Saul Alinsky On Not Being Afraid To Speak Directly

Saul Alinsky Just Say, “Power”


First, by using combination of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power”, we being to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life. In the politics of life, we are concerned with the slaves and the Caesars, not the vestal virgins. It is no just that, in communication as in thought, we must ever strive toward simplicity…it is a determination not to detour around reality.
“Rules For Radicals”, Saul Alinsky


It Is A Determination Not To Detour Around Reality


Euphemisms allow us to wrap sugar around Life’s more salty and bitter diabetic moments. Academics hide simplicity behind confused Latin words concatenated with Greek words. Our populace is attacked when they elect politicians crude in demeanor, but clear and vivid in speech. Saul Alinsky, and his oft-cited manual on grassroots organizing, “Rules For Radicals”, argues in favor of terms like “power”, “self-interest”, and even “compromise”.

Rules For Radicals By Saul Alinsky


Black Media Trust depends on our ability to communicate honestly and accurately. Even more to Alinsky’s point, there is a blindness in a politics that cannot accept as its goal an expression of power. As stated above, Alinsky discusses a demonizing of that term “self-interest” and all those ideals it might conjure. He writes:



Self-interest, like power, wears the black shroud of negativism and suspicion. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. To many the synonym for self-interest is selfishness. The word is associated with a repugnant conglomeration of vices such as narrowness, self-seeking, and self-centeredness, everything that is opposite to the virtues of altruism and selflessness. This common definition is contrary, of course, to our everyday experiences, as well as to the observations of all great students of politics and life. The myth of altruism as a motivating factor in our behavior could arise and survive only in a society bundled in the sterile gauze of New England puritanism and Protestant morality and tied together with the ribbons of Madison Avenue public relations. It is one of the classic American fairy tales.

“Rules For Radicals”, Saul Alinsky


Saul Alinsky


Saul Alinsky frames “self-interest” in a similar manner to how I have framed obligatory fictive kinship. That is, it is mirage taken as life-giving medicine. I have no problem with social teachings that inspire a belief in a “wholesomeness” of people. However, that wholesomeness has to be defined by more than a hegemony historically honoring those subordinate to their needs from lower strata. That “wholesomeness” has to be measured beyond symbolic smiles in photoshopped images of Protestant ideals. It cannot be a wholesomeness that only allows hypocrisy from rich and highly celebrated while crucifying simple missteps by those hated for being poor or homeless.