Self help

sweeperContinuum of the new Crusade

“The professional dream of rooting each hierarchy of needs in the grassroots goes under the banner of self-help. At present it is promoted by the new tribe of experts in self-help who have replaced the experts in development of the sixties.

The universal professionalization of clients is their aim. American building experts who last autumn invaded Mexico serve as an example of the new Crusade.

About two years ago a Boston professor of architecture came to Mexico for a vacation. A Mexican friend of mine took him beyond the airport where, during the last twelve years, a new city had grown up. From a few huts, it had mush- roomed into a community three times the size of Cambridge, Massachusetts. My friend, also an architect, wanted to show him the thousands of examples of peasant ingenuity with patterns, structures, and uses of refuse not in and therefore not derivable from textbooks.

He should not have been surprised that his colleague took several hundred rolls of pictures of these brilliant amateur inventions that make the two-million-person slum work. The pictures were analyzed in Cambridge; and by the end of the year, new-baked United States specialists in community architecture were busy teaching the people of Ciudad Netzahualcoyotl their problems, needs, and solutions.”
Ivan Illich

The professionalisation of DIY, self help, which seems to have become the play thing of the artist, TV executives and the branding of “self help” through government schemes, runs on a pace. Even gorilla gardening has become respectable.
By awarding citizens grant prizes to those that comply with protocol as the “new tribes of experts” exploit and commodify that born in the street and the community. The continuum of the new Crusade Illich speaks of is not now just the reserved for the poor communities of South America, but has become the new tool of the developer who sells back the idea of that which was makeshift as a community “garnish project” to increase the salability of derelict land.