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Community Organizer scott crow Talks Shifting Culture Without Government

Anarchist Movement

I recently spoke to noted community organizer scott crow about how average people—people with dreams, vision, grit and motivation—can effect change in a very real and quantifiable way after the vote. This isn't a playbook for smashing some McDonald's or Starbucks windows, but for taking the fight to communities.

Community Organizer scott crow Talks Shifting Culture Without Government

DJ Pangburn
February 22, 2013
Editor @DeathAndTaxes Contributing Writer

I recently spoke to noted community organizer scott crow about how average people—people with dreams, vision, grit and motivation—can effect change in a very real and quantifiable way after the vote. This isn't a playbook for smashing some McDonald's or Starbucks windows, but for taking the fight to communities.

A tired cycle exists in American electoral culture. Every two years we vote for federal representatives and senators, and every four years we vote in the presidential election. Each election cycle builds to a critical mass of ideological recriminations, crescendoing on election day.

Americans then rather sadly wash their hands of the mess, and resolve to do very little or nothing to actively make democracy work. There is a relinquishing of the responsibility of democracy to representatives. And as we've seen in the last twelve years of bitter partisan divide, it has produced paralysis instead of results. It has popularized politicians who behave more like actors or programmed holograms than actual problem solvers.

Mr. crow has had a roughly two decade-long resume of working in community organizing circles, most notably as one of the founders of the Common Ground Collective, one of the largest and most-organized volunteer forces in the post-Katrina wasteland. When W's buddy “Brownie” (Michael Brown) was botching the FEMA response, and the National Guard was enforcing marshall law on New Orleans streets, CGC was busy cleaning out destroyed homes, mobilizing free healthcare, clothing and food, and otherwise delivering mutual aid to a grateful New Orleans population.

Much of crow's current work involves helping communities build worker cooperatives and local economies horizontally, which is explained in more detail below.

Author’s Note: This is a long-form interview. I am testing the boundaries of what the Internet generation can handle. There will be no cats here. Are you with me?!

We Are More Than Just Voters & Consumers

The voter, says crow, must pass into oblivion. In his or her place must arise the doer, the creator—that person who sees all potential and jumps into action.

Ancient Rome suffered a political paralysis similar to contemporary America. In Rome voters were mostly irrelevant. Into this political void came the Roman emperors who, while bringing some domestic stability, only hastened Rome's fall. Whereas the great American political paralysis might be a melancholic moment for this country's patriots, scott crow on the other hand sees vast opportunities to do great things.

“There are a set of paths in the middle that we haven't even explored to a great extent in this country,” says crow. “The dominant paradigm tells us that we are just voters and consumers with a void of other alternatives. Life—politics, culture and economies—[involves] more complicated social relationships in this country.”

The trick, says crow, is to be a creator: someone who sees new paths and pursues them energetically. “The [new paths] aren't always going to be easy,” says crow. “But we will be doing them together; block by block and community by community, as needed.”

Asked if voting has any real redeeming value, crow is mostly pessimistic. “Voting is a lot like recycling: if you're so damned lazy that you can't do anything else, then at least do that,” says crow. “It’s the least you can do. Pulling the lever or throwing something in the correct bin; neither require great effort or thinking, but neither have real impact either.”

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