Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The narcissism of minor difference - Snatches, Logan Christopher and Freud

Jon:
It's been a while since we wrote anything. I don't want to bore anyone with a simple training log, especially since the weights I move hardly can be considered extraordinary. I did have a pretty nice pull-up session the otherday though where I easily did pull-ups with +48 kgs and had a very good try (bar to the chin but not under) with +56 kgs.
Thats not what I'm writing about now anyway. If you are a part of the world kettkebell community on Facebook and internet you have probably heard of or seen Logan Christophers 301 snatches in 10 minutes with a 24 kg bell. You have probably also not missed the debate it has stirred.
The major objection to Logans feat is (no surprise here) technique.
"That's not a snatch", "There is no lockout", "What's the point?".
There seems to be an impulse in human beings to sniff up the weakest point in other human beings that they encounter and attack it. Or to quote Tool: "I will find the center in you, I will chew it up and leave".
In Civilization and its Discontents Freud writes about "the narcissism of minor/small difference" as the impulse that makes one human being separate himself/herself from others through focusing of differences and thereby creating an other, an enemy. Michael Ignatieff uses the concept to discuss genocide in general and Rwanda in particular.
Though the kettlebell world is a long way from Rwanda in the early 90s the concept still applies.
The kettlebell world is small. It's a bunch of people who uses the same tool in a similar way. Basically everyone in the kettlebell world agree on some basic premises, e.g. that free weights are superior to machines or that strength and conditioning should go hand in hand. These similarities are a lot bigger than the differences, e.g. technique or design of the bells. In despite of that, the reaction to Logans 301 snatches is not awe but ridicule (there's a lot of awe also but that's not a problem).

"...are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other' - 'such sensitiveness...to just these details of differentiation"
From Wikipedia

Anyone who has ever lifted a 24 kg kettlebell knows how almost inhumanly hard it is to do what Logan did. Why do they choose to focus on the lack of a lockout rather than the accomplishment?
This narcissism of minor difference is like a virus on the internet. Look at the comments on any youtube video of someone doing anything hard. If someone deadlifts 400 kgs, someone thinks that the back isn't straight enough; if someone BUPs 60 kg, someone thinks that there's not enough control in the lockout etc. etc. ad infinitum.
I admit, when I saw Logans video my first thought was: "he's not locking his elbow and the ROM is short". But just looking for a few minutes more, listening to his breath, pretty quickly changed that thought into: "maaaaaaaaan!!!! I'm not even close to be able to do that, not even in the same universe!!".
To critizise someones technique without acknowledging their achivements is putting the bar higher for others than for yourself. If you want better, DO better. If you can't DO better then at least have the courtesy to be silent. The world is big enough for all kinds of snatches.

P.S.
Do I think that it is possible to do 301 locked elbow snatches with a 24 kg bell in 10 minutes? Well I went out on the terrace to do an experiment: to do 30 locked elbow snatches with the 24 in one minute. It worked, with one slow hand change (can't do the flashy air changes yet). Would I be able to keep that tempo for 10 minutes? Ha ha ha ha ha.....no way. But I do think it is possible.
D.S.