The Cult of the Body

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The dominant cult in sport is the cult of the body and muscular strength which is expressed in Coubertin’s maxim “combative spirit in a muscular body” (mens fervida in corpore lacertoso). While in the ancient bodily agon there is a spontaneous relation of man to the body, which arises from the body being experienced as a constituent part of the universe and the source of man’s vital energy, sport is dominated by an instrumental relation of man to the body. Everything is submitted to a modeling based on the capitalistically (ab) used technique and science: just as in antiquity the physical appearance was meant to be united with the (geometrically constituted) universe, so is in the modern world the physical appearance meant to be united with the Social Darwinist and progressistic spirit of capitalism. Also, in sport, the cult of the body has nothing to do with a broader religious context, as it was the case in antiquity, but is a means of creating a positive character and positive conscious, as well as a means of demonstrating the expansionist power of capitalism. In sport, unlike the gods in antiquity, there are no anthropomorphic symbols representing the dominant power. That role is assumed by sportsmen, and their body and appearance are completely subjected to the nature of the ruling order. Instead of the ancient holistic approach to the body, the emphasis is placed on the expansive muscular strength and mechanization of the body. In sport, man fits in with the capitalist universe by way of the body and bodily posture which is in accordance with the dynamic and progressistic nature of capitalism. The „sports spirit“ is a manifest form of the expansionist spirit of the ruling order, while the „sport body“ represents the most authentic capitalist form of physical degeneration and thus is a „supraclass“ and „supraracial“ model of the body. It is an ideological body which expresses the totalitarian and ecocide nature of the ruling order. A dehumanized and denaturalized world, based on the capitalist destruction, corresponds to a dehumanized and denaturalized body and a destructive body movement.

Sport is an area in which the technicization of the environment, man and interpersonal relations attained the climax. It is one of the most important instruments of capitalism for destroying a humanistic and creating a „technical civilization“. “Sportivization” of the world is the most radical form of man’s denaturalization and decultivization and a means of his being involved in the life and spiritual orbit of „technical civilization“. Science strives to create a being (machine) which will be deprived of all those human qualities that hinder the breaking of records and the production of increasingly bloody sports spectacles. Sport draws on a mechanistic philosophy of the body and finds mimetic impulses in the industrial and militaristic movements. Instead of a natural movement and natural body, the prevailing movement is mechanistic, the body becomes the cage of technical rationality, while the „competitive character“ becomes the embodiment of the ruling destructive spirit. Coaches become body technicians and slave drivers who are to enable the achievement of a desired result (record) at the cost of man’s destruction. At the same time, man’s spirit is also being crippled and the cult of a technicized body is being created and thus the cult of a „technical civilization“. This way of thinking absolutizes the quantitatively measurable result achieved at the cost of the destruction of man’s natural being. Sport creates a capitalist ideological sphere and the appropriate „public opinion“ by destroying the emancipatory heritage of the civil society which offers an opportunity for man to get rid of the ecocide capitalist tyranny.

„Disciplining“ the body in the bourgeois physical culture and sport reflects an endeavour to bring nature under control of the ruling order: „taming“ of the body corresponds to the „taming“ of nature. Sport does not cultivate man’s natural being, but „disciplines“ it through a technocratically based drill dominated by the mechanics of the physical, turning the body into a machine. In contrast to the Middle Ages, where dealing with the body becomes dealing with the „false“ earthly world, the bourgeois pedagogy suppresses and destroys in man all those things that do not fulfil the needs of the capitalist order and can jeopardize it, and develops all those things that contribute to the preservation of that order. Hence, Coubertin insists on a „utilitarian pedagogy“: the „good“ is that which is useful to the ruling order. An aggressive belligerent („healthy“) egoism, an insatiable „need“ for acquisition and ruling (oppression) – those are the „true“ characteristics of a „model“ bourgeoisie. Coubertin’s principle of „greater effort“, which conditions a relentless relation of man to his body and to which, in the psychological sphere corresponds the principle of „greediness“, is analogous to a colonial-plundering relation to nature. The „development of sport“ is based on an ecocide logic: the physical drill destroys the body, which is for man his immediate nature, and thus breaks man’s connection with nature and makes life in nature impossible. The technicized living conditions, which means capitalistically degenerated nature, become man’s living environment he „spontaneously“ strives for and in which he can survive. Sport clearly illustrates the fact that the capitalist way of production does not turn nature into useful objects but degenerates and destroys it: the relation to the body reflects the relation of capitalism to nature. In sport, the capitalist exploitation of nature is fully realized, according to the principle of an ever better result (profit) in an ever shorter time. On this the principle of early selection is based, the principle which cripples the body, destroys man’s erotic nature, his mind and spirituality, and creates a sado-masochistic character. In the contemporary world („consumer society“), the sports body has become an instrument for producing a sports spectacle, meaning a spiritual drug, and a moving advertising billboard.

