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Everyday Life

So much of what I watch, read, talk about, and think about is far removed (or perhaps entirely divorced) from my everyday life. I don’t think that I’m the only one and I consider this to be a political problem. Even in the literature about “everyday life,” what I find there isn’t really my life. This has been true ever since I stopped living what might be thought of as a “punk lifestyle”. Since there are few prototyped, or even pre-fabricated lifestyles that make their way into popular culture like punk has, I’m sure this is a common situation for others as well. I assume that many people don’t find their actual everyday life experiences represented in the media they consume, the news they read, or the political movements they cling to.

Why is this the case for me and perhaps many others?

Well, I can try to answer that; but I think the only way to maintain my focus here is to focus on myself first before getting distracted by the many others, which really means my assumptions about some other people’s lives. That means beginning with a description of my everyday life.

But how does one go about describing their everyday life?

It is exactly at this point of self-understanding where so many demographic or sociological categories, stereotypes, and other socially mediated forms intervene. Although this doesn’t result in the only form of alienation, it does result in a form of alienation. If I fail here at the point of description to capture the truly meaningful aspects of my daily experiences, each additional step in this investigation will be corrupted.

So what is it that I want to avoid, exactly?

Well, my sex, sexuality, gender, age, class background and current class status, religious affiliation, and other such things will need to be set aside for some time. Those things are all summations of various features of my everyday life and are not themselves descriptive of the peculiar instances of such features. Whatever components may be thought of as parts of these things, like my relationship with the means of society’s reproduction is a component of my class status, it is the description of such components that I want to get at first before classifying them. It may very well be the case that the systems of classification I have acquired disproportionately emphasize the wrong things. That my life as I live it actually effectively unfolds from theoretically underemphasized or entirely ignored causes.

What are some things that really do represent my everyday life and appeal to aspects of it in such a way as to impact it?

This is a question that can potentially indicate the forms of representation that an existential politics can take. For example, I know that today I will be cooking matzo ball soup. As a reminder of the ingredients I need and the proportions they need to be used in, I will be using a recipe from somewhere on the internet. Some of the ingredients themselves will have been purchased from someone, somewhere, through some medium of exchange. Other ingredients will come from my own garden. A garden that was informed in its construction by books, articles, and conversations with friends. That has required fertile soil, a place in the sun, regular watering, and ongoing attention to its organisms’ health. Some of the knowledge required for that came from experience, but most of it came from somewhere else.

In going through this examination of cooking matzo ball soup, even to such a limited extent, I am already identifying factors of my everyday life where resources, information, knowledge, etc. connect me to a world beyond myself. In what ways am I dominated in my practice of cooking matzo ball soup? Who must I have answered to, learned from, traded with, or received permission from to make this activity a possibility for my day today? And in light of such power dynamics, what potential is there for liberation throughout the many chains of causal relations that compromise my freedom?

It is questions like the above that I think will pave the way to effective political discourses and actions. It is through the answers we come up with together, based on everyday life experiences we share, where I think we discover the sources of our subjugation and the possibilities for our liberation. And for as much as it was necessary to set aside those demographic and sociological categories to move forward with such reflective operations upon my own life, I think it is just as necessary to set such things aside in our collective struggle to live liberated lives together.

Before ending this entry, I want to note something important: this contemplation about everyday life shouldn’t be limited to one’s daily activities.

It isn’t just the things on my “To Do” list that I want to investigate. I also want to examine the way that my body feels: its pains, its rhythms, its developments, its functioning. Along with that, I want to be looking at my moods and emotions. Where I do things matters also matters to me, not just what those things are that I do. And although the procedural steps that I take in completing some activity are important, so are all of those interruptions that I experience: the obstacles to my goals, the unexpected events of my day, the e-mails, instant messages, and texts that I’m alerted to or go looking for when I am bored. All of this stuff depends on relations between myself and other people, myself and other things, the relationships between those other people with still more people, and the relationships between those other things with still more things.

Eventually, the complexities overwhelm me when I do this

That is usually when I stop. However, I have yet to swear off this way of thinking entirely. While there is a lot of value in the awareness of what makes my life possible… what makes it actually what it is, I try to keep the goal of liberation in mind. It isn’t enough to know about this or that cause, that or this dependency of one thing upon another. It is the actionable insights that matter most for me, especially those that shift power dynamics in my favor. Hopefully, in our favor.