The Revolution of Everyday Life

Jordi Huisman

I passed a guy the other day, maybe 16, 17 years old. And as he got a little ways down the street I heard him holler at the top of his lungs: “I hate my fucking life and everyone in it!” (I guess that included the defeated-looking woman I took to be his mom, who was walking 20feet behind him.)

I felt sorry for this kid, and I hope he gets help. But I also found myself giving him a little private salute. At least he’s facing it. Bellowing his sad truth to the heavens must have felt like a bit of liberation.

Who hasn’t felt a hint of that existential frustration? Maybe you even feel it now. Like: Really? This is the life I have settled for? Starbucks, Safeway, smokeshop, home. Bang, bang, bang, marching to the drumbeat of capitalism.

In the car you catch the news that the UN has declared a “red-alert emergency” for humanity. The seas are going to rise for two thousand years and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it.

And now you feel the stakes suddenly spike. You feel the cost of repeating another day of your life like this pre-programmed puppet . . .sleepwalking through this bad dream that isn’t even your own.

And so when the alarm clock rings tomorrow and you shuffle out into the world, you balk. Instead of grabbing your coffee from the usual Starbucks, you pull back . . . You take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood and check out the local indie scene. And if you find a shop that feels righteous, you decide. This is the place . . . this is where I’ll make my stand. This will be the first act of the revolution of my everyday life. I’m going to make this coffee shop my headquarters. My regular hangout. I’ll get to know the owner, call the baristas by their first names. Meet my friends, brainstorm and figure things out here.


Whoa. Feels good.

You decide to keep the experiment going, and level up. You pledge to shop differently, eat differently, spend your money in strategic new ways. You tackle the perverse instinct to “bargain hunt,” that race-to-the-bottom for the cheapest stuff all the time. (The American consumer battle cry: crape diem!) What’s the point in saving a few pennies if you trash the planet (and the tender shoots of your own soul) in innumerable, invisible little ways every day?


The most powerful (and satisfying) impact you can have on the world (and on yourself) is in the way you handle your money affairs over a lifetime . . .

So now every time you need something you do a gut check. The supermarket is a reflex: so quick and cheap and convenient. But that’s the capitalist algorithm sucking you in. A kind of brainwashing happens when you walk the aisles there. The whole place is designed to hook you on processed foods, destroy your health and make you fat and listless. Plus you miss out on all the good stuff in life . . . your intimate connections with the place and the people around you . . . the succulence of locally grown cherries, peaches and blackberries. Even your peace of mind. So you vow to heave your buying habits in a more local direction from now on.


Is your money sitting in a big bank like Wells Fargo or Bank of America or Chase? Why not move it to a co-op or credit union?Credit unions aren’t perfect but they’re much, much better than the multinational banks.

I did that 30 years ago. I got fed up with the Royal Bank of Canada treating me like garbage — like they were doing me this great favor. SoI went in there in an angry huff one afternoon and pulled out all my money. Then I walked across the street and put it into VanCity credit union. That small act punched above its weight; I’ve never regretted it.I get a surge of exhilaration every time I think of that RBC manager’s face as he tried to sweet-talk me out of it . . . and the feeling of relief as I walked into VanCity where I owned a wee bit of the joint now, asa member. I always sense they actually do care about me there. Their incentives are different.

There’s a lot of pressure not to do this. The commercial banks often offer a better rate on term deposits and interest rates. But caving to that temptation means you’re undervaluing everything but the bottom line.Really: is life about always getting the best deal — saving 0.25% on your savings account — or is it about getting the tenor of living right and feeling like a decent human once in a while as you walk into your bank?


I’ve been reading Wolfram Eilenberger’s book Time of the Magicians, which covers the era when my favorite philosophers — Wittgenstein,Benjamin, Heidegger — came to prominence, a dark time of political and economic upheaval, exactly a century ago, with similarities to ours.(The aftermath of a devastating pandemic, economic instability, and the soul-searching of war.) The world seemed “fallen,” and amid the despair people were asking: “How should I live?” But this put them, as the magicians noted, in a perfect nothing-to-lose position of starting over — of breaking free of the bourgeois mindset and getting back to the simple world before your eyes if you could actually see it. Back ‘to the things themselves.

’Heidegger was sure Descartes had led us astray. We can’t think our way out of this. We can’t get an answer to all our Whys. It’s pointless to try. Best we can do is simply wonder at the existence of the world, and our “sacred sense of being” in it. To do otherwise is to surrender to alogical nightmare brought to life.

But people largely did surrender to that nightmare, very similar to one we’re at the tail end of now. People forgot how to eat, drink, talk to each other, the magicians noted. The shops became toxic wastelands. . . human relations hollow and transactional . . . the sense of time fragmented into vulgar units of seconds, minutes and hours. Death the only meaningful horizon.

But a nightmare is also something you can wake up from. You can still get glimpses of ‘the things themselves,’ of an authentic way of being, the way you were before advertising pickled your neurons, easy credit destroyed your resoluteness, and maxing out your Visa card became routine. Before Western culture became so self-serving and decadent . . .

You can opt out of a lot of that if you try.

You can stop buying unnecessary stuff and always pay off your plastic cards every month. You can cash in your stocks and shares (if you have any) and get out of the global casino for good. You can simply throw your opulent lifestyle over the side.


When my friend (and former Adbusters editor) James MacKinnon hatched the 100-mile diet with his partner Alisa Smith, it was an experiment built on a number: 1,500. That’s the average distance food travels to get to your plate. That’s a lot of fossil fuel just so you can enjoy strawberries in February.

J and A wondered whether it was even possible, in a time of spidering superglobal supply chains, to live on food grown in your own ’hood. It was. It took some ingenuity, but they ate better and more varied meals than they had in their lives. It changed them. Not just hunting for the food but savoring the act of cooking it, and sharing it with folks who found their way into their story.

You pull an apple off the tree and eat it while the natural sugars are still intact in the flesh of it. Do that a few times and it becomes absurd to ever again bite into a supermarket apple from New Zealand — even off-season, when they’re the only game in town.

People got positively infected by the idea. In the UK there were proposals that a portion of every supermarket parking lot ought to be set aside for local farm stalls, and people wondered whether it’d be possible to make grocers put the number — the carbon mileage — on the price tag of the food.

Some people ragged on that this whole deal was nothing but a Lefty bourgeois stunt, because who else but the privileged classes get to eat local organic food? This pisses me off — not the criticism but the fact that it’s at least partly true. Even one generation ago, as James points out, it wasn’t the rich who ate local organic food — it was the everypeople. The fact that it’s now cheaper and easier to eat a peach from Mexico than from your local farmer, these are the corpo-capitalist-driven decisions that were made long before you were born that shaped the way you live now.

The other day I found this Indian farm place that sold local cherries, and I decided to pull together a super-local meal for Masako, who is failing and bedridden now.

Most of it came from my garden. There were deep purple Russian potatoes I yanked from the ground with my hand. There were the Chinese flat beans I’d been experimenting with, baby pachinko-ball tomatoes. And kamaboko — fish cake — for the protein. Masako’s favorite. To cook for each other is to care for each other. The last link of the chain was guiding my spoon to Masako’s mouth.

The revolution of everyday life is a circle game.

There are two circles: the circle of your concerns and the circle of your actions. They move in different directions as you become a grownup. Ideally, the circle of your concerns expands until — as theBuddhists would have it — it contains every living being. The circle of your actions, meanwhile, contracts: closer and closer and closer to home.

—from the upcoming Adbusters book

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