On the importance of ‘making’

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Recently I was at a windowmakersshop because I needed a fence for a stairwell. It always takes some getting used to dealing with skillful craftspeople. If anything goes, you have to contemplate well about what it is you really want. And how nice that these professionals then actually are so skilled. And patient. Because they know that this one solution should be the ultimate one (for you) (because that’s what they know for sure). It is then quite useful to be able to think in terms of what can be made and what you exactly want yourself -and what is feasible (-but that will be a separate blog post).
One of the employees of the windowmakersshop again expressed his anger at the Dutch government policy with regards to the role of making in our society (ever since the sixties this was outsourced by the Netherlands first to migrant workers and then to low-wage countries). He said, “I’m not going to buy a new car (as the Dutch MP recommended recently), but a bazooka. And I’m going to blow a hole in the parliamentbuilding. Maybe then they wake up in the Hague.” (Of course he was genuinely angry)

What he meant to say was that the way a society deals with making is actually closely related to/ a metaphor for the level of democracy. One of its’ pillars being the level of agency of the individual. But if you deprive a society of making skills then people forget how incredibly resourceful they can actually be and how well they can think themselves about what it is they want/ need and (learn to) express this. To (skilled) professionals that know what it is like to conceive of (/make) the right solution and what is needed to do so.

Contemplating about the reason for making things (and for what purpose&impact) often bares evidence of what is (culturally and ideologically) important. Especially impact measurement has suffered immensely in a country where ‘purpose’ for several decades has been, and still is, more than once being determined by public grants and funding. Instead of being lead by a bigger discussion, belief or vision of what these should actually contribute to. And how to deal with accountability towards (qualitative) outcomes and not just (quantitative) results. Public funding for the arts, to my opinion, remains a good example. Starting out after the 2nd World War out of a believe the arts would contribute to social enlightenment that would help prevent history to repeat it self. But because of what happened with ‘Entartete Kunst’ funders decided never again to deal with its’ contents.  In the end compromising the fundings’ purpose of creating -and thus thinking and discussing- a better society, that art was supposed to contribute to.

Until the (cultural value and) role of ‘making’ remains under emphasized neither will there be an effective discussion about how to really achieve a better society. Go talk with the baker and ask what’s in your bread, with the greengrocer where (and how) your fruit ripens. Go to the carpenter and together design that ultimate piece of furniture you always wanted (instead of having Ikea think for you). Talk to an artist about how his work came about, with a politician about what makes politics… Let your curiosity about how things came to be do the work. And by asking questions discover what true value creation is (to you). Everybody is a maker.