In other words, good, old-fashioned hard skills. I can guarantee the men, and indeed women, of Ukraine are living in the moment as they shift rubble and shoot down enemy aircraft without recourse to workshops on breathing and synergy.
The collaboration and communication abilities of those leading an army of volunteers are not in any doubt. But I hope we can agree that it is all to the good they are unencumbered by management-speak and 360-degree appraisals of their cognitive flexibility. The only reasonable response is awe.
An acquaintance has been saying she’s not convinced that, if her high-earning, bonus-winning banker spouse were conscripted in a time of crisis, he would be manly enough to get through the initial selection, much less be given a live weapon.
When she claims her “next” husband will be the sort of chap who can build a shelter and kill a bear, she is, of course, being deliberately fatuous (I hope).
But her provocative musings highlight how little value the middle classes place on what used to be regarded as “masculine” traits. Somewhere along the line, the mastery of Excel spreadsheets became more respected than the ability to make things, to use tools, to physically shape our environment.
Back in 1982, American humorist Bruce Feirstein published Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche by way of satirising stereotypes of masculinity. We know now that real men, whether they earn their daily bread primarily on the brain or the brawn end of the spectrum, eat anything. Even crushed avocados.
In much of the world now, male success is epitomised by a well-cut suit and a desk. And yet the traditional male archetype exerts an undeniable pull; in the US, every made-for-TV romantic movie invariably features a workaholic interior designer or wedding planner who is suddenly dispatched to Hicksville County where she falls for the strapping fella wrangling longhorns, mending the barn and surveying her fancy city ways with amused derision. It’s a formula – but a winning one.
Obviously, he turns out to be the wealthy ranch owner, not the ranch hand, because the female audience may be hopelessly romantic, but they’re a canny bunch who have no intention of letting their heroine sleep in the bunkhouse. Wearing a checked shirt and making the epiphanic discovery that, despite that degree from Yale, true fulfilment actually resides in drinking homemade lemonade on a West Virginian porch swing, is compromise enough.
Here in the real world, as Russian thermobaric rockets fall, there’s no pause for navel-gazing. The exigencies of survival are all that matter. Food. Water. Medicine. Shelter. Escape.
Those who choose to stay behind in Ukraine, those who left but felt compelled to return, are mounting an astonishing defence of the land and the life they hold dear.
Would we do the same if Britain were invaded? If we searched for the hero inside ourselves, would we find one – or just a punchline from the sitcom Miranda?
Truthfully, all we can do is donate more money to Ukraine, hold our loved ones tight and hope to God we never have to find out exactly what we would do for love.