A QUESTION OF CHARACTER:
The Objectivist Versus The Machiavellian
by John Little
Anything which I am -- or am not -- is through the direct result of my own choice or abdication thereof.
-- Mike Mentzer
There is a popular adage used in military parlance that has found its way into the common palaver: "You never give your enemy the knife he needs to cut your throat." The implication is obvious; you don't give help, in the form of information or assistance or support of any means, to someone who could rise up to a position of power sufficient to challenge your status, your market (or markets, given the current international business climate) or your ability to earn a living. In other words, you don't assist your competition.
This attitude, at least in regard to bodybuilding, was championed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who made no secret about his embrace of this creed, stating in the movie Pumping Iron that when his good friend Franco Columbu came to him for advice on some point of bodybuilding:
Franco is like a little child who comes to me for advices [sic], so it's not that hard for me to give him the wrong advices [sic].
Earlier, in that same movie, he related to the amusement of a journalist how he had deliberately sabotaged a young bodybuilder's first attempt at competition by deliberately instructing him to do something that would result in his being disqualified and pulled from the stage in humiliation (i.e., to growl and scream at varying pitches as he posed). I would like you to consider the bigger picture of what transpired here for a moment: a young competitor came to him for advice who looked upon Arnold (as indeed most of us did in the mid to late 70s) as being almost godlike in terms of his physique, success and, indeed, the aura that he created. Instead of helping him or even politely declining to offer advice, Arnold instead deliberately chose to sabotage the bodybuilder's chances of winning or even placing in the contest by betraying his confidence (i.e., by deliberately misleading him under the guise of appearing to be his benefactor) and negating whatever serious efforts and preparations the bodybuilder had put into preparing for his first contest. In all likelihood, this individual never competed in bodybuilding again. As this bodybuilder was an amateur, and thus not a threat to Arnold in terms of being a competitor at the Mr. Olympia level of development, one might well wonder why Arnold would feel the need to act so maliciously and what benefit Arnold could have derived from subjecting the young man (and his psyche) to such public humiliation.
Then, near the film's finale, Arnold is recorded on film attempting to disrupt Lou Ferrigno's pre-contest preparations for the 1975 Mr. Olympia contest in South Africa. Presumably his attempts to distract Lou backstage were made in an effort to unhinge Lou psychologically, causing him to question his self-confidence and break his focus, thereby rendering him incapable of being at his best and diminishing his chances of winning the title (a rather odd presumption in retrospect, given that the contest was judged on stage, not backstage, and that it was largely adjudicated on a series of compulsory poses that Lou hit with no problem whatsoever). However, Arnold did win the contest, thus proving in the minds of many the efficacy of this invasive "never give a sucker an even break" attitude. On pages 663 and 664 of the 1987 edition of his book, Arnold Schwarzenegger: Encyclopedia Of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold relates with a fair degree of satisfaction how he undermined the efforts of two of his fellow bodybuilding competitors - Serge Nubret and Frank Zane. He fouled up Nubret's confidence by "repeating" that one of the judges thought Nubret looked too small to be competing in the heavyweight division, which, of course, made Nubret, in Arnold's words:
"...obsessed with this idea, [he] kept asking me how he looked, and his posing was thrown way off because he was reluctant to do certain shots that he felt he was too light to bring off. In close contests like those between Serge and me, psychological factors can be decisive."
(Page 663; Arnold Schwarzenegger: Encyclopedia Of Modern Bodybuilding; Simon and Schuster, © 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger)
Arnold goes on to relate how, during the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest in Sydney, Australia he told fellow Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane a joke onstage during the prejudging which resulted in Zane laughing too hard to hit his poses successfully, thus giving Arnold a competitive edge.
"The gentle art of psychological warfare: At the 1980 Olympia at one point I leaned over and told Frank Zane a joke...and, sure enough, he was laughing so hard that his concentration for his next pose was gone." (Page 664; Arnold Schwarzenegger: Encyclopedia Of Modern Bodybuilding; Simon and Schuster, © 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger)
I will pass on what the odds might be that seasoned professionals like Frank Zane and Serge Nubret would be subject to such ploys, but let's take Arnold at his word; he set out to sabotage the chances of two of his fellow competitors in these contests and succeeded - a very lofty goal, indeed.
