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.


  1. Nice work, much better than the previous post. You have sparked some thoughts, and I'll be back later to comment more, once I have processed them a little further.
    However, I had a conversation along these lines with someone recently, regarding the role of government v's charity/church etc. We discussed the same theme that you cover in this post.

  2. I agree with you on this one....

    And the more people get...the more hand-outs give, the more they want; and the more they'll without guilt!

    And the above usually doesn't apply to those most needy...but to those who are most greedy, and not needy.

    1. Sadly, what you say is true. Maybe it is human nature. I like to think it can still be changed though, before it is too late. Lee, I really appreciate your comments and your thoughtfulness.

    2. There are some people who need a starter to get themselves out of situations. My mum and grandmother were homeless for a while, as they left my abusive grandfather but had no where to go.
      My gran was able to get a cleaning job. The woman of that house heard my mums story and gave her some money to get up to the North East of England. That lady never expected to be paid back. It changed my families life, it give them a chance to get off the streets, get work and get a home.
      There are people out there who may take advantage of help, but does that mean that we stop giving it to those that need it.

    3. I guess I did stray off my topic of community organizing and began to rant on people who are chronically on some sort of dole or another for all their lives.

      Of course you are right and of course I also do what I can to help the truly needy as well. We must help those who have no place to turn. And I'm glad our governments, at all levels, (as well as private organizations) are good about taking care of women and children in dire circumstances. Governments weren't good at this before. They are getting better. My rant was directed at people who let the government take care of them practically all their life. The latest scam (as I'm sure you've heard) is getting oneself declared disabled. Ai.

      Thank you for bringing me back down to earth. :)

    4. Whoah... really... did you just say "Of course you are right "

      Guess there is a first time for everything.

    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Dear David Cameron,

    Such expressions will get you a job on the 'Daily Mail' as it fits the lies they wish to believe but does not take account of those who try and cannot get work, the disabled, those caring for the sick and the majority on what are called 'handouts' who have worked for many years contributing for such.
    Still simple black & white is easier for the DM reader to understand. Just a shame life is not like that.


    1. Dear Colin Fox:

      I realize that the thought of not living off your fellow citizens when you are not disabled and only choose not to work is repugnant to you. If you feel that certain jobs are "beneath" you, then don't accept employment, right? That's a great philosophy. America is chugging down the socialist road right behind you. Perhaps we will catch up and go broke together.

      And, on the contrary, if you are destitute and need medical attention, America is the VERY place to get taken care of. No poor people or children are turned away here just because they can't pay.

      I would repeat that this post was about community organizing, and I got sidetracked. Even then I was talking about life-long scammers and dodgers and not the truly needy.

      God bless the tabloids you immerse yourself in daily. :)

  4. I wrote a huge comment and accidentally deleted it.

    I use a plugin called Lazarus, which backs up text as you type. However, I'd disabled it as an experiment, trying to speed firefox up.
    Bad idea.

    Um,. yes, i agree, no, i don't agree, keelhaul the lot of them.

  5. I'll risk another try.
    Yes, I'm suspicious of the 'community organisers'.
    They often have their own interests at heart, rather than those of the community.
    Yes, I agree, too many use ready made excuses, to explain that they're disadvantaged from birth by skin colour, working class origins, poverty, etc.
    As if there's no way out.
    Well there is a way out. It starts with hard work, and using your brain as well as your brawn.

    Some of those community activists will become politicians. You have lauded some in the past. Rabble rousers, who called for defiance of law and order, defiance of government, non-paying of taxes, violence, theft, defiance.
    Those criminals who drafted the illegal declaration of independence.

    Your explanation of Mr Romney's loss of votes is, I think, some way from the truth. Romney who shied away from saying how much he makes in a year. Romney who tells ordinary hard working americans how he feels their pain, while his companies export jobs to cheaper countries. The man doesn't even know how many houses he owns.
    ~I think most americans looked at him, and realised he hadn't a clue what real life is for ordinary people.

    There are cheats and scammers claiming welfare.
    And there are cheats and scammers making billions off overcharging on government contracts. There are cheats and scammers who bank offshore, and hide their tax liabilities.

