February 4, 2014 12:33 PM   Subscribe

At first sight the search for peace and stability in Iraq, and the search for physical and mental fitness in the extreme contortions of modern Yoga seem to have absolutely nothing in common. But curiously they do. Both the terrible structural problems and distortions that underly Iraqi society today, and the strange, contorted poses that millions of people perform every day in things like Bikram's Hot Yoga, actually come from the fevered imagination of the British ruling class one hundred years ago. As they felt Britain's power declining they wanted desperately to go back into the past and create a purer and more innocent world, uncorrupted by the messiness of the modern industrial world - a new Eden forged both by strengthening and purifying the human body and by inventing new model countries round the world. And we are still suffering from the consequences of that terrible nostalgia. BODYBUILDING AND NATION-BUILDING
posted by timshel (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I knew when I saw the fine line between genius and Infowars that this had to be Adam Curtis.
posted by steinsaltz at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2014

This is why I voted for The Rock Obama.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2014

This just blew my mind.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is trying to shoehorn too many disparate elements into its thesis. There really isn't much of a connection between "the Brits wanted to believe the Persian sheiks were kinda sorta like the old British aristocracy" and the odd history of the fake-antiquity of yoga as physical culture. Still, there's a lot of interesting stuff here.
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2014

Flex Mentallo will save us all, surely.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:05 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

For those interested, you can read some of Eugen Sandow's and K V Iyer's books here. The site in general is a great source of vintage physical culture material - these guys were the real deal.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

> This is trying to shoehorn too many disparate elements into its thesis.

I thought that was the bedrock of Adam Curtis' works.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:49 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Adam Curtis is the alternate universe James Burke.
posted by srboisvert at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait what about fascism and the Theosophists and all that anti-jazz
posted by Apocryphon at 3:25 PM on February 4, 2014

So what's the dianobol for nation-building, then?
posted by faceattack at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2014

I prefer old-school workout techniques bc I would rather work towards a workhorse physique like Sandow vs a steroid show-pony like Der Governator, so I avoid benches & machines and just lift my body & heavy stuff off the floor. I do hot yoga too. But this is because I've seen good results with them and inadequate ones on the benches & machines. I love old-school physical culture.

I don't think they make me a more moral person, purer, or truer. But as someone who has done a modicum of reading into old-school physical culture, Curtis' is definitely on to something re: retro-romantic notions and "noble savage" nonsense. Anyone looking backwards towards a purer form of anything I'm usually suspicious of.

And it does kinda suck how the Nazis ended up tainting much of Physical Culture. I mean, it's kinda low on their list of sins, but still… fuckers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2014

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