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AN INDICTMENT OF PHYSICAL CULTURE., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 77, 31 March 1909
AN INDICTMENT OF PHYSICAL CULTURE.
(By Dr. C. W. SATJJBBY, F3US., Edin.) A word must really be said againsf the recent revival of what may be called the Colt of Mnsde. This cult of musde or belief in physical culture, so-called as the true means of race-culture, undoubtedly requires to have its absurd pretensions censured. BOIJE AXID SINEW. We now have many nourishing schools of physical culture which desire to persuade us to a belief in the monstrous anachronism that, even in man, muscle and bone are still pre-eminent. They want as many people as possible to believe that the only thing really worth aiming at is what they understand by physical culture. They pride themselves upon knowing the names and positions of all the muscles of the body, and on being able to provide us with instrumente to develop all these muscles —they are there and they ought to be developed, and you are a mere parody cf what a man ought to be unless they are developed." "None of" them must be neglected. Many people have been persuaded of these doctrines, and. there is no doubt that the physical culture schools do thus develop a large number of nruscle3 which have no present service for mm. and would, otherwise have been allowed to rest in a decent obscurity. mmocEssAßY mosoles. In order to prove this point, let mc Instance a few muscles which it is utterly absurd to regard as still possessing any survrvai-vslue for man In the sdje of the foot there are four distinct layers of muscles, by means of which it is theoretically possible to turn each individual toe to the left or to the right, independently of its neighbour, and to move the various parts of each toe upon themsebrea., just as in the case of the fingers. All this muscular apparatus is a mere survival, worth nothing at all fox the special purposes of ihe human foot. In poiufi of fact, the foot is now decadent, and probably not mo.re than two or three specimens of feet in a hundred contain the complete normal equipment of muscles, bones, and joints. Thus, many feet are -possessed of muscles designed to aot upon joints which have not been developed at all in the feet in question, and which, if they were there, would not >be of the smallest use. To take another instance, we do not now use our esternal ears for the purpose of catching sound, though "we still possess muscles which, if thrown into action, would move the external ear in various directions. Again, there is a flat, thin stratum of innscle on the front of the neck, carrespon'ding to a muscle which in the dog and "the horse is quite important, bat which, isof no use to us. MISGUIDED ENERGY. All would be agreed as to the absurdity <*f devoting continued conscious effort to the development of the jpariticnlar muscles which I have instanced; but, in point of fact, we have a whole ■host of muscles which are in a similar case, and. which are, nevertheless, objects of the most tender solicitude on the part of the physical culturist. In general, this moderji craze, whilst highly profitable who foster it, is most misguided and reactionary; Modern knowledge of heredity teaches us That our descendants will not profit musculariy in Ahe slightest degree because of our devotion to -these relics; the -blacksmith's baby has promise of no bigger biceps than anyone eUe ? s. Further, £he overdoing of muscular culture is responsible for the consumption of a large amount cf energy. XEKVOTJS CULTURE. A muscle is a highly vital organ, requiring a large amount of nourishment which its possessor has to obtain, consume, digest, and distribute. The more time and energy spent in sustaining useless muscles, the less is available for immeasura/bly more important concerns. "Msjx does not live by muscle alone. So 4ar as true race-culture Is concerned, we should, regard our muscles merely aa servants or instruments of the will. Since we have learnt to employ external forces for our purposes, the mere bulk of a. musefe is now of little importance. Of the utmost importance, on the other ba.pi3, is the power to coordinate and, -graduate the activity of our muscles, so that they may become iighly-trained eervants. This is a matter, however, not of muscle at all, but of nervous education. Its foundation cannot t(e laid by mechanical things like •dumbbells and exercises, but by games, in ■which -will and purpose and co-ordina-tion are incessantly employed. In other rwords, the only physical culture worth talking about is nervous culture. SCHOOL AND BABEACK--YAHD MESS. These principles here laid down are daily denned in very large measure in our nurseries, our schools, and our bar-lack-yards. The play of a child, spontaneous and purposeful, is supremely human and characteristic. Although, ■when considered from the outside, it is cimply a means of muscular development, properly considered, it is really the means of nervous development. Here we see muscles used as human muscles should alone be used—as instruments of mind. In schools the same principles should be recognised. From the biological and physiological point of view, the playingfield is immeasurably superior to the gymnasium. But it is in the barrackyard that the pitiable confusion between the survival value of mind and muscle respectively in man is most ludicrously and disastrously exemplified. The glorious truth upon which we appear to act is that man is an animated machine; that is, the business of the soldier is nob to think , , not to be an individual, but to be an assemblage of muscles. We see the marks of this ideaeven in a fine poem: "Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to-do or die," which, of course, might just as well be said of a stud of horses or motor cars. Further, our worship