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“Civilize the mind and make savage the body”

(The following is an opinion piece by a member of the Starry Plough Martial Arts Club)

There is no doubting that with the Corona virus pandemic of 2020 the state in the 26 counties will introduce and has introduced legislation that will be used in the future against political opponents and who the state deem as subversives.

Already the unelected, undemocratic committee of the rich that exists in Leinster House has introduced draconian emergency legislation. While this pandemic needs to be taken serious and all efforts should be made to keep our loved ones and elderly safe it also provides an opportunity for us to better ourselves as individuals and as political activists. Capitalism as a system negates freedom of the individual. It grinds people down, keeping them in poverty or the threat of poverty and stunted with fear of anxiety based on economic situations not of our making. The system keeps people isolated as individuals so that collective rights (and as a consequence individual rights) cannot be obtained. 

However again with the current situation existing it does give time not normally given to people to better themselves in a limited fashion. Some of this time can be used for self education and physical fitness. 

Sport has traditionally been used as practise for combat. It is no coincidence that in Ireland organised sport was the privilege of the upper classes, mostly British or Anglo-Irish. Rugby and soccer being organised sports introduced by British colonialism. As a result of this one of the reasons for the foundation of the GAA in the 1880s by Michael Cusack was so that rural working class in Ireland would have an opportunity for organised sport and physical education while at the same time preserving and developing traditional Irish cultural sports and games which had been devastated as was the Irish language after the Great Hunger. The Irish nation was on its lasts legs at that time and only for pioneers such as Cusack and others in the cultural sphere the Irish nation may have completed perished to be absorbed into the United Kingdom as just another kingdom under the authority of the English crown. 

In 2020 Irish men have the highest body mass index in Europe. One fifth of the worlds obese adults live in the 26 counties. A poor diet, heavy drinking and a poor culture of physical education outside of GAA and sporting families contribute to this.

Irish people share with other colonised people across the world such as the native Americans and aboriginal Australians a destructive drinking culture. Ireland also being materially a very poor country for generations never developed what could be considered a healthy cuisine as such and food was seen and still is seen as fuel. A legacy of force starvation also might contribute to the Irish psyche when it comes to nutrition. 

However all these aside the issue of obesity and health is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and historical circumstances or genetic make up cannot completely explain or force people into the choices that individuals make in these times. 

Forced quarantine as a result of the Corona pandemic can either further contribute to the rising obesity in this country or individuals can make a conscious decision to improve themselves and make use of their free time by using online fitness challenges, making use of their daily exercise, learn healthy eating and making conscious decision about what they put into their bodies. 

However this will only come about by self awareness. As Mao stated “If we wish to make physical education effective, we must influence people’s subjective attitudes and stimulate them to become conscious of physical education. If one becomes conscious of the problem, a programme for physical education will come easily, and we will attain our goals and make our influence felt as a matter of course.”

A nation is a community of communities. A community is a group of individuals and if individuals are weak and unfit the nation is weak and unfit. 

So while at home in quarantine and doing exercise “there are three things to which we must pay attention to: (1) perseverance, (2) concentration of all our strength, and (3) that it be savage and rude.”

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