So far in this little series on the nature of power in rollerblading, I’ve addressed Pastoral Power and Symbolic Power. Both of those are particularly social kinds of power and they have to do with the ways our minds and intelligence can betray us at certain times and in certain ways.
I wanted to write this third and final post about power in rollerblading on the topic of economic power, but I abandoned that idea because it doesn’t really fit in with the aims of this project (see the first post of Second Place from April 27th).
Instead, I’m going to use this last post about power to talk about violence.
So let me start by saying this: people very routinely confuse violence with power because, many times, the two are indistinguishable. Here is a clip of the character Cersei from the HBO series Game of Thrones making that exact mistake:
(Not really a SPOILER, in case you’re a fan of Game of Thrones and haven’t seen the second season yet—if you ARE a fan, let me just say that nobody dies.)
That scene culminates with Cersei employing what is known in rhetoric as a tautology—which you could think of as a redundant emphatic definition. She calmly and confidently asserts near the end of the scene that “POWER is power.” What she really means there is “VIOLENCE is power.”
She’s not completely wrong (although I would say as a side note that tautologies are for the weak minded).
A lot of power is violent. And sometimes violence is very certainly a path to power. Sometimes it can even yield you something like absolute power. But none of us is Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein or some other despot. So I can be pretty confident in asserting that violence doesn’t work that way in rollerblading.
Beating up a Big Name Pro or some company owner won’t get you sponsored; it won’t get you a trip to Europe; it won’t get you a pro skate with your name on it.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
If you have time, and you want to see one of the most incredible stories about extraordinary violence-as-power, watch this video. It will take 9 minutes of your life. It will also show you something about who Christopher Hitchens was, if you haven’t ever heard of him.
I really suggest that you watch this video.
If you can’t be asked, here’s the slightly extended TL;DW version: When Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq in 1979 he held a meeting of all the members of the Baath (political) party. In that meeting he read the names of something like 200 Baath Party members he felt were untrustworthy. The men whose names were read aloud were taken outside the meeting hall and executed on the spot (either by sword or by handgun). AFTER THAT, he handed out pistols to the Baath Party members still left in the room and escorted them outside to a courtyard telling them to shoot in the head any man known to be treasonous.
It’s some fucked up shit.
I’m not just bringing this up merely because it shows extreme violence-as-power; I’m bringing it up to say something about our world, and particularly our male-dominated sport and worldview.
Well all know that rollerblading is a male-centric, male-dominated sport. We all know that’s how it is. And we’ve known that for quite a long time.
We’re guys. A lot of us are guys aged from about 16 to 22 years, and there’s a lot of testosterone around. The older guys still have it to. It’s what gets us to hurl our asses off of roofs and jump huge gaps and do crazy stunts. It’s what lets us skate through the pain and it makes us proud of our blood and scars.
We also spend a lot of time doing what my parents used to call “rough housing.” We slug each other in the arms, tackle each other, throw stuff at each other, harass each other, taunt each other, and try to embarrass each other. It’s what we do all the time.
Some of us even get into real fistfights. We go to the bar looking for trouble, or we’re not afraid to get scrappy when the shit goes down at the local skatepark.
Some of us, anyway.
The point is, while we have some violence here and there in rollerblading — the occasional fistfight, the random scrap at the skatepark, we’re really aren’t very violent.
We might sometimes wish we were, or even think violence is cool sometimes, but in the real world, we’re pretty friggin tame. Certainly nothing on the scale like Saddam Hussein in the video above.
So let’s not fool ourselves.
There is some physical violence in rollerblading, sure. But there is very little of it in rollerblading as it relates to power and status.
Interestingly, it’s the people in power “at the top” of rollerblading that have made it that way—though everybody has a role to play in it.