d. d. i. y.
Don’t Do It Yourself
d.i.y. has been stolen, and we haven’t even seemed to notice. A plague
veiled in the ideal of empowerment is sweeping our nation, leaving in its wake
neighborhoods scarred by crappy home improvement, families destroyed by
badly cooked gourmet meals, and scores and heaps of barely used tools, leftover
supplies, and unfinished projects. This particular affliction goes by the familiar
initials D.I.Y., which stands for “Do It Yourself.” The idea is rooted in positivity,
but the reality is sinister.
Those corporations who promote D.I.Y. have co-opted our spirited movement
by the same name, transforming an idealistic, anti-consuming, proindependent,
pro-active ethos into an opportunity to shop. Stealing D.I.Y.
from zines, communes, artists, and denizens of the avant-garde underworld,
the new corporatized D.I.Y movement attempts to make the individual feel
as though they are in control of their lives and environment in a disparate,
disconnected world. They flatter us, making us understand that we can
indeed make and do anything as well as a professional. Their trickery makes
us feel special, talented, smart, good-looking. We have fine taste and the ability
to master anything. We have latent skills yearning to be released. We are
underachievers, and by buying and consuming more and more how-to books,
kits, lumber, tile, yarn, drywall, and specialty tools, we will unleash our
D.I.Y. used to mean grabbing a Sharpie™ and starting one’s own revolution
through words and actions. Now it means going into debt at mega-stores,
consuming more and more materials manufactured overseas, raping the earth,
destroying forests, creating garbage, and mucking up our lives with badly
fixed toilets, leaking tile floors, ill-fitting sweaters, bowing floorboards,
crooked walls, and ugly mosaics. We are bankrupting competent carpenters.
We are destroying the careers of electricians and hvac crews. Our d.i.y.
travesties of home improvement leave us with closets full of under-used tools
and sheds full of extra wood and steel wool and toxic chemicals and mastic
and caulk. These closets don’t really even shut correctly; our hinges aren’t
straight and we brashly scrape the undersides of our doors with a plane,
hoping that two crookeds will combine into one straight. Our D.I.Y.
adventures in making our own clothes, clutter our homes with extra fabric,
yarn, and sewing supplies. The clothes we manufacture are good for a couple
times out and about, but our learning curve is steep and the seams don’t
always stay together. Our D.I.Y. exuberance for cooking unfamiliar cuisines
fills our cabinets with jars of exotic spices, specialized contraptions, bamboo
steamers, Moroccan tangines, the requisite fondue set; all items that will
flood thrift stores shortly after whichever particular cooking trend is
succeeded by the next. Guests to our homes smile and swallow appreciatively;
does this really mean our cooking adventures are successful? We are
constantly experimenting with something new, with no time to perfect
anything before our next project looms on the horizon, bringing with it a
new supply of gadgets and raw materials.
The trickery of advertisers makes us feel like human beings, while in
reality we are, in the minds of the global mega-companies who have us all on
a short leash, slavish consumers. D.I.Y. has become just another tactic to rip
away our humanity, turning us into operators of cash machines and credit
cards. We exist to be ripped-off and profited from. D.I.Y. panders to our beliefs,
while at the same time ripping us a new asshole and sending our hard
earned money straight to hell. We are stewing in our own fat. Our utopia
is on layaway, with an option for 1.5% cash back if we sign up for the right
credit card. We have become hungry monsters, drooling to take back
production for ourselves, whatever the cost. Our ethos has been gift wrapped
and sold back to us. Our revolution has been pilfered.
We can and must stop this madness once and for all.
“Don’t Do It Yourself” is our new battle cry. D.D.I.Y. means working with
friends, hiring a professional, consuming wisely and conscientiously, and
providing for ourselves while working with others. We do what we do best, do
what we know how to do, while allowing others to help us with what we are
not equipped for. D.D.I.Y. allows us to admit that we might not be able to do
everything ourselves, that we can’t be a specialist in all fields. D.D.I.Y. says
we don’t need to purchase all the tools necessary for a minor repair,
especially when our neighbor has a toolbox covered in cobwebs in the back
shed. It is pointless for us to learn electrical wiring in order to fix one
chandelier; we don’t need to invest in a table saw to build a birdhouse. Our
new ethos of D.D.I.Y. asks us to reclaim creativity in order to retreat from the
corporate food chain and to embrace frugality, common sense, common
property, and skill-sharing.
D.D.I.Y. compels us to invest in people instead of material. We must understand
that expert wisdom exists, and that it cannot be learned overnight or from
the Idiot’s Guide or For Dummies series of how-to books. Employ those who know
what they are doing. Imagine a world where everyone has mountains of supplies
but no idea how to use them – not pretty. Employment need not always entail
a monetary exchange (though sometimes there is no choice). D.D.I.Y. contests
that we all have something to offer, no matter how modest, and that our skills
can be swapped for those of others. D.D.I.Y. asks us to bake bread in trade for
having a friend rototil our garden or to knit a hat for the person who fixes
our bicycle. If we cannot bake or knit, perhaps we can build a website, provide
childcare, walk a dog, dig a ditch, run an errand.
D.D.I.Y. is the new D.I.Y. It is un-commoditized, barter-based, community
crazed, and liberating. D.D.I.Y. asks us to ask ourselves if we want to spend
our time learning plumbing basics while the plumber next door now spends
many of her working hours undoing the mistakes made by amateurs. D.D.I.Y.
asks us to support those who know how to do things, so that their crafts may
survive. D.D.I.Y. encourages freedom, creativity, earth-consciousness and
skill-sharing. The days of Do-It-Yourself are over. In the face of the corporatized
takeover of our uprising against globalized consumer culture, we once again
must transform our ideologies and rectify the injustices brought against
humanity in the name our former revolution. Don’t-Do-It-Yourself finds us
standing side by side, leaving behind the “army of one” while moving forward
into a world of our own design.