Thursday, December 20, 2012

Identifying the enemy

I have been resisting the urge to blog about the recent events in Connecticut, in the school shooting. You've heard more than enough by now without my two cents. But, since the gun control issue has again reared it's ugly head, maybe a comment on that won't be out of order.

First, let me say I am well aware what the opinions of most of you who read this blog are concerning guns in America. My position hasn't changed on that either. As long as you keep blaming guns instead of killers, then you are not going to see true improvement.

Almost all - if not 100% - of the perpetrators of these mass shootings are mentally disturbed, unbalanced, crazy, misfits. loons -- whatever term you care to use. Therefore, the key seems obvious to me: you keep loons from going on the rampage and killing other people, whether with guns, as has happened recently, or with big truck bombs like what happened in Oklahoma. Or drowning children in bathtubs, or gas attacks, or whatever.

Notice I didn't say "keep the guns out of the hands of loons" but rather "keep the loons from going on the rampage." By this I mean identify the loons and keep them away not only from guns but away from society in general. Lock them up. Bring back the looney bins. Commit them. Forget this stupid civil rights attitude that gives loons the right to walk our streets; the right to buy guns with no psycho evaluation and waiting period and no complete background history check; the right to kill people. Nobody can get them all off the street, but we can sure do a better job than we are doing now.

And, while we are at it, let's kill all the lawyers.

Stop the CULTURE of violence: on TV, in movies, in video games. You are willing to take the guns out of the hands of tens of millions of sane people to stop a few loons from going berserk, so why are you reluctant to stop the uncaring corporations from producing TV shows, movies and video games that glorify murder and mayhem?

Can not the majority of kids sort those things out and live a sane life? Sure. But the loons will be influenced. The ones living in a twilight dream world will be enabled and encouraged. What is wrong with keeping our kids and teens minds from being saturated by all manner of bloody violence? We used to censor. Stuff that is commonplace for 11 year olds would never have been allowed in earlier times.

Teachers know which of their students are crazy and at risk and antisocial. SAY SOMETHING! How many of these people (including the Connecticut shooter and the Colorado theater shooter) were known to be "weirdoes" by their peers, antisocial psychopaths? ALL OF THEM! So say something. SAY SOMETHING. Before, not after. And don't expect  to not reap the whirlwind if you allow children's minds to be saturated every waking moment with unspeakable violence and the glorification thereof.

Although I am not in favor of unrestricted sales of all types of guns without any safeguards, I also say we should go after the ones who create psychopaths at least as earnestly as you go after the makers and sellers of guns.

If we know that we need to do in order to make changes in our culture and refuse to make those changes, to the detriment of future generations, we are the enemy of those future generations.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Community organizing, part deux

I was looking up previous occupations for U.S. Presidents, don't remember why, and I found that our present occupant of the White House shows on his resumé college professor and community organizer. I then realized I didn't know exactly what a community organizer was. I knew what a union organizer was. Turns out community organizer is much the same thing.

Community organizing is laudable in many circumstances, just as union organizing is laudable in a few circumstances; when the community citizens (or rank and file workers) are getting the shaft from management. "Management" in the case of communities is City Hall.

There is strength in numbers. That's the premise. Wrongs can be righted. It's a beautiful thing.

Not always.

In my opinion, from my recent reading on the subject, there are two things that need to be analyzed. First, who is behind the community uprising and does that person or group have ulterior personal motivations beyond the obvious problem being addressed; and, second, are the underlying demands reasonable and legitimate and not simply bullying to get some personal agenda made into law so everyone is forced, by law, to do things YOUR way.

I think these things need to be scrutinized before one automatically jumps on the bandwagon and makes the broad statement, "Community organizing is a good thing." Sometimes it isn't. In my humble opinion. Let's take some theoretical examples.

Let's say a lot of poor people are living in a neglected tenement building in  a large inner city neighborhood. Let's say their complaints about living conditions have long been ignored by the slumlord. What to do?

Or, let's say a lot of poor people have minimum-wage jobs in a sweatshop clothing (or microchip) factory. They have no union and their employer is large enough to pull strings to stop union troublemakers that work there. Maybe the company is Walmart, and maybe they are in the habit of making the employees work "off the clock" without pay, even locking the doors so they can't go home. (If you think this sort of thing only happens in Bangladesh and never happens in America, you are more than simply naive.)

In both of these examples, you might quickly say the answer is to organize the community (of tenants or workers) and force the business or slumlord to stop exploiting these people. Nothing is black and white, though. There are always outside influences to take into consideration. For example, what if the slumlord is the Federal Government? Or, what if the slave driver is Intel or Walmart?

A lot of people automatically take the side of the "downtrodden" - and not just Democrats or "bleeding-heart liberals" or commies. For example, I myself am not exactly a political Progressive, but I don't like to see children going hungry or living in rat-infested tenements (or, worse, on the street) or not able to get a decent education. And a lot more.

Sometimes the "community organizing" is much larger than a local community or neighborhood, and the issue in contention becomes a political issue. Nationwide even. Like gays and lesbians having the right to get married. Or legalization of drugs. Or putting forth a political candidate for office. And many more.

