Thursday, July 05, 2007

These Philosophers, They Know Nothing

They order things differently in France. When you run it is not just exercise; it is a political and intellectual statement. I loved this story about Sarkozy because it is a great example of a wonderfully patrician judgement based on complete ignorance. Alain Finkielkraut is obviously no runner but equally obviously that is no bar to having an opinion on the subject.

However I like this quote:
But Mr Sarkozy has rekindled a French suspicion that the habit is for self-centred individualists such as the Americans who popularised it. “Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the Right,”

Not because I want to dismiss it with a snort of derision (though that is tempting) but because it generates within me a genuinely mixed response. On the one hand it is right – when we run we are self-centred. We are concerned with how we are feeling, our heart rate, our mileage, and our time. There is an underlying feeling that we can improve through little more than our own effort.

On the other hand it is a classic piece of reasoning from prejudice. It focuses on one aspect of running and makes that stand for everything about the subject. In doing so there can be no recognition that a runner is also part of a community. Many people put in hours of work to help run clubs and help others, out of love not for reward. People will support other runners, whatever their level of performance because they know everyone is on the same path (just at a different place). If we are going to play at silly political labelling then those are seen as more left wing virtues.

I think that to the outsider running seems boneheaded. It is exercise that causes pain and injury for no good purpose and it is easy to mock and make a contrast with more subtle pastimes (as is done in this rather facile comment piece). Those of us on the inside know that it is far more complicated than that. It is not only physical exertion as it involves our intellect, our discipline, our emotions, and our sense of worth.

All we can do is content ourselves with the knowledge that we know and they don’t.

PS – If I was Sarkozy I would not be worried about the people making fun of the idea of running. I would be upset about the coaching comments on my style and weight – that is a bit low.


beanz said...

Hadn't spotted that news item - thanks :>)

Catherine Bennett generally seems to be one of the graudian's less thoughtful columnists.

I'll just go on feeling smug that they don't know what they're missing.

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