(All page references: Rules for Radicals, Vintage Books, 1989)
Reading Alinsky in the age of Obama, we need to remember that in 1971 LBJ’s War on Poverty was only five years into its deconstruction of the urban family and transfer of millions of citizens from self-determination to government dependence.
So while Alinsky’s narrative has some glimmers of truth, after nearly 40 years of his ideas being stirred into the political melting pot — and now on parade in the White House — we can see the underlying flaw: that those claiming most passionately to be “for the people” use them as pawns for their own angst-driven ideology. And worse, that those driven to redistribute wealth to the “have-nots” end up as blind and selfish “haves” themselves, worse than the ones who came before (as Animal Farm describes in parable form.)
In chapter one, Alinsky says he has written Rules for Radicals to show how the have-nots can take from the haves. The book will show how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people. For nearly forty years, Alinsky’s radicals have been building those organizations, which today loom large as ACORN, SEIU, and Organizing for America.
I wonder what Alinsky would make of the fact that rather than giving power to the people, these organizations have become political juggernauts exploiting people to build political power for one political party. The Democrat Party has for decades built a solid voting block of citizens dependent on government, even as they continued to foment a “never enough” mentality and racial hostility to keep that block at their disposal.
Alinsky describes this strategy as “charitable handouts dressed up in ribbons of moral principle and ‘freedom,’ but with the price tag of unqualified political loyalty to us.” (p. 9)
The way the Democrat Party has treated blacks is shameful, denying their individual personhood by laying waste to black conservatives. They’ve replaced segregated water fountains with an even more sinister form of segregation: robbing blacks of individuality and intellectual freedom.
Alinsky’s goals churn with noble abstractions:
To realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment [?], health and the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life.
But the underlying premise is far from noble: a man or group presuming to create “those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life”? How to determine the circumstances? Who decides? And is our freedom to live meaningful lives a gift of the state or a gift of God?
America’s founders stated clearly that our rights were inalienable, endowed by our Creator. But Alinsky and his heirs have examined those rights and found them wanting. Only they have the requisite knowledge to lead the have-nots through a revolution — which Alinsky describes as never-ending — which will bring them to a state of meaningfulness that presumably he and those like him will approve.
In the politics of dialectical materialism, there is no room for individuals to judge for themselves whether their lives have meaning or value. It’s about dehumanizing people so they can be exploited as a group — Alinsky’s have-nots — to crusade for against the evil status quo.
So after decades of crusading, we now have a White House full of Alinskyites who represent, as Alinsky predicted — that’s right, the status quo. And Alinsky’s descriptions apply more to O and Co. now than those who are out of power:
In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of “the common good” and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed. In this world irrationality clings to man like his shadow so that the right things are done for the wrong reason [Obama’s flight to Dover AFB? -- BC] — afterwards we dredge up the right reasons for justification. It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies immoral [Town Hall protesters, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck -- BC]; a world where “reconciliation” means that one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it, then we have reconciliation. (p. 13) [Boy, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? -- BC]
More Alinsky observations:
“I detest and fear dogma.” (p. 4) Huh?
“All of life is partisan.” (p. 10)
” … today organized religion is materially solvent and spiritually bankrupt.” (p. 14)
“In the world as it is there are no permanent happy or sad endings.” (p. 14) Well, duh.
“It is not a world of peace and beauty and dispassionate rationality, but as Henry James once wrote, ‘Life is, in fact a battle. Evil is insolent and strong.’” (p. 14)
For Alinsky, there is really only one way to make sense of the world:
Life seems to lack rhyme or reason or even a shadow of order unless we approach it with the key of converses. Seeing everything in its duality, we begin to get some dim clues to direction and what it’s all about.
While Alinsky refers in a footnote to the Chinese yin/yang complementarianism, his own philosophical view is through the prism of antagonism. While the yin/yang approach is a spiritual way of understanding the harmony of the universe, Alinsky’s model is a political template for the disharmony of the world — filtered down from Hegel through Marx — and refined for American radicals’ taste by a man who understood the importance of not letting a good crisis go to waste.
Alinsky bemoans the missteps of the radical leftists of the Chicago Seven/Weather Underground days, but hopes to harness their dissatisfaction to accomplish the goals his own generation of organizers did not finish. And according to his worldview, even a success breeds failure: the clean-up of the sordid Chicago described in Upton Sinclair’s Jungle led to a shift from poverty to middle class — but Alinsky claims the individuals so rescued by the noble hearts like his now contribute to the problem themselves as “part of our racist, discriminatory culture.”
The CIO fought the corporate power structure and won, but even in 1971, Alinsky saw that it had become “an entrenched member of the establishment.” Wonder what he would think now, with union thugs bussed to town hall meetings to create the illusion of more support for the current administration than there is.
