Conservatives Should Champion Beauty and Physicality | Andrew Trovalusci
The legendary Spartans of Ancient Greece are known to have recognised the importance of appearance in battle. Herodotus described how the Spartans spent time before the battle of Thermopylae grooming themselves meticulously. Spartan King Lycurgus is said to have remarked that long, braided hair was important as it made a handsome man more handsome while an ugly man was made more frightening. Spartans understood that in the minutes spent forming up before battle, their appearance was a useful tool in terrorising the enemy and gaining a crucial psychological advantage. They wore blood-red tunics and helmets with enormous horse-hair plumes. They carried polished shields that shone brilliantly in the sun and they stood motionless and upright in formation. They looked like machines, cold and terrifying. The edge this gave them in battle cannot be understated, particularly when combined with their already fearsome reputation. When faced with the prospect of fighting the Spartans, who’s appearance seemed to confirm the rumours of their invincibility, many enemies chose to desert, unwilling to face certain death. Such is the power of physical appearance.
Now, what’s this got to do with you and I? I think that the effects of an imposing appearance in battle aren’t too dissimilar from the effect of such an appearance in contests of any sort, particularly contests that rely on strength of personality. In fact I would argue that the physical appearances of those fighting in the “culture wars” are far more important than the physical appearances of soldiers because politics is beholden to appearance alone and isn’t affected by material realities like strength or geography. I have no doubt that politicians and the like are aware of this and manage themselves scrupulously but my question is, what would the world look like if we were all aware of it? After all, if there’s one thing that Tony Blair taught us it’s that charisma beats having principles like rock beats scissors. I remember in secondary school defeating the same classmate multiple times for school council despite the fact that whenever I was elected I would immediately either abdicate to him or be removed because I’d never show up. He had the magnetism of a cardboard box, despite being the right man for the job. Imagine if every self-styled conservative from the highest levels of government down to you and I were objectively, undeniably healthier, more charismatic and better looking than their progressive counterparts. What then would politics look like? Imagine a concerted effort to shift public perception on such a scale that it becomes universally accepted that conservatism, particularly social conservatism, is the ideology of vigour, of self improvement and good health.
It’s my belief that this should come naturally to us. Conservatism goes hand in hand with the kind of values that are commonplace among those who have a keen interest in enhancing their physicality. To train for aesthetic reasons is to reject the idea that beauty is relative. It’s an implicit rejection of the notion that all humans are corporeally equal – if your unfit self is equal to your fittest self, why train? In my opinion, training to increase one’s strength or beauty is also inherently anti-liberal. Yes, you read correctly. To train for the sake of it is to train for philosophical reasons rather than for material gain. There is no profit to be made in hitting the gym; to do so is to acknowledge that there are objective immaterial truths. It’s an implicit acceptance of the existence of legitimate hierarchies. After all, to step into the gym is to acknowledge that some of those around you are where you want to be due to their genetics. Those who are naturally of a leaner or more muscular disposition are higher in the hierarchy not because of hard work, but because of their nature. This is unfair, yet the legitimacy of the hierarchy is questioned by no-one because by striving to climb up it one accepts the terms of the game. The terms of the game are that while some may get a head start, the only way to reach and stay at the top is by exercising constant self-discipline.
Ironically, it appears that the Left are already ahead of the Right with this realisation. Articles in the Guardian, the Independent and in Vice UK all point to a link between being a “gym bro” and being right wing on both social and economic issues. Chiefly, the study cited explains that wealthy gym-goers were the most likely to be right wing. Explanations for this vary but include a possible link between the drive of successful men for success in the gym and their drive for success in their careers, which subsequently leads them to want to guard their wealth.
