Your father has asked us to share our thoughts on ‘manhood’ with you. Whilst it is a more difficult task than it seems, it is nevertheless an honour to be asked to play a small role in your transition to manhood.
Regardless of what any of us say, it is your life and your destiny that you must control and decide on. We adults can advise, but only you can decide the direction and shape of your life.
Let me though go to your father’s question on ‘manhood’ and break my thoughts up.
- Why gender?
The world you will grow into is different from that which we entered years ago. One of the most striking differences is that the roles of the genders – men and women – are changing.
Yours will be a different world from ours. You may, and should, seek our advice, but weigh our advice with others recognising that we will advise you based on how we see the world. Many of our views will be old fashioned by the time you grow to our age.
In many ways therefore ‘womanhood’ and ‘manhood’ will be more closely linked in your adult years than ours.
The old stereotypes of ‘women’s roles’ and ‘men’s roles’ are breaking down. Men will continue to be challenged to accept women as equal in the workforce but also to see that men should be equal at home. As you grow into adulthood it will become more and more common for a female to be a breadwinner and for a male to be a caregiver. This is a challenging change for all.
One of your challenges is to define how it is you wish to be perceived and the roles that you and your life partner, should you find one, will play.
For your generation, manhood will mean different things than it did in ours. We can advise, but you must decide what it means to you.
- Judge people on how you see them, not on what other’s say.
In life it is very easy to be pushed with the great flow of opinion that the majority hold. Men and women of character do not ‘go with the flow’, they set their own course.
Men and women of character have a moral framework that they live by and will either agree or disagree with the majority views and opinions based on their moral framework, not the will of the majority.
Remember this: a person of character is tested not when they agree with the majority, but when they disagree with it.
You have a family and a background that allows you to take a more balanced view of some of the great world challenges from a view based on knowledge and character not mass media hysteria.
Many will tell you that Christians, Jews and Muslims are destined to fight. We know that to not be true.
Our family, with Jews, Christians, Muslims agnostics, atheists and infidels in close proximity, knows that given the right circumstances the great religions and peoples can live together.
Many on a global stage will disagree and fight that view. You will need to choose the issues you think are worth fighting for and the role that you will play in that fight.
In Australia we see the issues manifest itself today around the issues of asylum seekers and the acceptance of Islam into our community. We know this issue will not go away anytime soon and will be handed to your generation for resolution. Our generation has screwed it up.
It would be so easy for you to fall into line with the majority to say ‘we do not want ‘those’ sorts of people here’, or ‘we can’t trust Muslims’, or ‘they are all terrorists’.
When we look at our family, we know that such prejudice is not true. We also know that ‘queue jumpers’ when given a chance can help grow our nation. Our family is uniquely placed to play a balancing role in this debate.
For you as you grow older, you need to define the moral framework of your character and decide issues that you can and must engage in, and issues that you leave to others. Only you can decide this.
In life, be true to your ethical framework and judge people by how you see them, not by how others judge them.
- In life not all options are good.
Life has funny way of throwing unpredictable challenges at you. Sometimes choices are clear, between a good option and a bad option. But sometimes you have to choose between two competing bad options when no good option exists.
How do you decide when choices in front of you are only bad ones? How do you decide ‘the least bad path to take’?
It is very difficult to decide if you have no basis to weigh options. Again you will find that an ethical and moral framework that you decide for your life, the things that you know to be right and wrong, will give you guidance in difficult decisions.
Do not shirk from the difficult decisions, be clear in your mind on what is right and wrong, make your decision and have the courage to defend it.
- Use your skills and good fortune for the benefit of other people
A small boy in Rwanda once said to me: “The problem with you people in the West is that you think education is a right, when we know it to be a privilege”.
Education is empowering. It gives people the ability to break out of poverty, to build things, to create and to lead. Leadership and education are both privileges that you have.
80% of people on the planet do not have regular access to both drinking water and electricity. More so 95% of people do not complete secondary education. Less than 1% complete tertiary education.
To be born in Australia and to be given the privilege of education will make you one of the top one half of one per cent of wealthy and privileged people on this planet.
What will you do with that privilege?
Use your skills and good fortune for the benefit of others. In the process you will benefit yourself.
You are about to enter the exciting time of life. Your destiny is yours to control and shape. In doing so, set your moral frameworks, know your ethical boundaries on what you believe to be right and wrong, and stick to those boundaries.
Be aware of your wealth and privilege and carry it neither as a burden nor as an entitlement. Carry it as your opportunity to improve the world around you in what ever way that you see fit.
Finally: you have around you a great family. We are here to pat you on the back when you succeed, but we are here also to give you a hand up when you fail.
Do not fear failure, as avoiding failure removes the chance of success.