There was, the other morning, in the 26-below chill of Ottawa, the strange sight of a six-foot-tall woman jogging doggedly through the snow along the Rideau Canal. She loped along at 7 a.m., disturbed only by other joggers who, grim-faced, padded along the bicycle paths. The puritan purpose of the joggers becomes even more stubborn in winter, their faces wreathed in stocking masks—like athletic bank rob-
bers—and they pound away, little chimneys of steam rising from each one into the frigid air. Joggers never smile. They never smile because they are out there not for their weight and their muscle tone but for a far more sinister reason. Joggers, this strange army of running shoes, are the most profound worriers of all. They are the ones who are running for the war.
Those who shuffle along the snowy streets in the small hours of the morning and the deathly quiet of night feel that the nuclear holocaust is imminent. They know that
smiling Ronnie Reagan, whose wife has just “a tiny little gun” that shoots tiny little holes, will be punitive when the hostages are finally released. They know, as they puff along with those tortured grimaces and frozen lungs, that it’s only a matter of time before mother earth goes up in a blast of intercontinental ballistic gore. Jogging is the response to their subliminal fear of war.
At this Christmas of 1980, the worship of the “me generation” has taken on a new form. A look at the whole physical fitness craze indicates we have become a continent of self-worshippers. We are, in fact, now more concerned with our bodies than we are with our souls. Charles Atlas and Howie Meeker shall make you free.
In the days of sweet yesteryear, when God created Earth and man and Adam’s troublesome rib, it was economically suited to the ruling classes to keep their peasants convinced that in heaven
Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.
their just reward would be waiting. It was salvation on the instalment plan. Death and its happy bliss would make up for a life that was nasty, brutish and short. Men’s bodies, with all their excesses, were bothersome appendages, to be ignored if at all possible. The obedient masses plowed the fields or sat in factories, ignoring their lungs, their thighs and the cellulite on them, and got on with the greater good of profits for a few.
It was that mischievous Marx, of course, who saw no humor in the scheme and decreed that religion, that pie-in-the-sky dividend, was to be junked in return for more immediate rewards. Marx did not believe in the instalment plan, or even Chargex, and—inevitably—set us on the road to Adidas.
The advertising industry is the weather vane of a society devoted to conspicuous consumption. Bomb shelters one year, tennis the next, the spies of the advertising world are ever hip to the changing scent of the money-making scene. It has devised a way to hook the masses on another opiate, now that religion has fallen upon gravelly times. It is the worship of self. An entire new world of glorification of one’s own body and appurtenances has unleashed a torrent of money and commissions and fees and profits undreamed of in the days of dark satanic mills. The more than satisfying financial rewards of convincing people to spend long hours studying themselves in the mirror have
created the fabulous new industry of indulgence. Ego is the new king.
The task (an easy one) is to convince the masses to manicure, powder and diet themselves into Monroes, Bardots and Redfords. The new temples of worship are the hairdressing salons, the saunas, the massage parlors. The facelift has been followed by the breast-lift and now the bum-lift. If the Prince of Peace were with us today, he would have to drive the money changers out of the hot tubs. It is the first society where
fashion photographers become celebrities in their own right, famous for enshrining the new icons in glossy color. Vogue is the Bible, to be treasured, passed hand to hand and stacked in a place of honor on the new pulpit: the glass-and-steel coffee table.
Whales, the most sophisticated beasts known to man, are in danger of being wiped out—for the greater glory of the cosmetics manufacturers who seem to be the sole living support of the women’s magazine business. The newest wonder of modern vanity, makeup
for men, is the invention of an industry that depends for its being on the burnishing, polishing and vamping of that fragile entity, the obsession with self.
Listen to the evidence of the new opiate of the masses of the athletic clubs and the swimming pools at any party or coffee break. It is talk about the body, its weaknesses and its potential for submitting to more abuse at 7 a.m. with the temperature at -26°C. The soul languishes ignored. In a day when the office boy has his hair styled and the president leaves his office at lunch in his fashion-designer jogging suit, to return sweaty and full of self-righteousness, self rules the world. The sale of mirrors is an indisputable growth industry.
And lo, the Nativity of the 1980s is born. For the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he maketh me to jog through the valley of the shadow of death. For when I get to heaven my place is reserved only if I can lose that extra 15 lb. around my middle.
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