When I was younger, I, like so many other bodybuilding neophytes, laughed along with Arnold at his belittling of his fellow competitors; by detecting and exploiting an opponent's potential weakness, Arnold looked like a brilliant tactician and, by making his competitors look stupid, he - by contrast - appeared to be quite clever. I've since learned that making yourself look good against people whom you have handicapped isn't really much of an accomplishment. Such anecdotes and tactics no longer serve as inspiring to me, nor even as humorous. In the 20-plus years I've been involved in the bodybuilding game I've met many people who shared Arnold's character trait on the matter of winning not by virtue but by suppressing the standard of competition; a viewpoint I find sad if not contemptible. Over the years I've learned a little more about the ways of the world and of man, and even on occasion had opportunity to speak with most of the principals of Pumping Iron. Moreover, I've shed a great deal of the naiveté that I possessed when I was a youth watching that film for the first time, and am now quite firmly of the opinion that, with exception granted to the military, this credo of "never give your enemy the knife to cut your throat" is the motto of timid souls who, insecure within themselves, fear that what they have -- or perceive to have -- is hanging by so precarious a thread that it could be lost at any moment, with the result that they feel compelled to employ whatever means are at their disposal to prevent others from gaining positive exposure or success, rather than channeling their energies into trying to improve themselves. The focus of such people is always externally motivated; i.e., on how they are perceived, rather than how they can improve, and it reveals a profound lack of self-esteem and an overriding fear of life itself. For if anyone can be a threat, if anyone can take what you have, then you never really had a firm grip on it (and thus the right to it) in the first place.
The goal of a rational bodybuilder should be to fully actualize his potential as a human being - not simply his physical (i.e., muscular) potential, but his intellect and spiritual development as well. After all, the "body," as such, includes not merely the muscles, but the brain and the sense of self that attends using both efficaciously. Focusing so obsessively on only one aspect of this triumvirate will result in - at best - a lopsided development of one's human stature. And, I'm sorry, but the quest for bodybuilding immortality is the hitching of your wagon to a falling star; a moment in geological time. Where are the champions of 30 years ago? Of 20 years ago? Of Five years ago? No longer do they grace the covers of our industry's magazines; no longer do they endorse the "latest" products. Occasionally, they will attend the odd bodybuilding contest, where, every three years or so, they are paraded out en masse for the fans, to reassure them that there actually is a history to this sport - and then they disperse into the background like the wake behind a ship, waiting for the next event in which they might receive some acknowledgment. How grotesque.
Those who focus solely on their muscles or the trophies they win for developing their muscles never grow as human beings; they fail to develop any attribute that is not bodybuilding-related and so their whole identity is box-cared to what they do (or did) as opposed to who they are or what achievements still beckon them further head on life's path. Such individuals want so badly to have external acceptance and recognition; to touch that flame of public adulation and momentary glory, seldom realizing that as they draw closer to the flame, it invariably consumes them whole (incidentally, I say "momentary" deliberately, as anything that depends on popular support - from magazine exposure to winning bodybuilding championships - is never immune from the vicissitudes of change). At some level, they must be aware of the transitory nature of their bodybuilding careers and have come to the conclusion that, rather than develop other interests so that they can continue to grow as human beings (e.g., writing, music, painting, philosophy, literature, or learning a new trade or craft), they instead must direct their efforts to zealously guarding their small dissolving fiefdom lest someone arrive on the scene who might prove a more worthy or enduring figure.
Apart from Arnold, who is simply an archetype of this belief, there are other bodybuilders who have risen to the top of bodybuilding, or who have made the sport their profession, who likewise subscribe to it and who believe that they must do everything in their power to keep others down or keep from them information that would prove of immense value to their life and/or bodybuilding careers. After all, according to this dictum, one does not seek to empower the competition; one must destroy it. "Machiavellian," "Cut-throat" and "Win-at-all-costs" are all phrases that have been adapted to represent this philosophy.
