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4th October 2012

Confessions of a student activist: shunning the neo-liberal lifestyle

Jak Dyehouse responds to Soapbox Issue 02

There was once a time when I was sure of myself as a faultless advocate of economic and political reform who was totally able to avoid becoming implicated by the neo-liberal lifestyle which dominates the modern world. Nevertheless, I must say kudos to Soapbox Issue 02 ranter who pointed out my hypocritical ways. One might say I experienced an epiphany, or perhaps a breakdown, after I read the following rant:

“Calling all student activists, how about you take a look at yourselves before you preach to me and the world about the evil ‘big companies’. What’s that, you’re tweeting about how bad Coca Cola are from your iPad? Funny, that.”

So shocked was I by my displayed cognitive dissonance through the internal contradictions manifesting themselves in an incompatibility between my beliefs and actions that I have attempted to rectify them post-haste.

My first step was to rid myself of all my clothes, given that they were produced by large corporations or subsidiaries of large corporations. Initially I planned to replace them with ethically crafted clothing, until I realised that there was no way I could guarantee that the production process was entirely squeaky clean; the machinery used to create my clothing and the vehicles used to transport them raised ethical concerns of their own. In the end, I settled on making my own clothing to cover my modesty. Hours of work later, I now have a single set of 100 per cent ethical duds to keep me warm and covered, unsightly and uncomfortable though they are.

I then set about radically altering my diet so that my pesky necessity to eat would not infringe upon my political ideals. Initially I considered switching to fair trade-only foodstuffs, lucky as I am that I am able to afford them, until I realised that this was not enough; even the act of buying fair trade would require going through a middle-man such as a supermarket, whose ethical credentials I could not be sure of. Not wishing to inadvertently help uphold the very system I sought to oppose, I resigned myself to a self-sustaining lifestyle. It’s been arduous – I’ve had to spend a lot of time learning to till the earth with my own hand-crafted tools, and waiting for the first harvest meant I was forced to eat but a little at first. What’s more, I’ve had to restrict my variety of desired foodstuffs to account for the limitations of the Great British climate. Despite this, I’m finally beginning to see some small fruits of my labour (well, those fruits which can survive the weather).

Finally, I’ve dispensed with my consumer electronics – I don’t own an Apple product, but it turns out that few tech companies are thought to be wholly ethical. To avoid this difficulty, I chose to build my own computer, internet access being such an important part of modern life. I set about constructing a shopping list of parts, until I realised that those companies which manufacture the components are subject to the same ethical difficulties as Apple, Toshiba and the rest. I eventually settled on designing my own computer from scratch, built from parts that I designed and manufactured myself (using machines which were also subject to the same principles). At the moment, my computer is little more than an LED that blinks on command, allowing me to communicate with anyone well versed in morse code within a 10-metre radius in an environment which is suitably dark, but I have no doubt that it won’t be long until I’m browsing the web and interacting with people from all over the world just like before!

Oh darn, I’ve just realised that the coffee I’m drinking while writing this down is made from a blend that is not ethically sound, in a cup which might be a bit iffy as well. I suppose I should fire up the kiln to replace it (after I’ve figured out how to build a kiln using ethically sourced materials), although trying to start my own plantation is going to be the real challenge – if I want to enjoy coffee any time soon I’ll need to get cracking!

Jak Dyehouse

Jak Dyehouse

Jak Dyehouse is a contributor to the Politics section of The Mancunion. A second year Politics and Modern History student at the University of Manchester, he hopes to embark on a career which will allow him to fulfil his dream of travelling the world.

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