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(HOST) Commentator David Moats has been thinking about the spread of steroid use – from athletics to the arts – and beyond.

(MOATS) At first I thought it was a joke. It was a news report on NPR about classical musicians taking steroids. It seems the competitive pressures are so intense that musicians are bulking up. After all, bowing a violin is a physical act, and if you want to bow fast for hours on end, you’d better have the strength.

To me this was a sign that things were really out of control. Music is not baseball. Music is supposed to be about joy, not about brute strength. But there are musicians who feel that if they don’t take drugs, their jobs will be in danger. And if you love playing music, keeping your job would have to be a high priority.

Competitive pressures can have other damaging effects. Have you seen the latest cars? The cars themselves look like they’re on steroids. We’ve known for a long time that the dynamic of car manufacturing means that bigger and more wasteful cars inevitably drive out smaller cars. Until the consumer rebels and demands a Honda or a Toyota. But then the Hondas and Toyotas start to get big.

In fact, steroid addiction may be the perfect metaphor for the world in which we live. If getting bigger, faster, stronger and more is the only goal, then there’s nothing to check the self-destructive urge to push yourself to the limit or beyond. To break that cycle, there has to be something else, some other value, to temper the drive toward bigger, faster, stronger and more.

One way to view that other value is to see it as the common good. Of course, the very phrase “common good” might rankle some people. It sounds like socialism or something. In our society, each individual is supposed to go for what he or she wants, and it’s all supposed to work out. But if baseball players and musicians are forced to damage themselves physically in order to meet the high standard of competition, the whole system will eventually collapse.

In baseball, there is a phrase used to justify efforts to police the game. Baseball imposes rules for “the good of the game.” “The good of the game” is another way of saying the common good. For the good of the game, it’s necessary to prevent steroids in baseball. For the good of the game, it is necessary to encourage efficient cars. For the good of the game, it is necessary to stop using fossil fuels altogether.

Most people know this. The Arctic is melting. Glaciers and permafrost are disappearing. In a decade or two we may be facing geographic catastrophe. In a society on steroids, it’s hard to tell people that their Hummer is not really good for the game.

But there are other values besides bigger, faster, stronger and more. The traditional tempos have always been good enough. Mozart knew what he was doing. Beautiful music doesn’t depend on steroids. We have to remember that baseball is based on a harmony of distances – 60 feet, 90 feet – and people who understand what is good for the game.

This is David Moats from Salisbury.

David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from studios at Middlebury College.

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