August 2016 - Personal Revolution
At the time of the Situationists, particularly around the time of the Paris riots in 1968, ‘personal revolution’ was performed as a visible display of disaffection. This was achieved through the occupation of places of work and study, with workers and students demanding rights, and rioting in the streets. This method of visibility is like the contemporary actions of movements such as Occupy (who remain physically in a space for some time), or movements such as March-Against-Monsanto that gather together crowds for a short period to demonstrate.
In contrast, within contemporary society there are many movements informing individuals how to conduct personal revolution less visibly. This is achieved by implementing a strategy of anti-commodification; collectively changing everyday behaviour, in individuals’ private spaces, rather than in the public arena. The strategy is aimed more at the mechanics of the capitalist system, rather than at those with the power to implement systemic changes. The fundamental principle underlying this method of anti-commodification is the withdrawal of support for the global ‘brands’ promoting ever increasing consumption (which is required to satisfy the demand for growth that is built into the system).
[Art into Life – ‘Everyday’ monotony and repetition]
In theory, in terms of economic benefits, this approach to alternative consumption should create some degree of redistribution in the flow of money. Currently, a small number of mega-corporations own most well-known global and national brands, which means the economy may be performing well on a macro-level, while on a local, micro-level, less and less money is being circulated. Over the last forty years, real wages have remained relatively stagnant whilst corporate profits have increased exponentially. Most recently, in early 2017 it was revealed that real wages had even contracted in the last quarter.
One of the main benefits of developing an alternative economy is the multiplier effect of circulating money locally. Instead of siphoning off profits to be accumulated in private wealth overseas, that if reinvested could be spent in any number of global investment opportunities, money passes between local hands. This localised circulation invigorates community; lubricating relationships that work as engines of community rather than having connections made brittle by being sucked dry.
Personal revolution therefore is essentially a matter of changing personal behaviour. In this regard, I am going to use my own mind and body as a vehicle of behavioural change to investigate what this process is like. The motivation behind this is the many social movements (with concerns ranging from environmentalism, well-being, changes to the global economic system, climate change, etc…), calling for personal behavioural change as a means for individuals to make a positive, cumulative contribution toward addressing these seemingly disparate issues. In common across these movements is some form of dissatisfaction with contemporary conditions, be they social, environmental or economic.
There is a great deal of overlap in the actual behavioural changes being called for across different movements. While there are still calls for behavioural change in the form of visible mass protest, increasingly the perception is that the behavioural changes required are of a more invisible, personal nature, and are a matter of eliminating, or at least reducing the use of plastics and single use disposable items that are so much a part of contemporary consumption within everyday life.
Accordingly, I will be aiming to incorporate these sorts of changes into my everyday behaviours, in effect reprogramming the consumer conditioned behaviour I am subservient to. I assume I am no different to the majority of consumers in that I operate on auto-pilot, performing the same ritualised routines that have been reinforced throughout my life. I am an urban creature who only knows the supermarket connection to food. I am in fact an extreme version of the contemporary consumer in that I almost entirely consume processed and packaged foods; tins, plastic wrapped or frozen. I don’t eat salad or greens and rarely have fresh food of any kind.
Although extreme, I am not alone. This disconnect with all things natural is the norm, as our everyday needs, such as food (be it animal or vegetable), clothing, and personal and household care, have become so removed from our experience that we are oblivious to the industrialised, unnatural processes we have become subservient to. This new journey is not an overnight one. It has taken a lifetime to bring my behavioural patterns into the congealed mass of convenience that I dance to daily, and hopefully less than four years to realign (in line with my PhD research). I will be aiming to incorporate as many positive behavioural changes as possible into my everyday existence over this period, from eating less processed food, reducing plastics and single use disposability, and supporting local production and supply.