Sporting physical drill involves a modeling of the body according to progressistic (quantitative) criteria which lead to man’s (self) destruction. The highest challenge is to reach the given „model“ of the body which is the projection of the result (record) striven for. Instead by art and naturalness, sport is dominated by technique which involves an instrumentalized body reduced to a technical device and technicized skill conditioned by the nature of sport and the achieved „level“ of results. Man is reduced to a tool for the production of records, and his body to a raw material which, through physical drill and scientific methods, is to be „transformed“ into a „sport body“. In sport, the ruling model of the body is not appropriate to a particular cultural pattern; it is a direct incarnation of the ruling relations and values: a sportsman is an anthropological form in which the ruling order appears. Like in antiquity, the citizen of modern society is to completely fit into the established (capitalist) universe; he is to be spiritually, physically and actively united with it. Sports esthetics does not derive from culture; it is based on the nature of sport as a war waged with bodies, on the strivings to set a record and on the nature of spectacle – which is a commercial package of sports merchandize. The holistic approach to the body has been discarded (proportionality, harmony), as well as the softness of movements and bodily expression, the pulsation of the erotic, emotional and spiritual, the movement of man to man and the ancient kalokagathia which insists on the unity of the beautiful and the good. Mimetic impulses are not found in nature nor in the cultural sphere, but in technical processes: technical „perfection“ represents the highest challenge for sports esthetics. It is corresponded by a body reduced to a highly specialized machine, mechanics of movement, technicized (ecocide) mind, a suppressed and mutilated Eros, as well as man’s crippled emotional and spiritual being. The mutilated bodies of contemporary gladiators become the highest attainment of the „beautiful“.

The body is not a form of man’s existence as an independent being, his possession; it is an instrument for achieving political and economic goals. Within this context, man’s relation to his own body is mediated by the ruling ideology. The alienation of the body from man becomes man’s alienation from his own self. „Disciplining“ of the body,  the maxims mens sana in corpore sano, mens fervida in corpore lacertoso and citius-altius-fortius – represent the forms of establishing an institutionalized oppression over man which means not only a destructive instrumentalization of the body, but the destruction of personality. Instead of a respect for man’s specific individuality and his human complexity, the priority is given to a dehumanized (destructive) principle of performance and the appropriate model of man. The one-sided oppressive physical activity creates a physically one-sided and spiritually mutilated man. In contrast to the sophists, who by human nature mean the „unity of the body and the soul but, above all, man’s internal disposition, his spiritual nature“, (3) in sport, just as in Christianity, the dualism of the body and the spirit is established. Instead of a „divine spirit“, sport is dominated by the spirit of capitalism incarnated in sportsman’s muscular body in combatant effort, but, instead of the soul, the character (sado-masochistic, murderous-destructive) becomes the meeting point and support of man’s governing spirit. In sport, man is reduced to a depersonalized model of „sportsman“, which means that he is deprived of elementary humanity, thus becoming part of the „team“ of capitalist gladiators, stunt men and circus players. He does not regard his fellow sportsman as a man, but as an „opponent“ who should be removed from the way. Physical injuries and killing become a legal and legitimate form of „relation“ to the „opponent“. The same applies to man’s relation to his own body. Torturing of the body and its destruction is the basic way of achieving „victory over the body (pain)“, which gives rise to a (sado) masochistic character and „victorious will“. Man is reduced to the body, while strength, speed, stamina, killing and destructive power (skill) become the basic way of his self-evaluation. Sportsmen turn from living beings into robotized beings guided by a (self) destructive fanaticism. At the same time, in sport man is subject to an authoritarian order and is accustomed to „responding to a whistle“ – without reasoning. The „golden rule“ of every coach is that „players do not think, but do what they are asked to do“. A sports training does not serve to cultivate man, it mutilates humanity. It is reduced to a technical drill which resembles a military drill, the difference being that in sport the ruling principle is not that of the optimal but of a „greater (destructive) effort“.

