Our Roots

The Roots of our Tool of Transparency

by Peter Fleming

The influences that have resulted in the Pellin school of thought and practice being where it is today are vast. A major influence that is perhaps not well known is Saul Alinsky, whose name resurfaced recently in American presidential political debates.

Saul Alinsky has been used by Republicans to attack Barack Obama’s values, which in part come from his work as a community organiser. Saul was the father of community organization in America. Saul Alinsky fundamentally helped me develop “Transparency” which is a defining edge of the Pellin counseling, psychotherapy and coaching.

I trained with him in Canada. He would gaze over a group of social workers and counselors and say:”You have as many problems as the people you are helping”. He was a wild charismatic guy like David Pellin.

The National Film Board of Canada made a documentary about Saul at the same time they made, “Activator One” about David. That is on the Pellin web site. I met Saul Alinsky in 1968 when he trained a group of us at a prison in Canada.

His challenge to professionals was that we had problems and were ineffective in our work because those problems were always hidden, had to be covered up and that placed an element of doubt on our integrity.

One of his challenges was: “Don’t you think they know? Do you think your clients and patients are dumb? Do you really believe that the inmates of this prison can’t see some of your hidden faults? He used a more vulgar word as he did when he asked, “Do you think the inmates here are dumb?”

He had a passionate belief in the intellect of the uneducated. He wanted us all to quit social work and become community organisers. I did not have the confidence in our jargon today, Performance Life Force, to be a community organiser.

I challenged him that we did good work and not everyone had the talent to be a community organiser. He came back:”And you don’t have problems? You don’t have problems? And they all have to be hidden”. I wrestled with that.

His challenge, backed up by AA (Alcoholics Anonymous); Martin Buber’s, “I-Thou”; my dad’s Australian leftish values; Carl Rogers’ last work on “Person-To-Person” amongst others, resulted in our revolution of the nature of the professional relationship, Transparency.

The professional can be open. The professional can be trained to be safely open and that enhances integrity and trust in ways Freud could not even contemplate. Saul never knew the influence he had. Or the history he influenced with the election decades later of a community organiser with a strange name to the presidency of his country. Saul died in 1972.