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 inner artisans.
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.