Oxford-ising: Summer Eights

The Summer Eights, the pinnacle of the rowing calendar, is as primitive in its nature as it is ancient in its tradition.

Men and women alike strip themselves to the barest of clothes to duel in the centre of the Isis. Yet, though battling amongst themselves, the display represents a victory of humanity in the struggle with nature that has blighted the ages. Spectators gather along the banks to see representatives of the human race overcome the river in a show of agility and strength.

Yet despite these primal origins, a careful study of the microcosm that is the bank on race day will provide the observer with a discourse on the sociological structure of society in which a complex hierarchy has developed.

The ruling class dominate proceedings with orders and commentary, wielding their power by microphone induced voice amplification. The middle class of bourgeois marshals and bank riders leave fear and havoc in their wake as they charge, mounted on bicycles, through the bank dwellers.

Finally, the proletariat, the rowers, are forced into the most gruelling of work conducted in a  humiliating fashion; in a display of their submission to the ruling class, they are left with only a miniature human in the boat to keep charge.

The event is a display of the brute of mankind and yet nature mocks this prized achievement. Personified in the body of a swan, nature glides onto the hallowed race line, halting proceedings and regaining the reins of power.