I was talking to my wife a few nights ago and she said I was an anomaly. To give this context, I was talking about my plans for training that I’m doing in preparation of the Spartan Spring May next year. She said that most men my age, I’m 59, would not be planning on doing something like an obstacle race.
Now I took this as a compliment and she meant it as one but then I got to thinking that if I’m an anomaly compared to men in my age group, that is actually a pretty sad statement on current American males.
When you look at history, our current cushy lives are a blip on the timeline. Most of human history is filled full of struggles, adventure, failures, triumphs and strife.
To some modern men, adversity is when they can’t get their email or their Wi-Fi is not working. Or they can’t get a close parking spot at the mall and have to walk 100 yards in the cold, heat, whatever.
To our ancestors, strife was missing that shot at that animal that you need to kill in order to provide food for your family. Strife was working all year on crops that failed to produce a harvest. Strife was having to go 20 miles into town to get medicine for a sick child. But to them, this was normal, it was their lives and they knew little else.
Truth be told, 200 years ago, I would have been considered a wimp. Running a 3.5 mile race with obstacles would have been easy compared to getting up a dawn, working in the fields all day until it became too dark to see. Or walking across the US mapping out our new country. Or dangling off a rope to build a damn
And it wasn’t just men either, women were tough, tougher than most American men are now. Up at dawn, build a fire in the stove, cook breakfast (all from scratch), see to the children, hand-wash the clothes, often hand make the clothes, etc.
And it is still much like this in some parts of our modern world but those days are pretty much gone in the USA. Most modern farmers have modern machines that do much of the work that was done by hand before or with animals. Ranchers herd cattle with helicopters and ATVs. A child’s illness is taken care of with a quick trip to the corner doctor and then the pharmacy drive-thru for the medicine.
The people we call tough were just regular people back not so long ago.
So are there no tough people left in the US? Sure there are. US Navy SEALs, other elite special operations groups. There are elite athletes who run ultramarathons over 100 miles long, sometimes several times in a single month.
But they have become the exception rather than the rule.
The reality is that America has largely become a society of homogenized humans that bear little resemblance to your ancestors.
Days spent shuffling from a climate controlled, and artificially lit home to a climate controlled, and artificially lit office or cubicle, has taken the individuality out of Americans.
Gone are the days of rough men (and women) exploring rough lands and pioneering new frontiers, welcome to our civilized country where no Wi-Fi is cause for the wailing and gnashing of teeth.
And if refusing to conform to this new American mold makes me an “anomaly”, I’ll wear that label with pride.