Teach “Enablism” To Change The Future

You want to change the outcome of the future? You don’t need a Mr. Fusion powered Delorean or a blue police booth.

You need “enablism”.

Before you hit spell check and see if “enablism” is a word; it isn’t. Poetic license. It is a word I’ve created to describe the act of teaching someone how to be enabled.

At the risk of sounding like a “grumpy old man” in a world where my demographics are rapidly shifting to “nobody cares about you anymore” (I think the cut off for that is 44 years old now) — I would like to say we’re in a fairly grim situation as a social order.

People don’t know how to do stuff.

Now that is a wide-sweeping, blanket statement and there will be many that will protest the generalization. While there are always exceptions, the evidence is all around you if you simply take a moment to look for it.

Several things are disappearing from society. Cursive handwriting. The ability to tell time on an analog clock. Counting back change from a purchase. Simple, trivial things that some may argue, “Good riddance” to.

Some would say these skills are no longer necessary. When is the last time you had to read or use a Rand McNally map, folded up in your glove box? What the hell is a compass? Who makes phone calls anymore?

A lot of these “lost skills” you could go your whole life (if you were born after 1990) and never need or use. After all, who needs to know how to make a cooking fire from a book of matches?

Maybe the problem with losing these skills is part of a bigger picture. The lost of “enablement”. The ability to take care of ourselves should the need arise and the virtue of learning these skills taught us something far more important;


When I was about nine years old, my family made a camping trip into the woods. This wasn’t “roughing it” at a Motel 6 or sleeping in a camper-trailer at some campground. My dad would lock the hubs of the 4WD truck and take us to where surely no white man had ever been before. Once he was sure humans weren’t anywhere nearby, he would stop the truck — we would set up a fire and …. well, camp.

Being nine and all, plus driving straight up the side of a near-sheer canyon wall to join the buffalo on the great plains — I was exhausted and hungry. Also being nine, I demanded sustenance.

My dad threw a can of beans at me and this little piece of metal that looked like it was scrapped from a airplane crash. I looked back at him like he’d grown horns.

“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked.

“Open that can and eat,” he said.

“Where is the can opener?” I replied.

“That’s it. If you want to eat, you’ll figure it out,” he told me, slyly.

By the way, it looked like this:

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Yeah, get one of these immediately and give it to your kids.

It took me 20 minutes to figure it out, but that was the best damn can of beans — ever and you know what? It has been almost 40 years and I still remember this lesson. At the time I wanted to bury him six feet under, but the idea of enablism sprouted from this very event.

The Baby Boomers spent their lives trying to teach the Gen-Xers about how to survive having a hard life.

We Gen-Xers spend our lives trying to give our kids the lives we never had — and we’re doing them a great disservice.

During my brief stint in college (prior to answering the call from Uncle Sam) I was privileged to enjoy English 101. During this class, we were required to write and deliver a speech about whatever we wanted. Some did dramatic interpretations (that’s how I found out about Stephen King’s great Skeleton Crew anthology book; Survivor Type for the win — lady fingers …) others just talked about something they liked.

One girl wrote a scathing piece about how her daddy wouldn’t buy her a new car. She was tired of the one she had and that dirty son of a bitch wouldn’t get her a Mustang 5.0. This went on for a good fifteen minutes and all I could do was sit there in disgust. By the way, she was on car number three — and he “put his foot down” this time.


You know how I got my first car? I chopped wood for 100+ hours in the cold and rain (uphill, both ways) and did I get a Mustang 5.0? No. I got a 10 year old rusted out piece of crap Toyota Celica from the early 1970s. On cold days, I had to push it down a hill and “kick start” it because it was too cold to turn over.

Ask your peer group if they’ve ever kick started a car. Hell, ask them if they’ve ever used a pair of jumper cables … or changed a tire.

When I was in my late-30s, I had a night gig on the weekend monitoring a data server farm that provided services to big companies like RIM (Blackberry, people … Google it…). I was the hardware guy and I worked with a software guy partner. The facility was monitored 24–7 and we took the shift from the day crew.

One day, my partner shows up almost an hour late. He was near my age — a little younger. He is almost crying. Panicked and scared. He comes into the office in a huge tizzy. I’m thinking he got shot or robbed (not the greatest neighborhood). Maybe ran off the road; he looked terrible.

He had a flat tire.

I looked at him in disgust. He drove in on the flat. Didn’t know if he had a spare and “Doesn’t matter — I can’t change a tire anyway.”

35-year old man can’t change a tire.

Twenty minutes later I was back in the office — a bit dirty, but accomplished. He looked at me like I was some messiah.

These sorts of stories go on and on. 20 year old kids that don’t know how to pump gas. 25 year olds that can’t change a lightbulb or use a hammer (I swear, Home Depot’s website has a video about how to use a hammer and a measuring tape).

Here is a fun experiment that dove-tails from my first experiences. Get your kid one of these:

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Make sure you figure it out first. The kids will call you on it.

When I’ve written similar articles like this before, I’ve been told things like “I’ll google how to do it” or “I can learn how to change a tire on youTube”.

You sound like a grumpy old man talking about the good ol’ days or blabbing on about that “rock and roll rubbish”.

Yet somehow, in this age of endless information — people aren’t learning much (except how to build a structure in Fortnite by a compensated endorser with big boobs) and they are doing even less than they are learning.

youTube and Snapchat aren’t teaching enablism. In fact, they are doing the exact opposite of that. They aren’t teaching anything but the ability to be complacent by sheer nature that they are there and available 24 hours a day.

Ever been in a cell phone dead zone? I have. youTube sorta requires an internet connection.

Maybe all these “useless” skills we’re giving up thanks to technology (and possibly a bit of spoiling) aren’t about the ability to change a tire, replace a dryer hose or fix the innards of our toilet.

Maybe it is about teaching us drive and spirit. Giving us the confidence to attempt the more important life skills we really should have.

… or we could continue to pay Jiffy Lube $60 to spend 5 minutes replacing a $9 cabin filter on our third car that daddy bought us.

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I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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