What are we outraged about now?
The latest outrage, according to nyceve's recommended diary
is about the lack of leadership by...um...our leaders.
Isn't public service about leadership? Isn't leadership about taking courageous stands? Doesn't one take a courageous stand when one literally stands up for, and champions the most vulnerable among us? Isn't this the true test of leadership?
Our leaders don't lead. Oh, the outrage! I beleive I'm getting the vapors. ;) Sigh...nothing new.
If only voices of outrage on their own could make a difference. If only our righteous anger mattered. But on its own, it doesn't. I've been coming to Daily Kos for a while now. And we're still outraged by the same things. So now what?
If we want to make a difference, we have to be willing to do the hard work involved in convincing those in leadership positions to act like leaders.
So how do we do that? Well, there's no hard and sure way, but we can look to great revolutionaries of the past to give us some direction. Saul Alinsky is one such revolutionary, a real
radical who has gotten results. Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals
should be required reading for anyone who really wants change.
The basic requirement for the understanding of the politics of change is to recognize the world as it is...
We must see the world as all political realists have in terms of "what men do and not what they ought to do," as Machiavelli and others have put it.
Did you catch that part about "what men do and not what they ought to do?" Read it, learn it, accept it. That is lesson number one for the real radical who is determined to make a difference.
I think DemHillStaffer is trying to help us understand this in his excellent recommended diary.
We need to look at 4 different aspects of congressional action because each has its own dynamics to see how this comes together in a pattern: the appropriations process, domestic legislation, foreign policy, and leadership.
It's not a sexy rant, but it is a fabulous informative read.
I appreciate DemHillStaffer for laying out the landscape of what we face if we want change. This reality includes understanding that we can demand all day long from our "leaders," in a cacophony of outrage, but it's going to take more than just our outraged voices to make a difference. It's going to take strategy. It's going to take patience to work the system.
Accepting the reality of having to work with the world we've got is central to understanding Alinsky's advice,
Remember, we are talking about revolution, not revelation; you can miss the target by shooting too high as well as too low...
there are rules for radicals who want to change their world...
these rules make the difference between being a realistic radical and being a rhetorical one who uses the tired old words and slogans, calls the police "pig" or "white fascist racist" or "motherfucker" and has so stereotyped himself that others react by saying, "Oh, he's one of those," and then promptly turn off.
What this says to me matches what I think I'm hearing from DemHillStaffer, that we have to pick our battles so that we can win them and then be able to pick the next one. Change happens one small step at a time. We want people, particulrly our leaders, to agree with us. We don't want them to tune us out. Remember, the reality is what people do, not what they ought to do. That means that we need to use the energies of our passion productively and not expect that just because they should listen to us that they will.
For the real radical, doing "his thing" is to do the social thing, for and with people...
If the real radical finds that having long hair sets up psychological barriers to communication and organization, he cuts his hair. If I were organizing in an orthodox Jewish community I would not walk in there eating a ham sandwich, unless I wanted to be rejected so I could have an excuse to cop out.
This speaks to the (I believe) incorrect notion that it is passion that changes things as opposed to strategy. Strategy talk, followed by planning, and patiently taking action, is not as sexy as ranting. Ranting feels...so good...and strategy work doesn't produce the instant gratification of others joining us in our righteousness. It's slow. It's tedious. It requires becoming a student of the world and studying the way it works.
Our passion and outrage needs to be directed towards ends that produce results. The fact is, we the people don't have the power to directly enact legislation. Our elected officials do. They really don't have to listen to us except for once every election cycle. And whether they should listen to us, outrage and all, isn't the point. If we want results, we have to work with them and convince them to do what we want, first accepting them where they are, and then working to move forward from there, applying both stick and carrot. Why? Because we need them. Should we have to convince them to listen to us? No. But the reality of where we are means we have to do that hard work anyway.
As an organizer I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be. That we accept the world as it is does not in any sense weaken our desire to change it into what we believe it should be--it is necessary to begin where the world is if we are going to change it into what we think it should be. That means working in the system.
We have to accept that the system works against us and we will always have an uphill battle to fight. We can react to that with anger. We can be outraged as well. It is justified because it is outrageous. It should make you angry. But then what?
I see it as a matter of personal responsibility. Each of us has to answer the question of what to do next, what to do to make a difference, ourselves. And we have to measure those steps we take against the big picture and what we hope to accomplish. We have to question our actions and motivations, against our own best understanding of the common good. Often that means checking our egos at the door.