Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I continue with an SO-specific look at Saul Alinsky’s 1971 book “Rules for Radicals”*. There is a corresponding Post on my other site here.

He opens his first chapter with a quote from the Book of Job (7:1): “The life of man upon earth is a warfare …” It is significant to note that this is a mis-quote, and one that (not by accident, I imagine) supports his overall approach. The actual text of Job here refers to life as being a “servitude”, in which human beings must learn to accept the fact that like servants, they are bound to the will of their master (God, in this case) regardless of their own actions. (Job’s friends had been trying to tell him that if bad things have happened to him then he must be responsible for them; but the Bible reader knows – as Job and his friends in the scene do not – that God, after a conference with Satan up in heaven – has allowed Satan to inflict all manner of disasters upon Job in order to demonstrate just how faithful Job is.)**

Alinsky chooses to characterize ‘servitude’ as “warfare”, perhaps on the basis of a possible translation of one ancient Hebrew term that uses as an example of having-to-take-orders and of having-your-life-under-another’s-orders the instance of a soldier drafted into involuntary military service. The point, in any case, is not about “war” or “warfare” but about servitude and being under authority; of not being the boss-of-you, as might be said nowadays.

But “warfare” is where Alinsky wants to go.

You have to notice how, in the service of his putatively ‘good cause’ Alinsky doesn’t mind misquoting important texts to get them to support his ‘good cause’. After all, in war – which is what Alinsky sees all life (and politics) as basically being – it’s the Outcome that counts and therefore ‘truth’ (or ‘Truth’) and integrity have to take a back seat.

As I have indicated in the preceding Post and in the master-Posts on the other site, Alinsky might solve this objection by claiming that ‘integrity’ and ‘truth’ are illusory abstractions that are deployed sleazily by the Haves merely to justify their extortion and oppression of Have-Nots.

Reading the Findings that are put forth by legislators (and by too many courts when they come to review the legislators’ handiwork) the SO community can see where there is this same attitude toward truth and facts. And this is increasingly so, even as more and more serious scientific and scholarly research turns up the weaknesses and wrong-headedness of the SO Mania Regime and its enabling laws.

Identity Politics is based in this Alinsky-ite vision and approach: each Identity claims itself to be, in some way, a Have-Not, and must identify an ‘oppressor’ who is a Have.

In the Victimist adaptation of Alinsky’s schematic, ‘victims’ are the Have-Nots. They are the ‘good cause’ for which a ‘war’ is being waged and therefore – war being what it is – ANYthing is justified in order to achieve Victory on their behalf and to ‘rescue’ them (as, perhaps, the country later would claim to ‘rescue’ the Iraqi people who were being ‘victimized’ by Saddam Hussein).

Again, and again, and again, let me say here that I am not taking lightly any human being’s ‘victimization’. BUT to deploy Alinsky’s terrible simplistic vision as the basis of a ‘war’ that need respect no Higher Law nor any existing laws or principles, can only wind up in a rule not of Law but rather a rule of Human Emotions and ‘Good Intentions’ (and again, you can see how mere Good Intentions were not enough in the military misadventures in Iraq and Af-Pak).

And by the same token, I mention again then-Senator Biden’s cavalier assertion in 1994 that as long as it’s ‘sends a great message’ (which, of course, is in support of a Good Cause) then it really doesn’t make any difference to him whether it’s actually a good (workable, well-conceived) law or not. And again, you can see how this attitude came to govern the national legislature in the erection of the SO Mania Regime, and thus spread quickly to the State legislatures and the courts (where several generations of law students had already been taught this approach and this attitude as being ‘cutting edge reform’.

If politics is ‘war’ then We are on the way back to a Hobbesian world.

The Australian author, J.M. Coetzee notes this in his 2007 book of essays entitled “Diary of a Bad Year”. In the vision of Hobbes, the world without an organized State and the rule of law is a rat’s nest of “internecine warfare without end (reprisal upon reprisal, vengeance upon vengeance, the vendetta” (p.3)*** You may recall in my mini-series of Posts on Victimology how often ‘revenge’ is discussed as being essential to a victim’s ‘closure’.

While there is a modest – but hugely incomplete – psychological value to seeing somebody ‘paid back’, Coetzee later points out that as best he can make out after watching the world – and especially South Africa after apartheid was abolished – ‘vengeance’ or ‘revenge’ simply continues the cycle of offense-revenge that locks BOTH perpetrator and victim into a darkling level of existence.

In that regard, by the way, Coetzee – no ‘religious nut’ – comes to the sober conclusion that Christ really is the only one to get it right by advising that one must ‘turn the other cheek’ lest the cycle of violence in interpersonal and societal and national and international affairs simply continue ad infinitum.

This reflection of Coetzee’s would no doubt be taken as heresy by the Victimologist school, but there it is.

Hobbes, of course, tries to solve this problem on a political level by insisting upon the acceptance of “Leviathan”, by which he means a Sovereign Authority (not necessarily a monarch; it could be a democracy) that will assume all responsibility for judgment and the exercise – carefully – of any violence necessary to ensure ‘justice’.

