoid being trapped by their own tactics and forced to travel a road not of their choosing.”

[An organizer] does not have a fixed truth, truth to him is relative and changing; everything to him is relative and changing.  He is a political relativist.”
“First, the free-society organizer is loose, resilient, fluid, and on the move in a society which is itself in a state of constant change. To the extent that he is free from the shackles of dogma, he can respond to the realities of the widely different situations our society presents. In the end he has one conviction, a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions.”

”I believe that man is about to learn that the most practical life is the moral life and that the moral life is the only road to survival. He is beginning to learn
 that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies if he wants civilization to go on. This is the kind of argument that man's actual experience equips him to understand and accept. This is the low road to morality. There is no other.”

 “The practical revolutionary will understand Goethe's ‘conscience is the virtue of observers and not of agents of action’”

“The area of experience and communication is fundamental to the organizer. An organizer can communicate only within the areas of experience of his audience; otherwise there is no communication. The organizer, in his constant hunt for patterns, universalities, and meaning, is always building up a body of experience.”
  “He learns the local legends, anecdotes, values, idioms.”
  “And yet the organizer must not try to fake it. He must be himself.”

Qualities of an Organizer
1. Curiosity
  “...for life is for him a search for a pattern, for similarities in seeming differences, for differences in seeming similarities, for an order in the chaos about us, for a meaning to the life around him and its relationship to his own life”and the search never ends.” 
  “He goes forth with the question as his mark, and suspects that there are no answers, only further questions. The organizer becomes a carrier of the contagion of curiosity, for a people asking "why" are beginning to rebel. The questioning of the hitherto accepted ways and values is the reformation stage that precedes and is so essential to the revolution.” 
 “The function of an organizer is to raise questions that agitate, that break through the accepted pattern.” 
2. Irreverence
  “To the questioner nothing is sacred. He detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead. He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest. As with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life, and an incessant search for its meaning.”  
  “It could be argued that reverence for others, for their freedom from injustice, poverty, ignorance, exploitation, discrimination, disease, war, hate, and fear, is not a necessary quality in a successful organizer. All I can say is that such reverence is a quality I would have to see in anyone I would undertake to teach.”  

3. Imagination
  “...this abnormal imagination that sweeps him into a close identification with mankind and projects him into its plight.”

4. A sense of humor
  “Essentially, life is a tragedy; and the converse of tragedy is comedy. One can change a few lines in any Greek tragedy and it becomes a comedy, and vice versa. Knowing that contradictions are the signposts of progress he is ever on the alert for contradictions. A sense of humor helps him identify and make sense out of them.”
  “Humor is essential to a successful tactician, for the most potent weapons known to mankind are satire and ridicule.”
  "the organizer in order to be part of all can be part of none."

5. A bit of blurred vision for a better world  

6. An organized personality
  “It is futile to demand that men do the right thing for the right reason this is a
fight with a windmill. The organizer should know and accept that the right reason is only introduced as a moral rationalization after the right end has been achieved...”
  “He should be able, with skill and calculation, to use irrationality in his attempts to progress toward a rational world.”
  “We didn't, of course, care why they'd joined us; we just knew we'd be better off if they did.”
  “The organizer recognizes that each person or bloc has a hierarchy of values.”
  “‘I'll support you for what you want and you support me for what I want.’ Those deals become the program.”

7. A well-integrated political schizoid
  “The organizer must become schizoid, politically, in order not to slip into becoming a true believer. Before men can act an issue must be polarized. Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 per cent on the side of the angels and that the opposition are 100 per cent on the side of the devil.”
  “...one part in the arena of action where he polarizes the issue to 100 to nothing, and helps to lead his forces into conflict, while the other part knows that when the time comes for negotiations that it really is only a 10 per cent difference and yet both parts have to live comfortably with each other.”

8. Ego
  “Ego is unreserved confidence in one's ability to do what he believes must be done.”

9. A free and open mind, and political relativity
  “...the only certain fact of life is uncertainty; and he can live with it.”
  “He knows that all new ideas arise from conflict; that every time man has had a new idea it has been a challenge to the sacred ideas of the past and the present and inevitably a conflict has raged. Curiosity, irreverence, imagination, sense of humor, a free and open mind, an acceptance of the relativity of values and of the uncertainty of life, all inevitably fuse into the kind of person whose greatest joy is creation. He conceives of creation as the very essence of the meaning of life. In his constant striving for the new, he finds that he cannot endure what is repetitive and unchanging. For him hell would be doing the same thing over and over again.”
  “This is the basic difference between the leader and the organizer. The leader goes on to build power to fulfill his desires, to hold and wield the power for purposes both social and personal. He wants power himself. The organizer finds his goal in creation of power for others to use.”

Does any of this sound familiar?


Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own, and do not reflect the opinions or official positions of the United States, Department of Defense, or United States Army.

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