Well, here's to the song with the longest title I'll probably ever attempt to write about! If you know anything about American singer-songwriter and player of pretty much every instrument you can imagine - Sufjan Stevens - you'll know that long song titles are one of his fortes. A lot could be said about Sufjan and his religious connections but no time for that right now - what I'm particularly interested in writing about is why I chose this song of his. Mainly it's because of the man mentioned in the ridiculously long title of this song - Saul Alinsky. And he's someone who I have recently become very interested in.
Saul Alinsky is known as the father of 'community organising'. The term was probably not that well known until this time last year when its most famous proponent started banging on about it on his way to the White House. Having got involved in community organising here in East London through London Citizens a couple of years back, I've read Alinsky's two short books - Reville for Radicals (1946) and Rules for Radicals (1971) and been gripped by them. They're not quite like anything I've ever read - irreverent, funny, passionate, political and ultimately empowering. If you want to do politics or social justice it's the only place to start. I'll never be the same again having read that stuff (and incidently, I've seen the principles work here in my neighbourhood!).
So what's this song about? Truthfully, I'm not sure - every version of the lyrics on the internet are different and none of them are obvious in meaning. Having listened to the song carefully a few times I would suggest that it appears to be an Alinsky anthem of sorts. You'll just have to listen to it yourself - strangely uplifting despite the opening salvo of 'Everything is lost...'. But then in an odd kind of way that is Alinsky's message - when you're down and losing, get organised, act together and you're on your way up. And make sure you have a lot of fun doing it!