Friday, August 13, 2010

Unknowable Self

"The unknowable, knowable self is an organizer's greatest aid and worst obstacle. As a stranger from the outside one of the things people want to know about is why you are doing this."

Nicholas von Hoffman, Radical

This book is an homage, not a memoir, not a biography, by one of Saul Alinsky's "community organizer" recruits from the 1950s -- one of the last standing from that era.

The second sentence in this quote is more straightforward -- Why are you knocking on doors trying to get people to do things rather than getting a real job? People would frequently peg you as some kind of priest or communist. You need an answer.

The first sentence is about authenticity, in the end, and the ability to draw upon real life experience in talking with strangers. Alinsky-style organizers are always asking you about your story, what get's you going, etc. This kind of revelation is a key part of their 10-day training. Sometimes I tire of people reeling off their stories, but it does set the groundwork for real conversation.

How is the "unknowable self" an "aid.?" Surprise? Spontaneity? Being real?

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