This post marks the beginning of a series I’m writing that deals with the nature of power in rollerblading. Each one will deal with a different aspect of power in rollerblading. Right now, I’m thinking there will be three. Less than that and it won’t be much of a series. More than that and it’ll completely take over the blog. So three sounds like a nice place to start.
So here we go.
As you know, there are many more than three kinds of power. That’s obvious, right? You’ve got your material power, fear-based power, violence, persuasion, coercion, etc. There are lots of kinds. Exactly how many kinds there are depends on your model, your worldview, or your favorite philosopher. Maybe it depends on your favorite rhetorician, but probably not, because almost nobody knows what rhetoric actually is anymore.
Anyway. This first post will deal with something called ‘Pastoral Power.’
Pastoral Power is really the most insidious kind of power. Rather than being a brute strength or a forceful kind of power, pastoral power is gruesome and permeates your mind and soaks into your identity. Quite simply, it’s a kind of socially acceptable brainwashing. And it’s extraordinarily pervasive across a range of scales from individual to local to societal.
The term was coined by a French philosopher named Michel Foucault. It takes its meaning from the Christian concept of the ‘pastoral,’ but that connection is not necessarily intended kindly by Foucault.
In ordinary parlance, which is to say ‘how regular people’ use it, the word pastoral means ‘of, from, or relating to the countryside.’ The Christian scholars, philosophers and theologians adapted that basic notion and transformed it (within their own discourse) to mean something more like ‘out in the minds and souls’ of the people out in the wide world.
Foucault’s term modifies that Christian notion of pastoral and, together with the word ‘power’ specifically refers to the kind of power in which an idea (or even a value) is implanted into people at large, who then self-govern themselves without any further effort by the person who put the idea there in the first place.
A really good example is the idea that boys don’t cry.
We all know that’s not true, but it’s a kind of value that permeates the minds of many men. I, for instance, have cried over break-ups, at funerals, as a result of hysterical laughing fits, etc. I’ve also taken great care to go off somewhere private to do my crying—though I suppose not in the case of hysterical laughing fits.
The thing is, an idea has been implanted into my mind that makes me feel guilty or shameful or like less of a man for crying—even only occasionally, and even privately.
The shitty thing is, the idea that boys don’t cry or boys shouldn’t cry is so extensive and pervasive across the whole of society that there really isn’t anyone specific I can point to who put the idea in my head. Masculinity being diametrically opposed to public displays of certain emotions has been taboo in the West for many centuries.
But when it comes to pastoral power in rollerblading, we’ve really only got about 20 (or maybe 30) years of history to sift through. But it’s important to note that much of what we do and believe as rollerbladers comes from the wider world.
So here’s what pastoral power looks like in rollerblading.
You know what a 50-50 grind is in skateboarding? I bet you do. I do. How about a frontside blunt slide? Same thing for me. What about you?
That’s pastoral power.
It’s the ability to put something in somebody’s mind (particularly if they don’t necessarily want it to be there) and have them maintain in their own minds the stature of that idea.
Skateboarding is good example because it exudes a great deal of pastoral power in the minds of rollerbladers.