I'm proud to point to the example of Mike Mentzer as being a brilliant example of someone who was the antipode of this creed. Mentzer represented the attitude of attempting to perpetually improve one's self - rather than arresting one's development by suppressing competition. It's not an easy path to travel by any means, but all attempts to ascend to new heights are seldom without turbulence. In order to fulfill his stature as a human being, Mentzer believed that he had to grow in all areas of his humanity; he studied philosophy to better determine truth from falsehood; he studied art to understand both its meaning and purpose; he studied psychology to better learn the workings of the mind; he studied logic to learn the rules of correct thought; he studied the sciences to understand the workings of human physiology and how best to strengthen his body; he studied business in order to learn how to earn a living - not by working for others but for himself and on his own terms -- and he studied education so that he might be better able to communicate to others the knowledge he had come to obtain. Throughout all of these varied disciplines ran the central thread of Reason, which Mentzer held to be the passkey to all human progress. And this is not to suggest that Mike was perfect (he would have been the first to admit that he was not), but he made it a point to put forth the effort to fulfill his human stature and, unlike most, he was aware of the significance that attended one's doing so.
Mike understood that the mind and the thoughts one chose to entertain and the values one sought to gain or pursue had an immeasurable effect upon one's character and outlook on life. It is no secret that he placed human reason on a pedestal - and with just cause; reason is what lifted us out of the caves, allowing us to make logical and informed choices in our daily lives by illuminating the paths we choose to travel and resulting in our only true sense of self-esteem. As Mentzer wrote in his only work of fiction, The Integrated Man (a narrative tale that proved to be his last writing and is included in his last book High-Intensity Training: The Mike Mentzer Way, to be published by McGraw-Hill in the Fall of 2002):
The only way to gain an authentic self-esteem was through one's unswerving commitment to reason and reality. As reason is man's fundamental, defining characteristic, the one that distinguishes him from all other species, it was a man's commitment to reason as an absolute that should serve as the proper standard for measuring his stature. This was a biological fact of reality, and could not be debated. Those who had defaulted on their fundamental philosophic responsibility (namely, thinking) were of no concern to me. They were hapless individuals, who were constantly buffeted about by every chance intellectual trend that came along…When I attempted to politely explain this to the hysterics - the mystics, who were emotionally driven -- in the gym, they seemed to regard it as heresy and declared me a lunatic. Not only did they not care, it frightened them, as what was most shatteringly terrifying to them was to be regarded as different, to lose approval of the pack. I, on the other hand, never suffered such a vice, the dire need for approval. Rather than be like a creeping vine climbing up a tall tree where I could not stand alone, I preferred to be intellectually-emotionally and morally self-sufficient.
Proceeding from this base, Mentzer learned that the only meaningful rewards one receives in life are the ones achieved by the quality of your work, which, in turn, are determined by the validity of your ideas and the actions you employ to realize them. In the realm of bodybuilding, this would refer to the ideas one holds with regard to training, dieting and presentation; the successful realization of these "physical" goals, lends confidence to your own intellectual capacity to then dare to achieve additional goals - including those outside of bodybuilding such as interpersonal relationships, business ventures and other areas of productive achievement. Moreover, the underlying ethos is progress; i.e., to get better each time out and to learn both from your successes and your mistakes, so that you continue to improve.
Mentzer's viewpoint, of course, stands in stark contrast with Arnold's, both as a matter of approach and as a departure point for motivation. Bodybuilding writer Jack Neary reported that "after the  Olympia, defending champ Frank Zane would ask Arnold why he came back to compete. And Arnold would tell him "To get back at Mentzer and Boyer Coe; to show them they can't get away with knocking me and my training." (pg. 20, Muscle & Fitness; Olympia Report: Arnold's Victory Creates Controversy & Bitterness, by Jack Neary).
Such a mindset would have been entirely foreign to Mentzer; to compete to "show" others is external and unnecessary. Who cares what other people think about how you train? It's hardly worth the mental calories required to contemplate, as no matter what you believe, there are going to be others who disagree with it - even in such an exacting a science as mathematics there are disputes! Upsetting someone else's applecart for purely external motives reveals an interest more in the success or failure of others, than in the improvement of one's self. As Mentzer used to say, "the only one you can accurately compare yourself to is you!"