It is obvious that the "community organizing" in many cases is not exactly "grass roots" as claimed. Often there are powerful outside forces at work -  forces who have a personal agenda to advance.

To me, a grass roots organization is one which simply arises, like grass, when the abused and neglected people in the neighborhood or tenement or factory have had enough. Leaders from the ranks emerge. Plans are laid.

Often, though, (perhaps MOST often) someone from outside the actual community comes in (usually with an already established organization) and tells the people, "I feel your pain. I am here to help. This is what we need to do." I am speaking generally here, and I hope you don't think I am picturing Barack Obama and his ACORN folks in my mind, or Romney with his vested interest SuperPACs, as I write this. Unless the shoe fits.

There is potential for both good and bad in community organizing: good when evils are addressed and solved; bad when people in the community are simply being used by outsiders.

Almost always there are two sides to every story, shades of gray wherein the actual truth is often found.

What would I personally do if I were one of those poor people living in that rat-infested drug-terrorized tenement?

Same as you, probably: I wouldn't have been there in the first place. I would live in a proper dwelling which is safe. Why? Because I have enough money to do that. Why? Because I chose to educate myself, and, when that wasn't enough, chose to work my ass off at more than one low-paying job. That's why.

But others don't do that. They accept what life "throws at them." They believe poverty is their lot in life, and they believe government is both the villain and the answer. Government and people with money. They tell themselves education is not available to them because the cards are stacked against them or their skin is the wrong color to make it in America. I know that is a lie. You know that is a lie. Maybe you grew up in a really poor family as I did, and you know poor people can rise in America. But if people BELIEVE they are oppressed and can't do anything about it, then it doesn't matter if it is a lie, does it? Then, one of the things they do is look for a messiah.

So, some people find themselves in a cold tenement building with rats running around, both furry rats and drug rats. I would want to help those people. Truly. However, I am not one to pass out food forever; I am one who would teach how to hunt and fish. So, is it right for the community organizers to concentrate on using the poor peoples' collective political votes to force the government to send them a paycheck of some kind each month? Is it? Is that the proper use of community organizing?

Look at America today. Look at the recent election. What were the differences between the two candidates? One promised to continue giving stuff and not make cuts to "programs," and one said he was going to work to cut government spending. Which one won? If nothing else, that tells you what the majority of Americans want - what they want out of their government. Most want direct financial help from the government, and they want the government to take money and property from other people in order to get their dole. Is that too harsh of an assessment? Is that oversimplification?

Romney got into trouble - maybe even lost the election - by saying 47% of the American population were slackers who were receiving a government check. Unfortunately for him, it turned out to be more like 51%. Ok, that's a cheap shot. The truth is that most Americans (at least 51%) believe in the philosophy that big government is the real answer to the problems of the poor (and everyone else) and that "Social Justice" (take money from me and give it to you) is a legitimate goal and a proper use of power.

I believe the needy should be helped. Jesus admonished us to attend to "the least of these." I get that. I believe that. But what happens when despots (or people who refuse to face reality) have turned us all into equal citizens in poverty? What happens when we are ALL the least of these?

I do believe in community organizing as a tool to confront evil, lest that fact got lost in the above rant. I simply believe it is being misused and manipulated.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On community organizing

  • A People's Organization is a conflict group, [and] this must be openly and fully recognized. Its sole reason in coming into being is to wage war against all evils which cause suffering and unhappiness. A People’s Organization is the banding together of large numbers of men and women to fight for those rights which insure a decent way of life. . . .
  • A People's Organization is dedicated to an eternal war. It is a war against poverty, misery, delinquency, disease, injustice, hopelessness, despair, and unhappiness. They are basically the same issues for which nations have gone to war in almost every generation. . . . War is not an intellectual debate, and in the war against social evils there are no rules of fair play. . . .
  • A People's Organization lives in a world of hard reality. It lives in the midst of smashing forces, dashing struggles, sweeping cross-currents, ripping passions, conflict, confusion, seeming chaos, the hot and the cold, the squalor and the drama, which people prosaically refer to as life and students describe as 'society'. [From Alinsky's 1946 book, "Reveille for Radicals]

From a 1972 interview with Saul Alinsky in Playboy magazine:

ALINSKY: ... if there is an afterlife, and I have anything to say about it, I will unreservedly choose to go to hell.
ALINSKY: Hell would be heaven for me. All my life I've been with the have-nots. Over here, if you're a have-not, you're short of dough. If you're a have-not in hell, you're short of virtue. Once I get into hell, I'll start organizing the have-nots over there.
PLAYBOY: Why them?
ALINSKY: They're my kind of people.

From another tireless community organizer:

"I'll never forget this training began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done. 
Organizing and working to make people's lives just a little bit better. 
I know how hard it is.
It comes with little sleep, little pay, and alot of sacrifice.
There are days of disappointment.
But sometimes, just sometimes, there are nights like this.
A night that years from now when we've made the changes we believe in...
when more families can afford to see a doctor...
when the world sees America differently...
You'll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.
This was the moment.
Years from now, you'll look back when America began to know what it means to hope." [Barack Obama, community organizer]

Pontius Pilate was a governor. Jesus was a community organizer. (Seen on a T-shirt)


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