Sport deprives man of his erotic nature. A man and a woman are not sexual (natural, affective, human) beings; they are raw materials and tools for setting records. „Specificity“ of the woman’s body is that it is „weaker“ than man’s, which means that it achieves „poorer“ results. If life-creation is the basic existential principle, then precisely by virtue of her body the woman is superior to man since she possesses a life-creating (fertile) body. By accepting the governing evaluative model as the basis of her own evaluation, the woman renounces that which makes her a specific human being and reduces herself to an „inferior being“, a surrogate, or a bad copy of man reduced to a robotized gladiator. Sports pedagogy deals with Eros which induces man to develop his affective nature and closeness with other people, and turns his energy into the driving force of „progress“: a muscular male body in combatant effort, as a symbolic form of the governing spirit, is the highest sporting challenge. Love destroys the fanatic concentration of a sportsman on achieving victory (record) and thus changes his relation to the body of the beloved person, as well as to his own body. It ceases to be a machine and becomes an erotic challenge – a source of pleasure, and thus questions training that mercilessly destroys the organism, doping-treatments which decrease sexual potency, as well as the (self)  destructive „competitive motivation“.

On the example of bodily exertion we can also see how untenable is Plessner’s, Habermas’s and Rigauer’s theses that sport is the „duplication of the world of labour“. Labour is dominated by the principle of optimal effort, while sport is dominated, as we have seen, by the principle of „greater effort“ which basically means a merciless destruction of organism – based on the apsolutized principle of performance. The rhythm and intensity of sports exertion destroy the biological rhythm of organism. Sport abolishes the distinction between tiredness and over fatigue – which is a pathological state of organism. „To increase physical fitness“ involves suffering and blocking of pain which is organism’s natural defence reaction to excessive exertion. Cells are destroyed as well as muscles, spine, heart, joints, liver, and this results in a functional and constitutional disharmony of the body and organs, some extremities, organs and functions of organism are hypertrophied and some are atrophied…

Sport is a capitalist way of producing physically and mentally ill people. In the beginning of the XX century, the French physician Phillip Tissié, who analyzed the functioning of organism of long-distance runners, came to the conclusion that excessive physical exertion led to the degeneration of cells, and that the sportsman is a chronically ill person. Sports physicians do not struggle for a healthy man, but for the creation of a „sport body“ and its „servicing“. What is a pathological state for „ordinary people“, for sportsmen is a „normal state“. Special terms have been coined, such as a „sport heart“, turning chronically ill sportsmen into „supermen“. Off course, this applies only while the medals are being won. Physicians take active part in this physical and mental destruction of people. A typical example is the medical report on the West-German heptathlon contestant Birgit Dressel. In spite of being „a hundred percent healthy“, Dressel died of „toxemia“ in agony. She was 27 years old. No one was held responsible. That is how life of sportsmen ends throughout the world… Coaches ruin the lives of a large number of children in their preadolescent and adolescent period. The most obvious example is gymnastics, where little girls are monstrously degenerated. As far as sports injuries are concerned, only rugby in the USA records 650 000 seriously injured people annually. It is estimated that most orthopedists in the West earn their livings on „correcting“ the consequences of injuries incurred in sport activities.

Body doping is but one of the means used to make the organism of a sportsmen achieve results which exceed his biological capacities. Anabolic steroids, „bathing“ in oxygen, blood doping, doping-pregnancy, virilisation, „therapy“ with the hormone of growth, erythropoietin, computer „processing“ of muscles and shock treatments (as in the „training“ of horses), genetic engineering – without all these means the „progress“ in sport cannot be imagined. What the sports industry is doing to sportsmen resembles the experiments on human beings performed in Nazi laboratories of death. Body doping is carried out by sportsmen being fanaticized, which (only conditionally) can be called mental doping and which blocks the power of reasoning and generates a will for self-destruction. A need to escape from poor slums and anonymity, dreams of making „big money“, the dominant evaluative model, the achieved level of results, the imposed pattern of sports conduct which involves the production of increasingly bloody and destructive spectacles – all this creates the background for a fatalistic acceptance of one’s sports „destiny“ and for the development of a self-destructive conscious. The maxim mens sana in corpore sano, and particularly Coubertin’s maxim mens fervida in corpore lacertoso, clearly indicates that sport does not count on the development of mind, but on the development of a belligerent (murderous-destructive) character and an instrumentalized body.

Sports theorists, like Matveev, see in the increase in the bodily strength and speed, and consequently the „results“ achieved by today’s sportsmen in relation to the ancient „sportsmen“, the chief indicators of the „development of mankind“. The playing skill, the development of man’s cultural being and interpersonal relations, as well as „moral qualifications“ on which Coubertin insisted when he spoke of the religious spirit (religio athletae) that pervaded the ancient Olympic Games – all this is being ignored. At the same time, the emphasis placed on these indicators as the criteria according to which the development of mankind is determined devaluates today all those who are deprived of physical capacity required for the „highest achievements“ incarnated in sportsmen and their records. In addition, ancient athletes achieved results which many people today cannot achieve. Does that mean that they are degenerates?

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