If, for example, two people of Mentzer's mindset were competing for a bodybuilding title, they would use their faculty of reason to decide upon a course of training and diet to improve themselves to the point where they would both would be at their absolute best on the day of the contest - physically and mentally - and the one who made the more rational decisions in these areas would, as a result, be revealed as the best physique on stage, thereby validating not only his efforts in the gym, but the efficacy of his ideas and the potency of his mind. The idea, restated, is simply for you to use your mind in a specific manner that leads to self-improvement, rather than to dissipate this energy into worrying about how others might think, or what nefarious acts you could conceive and execute in order to orchestrate the downfall or obstruction of others. As Mentzer once wrote:
It would not be rational to enter a competition for the sole purpose of winning or to gain a sense of self-worth by beating others. The proper way to regard the entering of a contest is to view it as a spur one uses to get the best out of oneself, and nothing more.
To this end, Mentzer never attempted to undercut or sabotage his competition -in bodybuilding, business or life. In fact, he would often go out of his way to lend his genuine support to others, to help them achieve their goals and to build on their achievements. Not to mislead you, Mentzer's benevolence in such matters was not motivated by altruism; it was rather because he wanted to do his part to live in a world of rational achievement and enlightened self-interest; for he knew that if he could help to raise the standard of bodybuilding, his actions -- rather than holding him back - would instead motivate him to become even better. The maxim "a high-tide lifts all ships" finds application here. Mentzer's actions stemmed from the ethical tenets of his personal philosophy which were, as he once related to me, as follows:
The foundation of my ethics is…"Rational Self-Interest," as opposed to self-sacrifice or the "good life," or any of the other floating abstractions that form the foundation of whatever other ethical system might exist, none of which sit well with me. It's important to point out that when one speaks of Rational Self-Interest, or the "Virtue of Selfishness," that there is a distinction to be made in types of selfishness. One should not confuse whim-worship or vulgar self-interest -- the self-interest that a child might exhibit where the value of the moment supersedes all else. A person who is motivated by Rational Self-Interest will not operate on the spur of the moment. He will think through and look long range at the ramifications of his actions and base his ethics, his behavior, on these considerations. Not the spur of the moment or the pleasure of the moment, but how his desires, his values and so forth will affect him and those around him long range.
Having had the good fortune of knowing Mike for a period of some 22 years I can cite many examples of Mike's actions in support of this statement, but three will suffice:
1. The Helping Of A Fellow Competitor In Competition. Samir Bannout, "The Lebanese Lion," was a man who was no small threat to any bodybuilder's hopes of winning the Mr. Olympia title in the late 1970s and early 1980s (he would win the title himself in 1983). At the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest, Bannout was one of the competitors vying for the title against Mentzer. According to journalist Jack Neary who was present, Mentzer went out of his way to help Bannout recover from a serious diuretic miscalculation that could have proven to terminate far more than Bannout's chances at this contest. Neary, in his contest report for Muscle & Fitness recalled:
Mentzer sat in his makeshift sauna the morning of the Olympia. It was then that a very excited Samir called that room. It seems, in his own bizarre way of shedding subcutaneous water, Samir took a Lasix tablet, a very strong, and sometimes unpredictable, diuretic that not only promotes a veritable Niagara of urine, but dangerously steals the body of its minerals, particularly potassium. And that's bad news for the heart. That was exactly the news Samir was frantically telling Mentzer. His heart was in the throes of an arrhythmic tap dance. On Mentzer's advice, we were dispatched immediately to Samir's room with a handful of potassium tablets. A scared but grateful Samir answered the door. Within minutes his crisis had passed.
Why would Mentzer do this? He could have told Bannout, "Hey, that's your problem; call a doctor and leave me alone!" As Arnold indicated, when a competitor comes to you for advice it's not that hard to give him the wrong advice, and as this was the most important contest of Mentzer's life, he would be justified - under this philosophy - to betray Bannout's confidence and give him destructive advice. In fact, it represented a golden opportunity for Mentzer to put down the competition and, according to the Arnoldian ethos, Mentzer could have achieved a victory of sorts; an extra safety measure, by insuring that Bannout would not be a threat to him in this contest. Such a suggestion would, of course, be abhorrent to anyone who thinks rationally, as it would offend their sense of life (the subject of another article entirely, but, in essence, a "sense of life" is the attraction or repulsion on an almost intuitive or, more accurately, a pre-conceptual, level of an individual to an act or experience); if Mentzer had chosen to do such a thing it would have smacked of cowardice and revealed a less-than-praiseworthy character. But let's pass on for the moment.
