Tuesday, October 23, 2018

D.I.Y and D.I.E

Those of you familiar with anarchist punk culture may know the phrase ‘DIY or die’ - a battle cry for people to eschew the corporate world, to take back power and agency and do things for themselves. The problem I have with anarchist battle cries in general is their fairly aggressive and gloomy nature, so I have a different suggestion:  DIY and DIE - Do It Yourself and Do It Everywhere.

DIY isn’t just the reserve of amateur builders or decorators that spend Saturday afternoons mooching around B&Q spending far too much money on overpriced home improvements. It is an attitude, a state of mind that can be applied to any part of life. It is all the things those angry anarchists want, but you don’t have to go to extremes, squatting empty buildings and sleeping on grubby mattresses to achieve it (unless you want to of course, and then more power to you!). It can take the form of hundreds of tiny actions, and just requires a change of mindset. You can do it yourself. You don’t need a corporation to be at the end of every transaction you make or every service you use. To illustrate what I’m trying (fairly inarticulately!) to say, I’ll give you a few examples from the world of the FREEDOM junkies!

The first, most obvious, thing I can think of is our home, the Ford Transit camper van we built with zero experience and a shoestring budget. When we first started thinking about converting it, there were a few things I thought we would need to get professional help with, like electrical systems and cutting holes in the roof. One staggeringly expensive quote later, and we realised we would be doing the entire thing ourselves, for seriously cheap. We hit the internet, poring over blogs, forums and Youtube. We delved deep into the minds of people who knew about electricity, angle grinders and wood stoves. We spent time with other van dwellers, scrutinising every inch of their set ups and seeing what would and wouldn’t work for us. Basically, we did our research, took a deep breath…and then just got on with it. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a difficult process, that there weren’t mistakes and things we would do differently, but in the end I’m so grateful we were forced into doing it ourselves. Now when I look at our beautiful home that we built entirely with our own hands, I am immensely proud of what we achieved. 

It's amazing what can happen when you just give it a go!

(Side note: If you’re interested in van life, keep checking out the blog for upcoming posts about how we did our conversion…if we can do it so can you!)

As we’ve been driving around Germany we’ve been combining travelling and volunteering with Ryan’s gigs, doing a country-wide Junkie Kut tour. We’ve been to all kinds of towns and venues, but two stand out as perfect examples of DIY culture. The first was a 5 day psycore festival near Frankfurt - completely unofficial and self-organised by a crew of dedicated party heads. The dance floor was in a tunnel under a motorway, complete with sofas and a bar, and an outside area with a fire. 

Epic party space, complete with standard creepy hanging clown

Everyone pitched in carrying heavy equipment up and down a steep flight of stairs, helped with keeping the fire going, cooking food and even driving to town to pick up artists (it’s always nice to have a sober person with a drivers licence and a big van around isn’t it?!). I knew I would struggle to get through the three days we were there without tea, so I asked if we could run a stall. The organisers were very happy for us to do so, and built us a beautiful bar that was my base for the whole festival, selling tea, coffee and cake to immensely grateful party-goers. I made a bit of money, met some lovely people, and (most importantly) had constant access to tea. 

Our beautiful little tea stall - 'vegan cake for the masses' is my battle cry!

The second party marked the end of our tour, as we arrived back in Berlin for Fuck Parade. If you’ve never heard of it, Fuck Parade is a techno parade/demonstration that started in 1997 as an alternative to Love Parade, an event that was becoming commercialised and excluded more extreme and experimental forms of techno. This year it was made up of around 10 sound systems on trucks that crawled through the whole city for around 6 hours, playing the maddest music and surrounded by huge crowds who partied in the streets all day. It was an amazing event to have been a part of, not least because, as a friend of ours was running one of the trucks, we had seen the huge amount of work that had gone into making it happen. People’s commitment to the parade, because the purpose of the day was so important to them, was inspiring; so many people helped with setting up, decorating, driving and being a ‘person in a high-vis vest’ (a super-important role!). We weren’t waiting for a big faceless organisation to make a party happen - we made that shit happen, it was our party, and it was an honour to be involved. 

