Something Feral

Digging up the flower-beds.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Manliness in Usefulness

While scrambling at full-speed around the 'Net, I skidded into a Popular Mechanics article from last September entitled "25 Skills Every Man Should Know". Suffice to say, after I had read the list, I was ready to scrap it and scramble on, but I felt that it was broken enough that the list deserved a thorough renovation into something, well, shinier.

The list had to conform to some degree of utility, so I weighted skills by potential usefulness based on frequency of use, the potential to make or break the situation, application of knowledge versus the use of items/tools/specialized equipment, and the relative intuitiveness of the skill in question. Here are the keepers from the Popular Mechanics article:

7. Build a campfire
9. Navigate with a map and compass
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter

Unsurprisingly, these reminded me of the advancement requirements in my old Boy Scout Handbook. So, in order to completely cover the bases, I not only reviewed and noted the advancement requirements for a Boy Scout, but the requirements for advancement to Eagle Scout, plus a few elective badges for the rank.

In the end, I had a list of 15 skills that everyone should know, not just men. If a skill is truly important, everyone should learn how to do it, without exception or excuse. To wit:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly.

- Lazarus Long, Time Enough for Love

However, some, if not most, traditionally fall within the sphere of the man's responsibilities. So, without further noise on my part or presuming as much eloquence as Heinlein, here they are (in no particular order):

- Firearm use and maintenance
- Orienteering
- Operating a car with a manual transmission
- Building a fire without matches or lighter
- Basic open-fire cooking
- CPR / AED operation
- Basic first-aid application
- Basic rope use
- Swimming
- Hunting, fishing and trapping
- Basic use of woods-tools
- Basic automotive maintenance
- Familiarity with the US Constitution and Amendments
- Shelter construction
- Living beneath one's means

Some of these are general skill-sets; this is partly due to the large number of constituent skills involved, and to condense the list into something of manageable size. I will be posting individual entries for each item on the list, much like the original article, except with a greater eye to detail, since I'm not on the clock and otherwise occupying advertising area in a print-magazine.

Furthermore, many of the above skills relate to some measure of self-sufficiency; with the decline of the economy as of late, wars in various parts of the world and civil unrest, I maintain that in a society so structured for global interdependence that it is not only prudent but necessary to exercise self-sufficiency when possible as a method of risk mitigation. Remember, protecting your family, providing leadership and putting meat on the table are the primary manly responsibilities, and it's overlooked much too frequently for my tastes.


Elusive Wapiti said...

Phew, Lazarus' list is a pretty steep bill. I can do about 15 of the 21. Some require no particular talent, such as giving orders, following orders, and dying gallantly. Some require quite a bit, like writing a sonnet or designing a building.

I'm golden on your list except for "basic automotive maintenance". I guess it depends on how basic you're talking. I can change my own oil and other simple tasks like that. I'm planning on learning how to set timing on my 77 K-10. But modern cars are too much voodoo for me to even try messing with.

Something Feral said...

Yeah, the list is steep, both for dramatic impact and an idealistic view of what a man could be, but is frequently not... Probably because science-fiction heroes don't need to hold a day job, or look after the farm or children. "Starfleet Academy Syndrome" might be an appropriate term for it.

Anyway, basic automotive maintenance (which is still being fleshed-out) is ideally enough knowledge to keep a basic automobile running in a non-ideal situation, and perhaps a digression into altering an older automobile for ethanol/biodiesel use, should the excrement hit the fan.

I agree on the modern-car maintenance problem... A code-reader can be purchased, but as for the replacement of certain manufactured parts, they're getting as bad as computers for sliding into the realm of "things that aren't time-efficient to fix yourself", which is outside the scope of the list. Hence, I'll be focusing on more "traditional" maintenance.