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Monday, June 13, 2011

Do It Yourself

I first learned about the Do It Yourself, or DIY, mentality and approach to life when I started going to local shows. As a starry-eyed teenager filled with typical angst, I was amazed and thrilled to see kids my age making an independent music scene and grassroots subculture happen with almost no money, but a lot of hard work. If the high school pep rallies and MTV music video countdowns weren't doing it for you, than you got together with some like-minded friends and made your own society and culture. We didn't have an all-ages music venue in town, and we weren't always allowed to drive to Philly, so we'd rent out churches and halls, and book the bands ourselves. Borrow a PA and some lights, cut and paste a flyer together, and have someone with a car drop you off. It wasn't just a collective of a couple dozen garage bands either. Kids were writing 'zines, building half pipes, designing websites, and together we achieved something greater than ourselves, a special niche that made the realities of high school bearable.

We did it ourselves, or rather I should say we do it ourselves. To this day I am privileged to know many people who still publish themselves, start their own companies, record original music at home, build skateparks, sew clothes, grow food, and create a thousand more wonderful things with their own diligence and skill. My local music scene has grown and shrank, included all genres from ska to hardcore, evolved into a new incarnation of itself each year, but never died. It existed long before me, and I have faith that it will exist long after me, thanks to the DIY ethic that is passed on and inspires so many incoming participants. Fantastically, this phenomenon is happening all over our country. When bands tour independently they travel through a network of local DIY subcultures, connecting now more than ever at the speed of light with the internet and social media. We do it ourselves. I can't even express how awesome I continue to find that. Let's spread that around. Get motivated.

Quit bitching and start a revolution. I know it's a trifle cliche and hyperbolic, but there is still something about that statement that rings true for me. What right do you have to complain about any situation you haven't tried to help fix yourself? Don't like how the country is run? Well, unless you've recently participated in a protest, attended a town meeting, or wrote to your senator, I don't really want to hear about it. Even if those actions don't seem particularly effective, they will still probably do more good than wining about fiscal spending or making fun of the tea party. Worried about nuclear power, and the effectiveness of disaster relief since the earthquake in Japan? Well, have you considered donating money, volunteering time, or learning about your local nuclear situation yet? Sure none of these suggested actions are on the revolutionary level, but not all great sociocultural changes happen overnight with massive amounts of guns. And, I'm pretty sure that complaining only ever achieved anything when paired with a whole lot more doing.

Look around you. Much of what you see from your computer to the building you're in to the street your on to the town where you live, all the great and little works of society are the products of humanity. Men and women, working together and independently, have created culture, art, societies, governments, music, and more for thousands of years. Rather than simply doing enough to sustain our basic needs, we as humans strive further than any other living organism to transcend our abilities, band together and build something larger, and express intangible truths. Humanity is divine, and you are a human, filled with all the messy potential for unique and impressive works and deeds. Doing nothing is easy, but also results in nothing you can claim responsibility for, no achievements, no fulfillment. Doing something, even if it isn't the most effective, direct or right thing, at leasts creates something more than the sum of the original elements thanks to your action. Do you think it can't be done? Do you think you lack the capability or skills? Humans are fantastically resourceful creatures. You can do amazing things yourself, and even more amazing things when you work together with other humans.

An object in motion stays in motion, and the same can be said of people. A person in motion stays in motion, and instigates movement around them. As more and more people begin to move in the same direction, a social movement is born. With mass, trajectory, and momentum that social movement can be one of the strongest forces in the world with the capability of birthing and toppling nations. Keep moving, keep doing, and it will be harder and harder for you to live a boring life or fail at your endeavors. Then you can truly say that you've lived deliberately, drank deeply, and sucked out all the marrow of life (to borrow and paraphrase Thoreau). Yes, you will fail, but if you rise each time you fall, when you die you will have the comforting conviction that you put up a good fight and made a positive difference. You participated as an active member of society, and as a conscientious human being. You will have truly lived, at least in my humble opinion the greatest achievement of all. And, you did it yourself.

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