The “Why Not” Society

 “Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgement to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins- or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom – Lucifer.” ~ Saul Alinksy, Dedication to Rules for Radicals

 When our government went through its partial shutdown, why would our president close our open-air monuments (effectively hiring security who would otherwise not be there)? When we begin our debate concerning healthcare and if a company should be forced to buy a woman’s contraceptives, why does our president shout that it is our prevailing system which continues the war on women? When we begin the debate on whether or not the Federal Government should enforce its laws on immigration, why does our president threaten to fight the states who decide it is upon themselves to enforce the law of the land? When a black person is shot, why does our president sympathize with that young man by saying he could have been his son, but when a white girl is shot he doesn’t sympathize with that young woman by saying she could have been his daughter? Why is it that our president has felt it his burden to select what he believes we should sympathize with and what we should not?

When I read from Obama’s Campaign Administration and heard from Alinksy’s Son that our president had been influenced by Saul Alinsky, I could not help but ponder, “If he was influenced by Alinsky, in what way was he influenced? What was Saul Alinsky’s philosophy and should I be concerned?” Whatever has come about from my thoughts about our president, I have come to realize something painfully clear: There are only a few books which have ever changed the way I perceive a presidency than Alinsky’s book Rules For Radicals. In the past I’ve hesitated to discuss these sorts of books because they are books of quite a different sort. They are not the books on ethics and values, about what is right in the world and what is wrong. Books like Machiavelli’s The Prince, or Von Clausewitz War, Politics, and Power, or Sun Tzu’s Art of War, are about power. They are about how to take power from those who possess it and how to keep it from those who seek it. They do not fret over the means, but focus upon the end. They distinguish only between the have’s and the have-not’s, between the powerful and the powerless. But I’ve decided to describe the twelve rules of Alinsky’s book because I believe we have begun to forget the old saying: The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing. If you were to thumb through history for every dictator and despicable person who has ruled through violence and fear, you will find that rarely did they come to power preaching that message. They preached a message of a strong economy and jobs for the needy; They preached a message of political stability; They preached a message of a strong nation. And what we will find throughout history is that those same societies who hear those messages, respond, “Why not?” Is not a weak economy a terrible thing? Are not a lack of jobs for the needy a problem? Are we not tired of political strife at the expense of the people? But they never, for a moment, pondered the costs or the motives. We must stop being the society that hears these messages and responds, “Why not?” We cannot continue to be so shallow as to hear someone preach that such-and-such a sin exists (as very well it may), and then assume that his solution is the only one in the land. We must become the society that asks, “Is he a wolf in sheep’s clothing?” Alinsky’s rules, if they cannot be followed by the man of virtue, should at least serve as a warning for the shepherds.

“[You must help]  the people in the community…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. [An] organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives–agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate. [You must] fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame of fight.” ~ Saul Alinksy

Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals:

RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build alinsky-dedicated-rules-to-luciferpower from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.)

RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.)

RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.)

RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.)

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as Masthead-Saul-Alinksy-copya key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.)

RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.)

RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.)

RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.)

saul-alinsky1RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.)

RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.)

RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.)

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)


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