More substantively, workout culture is individualistic in the most corrosive and shame-inducing sense, pretending that the individual exists in a vacuum, and that socio-political problems like obesity, sedentary jobs, automobile dependency, and subsidized junk food, either do not exist or are merely wholesome opportunities to exercise self-restraint. Workout culture admits no possibility of societal sickness or policy solutions to the problems of being unhealthy or overweight. It is a sort of glossed-over eugenic ideology, a cult of self-improvement in a broader society which is deeply and perhaps terminally inconducive to self-improvement. The gym rat is social Darwinism made flesh.
Eugenics! Social Darwinism! Structural reorganization of society! So far, so woke, you might say. Just another predictable jeremiad from the fat-positive, pronoun-announcing, reality-is-a-social-construct side of the Internet. But no! Some of you might have already noticed that link goes to The American Conservative. Yes, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the competing brands of collective-mindedness these days, but it’s evident in the details:
In a society which has lost a sense of civic togetherness and mutual support—that is, the communitarianism of “intermediating institutions” between the lone individual and the all-powerful state—self-improvement itself becomes a sort of self-loathing. Individual responsibility becomes an exercise in bashing one’s head against the wall. Genuine good health—like faith, family, and so much else that actually matters—is done in community. Many of our particular problems lie far downstream from a broader and more general breakdown. “Excuses” might actually be opportunities to probe what has really gone wrong with us.
Yes, yes, all problems are social problems, social problems have to be addressed as a whole rather than piecemeal, and individualism is the cancer eating away at the marrow of the ideal Rousseauian community, where the Volk would get their exercise the way God intended, by doing communal labor in their idyllic, car-free villages. It just goes to show the fluidity of political identity — compared to the woke left, I’m a release-the-hounds reactionary. Compared to the communitarian right, I’m a libertarian, almost a libertine. I’m an orangutan among chimpanzees, and all I want is for these equally-obnoxious conformists to swive off and leave me out of their stupid salvific schemes.
Anyway, if our hero could pause his sermon for a moment, he might consider that many people exercise not because of self-loathing caused by Madison Avenue brainwashing, but because being fit feels better than being out of shape. It could be that they actually enjoy the challenge of building and maintaining fitness. Possibly, they might even subscribe to a Stoic realism which focuses on changing what lies within one’s power to change, starting with one’s own body. Del Mastro might enjoy posturing as a bodhisattva who refuses to enter the Nirvana of fitness until all sentient beings enjoy equal access, but Occam’s Razor says he’s just lazy, and clever enough to rationalize it as social criticism.
Recent data from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department shows Black people are underrepresented as visitors to state parks. They make up 2.2% of Oregon’s population and 0.9% of daily visitors and 1.9% of overnight visitors to parks. Other underrepresented demographic groups include American Indian and Alaska Natives, with an estimated 1.8% population, and 1.4% day visitors and 1.2% overnight visitors and Latino people, with 13% of the Oregon population and 6% of day visitors and 5% of overnight visitors.
On the other hand, whites account for 76% of Oregon’s population but 88% of the system’s day visitors and 87% of its overnight visitors.
OPRD Spokesman Chris Havel said this is an issue his department has been struggling with for years. It’s been working with different community organizations to find solutions to make sure every person feels equally welcome when they visit state parks.
I’m not surprised. Considering recent media reports of the miscreants and reprobates who can be found on Oregon’s hiking trails, I don’t think even I would feel safe there.
I fixed this headline pic.twitter.com/m9vx0JsXnB
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) July 19, 2020
One of my favorite loan-words from German is Schlimmbesserung, “a so-called improvement that makes things worse.” I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to “improve” on Tommasini’s call for racial quotas to make orchestras more cosmetically appealing to guilt-ridden white progressives, but damned if Singal hasn’t managed it here. “Reform our economic system” — as if “the economy” is a matter of an engineer twiddling some knobs, adjusting some faders, and raising the economic EQ levels until, presto, it produces more exotic blends of violinists. There are so many ignorant assumptions baked into that simple empty-calorie phrase that I don’t know where you’d even begin trying to argue with it. I see now why Zen masters prefer hitting their students over the head with a stick. Sometimes a hard reboot is so much more efficient.
UPDATE: A German friend of mine, in response to my query over which variant to use, writes:
I also agree with the distinction between Besserung and Verbesserung, they are slightly different and explained well in the post [link here]. That said, it actually would be more accurate to use Verschlimmbesserung and verschlimmbessern as it relates to attempts to improve something (verbessern). Besserung and bessern relates to an improvement of something that happens by itself (not by human intervention) and means that it is a change to something better, therefore not worse (schlimmer).
A community has been left perplexed by a spate of attacks on scarecrows – including a decapitation. Six scarecrows have so far been damaged, having been part of a 25-strong display in Barnham Broom, near Wymondham, for three months of lockdown.
15 years ago, bloggers were all 20-30 something kids trying to get a foothold against 40-50-year-olds working in newspapers and magazines. Now newspapers and magazines are all 20-30 year olds, and bloggers/self-publishers are the older generations. https://t.co/JoqXwRFbau
— Stephen L. Miller (@redsteeze) July 17, 2020
Andrew Sullivan stops blogging, and blogging itself is dead. Andrew Sullivan resurrects his blog on Substack, and blogging is making a comeback. I suppose this is the gentrification stage of blogging, where all the media personalities with paid subscribers move back into our quaint little neighborhood to get away from the bland uniformity and sky-high social taxes of corporate media. Ah, well, they’ll probably be hopping on another shiny new tech platform soon enough, and we amateur hobbyists will be left in peace again. Just gotta wait ’em out. Quick, everybody, act rustic, and maybe they won’t even notice us.
