‘“So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the
Israelites, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I
should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’”
“Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let
them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’”
Organizers say that the civil rights victories of the 1960s were the result, not of impassioned moral suasion, but of a convergence of self-interests. The self-interest of the African American community was clear. Thousands were prepared to go to jail, and some were even willing to face death in order to secure basic human rights. Northern liberal politicians wanted to get elected. Businesspeople wanted to protect their economic investments. Government could not endure ongoing, massive social unrest. The media had gripping, valuable stories to broadcast. The integrity and status of church leaders were at stake. These self-interests were brilliantly drawn together by the leadership of the civil rights movement to create historic, progressive, social change.
The public arena is a place where deals are continually being cut by corporate executives, politicians, labor unions, and community organizations on the basis of self-interest. Power brokers do their homework and establish relationships; they understand the self-interests of the parties with whom they are negotiating.
Government has the power to organize people through force, violence, money, bribery, and propaganda. Organizers organize people around self-interest. They claim that the concept of self-interest is necessary to understand and to embrace if one is to think clearly and to act directly in the public arena.
Church people, trained in the art of destructive self-denial, tend to identify self-interest with selfishness and thus see self-interest negatively as implying self-centeredness, egotistical behavior, narcissism, and disre-