Dear My Generation – Man Up!

There is a particularly worrying train of thought that says men, on the whole, are deep down terrified of what the future holds. In times past the men that came before us survived in much harsher conditions because they taught themselves how to be farmers, fishermen, iron-mongers and all those other awesome manly things. This provided them with the skills and the fortitude to do what they had to do to succeed and even thrive when the world was making it as hard as possible. And most importantly, these manly men could fight to protect families and countries at the drop of a sweaty, rough-but-does-the-job hat. When the end comes and the inevitable nuclear apocalypse descends upon us, what skills can our generation offer the global struggle? The ability to hunch over a desk? The innate talent of squinting due to all those years pressed against glowing screens of various sizes? Perhaps we can shelter our remaining loved ones with our deep and expansive knowledge of the Star Wars universe? My generation is useless, the men of this generation can’t do a thing.

This thought plagued me on my fifth journey to the nearest computer store to try and make the screen on my laptop the same as the screen on my flat, shiny TV. What a pitiful state of affairs that is.

When I was about 18 or so and contemplating living on my own some day, I wondered whether it would matter that I couldn’t re-wire a plug (whatever that means) or knock up a shelf (I wasn’t even aware shelves could get pregnant) and to a large extent, no it doesn’t because you give somebody a ring and he will come and do it for you. But that’s the problem isn’t it? You haven’t learned a thing someone most likely older than you has done it for you after a phone call that is no more than the equivalent of crying to daddy that you can’t do it and make it work please daddy, make it work again, I can’t do it!

My issues with technology are well documented here but you wouldn’t think it would take five trips and near to five hundred dollars to achieve the, let’s admit it, pointless in the grand scheme of things little victory I wanted. It involved much wild gesticulation, three whole disappointed nights where I had to give up and admit defeat until another day, several puzzling hours of research on the internet and a fair few tantrums I regret to inform you. Obviously if you don’t know how to do something you should teach yourself and hope for the best and yes, I’ll know what to do for the future now but I can’t escape the feeling that these little things are items of basic knowledge that all men should just know.

I would be totally screwed if a leak sprung in my house. I’d be buggered if my toilet started over-flowing. My reaction would literally be to scamper around in circles whimpering and waving my hands about until the water filled my flat and killed me. There would be nothing else for it. The worst thing is that is the best outcome I can possibly come up with. Where did we all go wrong? When did every man in my generation become utterly useless.

It’s probably linked to the troubling idea that this generation never grew up. The theory that somewhere amongst the great leaps forward in video games, instant gratification in all aspects of media and possibly the lack of a war daunting enough to necessitate conscription, the young adult male came to expect everything and give next to nothing. Our career opportunities dwindled as our immaturity ballooned. I mean, right now I’m drink chocolate milk for god’s sake. Why? Because I can! This is both brilliant and terrible. Women on the other hand have seen their career prospects start to look a lot starrier. Out of all the graduates the UK has produced around the time I finished university the women are averaging higher salaries and altogether not fretting about the leftover food in the fridge creating a serious situation akin to a biohazard.

Now obviously not every male ended up this dick-in-hand idle but sadly the number of people I know who can prove themselves ‘handy’ or ‘capable’ around the house and in the modern world in general is significantly lower than those I bet my father could have named in his youth.

What’s to be done though? I’m fairly certain every generation has bemoaned their lot in the cosmos but in our case we seem to have condemned ourselves to it. We can’t blame any external forces for our lack of skills, lack of drive, despondency and let’s not forget the top dog, apathy. We were never oppressed, never repressed, we had everything we needed given to us, our parents worked their arses off (and still do) to ensure that just that happened. And they didn’t screw up their own lives whilst they did it. At my age my father was married and selling off his guitar to buy a car to raise money for the down-payment on a house. I have scraped money together to afford a flat with his help in a country I wouldn’t even be in if not for the friend he made years ago.

But therein may lie the key. That very same friend of my dad’s told me something important in response to my ‘I don’t know how I can ever repay you’ and that was that I can go about repaying her by growing up to be successful enough to offer someone else the opportunities presented to me. Not only was this stunningly altruistic but it may give us the answer; as a generation we are incredibly lucky, the trick is to realise that and pay the universe back what we owe It, and we owe it a lot. Putting up a shelf or changing a wire or unblocking a toilet can make you manly but it doesn’t make you a man in that ever-elusive grown-up master of your own destiny way. Being a man, and being a human, is about accepting your limitations and not accepting the limitations you know you can do something about. I fixed my problem with the TV with perseverance and working out what wouldn’t work. I had to go through the S-TV socket as the HDMI ones didn’t support- whatever that isn’t the point, the point is that if you are self aware enough to come to the opinion that something went wrong with your generation, do something about it. On the personal level. For yourself. And then give the generation after you a break by giving someone a leg up. That way maybe the inevitable nuclear apocalypse might not be so bad after all.

Oh but go make yourself pancakes or buy chocolate milk if you like. When you were a kid you probably petulantly though ‘when I’m grown up I’ll have pancakes and chocolate milk all the time because no one will stop me!’ Being responsible doesn’t mean you have to be dull.

I’m David Hetherington and this blog is dedicated to my dad.



One thought on “Dear My Generation – Man Up!

  1. I feel quite proud of you for writing this, it would definitely not be out of place in a Fleet Street column either. One small correction, I sold my guitar and your mum sold her car so we could raise the deposit on our first house.

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