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Corning Corning Dec 10, 2020

Speech on "Power Of Fitness"❌Requested not to spam❌​

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In 1899, in one of the most influential speeches of his career, Theodore Roosevelt called on his fellow citizens to live a “strenuous life.” Roosevelt praised a life of restless movement, always active, always seeking to improve one’s strength and the strength of the nation, always trying to get ahead and to succeed in an endless struggle for survival. In the wake of Darwin and in the age of Social Darwinism, competition, personal responsibility, and constant improvement had become natural laws, considered as governing any interaction between individuals, groups, and nations.

Roosevelt preached the gospel of fitness, and its message and tone sound familiar to us, even if we have never heard of his “strenuous life”-speech before. In this blog post, I argue that today’s obsession with fitness is grounded in the Social Darwinist downside of liberalism, with a politics of inclusion and exclusion inherent in it. Fitness shaped a hierarchy of citizenship, and still does, yet the nature of their interaction has undergone important changes between the late 19th and the early 21st century.

In the second half of the 19th century, the meaning of fitness changed, from a static concept, rendering “the eternal fitness of things” and demanding the acknowledgement of preordained social patterns, to a dynamic concept. This new and modern type of fitness asked for a life of advancement and exercise, with exercise as key to “the growth and vigorous condition […] of every function of existence in the universe,” as claimed by John Blackie, whose book on “Self-Culture” was widely read in Europe and the United States at that time. A “bacillus athleticus” was said to be spreading throughout America, and fitness was considered a precondition of success in any field, whether you were workingman or businessman, journalist or judge, soldier or politician.

Hope helps....

Mary Mary
Dec 10, 2020
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