Monday, February 1, 2010
Politicizing through Ridicule
Politicizing through Ridicule: In 1971, the godfather of community organizing, Saul Alinsky, published his Rules for Radicals. It primarily addressed the New Left movements of the 1960s, which sought to broaden the ideological stance of the Old Left - where traditional Marxism (class-based oppression) and trade unionism reigned supreme. Although he despised labels and never officially joined any political organization, Alinsky's words and actions surely placed him in the liberal camp. By its very nature, community organizing is a left-wing phenomenon, especially since it focuses heavily on shared interests instead of self-interests. And Alinsky's Rules for Radicals has become the quintessential manifesto for community organizers, as it juxtaposes Machiavelli's elite (sustaining power) with Marx's proletariat (attaining power). In effect, Alinsky admonishes his readers to attain power is by ridiculing the politics of those who already have it. That is, make yourself a victim of the Establishment or the ruling political structure. Victims garner sympathy and sympathy provides victims with social mobility. The cycle builds upon itself until the victim eventually becomes the perpetrator. Much of what Alinsky professes leads the reader to believe in the old Nietzschean aphorism that "might makes right." In a way, therefore, Alinsky's ethics are purely subjective, which is why community organizing often lacks a clear sense of purpose.