I despise class envy. In any form and in either direction.
Today’s blog is about strength envy directed by today’s upper class toward the working class. Externally it manifests itself as “disdain” for strength, the way one tries to diminish what he does not have. The hoity-toity make fun of the brawny brutes with their uncivilized barbells—behind their backs, naturally.
It did not used to be that way. Many rulers of the past respected and cultivated strength.
Our Leaders Used to Be Strong
Augustus II the Strong, the king of Poland and Lithuania, broke horseshoes with his bare hands and was mighty proud of it. Henry VIII, the king of England, challenged Francis I, the king of France, to a wrestling match. The latter gladly accepted—and threw the former to the ground. Peter the Great, a legendarily strong Russian tsar, reveled in hard physical labor. Incognito, he went to study the ship building craft in Holland.
St. Louis and Richard the Lionhearted, kings who personally led their troops on crusades to the Holy Land, were well schooled in a knight’s martial skills. And these skills demanded extraordinary strength.
Ironically, one could talk about “reverse strength discrimination” in the days of the Crusades. The Catholic Church unsuccessfully attempted to ban the crossbow, a weapon “hateful to God and to Christians.” Historian Rodney Stark in his book God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, explains:
“The “moral” objections to the crossbow had to do with social class, as this revolutionary weapon allowed untrained peasants to be lethal enemies of the trained soldiery. It took many years of training to become a knight, and the same was true for archers. Indeed, it took years for archers to build the arm strength needed to draw a longbow, let alone to perfect their accuracy. But just about anyone could become proficient with a crossbow in less than a week. Worse yet, even a beginner could be considerably more accurate than a highly skilled longbow archer at ranges up to sixty-five to seventy yards.”
A Sense of Strength, a Sense of Duty
More important than physical strength, until a very recent past, leaders of the past had a strong sense of duty. Several years ago, in the midst of the financial crisis, I read an op-ed that made an impression. The author pointed out how the ruling classes of the yesteryear considered the fate of their country their own personal responsibility. The word “duty,” so thoroughly made fun of by today’s hipsters, guided the decisions of the high-ups. Not surprisingly, leaders of Western democracies were men with remarkable military careers and a deep-seated sense of duty: Churchill, De Gaulle, Eisenhower, Kennedy.
Men and women of the upper class, not just the presidents, viewed their lot as equal shares of privilege and responsibility. The conduct of the lord of the manor and his family in Downton Abbey is the case in point. Today’s upper class, on the other hand, is little more than “a bunch of crumbs held together by dough.” It frequently views its position as all rights and no responsibilities. How many sons and daughters of the ruling elite serve in the armed forces?
The Price of Class Envy
The disdain for physical strength shown by movers and shakers in Washington and New York has contaminated a significant majority of all white-collar people, including those far from the upper echelons of power. A Russian pundit recently quipped that we ought to replace the word “gentry” with “intelligentsia” in old satirical plays about snobs. “I am too good to lift heavy things. Let the uneducated brutes do it.”
I am convinced that in the back of their minds they are simply envious of the strong. And envy breeds resentment. Is this one of the reasons the United States are so polarized today? This is a slippery slope, ladies and gentlemen. I come from a country that was ripped apart by class envy and drowned in blood. Shortly after the Communist coup of 1917, my maternal great-grandmother, then only seventeen, watched her parents get murdered in front of her eyes—just for belonging to the other class.
The price exacted by envy is unacceptably high. Get strong and replace it with self-respect.