Power is the highest object of respect…We pity the impotent and respect the powerful everywhere.
The term “organization” may be too abstract for a number of people, and for a number of reasons. When people use the term,”organization”, it often times is too abstract. What does OWL mean by “abstract”?
By abstract, I mean to convey that the term is more of a thought, a set of ideas(or ideals), a summation of notions, and even possibly simply theoretical or not concrete. I understand that in a society such as the United States of America– where critical studies and critical theory tends to weigh much more heavily, or is valued more than actual work or the things being studied “critically”– abstractions, or even “deep thoughts”, give a sense of authority. Many in the academic community tend towards a skewed notion of the objective or even esoteric in description above the visceral and concrete. However, if our goal is often the attempt at objectivity, then the terms we use should actually have concrete feel to them.
In the discussion of power and more to the point of my writing, the discussion of power exchange, the use of the term “organization” is more than not viewed in a lofty manner. What resonates most with me with regards to the term “organization”, is constituency. Power itself can be easily misunderstood when written or spoken, read or heard. The word,”influence”, tends to be a better substitute if the idea or goal is to share and spread understanding that will goad multitudes to action. What I believe causes the term “constituency” to work for me best is its underlying notion of collective support. Power, or influence, demands a demonstration to be weighed and measured. Power, or influence, demands a demonstration to have value. To move groups of people towards a common goal, it is often necessary to have already moved a group of people towards a common goal.
An organization does not have to be the size of the United States, or any nation for that matter, in order to be classified as an organization. If we look at the word “organization”, and see sitting at the front of it waving at us like a familiar face after time apart for attention is the word, “organ”. An organ is a small set of cells acting together to form a disparate unit of the body with a particular function. That organ is a part of a collective set of organs, an organization we call the human body. The human itself is an organization. So above, so below.
It is impossible to conceive of a world devoid of power; the only choice of concepts is between organized and unorganized power. Mankind has progressed only through learning how to develop and organize instruments of power in order to achieve order, security, morality, and civilized life itself, instead of sheer struggle for physical survival. Every organization known to man, from government down, has had only one reason for being–that is, organization for power in order to put into practice or promote its common purpose.
Rules For Radicals, Saul D. Alinsky(1971)
In the protest literature, and the radical literature, and the revolutionary literature, we are giving this principle that informs us that mobilization efforts demand organizing efforts to be effective for long lasting power, or influence, convergence. In other words, in order to truly change a group of people from being influenced by one set of thoughts for a long enough time to be considered an actual change, that group of people need to be given roles in a group not just a place to stand, march, or wave gun/sign/banner for a couple of hours before dispersing. Organizing is the process of building an organization. An organization is simply a group of people who have agreed to use their own individual strengths, talents, influences, resources, and abilities to function as one unit with a common goal.
As simple as that might seem in the reading or hearing, it is a concept that gets lost in translation just as easily as it seems to be understood theoretically. And why not? Work is involved. The Black Church is a collective of people that come together and submit their individual strengths, talents, influences, resources, and abilities for a common goal. The Bloods and the Gangster Disciples(or Growth & Development) are a collective of people that come together and submit their individual strengths, talents, influences, resources, and abilities for a common goal. Some might wish to render or parse what I just wrote there as an oversimplification, but I would retort and rebut they are of that thought collective that wishes for discussions of this nature to be overly complicated as if Avril Lavigne had written a hit song about them before.
The point is obvious: black people must lead and run their own organizations. Only Black people can convey the revolutionary idea–and it is a revolutionary idea–that Black people are able to do things themselves. Only they can help create in the community an aroused and continuing black consciousness that will provide the basis for political strength. In the past, white allies have often furthered white supremacy without the whites involved realizing it, or even wanting to do so. Black people must come together and do things for themselves. They must achieve self-identity and self-determination in order to have their daily needs met.
Black Power, Kwame Ture & Charles Hamilton
Yet, the theory should not be conveyed in complicated terms or abstractions. As painfully disruptive as my own family ties are(definitely another post at another time!!!), I do recognize that the family is an organization. It does bear that someone needs to organize, or bring to the table voiced goals, and communicated agreements that cannot be confused or obfuscated, in order for that organization to be organized in a more sophisticated manner. However, the family is an organization. Everyone’s constituency is not going to be the same size, nor does it have to be. Loyalty to the common goals, common purposes, common visions, and common interests is typically the life blood of the organized group; not just it’s quantifiables. There is a reason why those that measure social economics use the family, or the “household”, as a unit for wealth or poverty. There is also a reason why breaking up families in US Slavery was not just an occurrence of the market, but also a function of the institution of US Slavery.
Let me wrap this up, I really did not mean to do this much typing on this subject…
In the book, Bible, in the Old Testament, there is a story about a woman, a handmaid(which is just a nice way of saying, “slave”), who has been abused and decides to flee the home of her baby’s father and his wife, her former master, with her newborn. According to the Quran, the story goes, that while suffering dehydration, Hagar runs up and down several times between two sizeable hills in search for water. In her desperation, she looks down to see her son. Ishmael is playing by a stream of water. I often use this tale to demonstrate how US Blacks, especially US Black Women, can go through so many obstacles searching for a thing, and that thing be right there.
Organizing does not have to be a difficult thing in the understanding. Group building is a fairly organic process. If I am to go by most numbers on the subject, most humans are extroverts and bound by nervous conditioning to seek social settings and to belong to groups. Most of us seeking to demonstrate social responsibility in an effective and lasting way might ask ourselves, “Where do we begin to organize? Where do we start with the establishing of organization?” The best question posed in this arena could quite easily be: how do we better organize the organizations we are already a part of?
And, sure, that is another set of words, sentences, paragraphs, and organized thoughts for another time…