18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–778) asserted that “…nothing is so gentle as man in his primitive state, when placed by nature at an equal distance from the stupidity of brutes and the fatal enlightenment of civil man.”
Rousseau’s beau ideal smacks hard against the doping allegations now coming out of Kenya, and leaves many saddened and disappointed, if not totally surprised by German Hans-Joachim Seppel’s investigation.
The Conventional Wisdom has always been that the talent pool in Kenya is so deep, the altitude benefits so consequential, the agricultural lifestyle so reinforcing, and the poverty level so motivating, that the crest of the wave-form generated by that calculus was naturally and understandably bound to reach the heights we’ve all born witness to these past twenty years.
To a large degree that calculation still holds true. But as a complete theory it stands athwart history and defies Rousseau’s opposite, Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) whose “natural condition of mankind” states that all humans are equal, but this equality naturally leads to conflict among individuals for three reasons: competition, distrust, and glory (which is pretty much the definition of racing). It is a theory which I have found in my years of travel to hold great, if unfortunate, merit.
Any time you introduce large sums of money – and in east Africa the money in running is equivalent to major league pro sports in the U.S., and look how drugs have infected those sports – it isn’t a stretch to presume the qualities of avarice and abnegation that mark all men as sons of Cain are as prevalent in Kenya as they are anywhere else. To presume otherwise is to be willfully naïve.
Add to the calculation a Kenyan federation which the athletes do not hold in any regard as working on their behalf, and certain outside elements who view the world through a more relativistic lens where right and wrong in this regard are rendered morally indistinguishable, and the likelihood that the same corrupting influences which have led athletes from all parts of the world to give wing to their darker angels are not just likely here, but inevitable. (more…)