The absolute nutters and legends that Made Shit Happen on September 1st.

The final example I have of embracing DIY culture is, well…you’re reading it! When the idea of writing a blog first started floating around, I was a little daunted - I don’t know the first thing about the internet, computers or how to make websites. More importantly, I didn’t have any money to spend on it! But we started small, slow and free. We got a free blogger site, and by researching and learning, figured out how to customise it so it looks a bit more like a ‘proper’ website. I ’splashed out’ £1.50 a month on a domain name, and then spent weeks trying to figure out how to link it to the blog, and in the process learning more about the workings of websites that I thought possible! I’ve discovered that starting a podcast is actually pretty straightforward - we’ll be able to record it in the van and, with a few hacks and tricks it will be relatively cheap to make…so we’re doing it! 

Stay tuned for more information about our upcoming podcast - it'll be DIY as fuck!

I’ve learnt how to use Photoshop, how to edit audio recordings, and video editing is next on the list! We do absolutely everything you see, read (and soon hear!) ourselves, because we don’t have a choice. It might seem that not having a choice is restricting, but when you’re forced down the DIY route, suddenly a world of knowledge and opportunity to learn opens up. Now you’re free from the real restrictions, the restriction of needing someone else to do things for you. 

If you want to bring more DIY culture into your life, here are some great places to start:

Food, glorious food: Food is as fundamental as it gets, and if you can grow your own, be it herbs on your windowsill or a full-on veggie patch, then you’re embracing DIY culture in a beautiful and important way. There are so many ways to get involved with growing food - community projects, sharing allotments, guerrilla gardening - that not having a garden is no excuse! And growing food isn't the only way to DIY your dinner - cooking yourself, learning to make new dishes and experimenting in the kitchen will save you money, feed your body and nourish your soul, all at the same time! 

Making Medicine: For so long, medicine has been in the hands of huge corporations making complex chemicals that are sold to us as the only thing that will cure what ails you. But it hasn’t always been that way - for even longer medicine was in the hands of the people, and grew in your garden. It can still be that way - with a little research and time you can learn how to make all sorts of herbal remedies. Have a look at this lovely homesteading blog, which has lots of great recipes and instructions on how to make teas, tinctures, lotions and potions!

Get skillz: Think of something you would normally ask (or pay) someone else to do, and see if you can’t figure out how to…that’s right, DIY! Youtube is a veritable gold mine of information - people take the time to make instructional videos about pretty much everything under the sun. Ask around your friends and see if any of them have the skills you need and the time to show you what to do. I learnt to crochet purely because I wanted a hat and didn’t want to buy one! A friend showed me the basics, I learnt the rest off the internet, and now can make lots of lovely things I can give as gifts or use myself, saving me money (or it would if I hadn’t developed a serious yarn habit in the process!) 

Find and support DIY-ers: If you’re really stuck, or feel like you don’t have the time, and you need to call in an expert, think carefully about who you will use. See if there’s a local person, a skill swap or independent business who embraces DIY culture. They’ll often be cheaper, and need support from people if they’re ever to compete with the big boys. This garage in Bristol is a brilliant example - a woman who is offering to teach people how to fix their vehicles, be it a car, bike or van, within an exchange economy. 

The typical view of anarchists is angry people who shout and demonstrate and want a huge regime-shattering revolution. I believe change is possible, but we won’t get anywhere by shouting. What will change the world is hundreds and thousands of small actions, happening every day and performed by people all over the world. A community garden here, a family making their own pickles over there, people deciding that maybe they’ll just have a crack themselves and discovering that it’s possible. Taking back the power, one new skill at a time. 


If you can relate to what you've just read, let's continue the conversation! Sharing stories is one of our most powerful tools, so leave a comment below, check out the FREEDOM junkies' facebook page, or join our group.

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