I have noticed it about myself for quite some time now, SE Cupp noticed it about a whole generation and now Mark McCrindle realised it is true for women as well. It was actually quite inevitable really: modern man’s basic skills just aren’t as sick as they used to be, or as many an older person would say, ‘they just don’t make them like they used to’.
I am from a family with ‘clean hands’ myself. Looking back up (or is it down now?) my family tree I see a bunch of suit wearing, clean shaven, spectacle wearing men. So it is sort of no wonder I’m not the first one who runs to fix the leaking basin or react to an electronic failure in the house. But Miss Cupp, the American political commentator, claims that it is not just me but actually my whole generation who just can’t do things, considered as basic and necessary skills by previous generations, anymore and we would much rather call someone else to fix or build stuff for us. Social researcher Mark McCrindle then draws our attention to the fact that this loss-of-skill-syndrome is now also very prevalent among women. Men started to lose their ‘man skills’ earlier than women as it has traditionally been them who spent their days walking office corridors and riding up and down skyscraper lifts around the world rather than labour around the house. Just as a ‘handy man’ is now literally a sought after occupation and no longer any given man when he’s at home, a true ‘house wife’ is becoming a rare commodity in itself and something only a few households are still blessed with nowadays.
Is the loss of basic skills a bad thing however? I would agree with The Punch writer Matt Smith on this one and say no, not necessarily. Skills fade away over the years as they become redundant and skill sets change over time, as he puts it. But in the end however, those skill requiring jobs are still necessary, I mean who do those, who can’t fix their own roof when it blows off, call when they need to put tiles back into place?
The decay of practical skills has, however, brought along with it another growing phenomenon, namely Collaborative Consumption. It comes down to skills trade basically, or not only skills but whatever you have on offer in exchange for whatever you are in need of but do not own yourself or posses the necessary skill through which to accomplish it.
As we move away from an era where we find a Jack of all trades in almost every household to one where the specialist is king, Rachel Botsman encourages communities to start applying the concept of Collaborative Consumption. It is a ‘what is mine is y(ours)’ culture but not necessarily at anyone’s cost – it is always a trade off, a bartering of skills or means. The classic example she mentions in one of her videos is a drill owner who will use that drill for about 9-12 minutes in his life. Now imagine you are the only guy in your neighbourhood or suburb who owns a drill and also the only one able to use it perhaps (for the sake of this example obviously!). You can offer your services or rent out the drill to those who don’t know how to use it or would rather not buy one if they’re going to use it once in their life. You earn back the money you spent on the product over time and maybe even a profit while your neighbours receive a service at a lower than usual cost. There are many other examples, such as garden trade for a share in the harvest, car sharing, or couch surfing which many young travelers might be familiar with.
Although we are losing many skills as individuals we can potentially actually accomplish more than before because of collaborative consumption’s synergy effect. Botsman names another example where she paid for an overseas trip by renting out her house while she was on that trip. A person who would under normal circumstances not consider, or who’s budget won’t allow them to go, on an expensive holiday can now punch above their salary weight for instance. I’d say though that the deciding factor in the end would be whether we are willing to share what we own or not – whether it be possessions or skills.