    The most profitable division of Starbucks is in the U.K. But for tax purposes, it makes no money, because it pays vast sums to another division, based in the netherlands, as a fee for the use of 'Intellectual Property'.
    Starbucks were publicly shamed for their tax avoidance, and last week, announced that they would 'voluntarily' start paying corporation tax in the u.k.
    Did you ever wonder how it is that blockbuster hollywood movies manage not to pay out agreed royalties to their stars? Well, I'll tell you. Even if your movie rolls in more money at the box-office, worldwide than any other, by making it pay intellectual property royalties to some shadowy little company in the Cayman Islands, you can assert, on paper, that it never made a profit.
    So pardon me if I'm a little bit cynical.
    Joe Public, with the bad back, claims a few grand, and he's wrong, he's a villain. But big business posts a loss, gets a bail-out, while the chairman's buying a new yacht and soaking up the sun in Monaco? They're heroes though, because their dodgy ventures drive the economy.
    Small-scale pickpockets go to jail, large scale ones get wined and dined in Washington.

    I disagree with Adullamite though. There may be fewer jobs than unemployed people, but how is it that so many Polish workers can get on a bus in Poland, arrive in england, and get a job?
    I was in the electrical wholesalers last week. there was a group of poles and a group of turks in front of me. They all seemed to be thriving in an economy where british workers claim there are no jobs.
    Sometimes there are jobs, but we're paying too much to the workshy, so they don't HAVE to take a job they feel might actually entail work.

    This week... I have been knee-deep in sewers. My new assistant was too precious to go down the manhole, was afraid of getting splashed by something smelly. I pointed out to him, that sometimes life does not give you lemons, so you won't always get lemonade.

    1. That sounds like a buncha shit.


      I'll buy the lemonade since you disagree with Adullamite. Jesus, don't piss him off - I did and he's over there again running those antiAmerican videos he stockpiles.

    2. Because the Poles don't have mortgages and go home in a year or two or after she has the baby on the NHS!

    3. I am truly sorry I have lauded the rabble rousers of the past. If only we were still part of GB and could partake in the wondrous free health care. :)

  6. I read this. Even the comments, but it is time for me to lay down again. I may, or probably won't get back to you on this.

    IMNSHO, I don't understand not WANTING to work & contribute to society when you have the physical mental capabilities.

    I think government is waaaaaaaaay too big to be "fixed" with MORE bills/laws.

    WELFARE doesn't have enough guidelines and too many loopholes to really HELP those that need a hand up & not just a hand out.

    My back is hurting, I feel my vertebrae scraping against each other, I'm OUT!

    1. It's ok to go lay down again. It's enough that you actually read this. :)

  7. I'm less blase about the un- and underemployed. I know good hard-working people who would happily do all kinds of things for pay if someone gave them a chance who are destitute through no fault of their own. I know gainfully employed people who had to take out a second mortgage, give up putting their kids in college because, though they had great insurance (were Federal employees), he got cancer and beat cancer and it cost them everything they had.

    That has nothing to do with community organizing, just my vote that the world isn't so black and white.

    1. Tell me more about those who are destitute through no fault of their own. Those who fit in that category,truly fit, need our compassion and help. Instead of taking the necessary money from the rich, however, we can take it from the workshy on the dole. That's fair.

  8. My problem is this - if someone can but refuses to work, I'm not very sympathetic. If they're single and alone, though, I think many of them are already out in the cold. What makes it chancy is when there are children involved.

    Now, I'll be the first to say I find few things more tragic than having children you can't afford, tragic for you and tragic for the kids. I have children and I pay for them. I don't have any respect for the parents who COULD work but would rather live off the money they get to make sure the kids are taken care of.

    Some people have more children to get a bigger intake of funds (or so it seems). Some had children responsibly but fell on hard times. There is a difference in how I regard those individuals - however, in neither case am I willing to let the children suffer for the parents issues. It makes it horribly complex and notably unfair. On the other hand, short of taking children away from poor people out of hand (and I don't think even you could support that), I'm not sure how to solve the problem that some parents are going to misuse money given for the benefit of the children to suit their own purposes.

    1. Why do you say "even you"? Am I Scrooge, or what?

      Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

      Do I come across as someone who doesn't want to care for the truly needy? Someone who wouldn't care for poor children? Why? Just because I don't want the government to make me do it? :)



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