Alinsky describes the history of public housing — which replaced rat-infested tenements with modern apartment buildings. Now, he says, they are “jungles of horror.” “A beautiful positive dream has grown into a negative nightmare.” (p. 17)
And of course, the have-nots who were provided with a decent place to live are the victims once again. With Alinsky, there are no questions of “why?”, even though on page 11 he claimed it is the most important word — like an inverted plow, “breaking up the hard soil of old beliefs and preparing for the new growth.”
Alinsky’s personal hard soil seems to be his inability to perceive the existence of individual souls and his lack of acknowledgment of the role of individual responsibility in shaping outcomes. In the examples he cites, there is just the mass of have-nots liberated in some small way and then becoming victims again. It is as though they were merely chess pieces in a larger political drama.
This of course is the opposite of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which affirms the importance of each individual in the eyes of the Creator. It is this affirmation which gives meaning to millions of lives which Alinsky, caught up in the trap of political elitist, judges to have no meaning. For someone interested in moving chess pieces around a political stage, it seems crucial to be hanging out high above us all to get the right perspective. Kind of like God.
Are you getting a sense of how difficult it might be for Obama and his cronies to understand that there are indeed other perspectives and other ways of seeing the world?
Alinsky ends this chapter with a discussion of “Class Distinctions: the Trinity” (while we’re on the theme of a parallel political religion).
We have the haves, the have-nots, and the have-a-little, want mores. It is the latter, the middle class, which stand in the way of revolution and which Alinsky describes with loathing:
Torn between upholding the status quo to protect what little they have, yet wanting change so they can have more, they become split personalities. They could be described as social, economic and political schizoids. Generally, they seek the safe way where they can profit by change and yet not risk losing what they have. They insist on a minimum of three aces before playing a hand in the poker of revolution. Thermopolitically they are tepid and rooted in inertia. Today in Western society and particularly in the United States, they comprise a majority of our population.
Does it seem peculiar: Alinsky’s lack of judgment on the have-nots — who in the instance of public housing destroy what they are given — and his contempt for the middle class who have risen of their own efforts and want to keep what they have?
This is indeed a defining perspective of the Obama administration, including Chicago/Alinsky bred politicos like Valerie Jarrett, Rahm Emanuel, and the czarist empire they have created. These disciples see themselves as far above the fray, manipulating groups of people to achieve their own ends and with contempt for anyone who stands in their way.
The only thing that separates them for their mentor is that they seem not to have developed the self-discipline he recommends to avoid becoming what you claimed to want to replace. One hopes that their self-indulgence and hypocrisy may become a wake-up call to those yet to awaken to the conservative revolution following fast on the heels of this one.
The current revolution is flawed by the solipsism of those like Alinsky, who — because of their denial of man’s spiritual nature — have a craven image of our world and see us all as orbiting around their political view:
[I]t was wrong to assume that man would pursue morality on a level higher than day-to-day living demanded. … The fact is that it is not man’s better nature but his self-interest that demands that he be his brother’s keeper, We now live in a world where no man can have a loaf of bread while his neighbor has none, If he does not share his bread, he dare not sleep, for his neighbor will kill him. To eat and sleep in safety man must do the right thing, if for seemingly the wrong reasons, and be in practice his brother’s keeper. [Remember Obama’s "brother’s keeper" message to the carefully sifted leftist religious leaders? -- BC]
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. … 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. [Alinsky's emphasis] (p. 23)
How do you feel about that last statement?
As someone who lived without God for 39 years and whose worldview and actions changed 180 degrees when I decided to devote the rest of my life to serving Him and my fellow man, I have to disagree. Things change when you stop living in your intellect and seeing yourself as the center of a random, soulless universe. (I feel free to interject this thought in an essay on Alinsky, because his remarks on page 11 indicate that he may be the father of the philosophy that “the personal is the political” — one of the most useful ideas to come out of the left.)
Alinsky claims to be an optimist (p. 21). I don’t see it. Optimism isn’t just based on the idea that you can take this horrible existence we are muddling through and build your dream culture — that’s utopianism. Optimism is seeing the good here and now and working humbly to make the world a better place. As Mother Teresa said, “One can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
The coming conservative revolution — because according to the Hegelian/Alinsky model, there will be another revolution to counteract this very imperfect one — will also be imperfect. But being rooted in Judeo-Christian values, it will be built not on cynical exploitation and enslavement of voting blocks, but on individual worth, freedom, and responsibility.
I for one am really looking forward to it.
Blogging Alinsky leaves me in need of something. a shower? A milkshake? A hug? An episode of I Love Lucy?
Will blog chapter two on Friday. I only covered a third of the scrawls in the margins of my book. I’m sure you noticed things I missed.
An alarming revelation from Michelle Malkin:
On the National Education Association’s recommended reading list for teachers: Recommended Reading: Saul Alinsky, The American Organizer with — you guessed it — Rules for Radicals.
What did your kids learn in school today?