Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Rev Reads it For You: The Eleven Ethics (Rules for Radicals)

Chapter Two is concerned with outlining Alinsky's 11 rules of "The Ethics of Means and Ends." Alinsky sets his moral foundation for community organization, but pay attention as he sets the deck against the Haves.

"To say that corrupt means corrupt the ends is to believe in the immaculate conception of ends and principles. The real arena is corrupt and bloody. Life is a corrupting process from the time a child learns to play his mother off against his father in the politics of when to go to bed; he who fears corruption fears life."
Alinsky first sets out by sidestepping the issue of morality altogether. 'Look, the real world isn't an Ethics textbook. Things are complicated. It's hard to stay clean. Everybody does it. Might as well give up.'

This shouldn't be new to anyone here, so I'll spare you the rant on moral relativism. Simply note that Alinsky uses examples/language that no one can deny and then skips over actually proving his point conclusively. It's a good maneuver!

Continues after the jump.

"The means-and-end moralists or non-doers always wind up on their ends without any means."
You can't fully argue with Alinsky here. There's always a person in every organization who's willing to wring their hands over some moral non-issue and wants everyone to participate. You can't let this person have power, or even remain in the camp.

"First [rule of the ethics of means and ends], that one’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue....as La Rochefoucauld put it, “We all have strength enough to endure the misfortunes of others.”
Again, this is true, Your willingness to entertain questionable means is directly proportional to how much skin you have in the game. Whereas some might use this as an admonition to not be blinded by need, Alinsky the moral philosopher uses it as an admonition against the moral.

"The second rule of the ethics of means and ends is that the judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment."
Quite true. We are more willing to excuse the excesses of our allies. A moral philosopher would admonish us not to excuse our allies; Alinsky admonishes us not to condemn any means available.

"Therefore, from one point of view the omission was justified; from the other, it was deliberate deceit."
Alinsky says the above in reference to the Declaration of Indepedence. If you'll notice, the document does not mention any of the good things the British did for the Colonists, only the bad things. If you're a Royalist, it's an unforgivable omission. If you're a Revolutionary, it's a necessary Rhetorical move.

"The opposition’s means, used against us, are always immoral and our means are always ethical and rooted in the highest of human values."
This line is a summary of Alinsky's morals and maybe 50% of his tactics.

"The third rule of the ethics of means and ends is that in war the end justifies almost any means."
There are some lengths that Alinsky will not go to. He will approve almost any means, not any means. Later rules will define these.

"The fourth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point."
This consideration is, of course, not extended to the opposition.

"Today we may look back and regard Adams’ action in the same light as the British did, but remember that we are not today involved in a revolution against the British Empire."
The details of the action is irrelevant. It was justified by a war.

Also, notice that Alinsky likes to use examples from the Revolutionary War. This isn't accidental - remember his insistence on the futility of flag burning. Anything the Founding Fathers did is automatically cloaked in a form of righteousness for the average American.

"The fifth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa."
Here's where we get to Alinsky's actual moral standards: unnecessary immorality is immoral. Necessary immorality is moral. I'll spare you the lecture on "Who chooses what is necessary?" as I assume you are at least as bright as a first-year philosophy student.

"if one lacks the luxury of a choice and is possessed of only one means, then the ethical question will never arise...Inversely, the secure position in which one possesses the choice of a number of effective and powerful means is always accompanied by that ethical concern and serenity of conscience so admirably described by Mark Twain as “The calm confidence of a Christian holding four aces.”
Alinsky is willing to do whatever it takes, but only in the absence of other means.

“I would rather lose than corrupt my principles, and then go home with my ethical hymen intact"
Note how he uses loaded terms ("ethical hymen") to disparage ethics. Those with ethics are female virgins - inexperienced, weak, unmanly.

"The sixth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that the less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means."
Again, the less necessary an action, the more morality can be considered.

 "The seventh rule of the ethics of means and ends is that generally success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics...There can be no such thing as a successful traitor, for if one succeeds he becomes a founding father."
The conditions at the time of the action gives you a moral pass, unless you win, in which case you also get a moral pass.

"The eighth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that the morality of a means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory...In short, ethics are determined by whether one is losing or winning."
Necessity is the mother of morality.

"The ninth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical."
This is another 'can't deny.' The more effective an action, the more the opposition will label it as evil. The pig doesn't start squealing until you stab it.

"The tenth rule of the ethics of means and ends is that you do what you can with what you have and clothe it with moral garments."
Anything you do will either be made moral by the conditions at the time, by your eventual victory, or by whatever rationalizations you can come up with.

(Quoting Lenin) “The task of the Bolsheviks is to overthrow the Imperialist Government... We are in the minority. In these circumstances there can be no talk of violence on our side.”
Man, I love this quote.

"Eight months after securing independence, the Indian National Congress outlawed passive resistance and made it a crime."
This is hilarious.

"All effective actions require the passport of morality."
And here we come to the second half of the duality. Alinsky's goal is not to discredit morality, since the appearance of morality is necessary to sell yourself to the proles. The goal is redefine morality as "everything we do is good, everything they do is bad."

There are two types of moral relativist. The first actually lives as if there is no morality, and is generally ineffective. The second rewrites morality to favor themselves, and is much more effective.

"...the future does not argue for making a special religion of nonviolence. It will be remembered for what it was, the best tactic for its time and place. As more effective means become available, the Negro civil rights movement will divest itself of these decorations and substitute a new moral philosophy in keeping with its new means and opportunities. The explanation will be, as it always has been, “Times have changed.” This is happening today."
ITT: Alinsky calls Black Lives Matter.

" The eleventh rule of the ethics of means and ends is that goals must be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” “Of the Common Welfare,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” or “Bread and Peace.”
Morality is the study of how to best present yourself as moral. Notice how many of the above Revolutions resulted in as much or more human suffering than the systems they replaced.

"Means and ends are so qualitatively interrelated that the true question has never been the proverbial one, “Does the End justify the Means?” but always has been “Does this particular end justify this particular means?”
To be fair, this is a better standard than those used by abstract ethical philosophy. But it's also not Alinsky's actual formula. Let's boil the 11 rules down to 3 questions:

1). Can we get away with it?
2). Do we have any other options that would be easier to get away with?
3). How are we going to sell it?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds an awful lot like "1984 as a how-to manual". That seems to come up over and over again throughout the last few centuries.