The Big Issue : Edition 498
THE BIG ISSUE 13 – 26 NOV 2015 13 to shell peas’. Please, don’t do this, as there is no more efficient method of shelling peas than the one you likely know. And frankly, if you have the time to buy or build some sort of pea- shelling mechanism, then you have the time to sit down and shell the evil legumes. The internet just tells you what your grandmother probably did. But, being the internet, it has to offer very old wisdom as new. My search led me to a video that promised a pea-shelling ‘hack’. Now, for those of you who do not speak the internet’s lingua franca, a ‘hack’ does not refer to the movement of a blade through a pea pod. ‘To hack’ has traditionally meant to ruin, to infiltrate or to destroy. Or, it can mean to locate information that has been tightly held, WikiLeaks- or Snowden-style. This meaning of ‘hack’ has been retained, somewhat. But it has also acquired a new, much more positive spin. It no longer always means to indicate an act of thieving rebellion, but often means ‘to do something with efficiency’. Such as, for example, shelling peas. You may have heard the term ‘life hack’. Honestly, I wish I hadn’t, because the thing that it signifies and the meaning that it has assumed really give me the irrits. A ‘life hack’ is what we would have once called a ‘handy hint’. These ‘hacks’ might include, for example, information on how to prevent others from entering a lift, thereby slowing your ride; the efficient removal of an eggshell; a way to approach your work more resourcefully. There is nothing wrong, per se, with the sharing of hints on efficient labour or of peeling an egg. Of course, there is something very wrong with trying to prevent others from using an elevator. Are you really so important that you would employ this ‘hack’, whose details I have no intention of publishing, which was designed for use only by emergency workers? So, there is nothing wrong with most ‘handy hints’ and there is nothing terribly wrong, however much it might annoy some of us, with the redefinition of a word. But there is something interesting about the redefinition of a word. Particularly one which used to mean ‘ignore the rules’ and now means ‘obey the rules more efficiently’. To hack, now, really means just to conform at maximum speed. To hack one’s life is to become an efficient and productive machine. This is not, I think, what Julian Assange had in mind. Of course, it’s absolutely fine to want to become individually successful. If being efficient and sleek and fast is your bag, that’s okay. I mean, obviously, you and I wouldn’t get on terribly well, but I don’t begrudge you your self-improvement aims. What I do begrudge a little, though, is the disappearance of the true ‘hack’. When a word that once described an act of rebellion comes to describe an act of conformity, I can only calm myself down through the shelling of peas. “At one point I even found myself wishing that I had remembered to have children, because then little Wystan and Anemone could help me shell these goddamn peas.” RAZER Peas: They’re a Hard Shell PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND LOOK. NOT TO brag, but I have recently enjoyed a spectacular pea season. This, as any home-crop gardener will know, is both a blessing and a curse. First, one enjoys several smug weeks of abundance. Then, one runs out of tolerable ways to eat peas. Then, one begins to actively hate peas for daring to grow inside a pod. Their removal, so recently a delight, becomes a difficult labour. And as you snap every one of the buggers open you think, ‘there must be an easier way to shell peas than this’. Of course, there is not an easier way to shell peas manually. Like any repetitive labour, it drives you to nonsensical thinking, and at one point I even found myself wishing that I had remembered to have children, because then little Wystan and Anemone could help me shell these goddamn peas. Without children or sanity, I moved in the middle of that day’s kilo to the internet to search for ‘efficient ways » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a writer and gardener, who doesn’t mind a good old-fashioned handy hint.