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The paradox of the superfluous man

This time, I thought I would write about something that we all know and talk about between ourselves, but very rarely do we set these debates in motion, and it seems to me that we should finally do so.

The sport of archery is first and foremost a sport for everyone, there are no age or physical limitations to it, and the only constraints faced by archers are in their minds. I won't go into detail here, further down in the magazine you will read a great article by David McCaffrey about tackling limitations. Today I would like to address the one restraint that we all knew how to handle and ought to deal with - regardless of age or ability, everyone is perfectly equipped to address this annoying phenomenon.

But let's start from the very outset… We all began out once, each of us has learnt how to interact with our fellow competitors - we operate here on many levels: personal (including our sympathies and prejudices), sporting (at club, federation and inter-federation capacity), and the most important, from our point of view, the inner introvert dimension where exist such manifestations as self-esteem (with sense of pride and humiliation) the healthy and unhealthy urge to compete, plus all those shadows compelling man to shape the fate in his own fashion and to his peril.

Oh no! There is no reason to get indignant! Each of us in spirit knows what he is capable of and how far he has come. However, it is not a question of pointing the finger, that will not be here - I am riveted by the anatomy of this process and that is what I will try to discuss.

I have always been interested in the mechanism of self-repression or denial of reality as well as models to implement its imperatives in practice. I'm thinking here of the transition of an idea into physical form - for, as it’s not difficult to guess, in a sport of archery, any deception (cheat) has to end with a physical manifestation. Whether it is the overwriting of a score on a card or a more complex operation designed to lead to victory such as using unmarked arrows or pulling them before scoring, then perhaps the most convoluted and, as far as psychology is concerned, probably the catchiest of all the cases I have come across: the inclusion in a group of inexperienced and unaware archers, who can easily be persuaded to favour the cheater or to take for granted made-up rules.

This kind of action requires long-term planning, observation and, if not above all, the determination at the strategic level. All previous instances are based on the impulse principle and are the so-called deaf imperative of the will - nothing more than an electrical stimulus (short circuit in honesty) appearing as quickly as they vanish. Yes, these things are harmful, but not that much so and, what is important, they are easily exposed. On the other hand, the latest example has something of the Machiavellian domain of imagination and in a way is admirable or rather astonishing (admiration though is the misnomer)… My particular interest is in its mental repercussions. I once read a remarkable dissertation by Lev Shestov, "Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche", where the author quite skilfully combined features of the characters from Dostoyevsky's novels and dressed them up with the idea of a superfluous man, whereas Machiavellianism intertwined with Nietzsche's nihilism, creating a terrible hybrid - an individual deprived of all fundamentals. Of course, we understand that in our case it is a generalisation, but the framework of the imperative remains the same - only the scale differs. The superfluous, invisible man is willing to do anything for the world to see and consider him necessary. On a social scale, in a limited environment, this type of individual makes himself apparent rather seldom and is easy to identify - but therein lies the spurious rule, to make oneself known while maintaining a semblance of honesty.

You say these are two mutually exclusive planes… Perhaps? But the superfluous man sees the world through the prism of his own weightlessness. Where every defeat, every lost point is like a festering wound on a tormented soul. It is not so much a mental condition as a spiritual one. The world is full of featherweight Raskolnikov's who do not see themselves in the mirror except as a spectre of what they might have become had it not been for the world which seems to take no notice of them. It is a tragedy, or perhaps a giggle of fate, that the more the world ignores them, the more they try to force it to take notice through ever more intrusive manipulation, which in effect only reinforces the ostracism and fosters transparency. Hence the only possible means of being reckoned with is exposure.

It is a universal concept diagnosed a long time ago and yet still valid at every level of interpersonal relations, where the injured party is not only the cheated but also the cheater, since, after tallying up all the meshes of the chain, the final is always the weakest one - thus the cheater fools himself. No matter if it is a misplaced foot, an extra arrow or an unaware competitor, the principle is universal: to increase the chances of winning and become visible on the expense of the cheated party.

This socio-philosophical tirade of mine has another bottom: I wonder why so few of us, having finally spotted our deceiver, fail to expose him to the rest? Perhaps out of ill-conceived pity, or a reluctance to confront, or as long as it doesn't involve ourselves (for the cheat plays in different category) we simply don’t care? Be that as it may, this is to our detriment , as this kind of misplaced indifference encourages cheating and distorts the sport.

There is a need for regular education at a basic level, a reminder of the rules and a clarification of the consequences in case of violation. Unfortunately, in this regard, every sign of weakness, every omission, only emboldens the perpetrator, so to speak, by adding wind to the sails of deception.

This is, in my view, such an essential and common occurrence that it should be dealt with by a committee. The instructors and coaches, as well as the governing bodies of the clubs where this is identified, should also have a say in the matter. I believe it is time to institute outright censorship on this issue, eliminating cheating at competitions once and for all. I hope that my very general statement on this matter will spark a productive discussion. We look forward to your voices and articles - send them to

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