Monday, February 12, 2007

Saul Alinsky got a lot done in community organizing, that is, in getting people together to work for things they as a group want to improve. "Rules for Radicals" is a good read for his specific ideas and his spirit, which is "let's go, let's do it, we can do it, there is stuff to do that works in any situation."

"Works" for him means gets the community what it wants and shows people who may never have organized for anything before that they can, in fact, succeed in getting what they want.

One of Alinsky's rules for freeing up a lot of energy in individuals was this: Think of eight things you're worried about a lot in the last year. Notice how many of them happened.

"Rules for Radicals" would work for people who don't know they are interested in community organizing because it's good to hang out with Alinsky's energy and his head. Ways of changing thing, big stuck looking things are right there. What seems like a problem can be part of the solution.

Of course, many of the poorish people he helped organize would seem to some in other parts of their cities to be a problem. But he makes them a solution by showing them how to make their lives better. He doesn't say doing this prevents things like crime, suicide, despair, ill mental and physical health caused by sitting around doing nothing, eating bad food and crummy TV ideas and getting bummed.

He doesn't say that because that would be negative, and he wasn't wired like that. Here we all are and here is the way it is. We point who we are at what we don't like, doing activities that this group of people finds interesting and fun and some things change.

Healthier democracy. Healthier people. Healthier cities.

Why worry? Look at what seems to be the problem, look at all that is around the problem as resources, and go. Alinsky did that naturally.

By reading his book, people could get more self-fulfilling optimism about solving any problem. And they could be blasted out of thinking any group of people is a natural problem. People who seem like problems have not yet discovered their own natural power to fix up what they want to fix up.

The exact ways Alinsky talks about would work for better in a democracy. But that's what we have, right. And reading him would inspire others to see what they've got.