However, philosophy isn’t the only reason you should be doing phys. You should do phys because you recognise the unfortunate reality that we are living in a time where good phys might well be the difference between life and death. It would be naive not to have noticed that we have entered a decade of geopolitical (and domestic) volatility not seen in English-speaking nations for almost a century. The last few months have taught us that today we are all always one or two group rationalisations away from watching a journalist on the news explain how our workplaces being burnt down are justified as an expression of a long-suffering minority’s ancestral trauma. They’ll never reach the suburbs, we say, until they do. That’s not to suggest that the situation in the UK will accelerate to anything near what the US is experiencing but it is always a good thing to ask oneself “what would I do?” “What even could I do, given my physical state?” Accelerationists, doomsday preppers and those who seem to constantly assert online that “it” is happening (whatever “it” is) are not serious commentators and should be met with ridicule. That being said, it’s wise to consider the old Latin saying “si vis pacem, para bellum.” If you want peace, prepare for war.
A faction of what some refer to as the Alt-Right in the USA have already begun to tie philosophy to physical training. Bronze Age Pervert, author of the intentionally obscure Bronze Age Mindset, and his followers often refer to themselves as “rightwing bodybuilders” and see physical vitality as the correct response to repugnant, soy-infused faux-masculinity. BAP-ists strive to become virile barbarians, free from addiction to pornography, from modern 9-5 serfdom and from progressive slave morality. The term “bugman” is used as a pejorative to describe men who consider their own domestication to be evidence of progress and are as a result feeble, subservient and effeminate. The BAP-ists are beginning to articulate the idea that beauty is rebellion, and they are doing so in a way that is appealing to Gen Z. They’re funny, irreverent and they speak to a generation who wonder what life was like before every adventure, every inside joke, every waking moment was sanitised and approved by Social Justice Corporation #32748.
How, then, do we as British conservatives start something in the same vein? Must we do the unthinkable, must we import an Americanism? Thankfully, the answer is no. Friends, we need not look across the Atlantic for inspiration from those people who are annoying and talk funny. “Muscular christianity” is a philosophy I hadn’t heard of at all until I stumbled onto it’s wikipedia page late one night. On learning of it’s significance I was shocked at how it wasn’t even mentioned in passing during my time at school. Muscular Christianity was a cultural movement that emerged in Victorian Britain at a time when concern was growing that the “manliness” of men was declining as a result of urbanisation. Churches began to encourage physical training on the pretext that it gives men the physical stamina and moral character required to serve God, at a time when serving God as an Englishman meant, in the words of a schoolteacher at the time, “going through the world with rifle in one hand and Bible in the other.”
The movement was characterised by belief in patriotic duty, the virtue of self sacrifice, discipline and that physical beauty is a moral good. The YMCA was born from this trend, as were many Church sports teams. The defining piece of literature for this movement is Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes. This book was used as a textbook for Japanese students in the 19th century in an attempt to hybridise Bushido with British muscular christianity, with the result being modern Japanese sporting culture. Hughes is often attributed as being one of the key figures in muscular Christianity, and stated in another book that “The Muscular Christians have hold of the old chivalrous and Christian belief, that a man’s body is given to him to be trained and brought into subjection, and then used for the protection of the weak, the advancement of all righteous causes, and the subduing of the earth which God has given to the children of men.”A stirring quote indeed.
The movement was closely related to the British Empire, although what caused what is unclear. One thing is for certain: it seems to be quintessentially British. British beyond normal Britishness. This movement, from what I’ve gathered, is what separated Britain from her continental peers during the Pax Britannica, when Britannia really did rule the waves. It’s the origin of everything from our characteristic English understatement right through to our famed coolness-under-fire, the stiff upper lip. I believe that when the elderly talk of some vague sense of intangible Britishness that’s been lost, this is what they are talking about.
In conclusion, what this writer is humbly proposing comes in two parts. Firstly, I encourage anyone reading this to investigate the philosophy of muscular christianity. Even a google search and skim read of the wikipedia page is enough to get the gears turning. Secondly, I implore you, conservative friends, to work out like the future depends on it. For philosophical, for practical or for personal reasons. For yourself or for the cause it doesn’t matter. As much as you can, or as little as you can be bothered to. Be humble and start slow.
The best part about all of this? It applies to every single one of us. Those who have better things to do than write bizarre articles and rek libtards online all day can find the time somewhere to go to the gym once a week. Simply by improving yourself in any way you can, you are a participant in the culture war and a living advert for your ideas. Do them proud.