2. Helping A Fellow Business Rival Improve His Product. At both the 1979 and 1980 Mr. Olympia competitions, Frank Zane was Mike Mentzer's greatest rival. They not only competed head-to-head on the Olympia dais, but also in the business arena where both men sold training courses, seminars and exhibitions. However, rather than plot ways to trip up his competitor, Mentzer gave Zane some valuable calf training tips that Zane incorporated to good effect in his own bodybuilding training. According to Zane:
I became friends with Mike after the 1980 Mr. Olympia, Mike's last competition. Boyer Coe, Mike, myself, and our respective wives/girlfriends would often get together in Palm Springs and discuss the injustices of competitive bodybuilding. I picked up a few good ideas from Mike in the early 80's regarding training methodology; such as the importance of slow negatives, and a unique one-legged calf raise technique on the Nautilus multi purpose machine that resulted in over a ½-inch calf growth in one month in 1981.
Again, why would Mentzer do this? Why assist another bodybuilder, a competitor, to enhance his "product" (which in bodybuilding would be one's body), when so doing would only serve to enhance Zane's already considerable position as a bodybuilder who knew whereof he spoke? (Zane was himself a multi-winner of the Mr. Olympia title.) Why would Mentzer aid a competitor in his quest for self-improvement? The answer should be starting to come into focus: to elevate the standard of bodybuilding which, in turn, would serve to inspire others (including Mentzer) to elevate themselves in order to surpass the standard, thus making their own "product" that much better.
3. Financing the Competition. In 1992 Mike Mentzer was preparing to re-enter the bodybuilding world in a big way. He had just finished writing a new book entitled Heavy Duty, and he was deservedly excited at the prospects for its success. I should preface this by stating that Mentzer was coming off an unbelievably hard time financially; he had been persona non grata in the muscle magazines for a period of some six years, his income had all but disappeared, and he was staking his entire future; i.e., his reputation and ability to earn a living, on the success of his new book, which would contain his new conclusions regarding the actual science of productive bodybuilding exercise. At this particular point in time, no other bodybuilder had training courses on the market, so Mentzer would have had the field to himself and -- with no direct competition to be found -- the success of his book would have been assured, if only by default. At this point I, too, was preparing to self-publish a book on a new approach to bodybuilding that would become Power Factor Training - but when I learned how much printing costs were, I quickly realized that I could not afford to have my book published, as there wasn't sufficient money left over each month from my salary as a writer for Flex magazine. Joe Weider had graciously promised me ad space in two of his magazines, but without the money necessary to have the book published, I was all dressed up with nowhere to go. When Mentzer learned that I lacked the money necessary to pay for the printing of Power Factor Training, rather than rub his hands in glee that a potential rival had stalled coming out of the gate (and make no mistake; we would be competing for the same market), he provided me with the money I required to publish it. Without his patronage, Power Factor Training would not have been published. But Mentzer went one step further; he not only provided the money necessary to have the book published, he even agreed to write the book's foreword - which undoubtedly resulted in thousands of his fans purchasing my book solely on the strength of his endorsement. The skeptic might say, "Well, he was a friend of yours and friends help friends." Perhaps (although Franco Columbu may have a different take on this based upon his experience with Mr. Scharzenegger). But Mentzer's view of friendship was not predicated on any sense of "duty to a friend" or on emotional whim, but rather on his ethics of Rational Self Interest. As he once related to me:
There's only one proper basis for choosing friends and that is mutuality of values. Most people exercise no discrimination in terms of thought or values in defining any relationship that they might be involved in or about to be involved in, whether it be the choice of a boss, a friend, a lover, associates at work, whatever. That which guides me is my rational self-interest, and the only reasonable way -- the only rational way -- in the realm of friends, to make a choice is through mutuality of values. How could I possibly share anything if we didn't share the same values?
