Primitive Cheerleading and True Names

In the world of Ursula LeGuin’s book A Wizard of Earthsea, the source of all magic is in the naming of things. To know the true name of a thing is to understand it’s very being, to have power over it. A man’s true name is a guarded secret and revealed only to a few trusted friends. For many years I was afraid to share my thoughts; to express myself both verbally and in writing because I feared others having, if not power over me, at least understanding. Even in our world, for good or ill, naming has power.

A few years ago I stood in a local cafe with a co-worker waiting for a meeting. We were looking at the posters of local high school athletic teams and
cheerleaders. As we stood there a thought struck me; that cheerleading must have been around for centuries. I said I wondered how many times a clan brought out their young women to shout and dance and jump about to encourage the young men to go raid the neighbors cattle herd. The fellow looked at me and said, “You’re not the type we usually get.” On one hand I was flattered that he noticed I was not the usual type and on the other I was a bit scared. I worked in AG in a small community and most farmers expect a certain type. Thinker and philosopher are not high on the list of admired qualities. I have since changed jobs and am not so concerned with popular opinion. As writers when we share our work we bare our souls for our readers to see. We reveal our true selves. I now present my thoughts on cheerleading.

I have no issue with cheerleading. It serves a useful function and I find it amusing. Centuries ago you tried to get your young warriors to raid the neighbor’s cattle or defend the tribe. Ceasar speaks of this in one of his histories, how one of the tribes he fought would come to battle with their women. The women would ‘bare their breasts and shout at their men to inspire them.’ Now we want our ‘warriors’ to defeat the opposing sports team. What is their motivation you ask? Well you have various degrees of money and/or fame but ultimately it all comes back to the cheerleaders. In ages past if you distinguished yourself in battle you might catch the eye of a ‘cheerleader’ and get a roll in the haystack. Now it’s the backseat of a car. Ah, some things never change. If you doubt my logic go to a pep rally at the local high school. Ever seen a really unattractive cheerleader? Of course not, you must be popular and attractive to be a cheerleader because they are held as the ultimate example of what one’s battle renown might gain. Look at the outfits. If shouting alone were enough to inspire the ‘warriors’ then they could wear a lot more clothing. I do not envy my friends who have daughters.

Now we take an audience to ‘battle’. The cheerleaders shout. The audience responds. The ‘warriors’ hear and are inspired to greatness. Ever been in a crowd where they were shouting for blood? Where they wanted actual harm done to the opposing team? Of course you have.
This is where the primitive aspects really show. Maybe we are not so evolved as we think.

I embrace that I am a thinker and a philosopher, but lean close now as I whisper in your ear. “My true name is writer.”

Harper Barton


1 Comment

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One response to “Primitive Cheerleading and True Names

  1. carolebell

    Scott, you have shown yourself to be so much more than the guy in agriculture. What a thinker and philosopher you are. I, too, am glad I am not raising daughters these days. Why do I even say “these days”? Hasn’t it always been scary to raise daughters?
    Indeed, you are a writer extraordinaire. And, don’t you dare try to whisper that fact.

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