Go Go DIY Squad!
Internet to DIYers: “You’ve got a friend in me!”
This is a blog post which touches on a topic close to my own heart: the phenomenon of the DIYer (Do-It-Yourselfer). In all my years as a human male, I’ve fixed computers, built computers, fixed tvs, made several microphones – a few dynamics using old speaker diaphragms, and a 9V powered stereo condenser with parts from an online store – recorded my own music, made digital graphics and videos from scratch, modified my own electric guitar (an old Fender Squire on which I replaced the neck and bridge pickups, and added two FX switches for an astounding 11 combo sounds, compared to the stock 5), etc.
My current project is fixing up an old 1983 Porsche 944, like the one in the photo on the right. I have the old Hayne’s manual, years of experience with a wrench, but without the internet and websites like clarksgarage.com and the forums on PelicanParts, I would be sunk trying to take care of an entire automobile while doing all the otherwise expensive maintenance myself.
So what does this have to do with Political Science? Well it has a lot to do with Karl Marx, to be sure.
If history has taught us anything, it’s that knowledge is power. Reading and writing were once the privileges of upper-class status, and it’s largely through perpetuating the under-education of the lower class that they retained social dominance. Most especially, in this case, I’d like to look at knowledge in the form of know how, or the ability of persons to create and produce. For it is this sort of knowledge whose ascertaining is revolutionized by the DIY movement.
“… as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes… it [is] possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.” -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology
In the above quote, it becomes blatantly apparent how the politics of Marx align with the DIY plight, and the eclectic sort of know how which has become so readily feasible for private persons thanks to the advent of the internet. If, say, I want to produce something for myself, evading all the typical postmodern means of production via factory mass-production and assembly-line labor – such as a stereo condenser microphone, or a computer, or if I want to ignore how my labor has been appropriated by my own circumstances and restore a classic car without a background in engineering, mechanics or whatever else the task may call for, the deciding factor in how successful I’ll be is knowledge of the know how sort. And to attain said knowledge is easier now than ever before, thanks to the politics of like-minded DIYers who learn, and post their own experiences and knowledge to the internet.
And why should the rights of production lie with the bourgeoisie? Why can’t every man become a renaissance man in the truest sense, producing for himself and his own what he so desires? In a communist society, Marx, says, the rights of production lie with the workers. It is, ideally, a beautiful model, in which each is rewarded directly by the fruits of his own labor, rather than by the comparably arbitrary monetary scheme to which a society holds itself. My own personal feelings are that there are even adverse psychological effects from not producing for one’s own self, namely that without a sense of where a thing comes from, and what goes into it, the entire means of evaluation of worth (of the aforementioned object) is thrown askew, and thus a proper system of cause and effect, and proportionate rewards/punishments is never learned.
What we see with the internet is, perhaps, the beginning of the actualization of a portion of Marx’s prophecies. He writes:
“The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.” -Marx, Communist Manifesto
If we count the internet in with this “advance of industry”, as a development from modernization in a postmodern society, then considering its enlightening capabilities, the bourgeoisie does truly cut the foundation from under its feet, as information, it would seem, is now essentially free. My hope is that as the internet progresses, a DIY mentality will replace a lot of the previously-upheld norms with regard to the rights of production, and “folk-knowledge” if I could call it that will assume a position just as important in reshaping the intellectual landscape as more “scholarly” knowledge.
A final point I want to introduce is the ethics of piracy. It’s a hot-topic, with people on either side of the fence, yet I would be surprised if there were a single person reading this blog who wasn’t “guilty” of it at some point or another. If knowledge is power, and books, films and music all contain knowledge, do we allow the bourgeois upper-class to fix a price to it? One can learn volumes just from listening to music, for instance, and the open-minded diversification of personal experiences is infinitely important to one’s own development. So am I committing a crime by [illegally] downloading everything from Mozart to Dr. Dog? Tchaikovsky to Zero7? It’s one of those places in the broad landscape of political theory where the right to accrue wealth and receive [monetary] reward for his or her work butts heads with the rights of the individual to enlighten themselves with all the best that world culture has to offer. If I were to buy all my Mozart and my Dr. Dog, my Tchaikovsky and my Zero7, and the plethora of other artists I listen to, I would be completely bankrupt, and therefore I’d never have developed the cultural perspective and enrichment that I have today.
Could it not be that, perhaps, the laws of supply and demand are inept at adjusting to account for personal liberty and the enlightenment and enrichment of mankind? Popular artists hardly starve these days; is it possible the rewards they reap are disproportionately large compared to the work they produce?
“… the separate individuals [will] be liberated from the various national and local barriers, be brought into practical connection with the material and intellectual production of the whole world and be put in a position to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man).” -Marx & Engels, The German Ideology