A "Workingman's Death" Week

A Workingman's Death week (or even month) is characterised by sessions consisting of hard work. Little talk, much action. The name comes from the documentary with the same name, directed by Michael Glawogger. This documentary powerfully shows the lives of manual laborers in the world. These people are the role models and inspirations for these weeks, and they are on our minds as we work through the challenging training sessions. Warriors, soldiers, Spartans and other mythological heroic characters are often used as inspiration when dealing with hard physical work. I avoid this kind of imagery: it's too brutal and destructive in my eyes. The imagery of the working man is different: someone who deals with backbreaking labor without complaining in order to make his living. The working man is a peaceful image less charged with masculine associations than the ones mentioned above.
Following the release of the film "300" in 2007, there came a boom of pseudo-spartan training regiments. Unthinkingly, people wanted to imitate the ideals of the warmongering city of Sparta, in order to inspire themselves to push their bodies to the limit in challenging workouts. The Spartans are, as a moral inspiration, about as well suited as the Waffen-SS. I distance myself from the brutal language of those inspired by "300". Instead of using destruction as leitmotif for our trainings, we use the concept of doing. The difference is noteworthy. Our intention has a lot more to do with empathy for the people who are less privileged than we are, living as we do in one of the most privileged countries on earth. It has to do with empathy for the people at the start of the chain of production and trade, the people working in the mines.
The workingman's death trainings have a lot to do with simple virtues, such as the virtue of doing in and of itself. Being able to pull through, to do something and not give up. Going forwards. In the end, we need to reflect on this. We can't forget to contemplate it, but it is also important that we, for a certain period of time, put contemplation aside and allow ourself to fully lose ourselves in the repetitive and difficult.

The name of the video, "Der Abend", refers to the piece of music playing in it, which is composed by Richard Strauss.


Joseph Bartz
Translation: Oskar Henke
2017