Physique in the Leisure State
From Our Educational Correspondent
A recent speech of Mr. Kenneth Lind say, Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, throws interesting light on the quality of those minds which rule us. He was speaking at the prizegiving of the Newport Secondary School, Isle of Wight, and, to quote the official Board of Education Report, said: " It is a fundamental mistake to conceive the fitness movement as a temporary, spasmodic episode: its profound significance has hardly yet been grasped. . . .
" We are concerned with nothing less than the virility of British stock.
"There must be, therefore, a long term policy which no Government dare neglect, except at the peril of our people. . .
" British ideals have counted much among the nations for hundreds of years. It is imperative that the whole country should share in a re-birth of these ideals during the coming year. Fitness is a sufficient appeal on its own intrinsic merits, but allied to the clear call of national service, its appeal is irresistible.
Motto for the New Year
" Fitness for service may well be the !noun for 1938. It is the task of the National Fitness Movement to re-create British physique. . . . National Service in the days of peace is the ultimate test of democracy."
" Profound Significance " of Fitness
Passing over the loose and woolly thought revealed in the latter part of this speech, we may consider the "profound significance " of the national fitness movement. It is indeed significant, though in a sense different from what Mr. Lindsay's speech would lead us to imagine.
For this movement is a distinct aspect of the Leisure State, in a corrupt form of which we now live.
Just as in that state the workman is deprived of all opportunity for creative work and has to satisfy his craving for creation, if he satisfies it at all, in spare-time " arts and crafts," so must he develop his body in a similar way.
Working under conditions which sap his physical (and mental) energy, and destroy his physique, he must make what amends he can by " physical training," and by a deliberate cult of the body maintain " a positive and personal approach to the whole question of healthy living."
No one would disapprove of reasonable regard for health, but the crass foolishness of a civilisation is obvious which, while denying all man's instincts and effectively crushing his virility, would have him restore it by self-conscious nareissisism, and by games which are frequently taken so seriously as to involve intense nervous strain.
Sub-men in Subways
It will require more than " fitness " to restore their virility to our urban sub-men who are driven like cattle through underground and subways.
Virility implies more than biceps. Virility presupposes responsibility and purpose, both of which are denied to the men of today.
Mr. Lindsay would presumably find that purpose in " the clear call of national service." We may be pardoned if to us that
call rings false. Mr. Lindsay leaves the term " service " as conveniently vague as .,British ideals ": so vague that neither have the power to evoke any real response-only the shoddy and counterfeit emotion to which we are so accustomed, and which we criminally fob off on the young as genuine.