Tactical Balaclavas, MacBook Pros and pepper-spray wipes: DIY resistance, 2016-style
I’ve always loved those massive DIY shops. The ones that sell everything from grouting, whatever grouting is, to sleeping bags, to cameras, and turn wherever they are into the outskirts of town. I like how they’re always unfeasibly bright, full of new things, and they always seem to go on forever. I like the weird knobbly utility of the tools and their primary colours. I like the comforting feeling that there are people who need respirator masks to do work, and that in the field of water-filtration systems at least, things are categorically getting better. There’s even one around the corner from where I live in Berlin, and I’ve spent more time there in the last few months than any other shop in my new city.
Like millions around the world, I watched in abject horror at the drone-footage of the water cannons turned on those defending First American lands against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It felt like a punch to the stomach, and like many, I went to the Amazon wishlist they’d set up.
They are protesting to stop a gas pipeline being laid through their land, which they argue, not unfairly, would ruin the water supply and environment. Their wishlist is being continuously updated, as folks around the world donate, and it’s a pretty incredible look at what being a protestor in 2016 actually is: part digital media-battle, and part actual battle. MacBook Pros alongside sub-zero sleeping bags. High definition cameras alongside pepper spray wipes. Tactical balaclavas against the cold, please, and industrial respirators. Because the winters are very cold, and the protestors are not moving from land which is theirs, there were requests for equipment to build shelters. (I like to imagine the Amazon Prime delivery van bouncing over the prairie clods, full of solar generators, media equipment, and Dan Brown books for the next trip, someone coming out of a smoke cloud to come sign for it, then bouncing back off to deliver the Brown). They needed scores of industrial gas-mask, and I’m glad the world clicked and sent them.
In a sickened daze, I bought them a Lowes voucher. I not 100% sure what Lowes was. Turns out it’s a hardware store, which is the cooler American word for DIY shop. That brought it home, no pun intended. The same sort of things I browse in Berlin are being bought in North Dakota, and used to protect the bodies of people who are more brave than I can imagine. This unasked-for moment we are in is a historical one, and it’s one of a reality which is as concrete as grouting (I Googled what grouting is). Though this has happened on Obama’s watch, the protests are being widely seen as a premonition of the struggles to come. It turns out new tools will be needed, pun intended.
Writer and editor based in Berlin.