Journalism possesses in itself the potentiality of becoming one of the most frightful monstrosities and delusions that have ever cursed mankind. This horrible transformation will occur at the exact instant at which journalists realize that they can become an aristocracy.
— G. K. Chesterton (@GKCdaily) March 18, 2019
So why, exactly, has the scope of these riots been so assiduously downplayed, and the opinions of those who experienced them first-hand been largely ignored? A number of potential explanations ring true. For one, media elites desperately do not want to undermine the moral legitimacy of a ‘movement’ that they have cast as presumptively righteous. And highlighting that urban minority populations are generally less enthusiastic about a movement whose mantra is “Black Lives Matter” would be embarrassing for obvious reasons.
The white liberals and Leftists who claim to be so sensitively attuned to the feelings of minorities clearly spend very little time actually talking to working class non-white people — or at least those who happen to fall outside their activist cohort. If they did, they would be saddened to discover that, unlike them, working class non-whites frequently express “small-c” conservative cultural attitudes.
Formerly, I would have described myself as skeptical, jaded, even cynical regarding the national media. I now realize that I knew they are never to be trusted the same way a Fijian knows that snow is cold. I knew it, but I didn’t know it. I might have sardonically agreed with Thomas Jefferson that “the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” but I now have to admit I have never encountered people more misinformed than those who inhabit the media ecosystem 24/7. A merely ignorant person can be easily taught, but an educated idiot will cling to his delusions like a feral animal. I suspect that when I’m old and senile and require a handler, I will still clearly remember how aghast I was in the summer of 2020, watching the media and public health experts blatantly sacrifice their credibility in service to a political narrative. It might be worth a newspaper subscription if only to read “journalism’s” obituary with great pleasure.
I’ve said before, with only the tip of my tongue in my cheek, that Oprah Winfrey is “no more a person now, but a whole climate of opinion under which we conduct our differing lives.” (Yes, technically, Auden first said that about Freud, but Sigmund has nothing on Oprah when it comes to the reach of their respective pernicious influence. I’m confident that W.H., were he around today, would agree with me.) Now, with the news that Oprah is going to bring the risible 1619 Project to film and TV, it looks like she’s going to add pseudo-history to her legacy, in addition to the pseudo-spirituality and maudlin therapeutic sensibility she’s already known for. As if we weren’t already close enough to living in Idiocracy.
“Cancel culture isn’t an assault on freedom of speech,” the dishonest argument of the moment goes, “It is free speech.”
That isn’t really true, inasmuch as the entire point of “cancel culture” is to limit and suppress speech, which is nonetheless limitation and suppression when the tool used to accomplish it is speech, of a sort, if we are liberal enough to define “speech” as including the beef-witted grunts on Twitter. Cancel culture is not discourse but antidiscourse, a genre of speech intended not to facilitate the exchange of views and ideas but to prevent such an exchange. It is free speech in the sense that shouting down a speaker is free speech.
“Cancel culture doesn’t exist,” say the exact same people who, in recent years, denounced men, #yesallmen, for being under the malign influence of an evil spirit they called “rape culture.” But as Scooby-Doo and the members of Mystery, Inc. repeatedly demonstrated, most of these phantoms, when unmasked, reveal the all-too-human face of tribalism and motivated reasoning. It has certainly become trendy in recent years to target people’s jobs and reputations in order to enforce progressive orthodoxy and create a climate of fear (as even Noam Chomsky attests). But underneath it all, it’s the old simian urge to harass our peers into conformity and punish them for dissent. That urge is ancient and relentless, like the sea attempting to reclaim the land. Legal rights to free speech and freedom of association can’t create a dike by themselves. A principle of charity is also necessary, akin to Keats’s negative capability: an ability to rest easily among heterodoxy without any irritable reaching after retribution and enforced obedience. Without that, symbolic actions like the Harper’s Letter are just fingers in the dike, delaying the inevitable.
A transition from an author’s book to his conversation, is too often like an entrance into a large city, after a distant prospect. Remotely, we see nothing but spires of temples and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence of splendour, grandeur and magnificence; but, when we have passed the gates, we find it perplexed with narrow passages, disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstructions, and clouded with smoke.
— Samuel Johnson, “The difference between an author’s writings and his conversation“
As the old saying goes, never follow your heroes on social media, unless you’re one of those weirdos with a clay-foot fetish. In his book Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher, Tom Bethell wrote:
After 1965, Hoffer became a public figure. Before 1934, he is a mystery figure. Will more information about Hoffer’s background turn up? That’s doubtful. There are signs that he was more than merely forgetful about his early years. In fact, I believe he was deliberately secretive. When pressed for more detail by journalists he would say he was confused or couldn’t remember much of anything. About later events in his life he had an excellent memory. Were there things he didn’t want us to know? One possibility that comes to mind is that he was an illegal immigrant to this country. But, again, I have no positive evidence. Did he really teach himself botany, chemistry, and Hebrew on skid row in Los Angeles? One can’t help wondering.
I don’t wonder. Honestly, I don’t care. His thoughts are interesting enough, floating free in the noosphere. I don’t need them to be anchored in biography to make them insightful or relevant. In fact, I wish more authors and thinkers today would learn to cultivate an aura of mysterious reticence. Or, at the very least, to seek treatment for their cerebral bulimia.