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Who Is Saul Alinsky? Some Facts and Information
Facts about Saul Alinsky, and Why They Matter Today
Who is Saul Alinsky?
Saul David Alinsky died about 40 years ago, yet we are hearing his name being brought up on a somewhat regular basis as of late. I was curious to know more about him. This hub shares some facts and information on Saul Alinsky.
Saul Alinsky was born in Chicago Illinois in 1909. As his name suggests, he as born into a Jewish Family. They were Russian Jewish Immigrants. He was the only surviving son that came from the union with his Father, Benjamin Alinsky's second wife, Sarah Alinsky.
I found it interesting to know, that his parents were strict orthodox in their views. They were never involved in the socialist movement (that I am aware of), which is interesting as Saul seemed to be very involved, or had great interest in it. His parents life revolved around their work and with their synagogue. They encouraged him to study a lot.
While he went an opposite direction with his Jewish faith, compared to what his parents wanted for him, he still said he was Jewish. He went down a different path from the age of twelve, but still identified with being Jewish.
Later in Life
Saul pursued being a writer, and community organizer. In fact, he is commonly considered to be the founder of community organizing. This surprised me, that he has often been compared to Thomas Paine, as being a great American leader of the nonsocialist left. His book, "Rules for Radicals," is often the book he is most associated with, or quoted from.
Once on his path of political organizing, he received a lot of criticism. From what I know of some of the things he organized, I would not be in agreement with his ideas and philosophies at all. Even if I agreed on some human level with a very few things he said and believed in, I think I disagree with him in general on a lot of other things. For instance, I agree that it is a good thing that he wanted to focus on improving the lives of poor communities across the United States. I don't think anyone could fault a person for wanting that. It was his method and socialistic tendencies that I was concerned about.
While he was receiving criticism on the one hand from many people, he also got a lot of praise from particular public figures. In the 1950s, he focused his attention on African American ghettos in particular. He began with Chicago of course, but moved on to other ghettos as well. He traveled to New York City, Michigan and California and many other troubled placed in-between.
As we see so often, many college students seemed to support the ideas and latch onto them. This was observed in the 1960s, and students on different campuses were thinking about strategies for implementation of his ideas. William Buckley is quoted as saying he was, "very close to being an organizational genius." Even Time Magazine said that it seemed American democracy was being altered by Alinsky's ideas. This is all part of why I found him to be person worth learning more about. Especially since we are hearing his name a lot these days. I thought that was very interesting. If you have any thoughts on this, I would be very curious to know them, and you are welcome and encouraged to leave a comment below for that purpose.
Poor minorities in certain neighborhoods were encouraged to exert political force by demanding better working conditions. Some were encouraged to demand lower interest rates in banks, by making a scene inside the bank until bank managers gave in to the demands. The example I heard about was them sitting down on the floors, not getting up until they got their way. It is still a concern however, the trying to force the hand of people through particular means that has me concerned. Calm, but very confrontational.
Occupy Wall Street may have been something he was very much in support of. So perhaps, if alive today, he would have some high impact, and some strong followers, though it is hard to say for sure. Wanting to "cure economic inequality", sounds good at first thought, to some. This idea or suggestion opens up all other kinds of topics which are very worthy of being "fleshed out" so to speak, because they matter very much in our world today.
He died June 12, 1972 in one of my favorite places in the world, Carmel California. It was a massive heart attack that took his life on a corner one day.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote her undergraduate college thesis on Saul Alinsky. It was something her critics used against her when she ran for the 2008 nomination, and also while she was First Lady in the White house. They said it painted her as more of a radical. What is of interest now in 2012 to me, is that she isn't a person that comes to mind when I think of radical organization for far left or socialistic types of ideas. Others do come to mind however.
Regardless, Saul Alinsky is someone to know about, because his views made an impact during his life and the ideas and philosophies will continue to make a difference because people are employing them now in different ways.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Ideas matter." I don't know who to give credit to for that quote, as I am sure it has been around a long time, and I have heard it stated more than once. I think ideas DO matter, very much.