By Steve Hart
March 30, 2012
I lived in New Orleans in the late 1980s, when the city was in a post-oil boom depression. Many of the buildings downtown were empty, except for a lone security guard. In 2005, Katrina smacked the Gulf Coast, the levies failed, and New Orleans was flooded. Soon thereafter, Scott Crow and a group of friends entered the New Orleans area on a small boat to help. Faced with an armed military, an inept FEMA, a hopeless Red Cross, and vigilantes, they searched for lost friends and survivors.
After a few missions, they settled in an area on the West Bank, in a town called Algiers. Even before the hurricane hit, Algiers was an area hard hit by recession after recession, and far removed from the charming old-world style of the Vieux Carre. When the Common Ground volunteers set up in Algiers, they were faced with armed vigilantes, described in the tense chapter entitled, “White Vigilantes and the Battle of Algiers.” I was amazed by the determination of the volunteers who met the everyday challenges of helping residents tarp their roofs, providing quality health care, and even offering back massages to suffering people. Another chapter described the hopelessness of Red Cross trucks, pulling up to much fanfare, only to hand out plastic utensils and handi-wipes, to people without drinkable water or food.
Black Flags and Windmills is an incredible book about a group of dedicated men and women who, faced with challenges from all sides of the United States government, built an oasis in a desert of shitty water and bloating animal carcasses. The author also writes about some of his internal struggles with the collective and doesn’t shy away from his criticism of his own techniques and beliefs.
I highly recommend this book. It is dramatic and tense, full of intense hope and utter despair. Everyone should read this.