Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Apaches, Aztecs and Tea Parties

In my on line "Leadership for the Information Age" class, we were assigned reading in Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom's book, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. I remembered that SarahB had commented on one of Dean's posts that the Tea Party movement derived much of its power from the concepts in that book. In the first chapter the book describes how a small group of Spanish conquistadors under Cortez managed to defeat the entire Aztec nation by capturing Montezuma and sealing off the capital. Later, when the Spanish encountered the relatively unsophisticated Apaches, they wind up on the losing side of a 200 year war, in which the Apaches only grow stronger and control more territory.

The secret of the Apache success was their decentralized structure. They had no leader in the authoritarian sense, only leaders whom some tribal members chose to follow, but were not required to do so. When the Spanish burned Apache villages, they abandoned villages and became nomadic. The more the Spanish fought them, the stronger they became and the Spanish could not defeat them because they were so decentralized that no decisive blow could be brought to bear against them.

The Tea Party movement, is very much Apache in outlook, recent events notwithstanding. And I hope it stays that way. This is why the attacks on the movement have been so unsuccessful to date. In fact, this style of organization deliberately confounds the Alinsky tactics of the other side. Alinsky in turn devised his tactics to take down political entities that are in my view, mostly Aztec (centralized) in their structure (with some elements of Apache) by attacking the inevitable fissures in such organizations.

The Tea Party must coalesce around a few simple concepts, then it will have lasting impact. When key beliefs are widely agreed to, then the cultural norms will become self-enforcing and we will have a lasting movement. I nominate fiscal responsibility and a strict respect for the limits the constitution places on the federal government as the two most important and easily agreed upon planks for the movement. I welcome comment from my fellow tea partyers.

For a more comprehensive set of policies, see the Freedom Coalition agenda.


  1. B-Daddy, the history of the early Christian church is another teachable instance.

    Roman persecution not only did not stop Christianity, its crackdowns helped it spread because of the relatively small, nimble and de-centralized nature of "the movement"

    Link forthcoming.

  2. Nice example Dean. I don't think the Tea Party movement will be strengthened by the recent convention or any other attempt to "formalize" the organization.

  3. I like the fiscally conservative and strict constitution interpretation ideas around which most of us can rally. Great focal points for us tea baggers as the rest of the political arena is always surrounded in fog and haze and you never know what you are getting until it is too late.

  4. Given CNN and MSNBC anchors' juvenile sense of humor about "teabaggers," do we really want to get them started on starfish?

  5. I had NO idea. Your hanging with the wrong crowd W.C.