Democracy Meets Foam Rolling

22 Dec

Ballerinas have pointe shoes.  Bikers have spandex.  Runners have foam rollers.  The point is, we all have something that helps us do our job or enjoy our sport which doubles as a torture device.

Foam rollers are the worst. Insidious and fun-looking, they scream “anyone can do this!” but the fine print says “Easy do-it-yourself torture device, no training necessary, all can attempt and all will cry.  No exceptions.”

I have to fortify myself with beer or ibuprofen or reward myself with a magazine while icing afterwards in order to use the foam roller.  It used to be “try to do it 3-5x a week, kinda like flossing” and I felt  very virtuous afterwards.  This past week, it has become an urgent “do it 2-3x a day so hopefully my IT band recovers and I can run again” task.  I know I have to do it but I’d rather take a 3 hour exam.

So today, while at the gym, using their foam roller instead of the one at home, I read snippets of my latest Time Magazine.  In particular, I read a portion of their article on the Year of Protesters.

Globalization and going viral have been the catchphrases of the networked 21st century.  But until now the former has mainly referred to a fluid worldwide economy managed by important people, and the latter has mostly meant cute-animal videos and songs by nobodies. This year, do-it-yourself democratic policies became globalized, and real live protest went massively viral. But as they’ve rejuvenated and enlarged the idea of democracy, the protesters, and the rest of us, are discovering that democracy is difficult and sometimes a little scary.  Because deciding what you don’t want is a lot easier than deciding and implementing what you do want, and once everybody has a say, everybody has a say.”

Everybody has a say.  We get excited about that statement. As we should. Until we think about the implications of everyone having a say. And everyone potentially drowning out my say. And my say not necessarily being in the majority.  Or even the well-respected minority.  And the fact that everyone can be manipulated by others and coaxed by the media and that even I am not unswayed by the opinions and thoughts of others.

And what about difficult and scary?  No one likes difficult and scary.  And the number of men and women who are willing to do difficult and scary is rapidly decreasing.

But the part that made me laugh, is the part that is relevant to foam rolling.  Deciding what I don’t want – to not be able to run my marathon in March – is a lot easier than deciding and implementing what I do want – muscles that are not tight and balanced and can put up with a lot of heavy pounding.  And I foam roller out of fear of letting go of my dream.  Out of fear that I can’t do something I want to do.

A lot of people know what they don’t want.  And they will voice what they don’t want.  The entire Occupy Wall Street movement demonstrated this in a powerful way – it was a movement against things they didn’t like, not in support of something in particular.  Disliking things is a lot easier than supporting something.  Tearing down someone else’s goal is a lot easier than creating and striving to attain our own goal.  Disliking democracy because everybody gets a say keeps up from discovering the beauty in the statement everybody gets a say.  A statement that only a privileged few, living in a democratic nation, understand.

I think I dread the foam roller.  Even though it is a painful tool towards a better future.

But what I really dread is the disappearance of democracy.
Even these campaigns and debates and elections can be a painful tool towards a better future.
Can be.  That is, if we could move past deciding who we don’t want in office, what laws we don’t want passed, what reforms and tax codes and budgets we want to disappear and could actually focus on deciding and implementing positive change.

Like finding me a foam roller that doesn’t cause me to invent new swear words under my breath.

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