When most people think of “DIY,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably something similar to the website Pinterest: a Michael’s or A.C. Moore dreamland of doilies, mason jars, sequins, and stencils. Do-it-yourself, however, means a lot more than hot glue-gunning pieces of processed glass (that you bought in a plastic baggie) to your ($4.69 from Walmart) lampshade.
I’m not criticizing crafty decoration of a home or a dorm. It’s the kind of thing I love, actually. The idea of people bringing unique inspiration and style to their living areas really makes me feel hopeful…People actually caring about their surroundings? Who would have thought??
I do, however, think that DIY craft projects are a symptom of something greater. Remember accessorizing your locker in high school? You know why you did that? Because every single locker looked exactly the same. You wanted yours to stand out, be different from the rest. You wanted to break up the homogeneous nature of your existence. It was enough to go to the same class and do the same thing every day; you at least wanted to be able to look at something slightly varied! And goodness knows, you weren’t going to get that from the stock photo “inspirational” posters on the classroom wall. And they were mad when we scratched drawings into the wooden desks? What else were we supposed to do?
It’s not that being at college has changed much. As much as I love Saint Joe’s, and as much as I truly feel that my education here is unique and substantial, in a system where a university is an industry and efficiency is place above all else, of course we sit in rows in the library (where I am right now) with no ability to personalize our surroundings. Of course teachers and classes filter in and out of classrooms, leaving it exactly as they found it. Maybe it irks you when the teacher asks you to form the desks into a circle, but be aware that’s due to the little variance they have control of.
It’s the same way with do-it-yourself decor. You zealously accessorize your Walmart lampshade, because otherwise you feel yourself disappearing into a structured, regulated box of a living space.
Everything is an industry, and a monopolized one at that. I’m not an economist, and I’m not an expert on modern-day capitalism. All I know is that somehow I am surrounded by consumer choices that feel like no choice at all. To purchase something with any variety or personality, one must find the small-town specialist boutique and cash out some serious moolah.
The same applies to books, to music, to news sources, to clothing, to the housing industry…even the 2016 presidential campaign is so cookie-cutter and dry that I might heave.
I’m reminded of the song Panic by The Smiths – “the music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life.”
So what do you do now? You can’t rely on the big companies to do it for you, so, that’s right – do it your-ever-lovin’-self. But I’m talking about more than your lampshade or your locker. I wanna take this to the big-times – combining the spirit of DIY ethics in your own personal life to the big industries that tell us we can’t do it ourselves. Forget the NY-Times Opinion Section – Write a blog. Publish a zine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine).
Forget the crappy produce section at your local chain grocery store – plant a garden, and share your crops with friends.
Forget Atlantic Records – make your own album and put it on Bandcamp. Start a radio station, have a music show in your basement and invite local bands to play.
There is no limit to what we can do ourselves and together.
Going to school in Philadelphia makes it easy. The place is bursting with people who care. Here’s the mission statement of DIY PHL, a website that helps you find underground concerts throughout the city – “You won’t find shows or events that are heinously for-profit, overly exclusive, or hostile to any particular group. We do our best to exclude events with bands, performers, and venues that promote, condone, or willfully ignore racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and any form of malicious exclusion or intimidation.”
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’m looking for in a show: 1) people who care about community, 2) people who care about other people’s feelings and their beliefs, and 3) people who have a passion for individuality and for supporting genuine motivations. Heck, that’s what I’m looking for in people as friends! That’s the atmosphere I want to be around, and that’s the effort I want to spend my time promoting. Look – I just did.