Class Envy: Strength Envy from the Upper Class

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.

Peter the Great - Class Envy
Peter the Great, a leader who was not afraid to roll up his sleeves.

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.

Richard Lionhearted St Louis Class Envy
Warrior kings: Richard the Lionhearted and St. Louis (Yes, St. Louis, Mo was named after him).

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.

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

29 thoughts on “Class Envy: Strength Envy from the Upper Class

  • A manger says “go”…. A leader says “follow me” It should be a fairly simple choice.


  • Once again Pavel demonstrates that he is not only very well versed in the strength training world but has a keen sense of societal patterns. Envy is the liquor of the weak and petty and unfortunately our country has been a long drinking binge the last 2 decades. Let us by our strength both of body and character set a new course that entices those looking for better to follow

  • You eloquently put into words what I’ve experienced for the past several years. Thanks, Pavel.

  • I liked the article. I like the topic of history in strength. I remember another story about a Thai king who would anonymously fight in Muay Thai competitions.

    I like the point too, that today’s leaders should lead from the front. The US would have a lot less wars if the leaders were in danger.

    You lose me however when these points of interest are supposed to be the single failing point for leadership in the modern world.

    The issues today in leadership point directly to zionist corruption and a lack of moral strength, not a lack of physical strength.

  • Uh, so part of the polarization we see in here in the US is because the privileged envy the strength of the working class? Really?

    Is this the same privileged class of folks who are going to gyms, lifting weights, snatching kettlebells in greater numbers than ever before (and can certainly more easily afford to go to expensive kb and bodyweight certification events than those working class folks)? Is this the same privileged class of folks who, despite their apparent disdain for strength, have taken greater and greater shares of US income and wealth?

    That strength envy doesn’t seem to have hurt them much.

    • Through the cultivation of the physical realm of strength/self, so shall the realms of mental and spiritual strength be fortified. These are the words of my Sigung during our training when I was learning the ways of martial science. We set physical goals and through the accomplishment of these goals we become strong physically as well mentally in having discovered a new level of our own ability. This new knowledge increases our mental strength and I turn increases our spirit by bolstering new levels of confidence. Finally through understanding the yin and yang of our abilities, we we can do versus what we should do with our abilities our morals are formed. The more time spent training, the more power built, the more you know of your own abilities and in the end this will lead you to better understand your duty to those who are not in your position. Kettlebell training requires the same levels of concentration and consciousnesses in order to master. If more individuals dedicate themselves to this system of training and subsequent introspection then their roles as leaders would be influenced by the principals of the martial science: hard work, goals acquisition, honor, and duty.

  • In the old times, leaders led their troops into battle. In modern times, the leaders sit in bunkers thousands of miles away from the battlefield, while young citizens give their lives for them.

  • This is a really great post. Anytime I go back and re-read something not for understanding but because I simply just want to, it’s a good thing.

  • And the same could be said of the many armchair commandos that hide behind the anonymity of the internet. That’s one of the reasons I like the fact that we have strength standards…it forces us to lead from the front

  • This is probably one of the best posts I’ve read in some time. I agree with everything you said here. I’m reminded of an old old line – “might makes right.” Without strength we cannot stand by our values, we cannot do anything to better our lives, or our communities. We must be strong.

  • I hardly think the moral objections in that time period to the crossbow was because of social class. It is more likely that the crossbow would seem to those people of that time what nuclear bombs seem like to us…… unusually effective killing machines we probably shouldn’t use in war because they could kill so many people. Thus in an attempt to lessen the amount of death war involved, a moral good, people tried to ban or outlaw the crossbow.
    Yeah so my comment totally

  • Omar bin al-Khattab, second of the Righlty Guided Caliphs, was a wrestler who won many contests against Bedouins, who are known for physical strength. He is said to have been so strong he could break the forearm of a grown man with only one hand.
    At the other hand, he was at the base of one of the greatest empires of his time and of history. He had a very strong sense of duty, belief and honour. Under his guidance, the empire of islam spread out and became one of the greatest empires ever seen in the world.

    He was a man who was strong in all meanings of the word. I think he certainly belongs in the list.

    • The Mongol empire was greater, spanning the entire known world, from China across Europe and down to the middle east. Even today you can see their genetic trace throughout the middle east. It’s a shame the taliban destroyed their buddahs in Afghanistan.
      Anyway, they respected strength and all positions of authority were earned through success in battle. There was no class, only martial skill and the respect it commanded.
      This is a good post to remind us to be wary of our modern enemy, the weak. The weak use positions of authority and power to undermine others. They are politically active in your workplace and community, serving themselves and hurting others.
      Support your brothers and sisters of strength, join forces and crush the weak slime.

  • Brilliant as ever.
    Love the point about the children of the ruling class not serving in the military.

    This is one of the reasons why a lot of people respect the royal family in the UK. It’s generally accepted that heirs to the throne have to complete some form of military service. For instance Princes Harry and William are both currently serving in the armed forces, Harry even completing tours on the front line in Afghanistan.

    Duty, dedication and strength of character and body are sadly missing in society today.

  • You are so right, Pavel, ” men’s fervida in corpore lacertoso ” ( Pierre de Coubertin ) is a very old fashioned quote in most of the ” civilized” countries, same as duty, value, respect, strength…
    Jealous ? Could be. ” Too easy ” is the motto of the country where I live. Not sure of jealous, but sure of lazy…

  • I like your new philosophy style of writting, Pavel.
    And Aaron, great addition. I am feeling exactly the same. The strength influanced my other areas in life, so powerful.

  • I think thats one of the Great things about Strength is that in its self its not actually bounded by ” class”. It cant be bought, it must be earned.

    Anyone whos willing to put in the time, dedication, work and constant practice can achieve Strength and have the inner self respect that comes from that.

    Guys in my work place give me jokey stick cause they know I strength train. Strength breeds fear to the primitive caveman brains of others. And this as pointed out chief can lead to trouble. They think I do it for some need to be better and bigger and stronger and for brute reasons. They dont get it. But the truth is I see the pursuit of strength as a very spiritual thing that builds so many positive qualities. Allowing one to evolve spiritually. Physically and mentally.. It builds self discipline, self respect, mental resilience, patience.

    I think the strong will always be the result of envy and misunderstanding to many.

  • Well said Comrade. “Who knows what delicate creatures have died out of this world for want of the strength to survive…we forge our bodies in the fire of our will.”

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