Category Archives: Social Doctrine

Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals

Accumulating a Power Base that Will Implode

BY Frater Bovious

Power Base Politics Have No End, Only Means

Power Base Politics Have No End, Only Means

Saul Alinsky was a Community Organizer, or as some have styled it, a Rabble Rouser. Basically, Alinsky recognized that, for example, a bunch of folks living in a tenement house owned by a distant slum lord had no power. The reasons for lack of power are beyond the scope of this post. However, the basic physics principle involved in the difference between a grain of sand and a dump truck full of sand grains was not lost on Alinsky. There is an inherent power in numbers.

But, how do you get a bunch of disinterested and despairing individual people who feel powerless and unconnected to operate as a unit for the common good? Alinsky figured out how to create a power base from almost nothing by uniting folks against a common enemy.

If you read the below rules I think you will begin to see how these rules have become the handbook for American Politics today. You can see the tactics in the debates, in the news headlines, in soundbites and bumper stickers. It clearly works. There is however a problem inherent in these tactics. Read and see if you can identify the core issue. (I don’t believe the parenthetical statements are  part of the original rules. They seem to be editorial comments by, I think, Glen Beck.)

* 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 power 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 a 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.)
* RULE 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.)

One problem that I see with the tactics is they don’t create a self-sustaining organization based on recognition of the innate dignity of all humans. To the contrary, the rules specifically require demonizing your opponent, and making the participants feel good about it. This is basically bullying.

The other problem is that once you have toppled a bastion of power, such as a landlord, or maybe a political opponent, you become the new power and you are subject to the same tactics. When you make of your opponent the rabble, and you have become the establishment, the cycle simply repeats. Meaning there is no long-term progress resulting from this method of gaining power. And that’s because whatever the point of trying to gain power was, it has been lost in the overarching need to be in power, and then to defend being in power. Nothing is left for actually doing whatever you wanted to do.

The solution is to be found first in recognizing the inestimable worth of every single human being, from womb to tomb, and resting in that reality. From there, dialogue between persons of equal dignity can happen. It’s not as quick or as flashy, and will at times seem like you planted a seed and nothing is happening – but that is how real growth and development always transpire. (cf Mark 4:26-28)

Rules for Radicals give false and temporary power – something worth considering this Lent as we contemplate our ultimate end.



No stroke of a pen will change the question underlying the problem of divorce and remarriage

Dr. Peters begins his post with “Good grief.” He then, in his usual masterful manner, addresses the issue, pointing out the salient features, and deals with each systematically. BUT, he does not allow comments, and so I have to re-blog his post in order to make a comment about Dr. Cafardi’s comments about “pastoral.” I have a need to make this comment because my degree will be in Pastoral Theology, and I must defend my degree.

So, I echo, “Good grief.” Put shortly, this you cannot do: “Take what the church has made a complicated judicial process and make it into a pastoral problem with a pastoral solution,” if by pastoral is meant “pay no attention to doctrine.” Because, simply, to be pastoral is to engage doctrine in the world with real people and real issues. To be pastoral does not mean “just look the other way, it’s all good, after all what would Jesus do?” and then pretend you know what Jesus would do. There is all manner of ways that can go awry.

For example: You walk into your local grocer, try to find figs, they don’t have any. “What would Jesus do?” you think to yourself. Remembering Mark 11:12-20 you curse the store, go to your local church, chase out everyone that is selling raffle tickets and holding silent auctions, then go back and burn down the store, figuring that’s a reasonable substitution for “shriveling up.” Yeah, no.

So, anyway, I object to how the term pastoral is being used by Dr. Cafardi.

In the Light of the Law

Dr. Nicholas Cafardi writes:

Nothing, no clear theology, no gospel teaching, nothing except hidebound tradition requires that a Catholic marriage can only be annulled through a complicated judicial process. If he wanted to, Francis could reconsider this judicial function of the church, and instead delegate authority over the annulment of first marriages to the proper pastor of the people involved. Take what the church has made a complicated judicial process and make it into a pastoral problem with a pastoral solution. Again, as sole legislator, Francis could reassign this legal responsibility to the pastor with a stroke of the pen. And note, this does not require a change in our theology, only a change in jurisdiction.

