In spite of the media’s conspicuous silence on the matter, it is no secret that Saul Alinsky’s manual for “community organizers”—Rules for Radicals—exerted an immeasurable influence over the world’s most well recognized community organizer, President Barack Obama.
Thus, to understand why Obama does what he does, we need to be familiar with the vision that Alinsky delineated in his book.
Below are six ideas, six “rules,” that the Godfather of community organizing packs between the covers of Rules, ideas that Obama’s imbibed hook, line, and sinker.
(1). Politics is all about power relations, but to advance one’s power, one must couch one’s positions in the language of morality.
Community organizers are “political realists” who “see the world as it is: an arena of power politics moved primarily by perceived immediate self-interests, where morality is rhetorical rationale for expedient action and self-interest” (12).
(2). There is only three kinds of people in the world: rich and powerful oppressors, the poor and disenfranchised oppressed, and the middle-class whose apathy perpetuates the status quo.
“The world as it is” is a rather simple world. From this perspective, the world consists of but three kinds of people: “the Haves, the Have-Nots, and the Have-a-Little, Want Mores.” The Haves, possessing, as they do, all of “the power, money, food, security, and luxury,” resist the “change” necessary to relieve the Have-Nots of the “poverty, rotten housing, disease, ignorance, political impotence, and despair” from which they suffer (18).
— kerry (@Kerryepp) March 24, 2015
The Have-a-Little, Want Mores comprise what we call “the middle class.” While Alinsky believes that this group “is the genesis of creativity,” (19) he also claims that it supplies the world with its “Do-Nothings.” The Do-Nothings are those who “profess a commitment to social change for ideals of justice, equality, and opportunity, and then abstain from and discourage all effective action for change [.]” Alinsky remarks that in spite of their reputable appearances, the Do-Nothings are actually “invidious” (20).
This being so, they are as resistant to change as are the Haves.
(3). Change is brought about through relentless agitation and “trouble making” of a kind that radically disrupts society as it is.
Since both the middle and upper classes have none of the organizer’s passion for radical change, he must do his best to “stir up dissatisfaction and discontent [.]” He must “agitate to the point of conflict.” The organizer “dramatizes…injustices” and engages in “‘trouble making’ by stirring up” just those “angers, frustrations, and resentments” (117) that will eventuate in the “disorganization of the old and organization of the new” (116 emphasis original). He is determined to give rise to as much “confusion” and “fear” as possible (127).
(4). There can be no conversation between the organizer and his opponents. The latter must be depicted as being evil. Read the rest of this entry »