After experiencing a fascinating Bettakultcha presentation by my friend Harrison Richards about barefoot running, he lent me the book that inspired him to take up the activity. Whilst reading it, I came across the perfect metaphor for Western capitalism: the trainer.
Capitalism works, by taking away from society that which is free and then selling it back to society at a profit and as a benefit. In the trainer we have this premise reduced to its absurd level.
For millions of years we evolved barefoot. Even in cold climates our feet would only be protected with animal hide. Then along came technology and provided solutions for extreme situations; footwear for fire fighting, for coping with thorns or sharp flints etc. These shoes were indeed an improvement as protection for our feet. Walking itself though, required no artificial assistance.
Capitalism does not sleep however, and an opportunity presented itself to entrepreneurs when running became a global sport. Nike tried to ‘improve’ the stride of the runner. Millions of years of evolution clearly wasn’t up to the job. The improvement that Nike imposed was a heel strike from the foot rather than a rolling, padding movement which occurs when running barefoot. Running barefoot costs nothing, ‘improved’ running costs the price of the trainers. Anyone who buys trainers (I don’t but I have seen the cathedrals dedicated to them) is aware of the technology that has gone into their design; the marketing makes sure of that. So the mantra of capitalism is complete: take away from society that which is free and then sell it back to society at a profit and as a benefit.
But it gets worse. The benefit is actually a liability. Wearing trainers alters your natural stride into an unnatural one resulting in chronic injuries. Capitalism has convinced us to abandon that which is free and wholesome to purchase that which is expensive and harmful to us (where have I seen that before?). I’m not sure whether to applaud capitalism for its ability to pervert human nature or to decry society for its gullibility.
Destroy your trainers and find your feet.