Good grief. Where to begin?

Such casual talk about marriages “being annulled” is okay in chit-chat, but scholars discussing—to say nothing of lawyers attacking—the annulment process itself must, before anything else, describe that…

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Immigration Reform

Some Different Questions

BY Frater Bovious

CARROLLTON, Texas –I will start with a couple of pictures to illustrate a point:

These folks were on a one way trip - there was no easy way back.

These folks were on a one way trip – there was no easy way back.

These folks are not on a one way trip. They can go back and forth.

These folks are not on a one way trip. They can go back and forth.

There are many similar reasons why both groups headed to the USA. But the approach of both groups toward assimilating into our culture are different – I believe the primary difference is to be found in the fact that one group had committed to living and dying in this country while the other group has options. This impacts the desire to learn the language, to fit in to the culture, etc. This impacts the immigration debate – for, at a certain level, these people don’t intend to be immigrants (a : a person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence). They are just here for a while, and they are sending lots of money home.

But that’s all prefatory to the point of this post. The simplest and most obvious commonality to both groups is the availability of jobs in the USA versus where they were coming from. There are other reasons of course, but jobs are the foremost common denominator between the two groups – the ones on boats and the ones on foot.

The current immigration debate is like  current TV and Movies – it’s all the same stuff repackaged – 60’s Batman TV show, 80’s and 90’s Batman movies and 21st century reboots of Batman movies to just point out one obvious example. So, the debate we are having now is the same debate we were having 30 years ago – including the band-aid of amnesty. Amnesty won’t solve the illegal immigration problem – partly because, as noted above, it’s not really about immigration (just keep that in mind as this post continues to use that word), it’s simply about work, and people will still walk across the border.

So, to change focus for a minute – here are some interesting facts:

According to the New York Times, writing in March of 2012, there were 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the USA in 2010. Of that number, PEW estimated 8 million are in the work force.

According to the BLS, currently we have just at 12 million unemployed.

Switching gears once more: everyone does realize, right, that the government HAS NO MONEY. I don’t mean just being nearly 17 trillion in debt. I mean, government has no money – everything they have, everything they spend, they got from the USA workers and businesses. Everything. Which means, we, you and me, pay for unemployment, food stamps, etc. And of course now they are taking from our future earnings, our kid’s future earnings, their kid’s, etc.

So, now, for the illustrative if inflammatory and yes inaccurate observation: Do you realize that at a certain level we are paying one person not to mow our lawns while we are paying another person to mow our lawns? Is this actually sustainable? Of course not and I have nearly 17 trillion reasons that undeniably demonstrate that this is not sustainable.

8 million people are undocumented workers in this country. Based on our unemployment levels there really shouldn’t be that many jobs available for these folks. You do realize that Mexico is simply exporting its unemployment, right?

The Point: As long as we have jobs here that our citizens will not do, someone who is not a citizen will come and do it. We cannot stop them – look around.

And, at a certain level, we should not stop them. The Bible has some pretty non-negotiable instructions regarding the sojourner in our midst:

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. Dt 10:17-19

The above applies to everyone (yes, even the American Indian, who came over from Asia in the mists of time) that lives here in the USA. We are to take in the sojourner, provide justice for the fatherless and the widow, etc. We have a moral and natural obligation to do so, for we are all of us here from somewhere else. We will always have the poor and the downtrodden in this world – and we will always have the obligation to take care of them at some level.

But, there is another truth ignored here. We have to take care of ourselves and our own to truly be able to take care of the sojourner.

We need to change our ideas about the dignity of work – you do also realize that we have generational welfare – that generational welfare is a cancer in our system and it is killing us. The dignity of persons, the dignity of work. They go hand in hand. We have to address the fact that there is no work beneath us; to realize that our very dignity as human beings dignifies any work that we do, that we define work, work does not define us, before we will have any kind of meaningful conversation regarding immigration reform. The actual amount of work available has to be reset to what it actually is – and our citizens need to be employed doing that work in order to force some clarity into the immigration debate. Until then we can all sit mindlessly watching another version of Amnestygeddon III.