A gentleman at my gym recently took it upon himself to perform sets of standing barbell curls in a squat rack. This type of disordered behavior really aggravates me.
A colleague of mine playfully jested with this degenerate: “Hey man, why you curling in the squat rack? There should be laws against that!”
I joined in for a moment: “Yeah, it’s the squat rack.”
The degenerate replied, “Well where is the curl rack?”
This question caught me off guard. “You really feel a need to invent a standing-curl rack?” I asked him.
He replied, “No I don’t, because I am calling this rack a ‘curl rack.’ It’s just a name, guys, you can call it anything you want. It’s just a name.”
This is nominalism run amok.
Nominalism claims everything as a linguistical construct. As a worldview, it holds that the name is nothing more than a label slapped onto an object to allow our brains to more easily organize information and allow us to communicate with one another. The name makes no metaphysical claim, says the nominalist. Therefore, I can call Jennifer Lopez a “man,” and Matthew McConaughey a “woman.”
Consider our monetary system. The U.S. dollar is backed by nothing; it is fiat money. The U.S. government points at pieces of paper and says, “you are worth this much because we say so.” How did men first get this idea that they could point at a piece of paper and say it’s worth such and such? Answer: We as a society accepted nominalism.
In his book Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver talks about the rise of nominalism and how Western Civilization is crumbling because of it. When I encounter men curling in the squat rack, I can’t help but think Weaver had a point. I see nominalism everywhere, but my local gym is the one place where I feel that I can fight it. How? As Saul Alinsky explained in his Rules for Radicals: “Make your enemy live up to their own book of rules.”
A few days later, I ran into the aforementioned culprit again. He was walking toward the preacher curl seat. I raced ahead of him and began squatting in the preacher curl seat. The frustrated man protested, “That’s the preacher curl seat.”
“I call this a squat rack,” I retorted, “and why can’t I do so?”
The man got my point. He was somewhat entertained by my antics and soon the two of us were having a lengthy conversation about nominalism.
When a nominalist says that words have no real meaning, they are saying reality is not real. “Real” is just a word, after all, allowing anyone to define their own reality. Men can be women and squat racks can be curl racks. Order becomes impossible.
This is a truly degenerate ideology. We cannot rip it out of our society at once, but perhaps we can playfully mock and take a stand against it in our own backyards.
I suggest we start at our local gyms. If you see some barbarian curling in the squat rack, take action. You may be surprised how drastically you alter someone’s worldview.
[Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Matthew Wisher, U.S. Air Force]
John M. Howting III is assistant editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.