Conservative Rules For Radicals: Identifying the Problem and the Players (Part 2)

April 18, 2009 by Lisa Krempasky  
Filed under Politics

The most significant thing we can do in our attempts to change the world is to recognize the world for what it actually is in the here and now and not for what we want it to be. In the model of Alcoholics Anonymous we must first realize there is a problem. If you don’t know how things are, if you haven’t taken that cold hard look at yourself, then there is not way to know who you can be or how you can get there.

Alinsky puts it this way. “It is a world not of angels, but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies always immoral; a world where “reconciliation” means one side gets the power and the other side gets reconciled to it.

To change the world we must first understand the players in this change. The are basically three group of people participating in the process. The Haves are the ones in power. They are the status quo and the ones who benefit from how things are now. They are the hardest to motivate for change because change produces little positive for them. To motivate them you much touch on ancilliary needs or senses of guilt for being Haves. Former Haves can become powerful allies when they are removed from power. Alinsky’s view on motivating this group is to show them how the change will benefit them rather than hurt them. “The most practical life is the moral life and that the moral life is the only road to survival.”

The second group is the Have Nots. These people are at the bottom of the rung and make up the bulk of the world. They are always motivated for change because they have nothing to lose. Things as they are do not benefit them. They are willing to take great risk to have a better life because many feel like nothing could be worse than where they are right now. They tend toward the radical and are outside of the realm of power. They want to get and often will do so by any means necessary. To many attempting to change the world these people are expendable in the goal and purpose. Thus it is important for effective long term change to not just motivate the Have Nots but to connect to their real and felt needs.

The final broad group in attempts to change are the Have A Little, Want Mores. These people are generally referred to as the middle class. They are more risk adverse than the Have Nots because they perceive the risk of being worse off after a change. This group is caught in the middle. With one hand they are grasping for more, but with the other they are clenching on to what they already have, afraid to let go until they can firmly hold that which they are reaching for. This is the group most likely to agree with your end goal but be critical of your means. Means is important and conservative steady means is highly sought. This is the most significant group in change, especially in America where they are our largest group. When this group reaches critical mass you know you are onto something and change is inevitable.

In part 1 we looked at 6 basic rules for changing the world. In part 3 we will explore issues how to choose the means to your end.