DIY Is Key To Enlivening the Forgotten and Missed Places

  • DIY Is Key To Enlivening the Forgotten and Missed Places
    Detroit’s Metro Times profiles — with only a tiny bit of condescension — a new Detroit anarchist bookstore / infoshop called Idle Kids (via NewPages weblog — check out their ‘Zine Rack). This is the type of project I like to hear about, especially coming from relatively downtrodden cities like Detroit or from smaller, out-of-the-way places (hmm, like Urbana?). Sometimes when you live in a less exciting city where there isn’t already some prominent underground or countercultural activity it’s easy to think that it isn’t possible there, and that to find it you’d have to move someplace like New York, Chicago, Portland or San Francisco. But if everyone who’s critical of the status quo moves to these cities, then we essentially cede the smaller cities and suburbs to forces and ideologies and control that we’re opposed to in the first place. If all the activists, lefties, anarchists, artists and freaks left San Francisco, then there would be no opposition left to keep it from being turned completely into a yuppie playground and tourist-trap amusement park. How cool would that be?

    This isn’t to say that you should stay somewhere that you’re lonely and miserable. Instead, I’ll point out that every scene and institution had to be started by somebody, often 2 or 3 somebodies. It takes a little more effort to start something new than to move to somewhere it’s already happening, but that process of building can be much more rewarding, also. Instead of simply putting up with the way someone else things something — a co-op, restaurant, bookstore, coffee shop, infoshop — should be run, you can have an active role in making it to your and your compatriots’ liking.

    Living in East-Central Illinois I’ve grown tired of people who spend their time here — usually as students of some type — complaining about the place and how there isn’t much to do, there isn’t anything cool, and so on. First, I get annoyed because I don’t think that’s actually true. You can’t expect two cities with a combined population of about 100,000 to have as much sheer stimulation and activity as Chicago and New York. In fact, you’re going to have to look a little harder to find it than you would in the middle of Manhattan. But it is here.

    Secondly, just complaining about there being nothing is self-defeating, lazy, and is utterly symptomatic of the consumer culture. Instead of waiting around for someone — typically someone with a lot more money than you who’s interested in having some of your’s, too — to provide you with something interesting to do, why not endeavor to create something yourself? Odds are, if you spend any effort looking around at all (and not just asking your four closest friends/acquaintences), you’ll find a co-conspirator or two. And, especially if your plan is not to rake in the bucks hand-over-fist, but to instead create something interesting that will enrich your’s and others’ lives, then you likelihood of having some success is pretty high if you give it a sincere try.

    The Idle Kids in Detroit may or may not have a long successful run, but if they stick around more than a year or so, they’re likely to influence someone to try her hand at creating something, too, be it a bicyclists group, a study group, artists studio, or whatever. First hand I’ve seen the power of community organizations like community radio and the Indymedia Center movement serve as catalysts for new projects and programs that symbiotic but also blaze new territory. From stimulating our local music scene, to providing a forum for people and groups to connect, these two organizations — one 20 years old, the other not even 2 — together create a sense of excitement and possibility. And they took neither genius nor riches. Just ideas and hard work.

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