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Boy's Own Stuff
on 12 July 2015
I don't know what I expected from this.
And I don't know what I got.
It seems somewhat ironic that Neil Oliver goes on about heroism and what it could teach the men of today about living their lives when basically he prances about, striding moodily over the landscape and talking to a television camera. He complains about the feminisation of modern men yet has hair linger than mine and always seems to be wearing trendy little (feminine) scarves ...
To me, he was always onto a loser because of his hero worship of Captain Scott, who I dislike intensely - Scott was foolish, snobbish and ultimately a poor leader (I'm in the Shackleton camp, you may have guessed). And several of the stories were of pointless heroism - the Charge of the Light Brigade, Scott's expedition (it wasn't even scientifically worthwhile), the Zulu wars ... what is so great about obeying orders you know to be wrong? Would it not be braver (especially as so many of these people were ordinary working class men led by upper class ones) to stand your ground and say no?
Yes, there are some genuine heroes here and their stories are terrifying. However, the dry and bland writing style does not do them justice.
I can't help but think the premise of the book is wrong, and that Oliver is underestimating his fellow men. And what is wrong exactly with feminisation? The book talks about lifeboat men ... How about Grace Darling? The soldiers of the Crimea? Well, ten times as many men died from disease as from wounds and Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole and their tiny bands of nurses had to fight both the command and disease ... The women of SOE ... Women can be heroes too, and they don't have to be masculine to be one.
Mr Oliver, instead of wailing and moaning about the feminisation of men from the safety of his study perhaps needs to do something a little braver than writing about it if this woman is going to take him seriously.