Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our common difficulties in recession are, thank God, only material things

A good friend, a millionaire by his business worth in Dubai, called me up last night as he was around my place. Back in year 2001, we went out regularly for some coffees while looking for business opportunities and he grabbed one.

He was vey much concern on the current turmoil and its affect on my career. His food business is still okay, "People still need to eat!" That was his comforting words. He would like to help if I ever need his assistance as he cares. Thank you.

Everyone has his or her own expectations in life. Beyond that, we are only servants to God and whatever we do will be evaluated for what they are worth. Life can be so simple as well as complicated depending on our own expectations.

During this recession, we can evaluate on what we need and what we want.

Happiness, lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.

What is the correct response to a sudden straitening of circumstances? Could our response to a global economic meltdown just possibly be something a bit more butch?
There is a growing suspicion that the current financial crisis might function as a metaphorical call to arms, encouraging us to pick up our spades, trowels and toolkits. Perhaps the question men will ask of each other on first meeting will be, "Can I borrow a screwdriver?" rather than "Ooh, nice scarf. Where's it from?"

Of all the many effects of the current global economic meltdown – the plunge in property prices, inflation, rising unemployment – perhaps the greatest change will be in attitudes and, as a result, in behaviour.
For men, this change could even be epochal: we may be witnessing a return to the virtues and values of an earlier generation. No one – no one sensible – would advocate a regression to the days when men were men, women were downtrodden and children were terrified, but perhaps, in tough times, some stiffening of masculine sinew is required.

Maybe it is time to put some hair back on the world's chest. Perhaps the word "product" will once again indicate something we make, rather than something we wear in our hair.
After all, being pleasantly fragrant and waspishly witty is all very well if one's life is measured out in mocktails and swizzle-sticks, but it is not much help when one is tilling the allotment. We are shortly to arrive at a point where, for the first time in a long time, a chap will be judged on his ability to repair electrical goods, forage for food and supervise a community bartering system.
"Hard times call for hard men," says the writer Tony Parsons. "This idea that we don't need real men, men who make things, that all we need is pinstriped spivs who gamble with other people's money, all that's gone," says Parsons, building up a very manly head of steam.
The trouble is, he says, "we're completely unprepared. We've grown used to prosperity. We think we can just hire someone else to do all the hard work." He contrasts the manicured males of today with the fellows of the 1940s and 1950s.
"They expected life to be hard," he says. "They expected to struggle. Their principle reason for living was to protect their families and provide for them.
"Parsons is not alone. Gustav Temple is the editor of The Chap, a magazine that has long championed the presentational aesthetics, as well as the gentler manners of earlier generations.
"There is definitely a feeling that, as Michael Caine put it in Alfie, men have become 'poncified'. The past decade has been one of selfishness, self-aggrandisement, hoarding. Men have become bland consumers," he says.
Temple hopes that men will be forced to become self-reliant.
"Maybe all of us will spend less time wandering around furniture stores buying leather-lined wastepaper baskets and more time at home with hammer and nails, fixing things, being useful. People used to say, 'We need another war'. Maybe this is it."

Except this is better because, as Temple puts it: "We don't all have to die."
Someone will have to die, though: the metrosexual. The imminent demise of this benighted species – the term was coined by Mark Simpson as long ago as 1994 – has been forecast for some time.
Earlier this year, the American columnist Kathleen Parker published a hand-wringing book, Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care, arguing that feminism has neutered men, depriving us of our protective role in society.
"In the process of fashioning a more female-friendly world," writes Parker, "we have created a culture that is hostile towards males, contemptuous of masculinity and cynical about the delightful differences that make men irresistible, especially when something goes bump in the night."
Very kind of her, and all that, but the publication of Save the Males may have caused even the preening and primping variety of man to reflect that things had come to a pretty pass if we need a woman to explain to the world that, to bowlderise Parker's subtitle, "men matter".

The media has instituted its own anti-metro backlash. But until recently retrosexuality – the promotion of a recidivist, back-to-basics blokeishness – has been largely cosmetic, just another pose for the metrosexual to strike.
Witness Guy Ritchie and his ilk, pampered thespians all, peacocking about in their cloth caps and tweeds, or the grizzled movie hunk Russell Crowe, who appears intent, at all times, on assuring the world that he is less a professional actor than a moonlighting Aussie Rules footballer.

Mark Simpson was always careful to point out that he viewed the metrosexual as a mediated male – a man who locates masculinity in images presented to him in films, adverts and magazines and then attempts to ape them – rather than simply as someone overly concerned by his appearance. In this way, the retrosexual is actually just a metro in disguise: he is simply using different mediated images with which to construct his ersatz manly persona.

In the US, the defining image of televised machismo is provided by Mad Men's ladykilling Donald Draper. Meanwhile, the prime minister of Russia, having already been photographed indulging in a spot of shirtless fishing and heroically tranquilising a Siberian tiger, recently issued a testosterone-fuelled DVD entitled Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin.

Writing as a metrosexual – if, occasionally, a reluctant one – I find the thought of all this somewhat alarming. Norman Mailer, a writer-slash-silverback so dedicated to chest-beating displays of machismo that, according to his biographer Mary Dearborn, he once beat up a sailor because he believed the poor man had questioned the sexuality of his dog, had much to say on the perils of toughism.
"Machismo is not the easiest cloak to wear," wrote Mailer. "Machismo is a ladder, and there's always a guy who's more macho than you coming up that ladder... macho means taking the dares that come your way, and if you take every dare that comes your way, sooner or later you're gonna be dead."
It is edifying, with that in mind, to remember that hard times do not always call for hard men. Often, financial gloom and social strife has sparked glittering pockets of decadence in which male glamour, even effeminacy, has been prized over more manly arts. Perhaps, during the coming impoverishment, there will be a place for the gel-stuffed bathroom cabinet after all. I hope so.

What is certain is that men have an adjustment to make. In 1933, in the middle of the last great depression, Franklin D Roosevelt arrived in the White House determined to lead the way out of the economic crisis.
His inaugural address is still inspiring today: "Happiness," he said, "lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.

"Our common difficulties," he said, "are, thank God, only material things."

1 comment:

FH2o said...

I tend to agree with your (rather lengthy!) post.