Guest Columnist #66 - DI Why? - DIY Skillshare

D.I.Why

    By now, anyone with half a brain knows that this world needs change.  Corporate-controlled mainstream consumer culture takes all power away from people and sells it back to the highest bidder.  Amerikkkans no longer know how to do things for themselves and their neighbors, how to grow their own food, build shelter, or live in harmony with the natural world.  We have to pay experts and landlords for what used to be common knowledge and communal property, and the winners of the whole pyramid scheme get to trash the planet at everyone else's expense.
    Personally, I'm damn pessimistic and scared about the world we're inheriting, but I ain't about to passively hand over my life and my power to the corporate fuckers to profit from.  So I fight to retain control of what should rightfully be mine, and sometimes I fight those in power outright.  I'm kind of a mean bastard that way.
    Resistance is best when it takes the most varied forms. You need direct action guerrilla warfare, you need activists working for the world we want to see, but you also at all costs have to have a positive, proactive side to your culture of resistance.  You gotta cultivate hope and you gotta build for the future even if you're not sure you have one.  And
if the powers that be try to homogenize and Wal-Mart-ize America's cultures at the expense of third world workers and the environment, it is your responsibility to resist that homogenization and to also build yourself a real and lasting culture that provides for your needs so you don't consume their shit.
    This rant is the basis for why my life revolves around DIY culture so much these days.  A year ago, after the WTO protests, a group of us- anarchists, punks, ex-punks in our late 20's and up, got together to talk about the things that our local 'community' does effectively, and where it has failed us. Over and over again, people said that they used to live a more radical lifestyle, they used to be more politically active, they used to never drive, they used to live with less, but that their needs have changed as a result of getting older, having kids, whatever, and they now make compromises that don't live up to their true beliefs. Their subculture didn't meet their new physical needs, and the compromises they were making involved buying things with money instead of getting them with their skills or through community cooperation.
    Many of these problems have been solved by other communities through a greater emphasis on resource sharing and I don't think all this is due to some failing of the entire activist/punk/anarchist scene.  But I believe that if we're going to stay effective as a culture in opposition to the corporate earth plundering world order, we need to take the time to develop positive structures that meet ALL of our needs. We need to remember how to be more of a community.
    For those of us lucky to be in the DIY punk scene, we have learned to get what we want without the big money music industry getting a cut.  DIY culture also has a lot of potential for building a real community and cutting corporate bloodsuckers out of our lives for good.
    I think there is a growing focus in the DIY world on practical skills, and on living out our politics in our everyday lives. Punk examples of this include the Tree of Knowledge Press' upcoming (?) DIY Guide, a massive compilation of plans and how-to's, the Free Skool concept people are doing all over the place, the DIY Files from Punk Planet, the May Day gathering the Clearwater Food Not Bombs folks put together, and a plethora of health, self-care, and herbal information in zines.  Some of this entered the scene as a result of travel culture.  Lots of punks these days seem to at least know about solar, composting toilets, biodiesel, rowing their own food.  Last year a band from Missouri was trying to organize a tour with pre-show solar and biodiesel workshops.  There seems to be a lot more brewing in this vein.
    So riding this wave, we organized a new (?) kind of anarchist gathering in the East Bay last year, the DIY Skillshare at 924 Gilman Project. It was 4 days/50 workshops/10 microworkshops on practical skills and renewable energy, ranging from a women-only welding workshop to knife sharpening to seedsaving to handsaw use to solar to growing food in the city to sock darning to hammering nails properly to roadkill skinning. We also included 'personal politics' workshops- stuff on sexuality, gender expression, anti-racist organizing, and women in the trades strategy. We sent volunteers out to two community building sites to learn carpentry skills, organized a bike tour of community and school gardens, and had an herb walk up in the hills.  There is a limit to what you can teach in a two or four hour workshop, but we tried to focus on giving people resources to go to for more info.  Information about renewable energy and permaculture topics in particular usually costs an arm and a leg, and it was great to have these punk upstarts teaching it for
free.  Best yet, it was all peer teaching by 'normal folks'.  The only 'experts' at the entire event were the ER doctor and the two chiropractors who gave separate workshops on how to avoid the medical industry and why you should take control of your own health.
    In the months after Skillshare, we've had a few free and informal workshops in our community- auto mechanics, plant propagation, beekeeping, a bike tour of North Oakland sustainable agriculture projects.  There's a planned fruit tree pruning/grafting and scion wood exchange, and folks are raising funds to bring an urban farmer from Detroit Agriculture Network to town for an info share about their inspiring project.  The Seed Library and Sascha and Andrea's farmer interview tour have added to the excitement in town.
    Last month a friend threw a 4 day miniskillshare/acorn harvest party at his rural land. About 8 workshops happened, some quite spontaneously- natural dyes, watershed restoration, biodiesel, tincturing by percolation, blacksmithing, acorn foods preparation, instrument making, and more.  It was a leisurely pace and the perfect party- if you were tired of socializing, hiking, or cooking up feasts, there was usually a workshop or at least folks making knives on the forge, practicing archery, or grinding acorn for nuppa porridge.  Anyone can put together something like this...
    We have also decided to take the whole thing to a new level.  The Pollinators Collective is 5 queer women (?) who are taking to the road next summer as a sort of Skillshare barnraising tour.  We hope to work with existing urban sustainability or activist projects, to organize work-parties or barnraisings where community members can come to teach or learn practical skills while building 'progressive infrastructure' for their local area.  This could be gardens, small natural building structures, micropower radio, DIY solar gear installation, anti-oppression/consciousness raising workshops, community biodiesel processor setup...  Along the way we'll be putting together a slideshow of  the places we visit so as to spread the word about some of the rad projects communities are doing.
    Again, this skillshare roadshow isn't that far off logistically from how punk bands already tour. You meet folks two states over by word of mouth or through zines, someone organizes a basement show, and presto!- DIY culture.  Any of you can probably do this- take a few weeks with some friends, set up whatever needs doing in your town and bill it as a learning opportunity. Visit a neighboring community with your sweat and your willing hands, learn from them, share what you know- and pollinate the revolution...

RESOURCES:
-DIY Skillshare Conference- April 19-22, 2001 at 924 Gilman Project in Berkeley. PO 4934  Berkeley CA 94704.  Skillshare@onebox.com
-Luddite Tech zine-  Plans, skills, rants $3 and 2 stamps/ PO 4934 Berkeley CA 94704
-Guerrilla Greywater Girls Guide To Water- The politics of water and the how-to's of greywater systems and water harvesting.  $3 + 2 stamps/ 417 48th St Oakland CA 94609
-Seedhead Zine- Plans, plans, and more totally inspiring DIY plans/ 2000 Brown Rd SW/ Albuquerque, NM 87105
-Beneath The Concrete- Sascha's zine on growing yer own food!!!!!!! $3 and stamps/ 5912 Genoa St Oakland ca 94608
-Tree of Knowledge Press- Awesome distro, trying to compile a DIY book -treeofknowledgepress@yahoo.com
-Death Metal Militia distro- has lots of great plans and how-to info, they have something to do with that hands-on Mayday gathering in Florida/ DMM Distro, PO Box 17838, Clearwater, FL, 33762     (727)538 9050  dmmdistro@juno.com
-Free Skool in Eugene- For schedule of classes, send SASE to 312 Blair Blvd/ Eugene, OR 94702

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The next DIY Skillshare Conference will be held April 19-22, 2001 at 924 Gilman ...  Thanks to everyone who made the first one a success!