But as well, Western and Hobbes’s own native English, Law was moving toward a more Reason-based method for determining guilt. And it is precisely here that Victimology (even before it is merged with the Alinsky-ite vision and approach) seeks to RE-gress jurisprudence back to an era of revenge, even though the justification is made more pleasing to modern ears by claiming the need for psychological and emotional ‘closure’.

In the Christian vision one so victimized would primarily rely upon the individual’s relationship to God and Grace to absorb the psychological and emotional shock of being in some way victimized. The State would construe (to use Thomas More’s phrasing) as best it could according to the principles of sound Law, and do whatever was in humans’ “poor power” (Lincoln at Gettysburg) to restore balance. But the individual would A) be supported by Grace in dealing with any shortfall in the juridical outcome while also B) literally metabolize the experience spiritually (with the help of Grace) to come to a deeper and more intense bond with God’s Providence.

And thus the cycle of offense-vengeance would be broken.

It is, I think, no wonder that the Christian view, especially as it is so thoroughly comprehended in the Catholic vision, draws the ire of Victimology.

A society and culture increasingly alienated from such a vision would dwell in a Flattened world where Providence and Grace do not operate from some Higher Beyond, and would thus be left with no outlet or with no means of processing victimization except to demand State vengeance under color of law, in an ever-intensifying cycle of More Vengeance through More Vengeful Laws.

And this, surely, is precisely what is happening in the SO Mania Regime.

I note also – with apologies for not recalling exactly the article’s title and link – the US government’s recent submission to a court in the matter of some suspected terrorists here in this country: evidence submitted was a poorly-made home-video that largely showed feet and legs walking around, and in no way demonstrated any terroristical activity or conniving. The government’s position – and this is a very recent case, within the past few months – was that THE VERY ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE PROVED JUSTIFIABLE SUSPICION OF A CRIME because (shades of Alinsky!) WHEN IT COMES TO TERRORISTS, NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS OR APPEARS.

The SO community can easily recall the many ways in which ‘sex offenders’, especially in the early days of the Mania, were considered to be both-and all the time: both madly out of control and capable of tremendous patience and cunning; both slavering, weird-looking monsters and the most suave and ‘normal’ looking folks; both mentally unbalanced and the most thoroughly debased of deliberate criminals.

Much like vampires. And, more factually, like the accused witches (male and female) of the Salem Witch Trials.

In that regard, Coetzee also opines, the police of 1970s apartheid South Africa – authorized and legally indemnified beforehand from prosecution – could “barnstorm” any home that they wished if they thought that some violation of the race-laws was being perpetrated or conceived. “Barnstorming” meant breaking in without a warrant and raising such hell as they considered necessary to decide one way or the other. Writing in 2007, and looking around the world, Coetzee decides that they were not “barbarians” really but rather “pioneers” since it now seems that this is increasingly becoming the norm in heretofore civilized nations.

Hobbes “Leviathan” is now not only established from the Right in the National Security State but also from the Left in the National Nanny State (in large part through the Good Cause of the State exercising ‘vengeance’ on behalf of ‘victims’). Worse, the concept of Law has been regressed to the pre-rational era of Western jurisprudence. All of the hard-won achievements of the West in the post-Medieval, Modern Era are being ‘rolled-back’: rules of evidence, statutes of limitation, presumptions of innocence.

And, of course, this is happening not simply in ‘barbarous’ regimes such as the Soviet and Nazi approaches to law, but in the very heart of the great model and example of Western achievement: the United States.

This is not going have good consequences, either for the United States or for the rest of the world that still looks to this country for cues as to what is the best way to proceed in governance and conducting a successful democratic polity.

And so there is much to be done.


*My copy is the paperback Vintage Books/Random House edition that reprints the original 1971 edition. The ISBN is 0-679-72113-4. All my quotations and page references will be taken from this edition.

**A Victimist reading of this pericope (short passage from the Bible text) might quickly latch onto the fact that ‘victims’ (assuming Job is a ‘victim’ here) ‘aren’t responsible’ for what happens to them. This is not the point of the text and I wouldn’t get into a discussion about that Victimist assertion on the basis of it.

What the Book of Job is concerned with is demonstrating that human beings indeed live under the aegis of a Master and that they are therefore not the Biggest Guys on the block of Existence. Nicely, though, this also means that they are not Alone; and as the Bible proceeds – and especially as it gets into the New Testament – there is an intensifying assertion, reflection upon, and – if you will – revelation that humans are not only not Alone, but that the God Who Accompanies them also Supports them in their struggle to remain faithful to the most fundamental and Genuine human nature that is within them, which is the Nature that participates in God’s own life.

***Coetzee, J.M. “The Diary of a Bad Year”. New York: Penguin: 2007. The edition I am using is the paperback: ISBN 978-0-14-311448-2. This book is curiously structured: each page is divided into three sections, with the top section being his essays. They are well worth the read, especially his reflections on Thomas Hobbes and his vision and the consequences that flow from it.

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