It has become apparent to me over time that in modern Western societies a major problem has developed. Individual persons and families no longer rely on themselves for the safety, and security of their properties, obtaining of goods and services and of their liberties. Instead, partially due to a change from an agrarian, to industrial to technological society and partially due to the degradation of the concepts of honor, pride and self-worth, peoples have become more dependent upon others to provide for them.
When I look at people like my father-in-law and my grandfather-in-law, something seems to set them apart from society today. My grandfather-in-law built his first home from the ground up, teaching himself and learning as he went. My father-in-law can repair most things on cars, handle 90% of routine maintenance and has performed multiple upgrades and repairs to his home without the assistance from an outside contractor. Both of them dive into projects on a regular basis and are good with tools, mechanics and in maintaining their yards. If something threatened their families, be it money or social, they did what it took to protect their families and property, even if it meant taking 2 jobs and silently suffering to do so. They were pro-active rather than re-active in their lifestyles and skills.
What sets these men apart from the norm today? While there will always be individuals who are good with cars, good with building or good with managing a household and providing for their families, it is rare to see all of these things combined. However, it was much more common in the day of our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers.
The issue that men of today have is that many of them, including myself at times, have little or no motivation to learn the skills necessary to do these things, or are so focused on the present that a "nest egg" or "rainy day" fund is never set up for emergencies. Why learn to fix pipes, there are always plumbers, right? Why learn to fix a car, someone else can get paid to get dirty? Why worry about our local, state or federal governments, isn't that what we elect politicians for?
People overall, but, especially men, are living by this mentality of being too busy, too lazy or just not caring and instead, outsourcing these duties rather than doing what men for centuries used to do themselves, take ownership, learn the skills, take an interest and do it.
I, for one, have learned how to do oil changes and even replaced 2 light switches in my home. I also recently put together a breakfast nook bench unit and table on my own. Minus the breakfast nook, I could have paid people to do the oil change and electrical work for me. But, I didn't. I got my hands dirty, got oil all over me and even got shocked with 120 volts of electrical power. These may not seem like a big deal but, they are my first steps toward a certain level of self-reliance.
What do taking on tasks like this do for the average man? They give him life skills that he will continue to take advantage of through the years. They allow money savings, which can then be applied to other areas such as emergency funds or college savings. The skills can be used to help other friends or family in need. Lastly, fixing something or building something that would have otherwise been outsourced gives a man a feeling of accomplishment, of pride, and demonstrates to his family that he is willing to work for their good. Being self-reliant also serves to strengthen and reinforce the family as a family will tend to rely more on its members, rather than outsiders.
I am making it a point to learn more and more about how to do things with vehicles, around the house and to better manage our resources as a family in order to become more self-reliant. It is a slow process and I am lucky to have people like my father-in-law and grandfather-in-law to help me where I was too disinterested or lazy to commit myself in the past.
It is my opinion that if men took up the reigns of being the go-to person for their families and their problems, physical, emotional and spiritual, families would be greatly strengthened. The man would feel as if he could take on more challenges and even create new things to better himself, his family and the world as a whole with the skills which he learned. It is my goal to develop these skills and, with time, to be more like those who have gone before us, and to pass this on to my children, thus breaking the cycle, at least, for some.
Afterthought/Clarification: By self-reliant, I don't necessarily mean being able to do EVERYTHING on one's own. Sometimes you just need to call or see a professional. When I needed my timing belt done, even my father-in-law told me to take it to a shop to be safe. It is just an OVERALL attitude to have.
Tool Pictures from http://www.public-domain-image.com
Light Switch Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahreido/5368955474/sizes/m/