Saul Alinsky On Means and Ends, and the end of ethics

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Saul Alinsky and his book, Rules for Radicals, the apparent playbook for our brave new administration with its motto, “Change We Can Deceive In”. And I have to tell you, I’m forcing myself to do this. I’m forcing myself to open this book again and read from it because I promised you I would share with you what I had found and I’m keeping that promise. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to read any more of it. But it’s important that you know what it says. Because it’s important that you know what is going on in Washington. In our states, our cities and towns. In our colleges and universities. You have organizers in your community? Do you think that’s a good thing? Do you know that “organizer” is a code word and does not mean what you think it means? Do you know that “Change We Can Believe In” is a slogan that could have come right out the pages of Alinsky’s book?

Saul Alinsky misquotes and misrepresents everybody from Dostoevsky to Gandhi in his book. He presses into service figures from the Bible from Moses to Jesus Himself in an effort to make the reader believe that these figures would be in sympathy with him and his tactics. I’ll get to the others as we go on, but here’s what he does to Dostoevsky. Alinsky says the “organizer” should work within the system. Why? “Because taking a new step is what people fear most.” (Rules, page xix)

“Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people.” (Rules, page xix)

Revolutionary change? Weren’t we talking about community organizers? Why, yes, we were. And this is what Alinsky’s organizers are: people who work at organizing groups of people for a cause (any cause, doesn’t really matter; see page xxiii) who can then be used for whatever action the leader has in mind down the road. Any action. We’ll see later just what actions Alinsky has in mind.

Back to his mangling of Dostoevsky. The brief line Alinsky is “quoting” is from chapter one of Crime and Punishment (5th paragraph down) and the change referred to is this: the main character, Raskolnikov, is considering a plan of action to get him out of a desperate situation and he is trying to talk himself into going through with it. Going through with what, you ask?

Murder.

Raskolnikov owes an old woman some money and he can’t pay it back and he decides to kill her. To murder her in cold blood. He’s trying to talk himself into committing this horrible act of violence. That’s the “new step” that he fears. The “new step” that Alinsky wants to help his team of “organizers” help their communities to take. The “new step” of the brave new world of modern ethics. The not-so-new step of pretending that the ends justify the means. That any act is justifiable, any means allowable, if only I want the end bad enough.

Just a few days ago I had a conversation on YouTube in which someone told me that embryonic stem cell research was okay to pursue because a person might be desperate for a cure and that maybe one day I’d get a disease that I might be desperate enough to want a cure for. Well, I replied, I do have a chronic and disabling disease, as a matter of fact. But I don’t want to take someone else’s life to cure it. Furthermore, I said, I don’t think that desperation is a guarantee of morality. Far from it. Quite the opposite. Desperation often leads to people doing things they wouldn’t dream of doing under happier circumstances. Who doesn’t know it? This has been the theme for many a novel or film. It’s an ancient and all-too frequent event. Does that make it right? Does desperation excuse a crime?

Do ends justify means?

Alinsky doesn’t leave it there. In a chapter entitled “On Means and Ends” he has this to say:

That perennial question, “Does the end justify the means?” is meaningless as it stands; the real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, “Does this particular end justify this particular means?…The end is what you want, and the means is how you get it…The man of action views the issue of means and ends in pragmatic and strategic terms. He has no other problem; he thinks of his actual resources and the possibilities of various choices of action. He asks of ends only whether they are achievable and worth the cost; of means, only whether they will work.” (Rules, page 24)

Having read Alinsky, I see where that person on YouTube got that idea. Would that it were only an isolated person here or there. I’m reminded of another conversation I had, this time with a Catholic mother. We bumped into each other up at the gift shop at EWTN in the book section. She was looking for something on ethics for her son who is being “clobbered” in his college classes because he is a faithful Catholic and does not accept the new twisted ethics. Yes, these problems are real. They matter. I mentioned in the opening paragraph that I’m sharing with you what I’m finding because I am compelled to. I have to. I have found it and I must let you know. Your children are being taught these ideas by their teachers. They are being ganged up on in classes. They are receiving failing grades for daring to stand up and speak out against these ideas.

And what is far worse, they may be soaking up these lies without you even realizing it. They may be reading or hearing or being taught the ideas of Richard Dawkins (I’ll be writing about The God Delusion later) and Peter Singer (I’ll be writing about his Writings on an Ethical Life and One World: The Ethics of Globalization too). They may be struggling not to lose their faith. Help them. Know what they’re up against. Help yourself. Know what you are up against. What we are up against.

And pray. Pray for the conversion of these authors and teachers, for the conversion of our representatives in government. If you’ve gotten out of the habit of prayer or if you never had the habit, get into the habit now. And don’t be afraid to pray in public. I don’t hide my faith. I make no secret of it. We shouldn’t have to hide it. Our children and our families and our friends need to know where we stand. And we need to stand up. Now. (Dawkins says that teaching religion to our children is child abuse. He’s serious. Read The God Delusion. I’m not kidding. When the rain lets up, I’ll go out to the car to get the book to find the page number and add it to the post. It’s not very far into the book because I got to it already and I don’t think I’m that far into it at all.)

More later. I can only think about these things for so long, you know. Now I’m going to get a cup of coffee and read something deeply religious and beautiful. Anything but this trash.

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About Disciple

I am a pro-life activist, blogger, writer, poet, singer songwriter, musician, photographer, nerd, bookworm and Mac fan. I have two dogs, one of whom is well-travelled. (I had three for a while after adopting a senior dog, but he has now passed away, and the pack is back to two girl dogs. One was born after, the days of mammoth road trips.) And the most important thing is: I was received into Holy Mother Church in 1996 and, through the grace of God, I love Christ and His Church more with every passing day. Thanks be to God!
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4 Responses to Saul Alinsky On Means and Ends, and the end of ethics

  1. Pingback: Of LiveAction’s Acts of Lying and Playing by the Rules of Radical Organizer Saul Alinsky | Catholic Heart and Mind

  2. Pingback: Exposing Planned Parenthood, Good, Saul Alinsky, Not Good | Catholic Heart and Mind

  3. Pingback: BizzyBlog

  4. Pingback: Finance Talking » Blog Archive » Greg’s Links (061311, Noontime)

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