Friday, December 10, 2010

Some more notes and thoughts prompted by Alinsky's book

I continue writing down some notes I took from Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, which I recently read.Again, as I stated before, I am selecting segments from my notes in my personal journal.

Alinsky provides a list of ideal elements for an organizer. He does admit it is idealized. He writes, "I doubt that such qualities, in such intensity, ever come together in one man or woman; yet the best organizers should have them all, to a strong extent, and any organizer needs at least a degree of each" (72). Alinsky does expand on each list item, and I jotted down some additional things as I was reading, but now I want to just jot down the list itself. I do think the list has traits that any librarian, especially one that does outreach and/or instruction should possess as well.

The list of elements for an organizer, according to Alinsky:

  • Curiosity
  • Irreverence
  • Imagination
  • A sense of humor
  • A bit of blurred vision of a better world
  • An organized personality
  • A well-integrated political schizoid
  • Ego
  • A free and open mind, and political relativity
I will admit now that there were a couple of list items that did not seem clear right away. As I read, I hoped that Alinsky would clarify (he did).

Alinsky on the irreverence of organizers. This was a part of the book that really resonated with me, in large measure because it is stuff I believe in. He writes:

"To the questioner nothing is sacred. He detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search for ideas no matter where they may lead.He is challenging, insulting, agitating, discrediting. He stirs unrest. As with all life, this is a paradox, for his irreverence is rooted in a deep reverence for the enigma of life, and an incessant search for its meaning" (73). 

This pretty much embodies what a good librarian should be, and what seems to be missing so often in our profession. Sure, a lot of librarians give lip service to the idea, but in reality they get very upset if anyone dares to question the world as they see it. The rest of the paragraph from Alinsky's writing is where I think he tempers things, offers some balance. He writes some more on irreverence:

"It could be argued that reverence for others, for their freedom from injustice, poverty, ignorance, exploitation, discrimination, disease, war, hate, and fear, is not a necessary quality in a successful organizer. All I can say is that such irreverence is a quality I would have to see in anyone I would undertake to teach" (73). 

And we'll wrap this up next time.

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