of the machine is, consistently enough, an unintelligent worship. We do not even recognise the best conditions for its action. Every year hundreds of young eoldiere, originally healthy, have their hearts a-nd lungs and other vital organs permanently injured by the im•becile attitude of the chest—that of abnormal expansion—which they are required to adopt during hard work. THE BODY AS SECOND FIDDLE. Whilst in the study of race-culture the physical cannot be ignored, since the psychical is so largely dependent upon it, yet the physical is of worth to us only in so far as'it serves the psychical. The race, the culture of which /we propose to undertake, has long ago determined to abandon the physical in itself as an instrument of success. We are not attempting the culture of the cretaceous reptiles, which staked their all upon muscle, and finally, having bece-mo as large as houses,'and as agiie, suffered extinction. We aTe attempting the culture cf a species which, so far as the physical is concerned, 5uS» long ago-WOgge&.iSw •pr-Surat its 'boats* _■ ■ •■ ,
THE >nSTD OF MAX. Even if, in some way, we finally succeeded in producing the strongest and most perfect physical machine that could be made from the human body, the species so produced ■would go down in a generation before the beast and the microbe—before any living species that may be named. Man has staked his all upon mind. Kay, more, upon one expression of mind, on intelligence as against instinct; and the only physical development that is really worth anytning to such a race is that which educates intelligence, on the one hand, and serves for its expression on the other. MUSCLE AKD liACHINERY. If there is any salient and irresistible tendency in our civilisation to-day, it is the persistent decadence of muscle and of all of -which muscle is the typo as an instrument of survival value. The development of machinery, much deplored by the short-sighted, in in the direct line of progress, because it reduces the importance of muscle and throws all its weight into the scale of mind. Hewers of wood and drawers of water are becoming less and less necessary, not because mechanical force is not needed, but because the human intelligence is learning how to supersede the human machine as its source. Every development of machinery makes the man who can merely offer his muscles of less value to the community. Long ago—not so very long ago in some cases—it was quite sufficient for a man to be able to say "I am a good machine." He was worth his keep, and had his chance of becoming a parent; but the man whom society wants nowadays is not the man who. is a good machine, but the man who can make one. Herbert Spencer's remark that it is necessary to be a good animal has an element of truth in it which was utterly ignored and needed proclamation at that time, but it is necessary to be a good animal only in so far as that state makes for being a good man, and not an iota further. ODE FOOLISH METHODS. The present interest in many most imi portant aspects of physical education, such as may be summed up under the phrase "school hygiene," urust not blind ur. to the great principle that physical education is a means and not an end. Our present educational system, which permits schooling to end. just where it should begin, or rather sooner, and which, even through our Government boys -to be used as little more than animated machines, such as telegraph boys, is very largely responsible for the great national evil of unemployment, which we treat with soup kitchens. We shall revise a great proportion of our educational, political, and social methods just as soon as, but not ' before, ■Wβ get into our heads the idea that in human society, and pre-eminently in society to-day, the survival value of mind, and consequently of selection of mind, must predominate over the survival value and consequent selection of muscle. THE MANUFACTURE OF MEN. Further, whatever factors tend to enhance tlhe survivaJ value of the physical are ipso facto making for retrogression and a return to the order of the beast. Whatever tend to enhance the survival value of the psychical—in which I most assuredly include not only intelligence, but, for instance, motherhood—are ipso facto forces of progress. The products of progress are not machinery but men, and the well-drilled machine idea of a man oug!ht to be as obsolete as more than one recent war has proved it disastrous. There is here to be read no pessimistic suggestion that the psychical i 3 in any permanent danger. No one can think so who knows its strength and the relative impotence of the physical. But it is certainly possible that the course of progress may be greatly delayed in any given nation or race by worship of the physical, or even, as Sparta shows, by worship of what may be called the physical virtues as against the moral and intellectual virtues. MrSTD IN .SOLDIERY. The argument that the selection of mind has 'been dominant throughout hui man ihistory is reinforced: by such knowI ledge of that history as we possess. There is no record of any race that es-taiilished itself in virtue of great stature or exceptional muscular strength. Even m cases of the most purely military dominance, it was not force as such, but discipline and method, that determined success, -whilst some of the greatest soldiers in history have been physically the smallest. The statement of the anthropologists, already alluded to, regarding the selection of the leading men in primitive tribes, may safely be taken as always true; selection in human society has always been, in the main, seleotion of that which for survival-value, is the dominant character of man, mind in its -widest sense.
AN INDICTMENT OF PHYSICAL CULTURE., Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 77, 31 March 1909
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