Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Calling (the other) Saul

Some writers and commentators who lean right-ward politically used to offer it as A Bad Thing that former President Obama and once Wannabe President Hillary Clinton were, in their youth inspired and influenced by the views and writings of Saul Alinsky. From what I've gleaned about Alinsky's views, I see it as a great pity that Clinton and Obama weren't more deeply influenced by them than appeared to be the case.

When I read about US radicals of yesteryear: John Reed, Abbie Hoffman and Alinsky, I'm inwardly yelling, "Where are their counterparts now, when this country, soured by the greed of corporations, badly in need of a fresh direction, needs 'em?"

From Who2Biographies

Tough, pragmatic and a lover of humanity, Saul Alinsky pioneered a method of helping poor and working-class people organize themselves to improve their communities. Combining urban social theories he had learned at the University of Chicago with street smarts he had earned growing up in that city's Jewish ghetto, Alinsky first worked in prisons and as a juvenile delinquency researcher. Then, starting in crime-ridden Chicago neighborhoods in the late 1930s, he helped unions, churches and other social groups unite and win everything from jobs to streetlights and garbage collection. He would immerse himself in the neighborhood, listen to ordinary people's troubles and needs, assess where power lay, and empower previously divided groups to seek common goals by standing up to government and corporate machines. With financial backing from department-store heir Marshall Field III, he established the Industrial Areas Foundation, which helped him extend his work to several U.S. cities. He had little patience for militants, Communists or dreamy liberals, saying he was a community organizer because he believed in American democracy and because "I can't stand to see people pushed around."

The idea that Alinsky is a huge influence on the left, or has ever been so, is a myth of the right-wing media, a talking point for the masses who chatter in their sleep, a ploy to keep the country's armchair politicians busy and divided on yet another front, while those really in charge get on with filling their coffers.

Lordy lordy! If only former Democratic presidents had followed Alinsky's teachings there wouldn't be hungry children collecting sachets of tomato ketchup to take home, add water and make soup as something to eat when there's no food in the house; or families in bankruptcy due to a hospital bill, or without a family member because they couldn't afford to buy sufficient treatment and medication. Ye flippin' gods!!!!! This country can be as cold-hearted as any envisioned by Orwell or Bradbury.

Where are today's equivalent of US radicals of yesteryear: John Reed, Abbie Hoffman and Alinsky ?

A look at Saul Alinsky's natal chart. He was born in Chicago on 30 January 1909. I can find no time of birth for him so a 12 noon chart has to suffice. Rising sign and Moon degree will not be accurate.

Now here's a chart that fits like a glove! Sun and Mercury in intellectually-driven Aquarius; but more significant is rebellious, revolutionary Uranus tightly conjunct Venus, in pragmatic Capricorn.

Natal Sun sextiles business-like Saturn in go-getting Aries on one side and energetic Mars in expansive Sagittarius on the other.

Unless born in the very first minutes of 30 January Moon would have been in communicative Gemini, somewhere between 1 and 12 degrees, and quite likely in harmonious trine to his Aquarius Sun.

I'd say that little lot is a recipe for exactly what manifested in Saul Alinsky.

The following exchange came towards the end of an interview with Alinsky published in Playboy magazine in 1972 (link to its full content is now defunct).

PLAYBOY: You seem optimistic. But most radicals and some liberals have expressed fear that we're heading into a new era of repression and privacy invasion. Are their fears exaggerated, or is there a real danger of America becoming a police state?

ALINSKY: Of course there's that danger, as this whole national fetish for law and order indicates. But the thing to do isn't to succumb to despair and just sit in a corner wailing, but to go out and fight those fascist trends and build a mass constituency that will support progressive causes. Otherwise all your moaning about a police state will just be a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's one of the reasons I'm directing all my efforts today to organizing the middle class, because that's the arena where the future of this country will be decided. And I'm convinced that once the middle class recognizes its real enemy -- the megacorporations that control the country and pull the strings on puppets like Nixon and Connally -- it will mobilize as one of the most effective instruments for social change this country has ever known. And once mobilized, it will be natural for it to seek out allies among the other disenfranchised -- blacks, chicanos, poor whites.

It's to that cause I plan to devote the remaining years of my life. It won't be easy, but we can win. No matter how bad things may look at a given time, you can't ever give up. We're living in one of the most exciting periods of human history, when new hopes and dreams are crystallizing even as the old certainties and values are dissolving. It's a time of great danger, but also of tremendous potential. My own hopes and dreams still burn as brightly in 1972 as they did in 1942.
Saul Alinsky died a few months after the interview, on June 12, 1972. I can't help but wonder what would be his thoughts on our situation in 2017.


LB said...

Ralph Nader is still speaking truth and fighting the good fight:

"In a recent letter to HR 676 lead sponsor John Conyers (D-Michigan), Ralph Nader wondered out loud “why the 64 members of the House who have signed on to HR 676 – the single payer/full Medicare for all legislation – have not individually or collectively put this proposal on the table."


Poverty, homelessness, unsafe food/water/air, state-sponsored violence and unaffordable healthcare are becoming greater concerns for many who once felt safe, believed in the illusion of 'democracy'.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Yes, Nader remains one of the few.

While I cannot imagine, in this current atmosphere, single payer ever getting a look in, reducing the age when Medicare kicks in, as a small first step, would be an easy tweak to what we've got (or a likely to be having soon). It'd be easy, but they'll not do it, not in the mood they're in at present. I don't know why the Dems didn't do it a few years ago when they had House and Senate. But truly, the Dems, now and then, were/are no more on our side than the Republicans.

Wisewebwoman said...

Corporatocracy rules then as now. Democracy is an illusion. I'm a registered tinfoil-hatted cynic at this stage of the game and I knew when I saw the blatant militarization of our poluce some years ago that the voice on the street was being quieted forever.

We can still dream though.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ Oh can I join your TFHC brigade please? Definitely me to a "T".
We can dream and hope but, harking back to Lady Violet's words in Downton Ab:
"Hope is a tease, designed to prevent us accepting reality."
I think she's part of the TFHC too. ;-)

R J Adams said...

I haven't read any of Alinsky's work but while I can see how it may have affected Obama in his early political years in Chicago, I think Hillary Clinton wasted her time reading it.
You ask where all the radicals have gone? They've all been given high-paying jobs in corpocracy, or moved into the media like Maddow.
Sign me up for the TFHC brigade, please - though I gave up dreaming a long time ago (15 years in the U.S. killed it) so I may be ineligible.

Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ I believe both Obama and Clinton were asleep during Alinsky's lectures.
Oh, I feel sure you're still eligible for TFHC, RJ - IMHO - LOL (Oh look, I'm learning to speak acronym !)