Works By The Many

A. J. Liebling once said, Freedom of the press is limited to those who own one. And while government is, at its best, for the people, it rarely seems to be by the people or of the people. Community is one thing that cannot be created by mandate. At best, an enlightened bureaucracy can create the right conditions for community. But regular people have to weave together the fabric of their own community.

At the moment I’ll argue from the point of view of Davis, CA, because that cozy little town is my home. Its large student population (among which I recently counted myself) relies largely upon the university to provide events.

Since individuals have to attend the events, and have to bond over the events, why not plan and organize the events, too?

Actually, many events and activities are planned by student groups. But there aren’t enough of these to make the Davis campus feel like a true community. And community doesn’t magically manifest itself just because lots of people attend a concert together.

The strength of a community depends on people feeling belonging, and feeling ownership of their surroundings. You might meet a few new people by attending a showing of a movie on campus, but you won’t feel that you are responsible for the social network around you. Like many natural resources, a raw, unformed grouping of people is not owned by anyone until it is shaped and formed. Unlike some material resources, a community, once so fashioned, is owned by everyone who has lent a hand in its creation.

We need a Community Corps. The Peace Corps, and its stateside equivalent, Americorps, were created for idealistic young’uns who wanted to make the world a better place. Another corps that puts people to work in their own community would get work done, and would also give people a sense of ownership of their social environment.

The Corps’ projects would organize itself locally, and could focus on municipal and service projects as well as beautification projects: murals, planting trees, and the like.

I have a libertarian streak, and a Community Corps appeals to me in part because a city could reduce taxes if people took care of more local public improvements on their own.

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