Roman Catholicism and the American Way of Life

By Thomas T. McAvoy | Go to book overview

SAUL D. ALINSKY*


I. The Urban Immigrant

Our explosive atomic mushrooming into a world of new dimensions of time, of distance, communication and power, has come so suddenly that we are caught not just with one foot, but with our head, in the old world; an old world which we knew as recently as a decade ago. Confronted with a bewildering kaleidoscope of a new world in creation, we dimly see the undeniable truth of the living present, but cling to the solid, comfortable, familiar image of the world in which we grew up; the past, the dead past. We exist in the present, but think, act, decide, in fact live, in terms of the past. In truth atomic fission has been accompanied by mental fission. This schizophrenic malady besets many of the leaders of our major institutions, and even the nation, to the point of becoming the prime dilemma of our times. This is our point of departure for our discussion, and we shall return from time to time to this fundamental issue.

The issue of this symposium divides itself into two parts. First the people, the immigrants or newcomers and their needs. Second the community, which is entered by the newcomer or immigrant. Here specific questions arise such as "What can the community and its institutions do for them?" And conversely, "What are the newcomers doing to the community?"

In the past there was the world we knew approximately thirty-five years ago; the world of unrestricted immigration when the United States was traditionally the haven for refugees from persecution, poverty, or both. Many of the major forms of this world of 1924 persisted, at least outwardly, until the past decade. Up to that time our

____________________
*
Mr. Alinsky is Executive Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, Chicago, and author of Reveille for Radicals and John L. Lewis, a Biography.

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