The first act

December 18, 2008

So, I’m an engineer.

If you were to assume that I don’t know the first thing about activism and organization building, well, Sir, you’d be quite correct. Fortunately, I know the education value of reading a book. [By the way, if only somebody invented a ‘CTRL + F’ mechanism that you could attach to any existing book, that educational value would double. Ahem… spread the word.]

So, I’m an engineer, and I’ve been reading quite a bit lately.

My latest victim is a timeless work by Saul D. Alinsky himself. Rules for Radicals. 1971. Yes. Nick is insane. He is reading a 40 year old book to give him a better perspective on a largely virtual community in this Shirky-powered world of ours. Nick is also talking to himself, but you didn’t hear this from me.

Now, when I say timeless, I’m not kidding. See for yourself.

Our youth are impatient with the preliminaries that are essential to purposeful action. Effective organization is thwarted by the desire for instant and dramatic change, or as I have phrased it elsewhere the demand for revelation rather than revolution. It’s the kind of thing we see in play writing; the first act introduces the characters and the plot, in the second act the plot and characters are developed as the play strives to hold the audience’s attention. In the final act good and evil have their dramatic confrontation and resolution. The present generation wants to go right into the third act, skipping the first two, in which case there is no play, nothing but confrontation for confrontation’s sake–a flare-up and back to darkness. To build a powerful organization takes time. It is tedious, but that’s the way the game is played–if you want to play and not just yell, “Kill the umpire.”

Ah! Ah! You see it?! CALL! CALL! CALL! CALL!Kill that f*cking umpire.”

Wait, wait, wait. I am not saying that the hundreds of calls that members of DAP have placed did not make a difference. In that immediate time-frame, they absolutely did and we are in debt to those who took part in the campaign. However, as organizers without an organization, we’ve skipped the first and second acts.

The good news is that not everyone is as stupid as us, well me, at the very least. There is a large number of organizations who took the time to play out the first and second acts. And so did the opposition. Our team tried to push the bill through and they have failed. Mr. Alinsky… your cue.

Do one of three things. One, go find a wailing wall and feel sorry for yourselves. Two, go psycho … Three, learn a lesson. Go home, organize, build power and at the next convention, you be the delegates.

Harsh. Nonetheless, everyone liked three. And so they are doing.

On the other hand, members of the DAP community have to play out the aforementioned first and second acts. We have to organize. We have to have a plan. We have to be systematic in our approach. And, we have to position our new organization where it will serve a clear and needed purpose. Recently, this has been my main area of interest and work. The intent is to take the initial steps and to facilitate your involvement in this play, unless you can’t sing, then don’t call me.

I’ll see you on stage.