Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

At least I can use an allen key

First published on The Punch on 2nd February, 2011

Young Australians have often been labelled as lazy and lacking many crucial skills, leaving many older Australians to worry about the future of this country, left in the hands of those who lack the ability to look after themselves.

A bunch of survey results released recently echo these fears, focusing on the loss of traditional knowledge in the younger generation.

Simply put, women are not learning the skills that traditionally women once knew, and men are losing the manly abilities they once had.

Can I ask you though, is that necessarily a bad thing?

Having recently crossed the thirty barrier myself, I could lament that the young kids these days don’t know how to program a VCR. But I’m not – it’s time to recognise that the times, and our skill sets, have moved on.

While it is true that many of the skills our grandmothers possess – such as baking lamingtons (only 20 per cent of Gen Y know this skill), cooking a roast (51 percent of those under thirty), hemming skirts and growing a plant from cuttings – may be slipping on the wayside, that’s something I can live with.

We’re a society with disposable income, and there are services now that rely on our lack of time and ability to hem skirts. The world could do with less lamingtons anyway.

Of course, before a chore such as hemming skirts came along, our grandmothers were not routinely using skills their grandmothers would use, such as building a barrel (I believe it was called “coopering”), shoeing a horse or churning butter.

Milk a cow, you say? There’s a man in a horse and cart who conveniently delivers milk right to your door.

It was a simpler time, I understand, and there was also a lack of research companies churning out pointless ‘data’. Sounds almost utopian.

Reports neglects to take into account much that would account for these numbers, and there’s a large number of factors. Fifty years ago there weren’t many of our grandmothers working a full-time job, let alone taking on “domestic tasks” at the same time.

Many young people are also living at home for longer, relying on their parents for support.

Similarly, the skill sets of men have changed, perhaps more in favour of gender equality. I’m lost when it comes to any knowledge of how a car works, I wouldn’t know the first thing about fixing a leaking tap.

But when it comes to setting up a home wireless internet router, I’m your man. If you want to know what apps on your phone could make your life easier, you won’t find me lacking.

If you find yourself with some cheap Swedish furniture you’d like assembled, then hand over that metal thingie, stand back and give the man some room.

I’m a man of the modern age, with a skill set for the modern age. I also can include in that the ability to wash the dishes, and change a nappy – probably because I haven’t yet figured out how to pay people to do that for me.

None of this should be looked at as “losing skill sets” or “changing gender roles”. We retain the knowledge that is useful and enjoyable to us. That we have the time to complete, or the drive to learn.

In a modern, fast-paced, money-driven, work-fuelled society, modern women can be forgiven if they don’t know how to hem a skirt. A man can be let off the hook if he is incapable of fixing a leaky tap.

I know how to use Google to find a plumber to do it for me – isn’t that an infinitely more useful skill to have these days?


One comment on “At least I can use an allen key

  1. Doctor Jonas
    February 23, 2011

    You could call me. I know my way through plumbing… but the air fare would be a killer!

    It’s evident this happened through the ages: each generation is now equivalent in social progress to 2-3 generations in the 18th-19th Century, and 5-6 generations (100 years) at the very least previous to that.

    Society comes along with technology, and given the changes have picked up speed so dramatically, we can see the contrast patently.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2011 by in lifestyle and tagged , , , , , .
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