Photo Courtesy Ironman Magazine Archives
Knowing this, I believe Mentzer's choice to assist me in the publication and marketing of my book was based, again, on his attempt to elevate the standard of bodybuilding; i.e., to encourage the publication of a book that extolled the virtue of a more rational approach to training - as reason was a value that we both shared and wanted to see flourish in the realm of bodybuilding. To conclude this interlude, I will say that I when the tables of fortune were reversed between us, I was likewise happy to underwrite some of Mentzer's expenses. Not because I felt pity for him (anymore than he felt it for me), but because I believed in his cause and held his presence in bodybuilding to be a boon to those who sought truth. Mike's writing was excellent and inspiring; and always served to motivate me to write better and think more clearly.
I cite these examples because they speak to something bigger than muscles; they speak to an issue of character. Who wants a trophy if you didn't win it by beating the competition at its absolute best? What does a trophy so received then become a symbol of? Outwitting mediocrity? Defeating the handicapped? Anyone can win anything if the standard of competition is lowered far enough, but such are victories in name only. What, in the final analysis, was actually "achieved?" I'm reminded of something the philosopher Bertrand Russell once said; that we should think rather dimly of a soldier who refused to fight in battle unless he was first assured of victory. There is cowardice to such a man, as contrasted with a man who strives to be the best he can -- and who refuses to compete against anybody who isn't likewise.
Certainly it takes a strong will to hold to such a course. It would be far easier to sabotage someone else's efforts; to try and win a rival's confidence and then let deliberately lead him astray and watch him fall - but such an approach also breeds a weak strain of man. Mentzer, who declared himself an Objectivist, believed in having ideals and in following the Objectivist ethic/aesthetic of man "as he can be and ought to be." His view of man centered on the noble, heroic and achievement-oriented. Such a man does not look for ways to diminish people or destroy their chance to advance; the mind of such a man would recoil at the very suggestion of such a thing. Such a man chooses to build, to progress, to set higher standards - and then attain them. This takes character to seek and it takes character to implement. It is therefore no surprise that Mentzer held character building quite high on his list of human virtues. I recall specifically asking him, "What builds character - and how does one achieve it?" during a visit to his apartment in Los Angeles in the mid 1980s. Mike's response was both revealing and insightful:
One builds one's own character. The required first step is a choice. One's got to choose to build one's character; one's got to hold it as a value - that's the first step. Once one understands that one possesses the faculty of volition, or the power of choice, that particular individual will go about seeking the character traits and integrating them into his personality structure or character structure. The question for most people is "how does one go about doing that?" The first step after making, deciding or focusing on the fact that he has a choice, is that he has to decide what character traits he finds valuable and meaningful. Most people would agree on most of them. Some of the "eternal verities," so to speak, very few people would challenge the importance of character traits such as honesty, integrity, hard work, discipline, and so forth. Then, when you get into the more debatable -- from certain points of view -- things such as altruism, or self-sacrifice, there would be considerable area for debate. But generally, just to answer your question, the most important factor in going about building character is, first of all, to decide or choose to hold that particular value as a high value, a premium, in one's life, and then actually the rest will fall into place. There are bound to be ups and downs along the way -- even some mistakes made in terms of what's integrated -- but if one holds Reason as a value, along with character-building, the rest will fall into place much easier. The very fact that a person would choose to hold character building as a high-value, I would assume that the person is a "seeker;" that is, a "seeker" after truth. And if he was persistent and truly earnest in his desire to gather the truth, he would eventually happen upon the philosophies that the peoples of the world use to guide them in their actions -- and he has a much greater chance today because of its increased perpetuation through publications -- he would have an increased chance to come across the philosophy of Reason. And, again, once he discovered that, if, in fact, he did, then the rest would fall into place - were he to apply Reason consistently throughout his character-building program.
In other words, one must hold the building of character as an attribute or value worth pursuing every bit as much as one pursues building their muscles or their bank accounts. In fact, upon one's death, the muscles and bank accounts are gone; the former to the flames, the latter to relatives and the government. In the end, it is only your character -- how you choose to think and act on earth - that matters. If you choose to hold character building as an important part of your "body" building you'll come to realize that character is formed by the choices you make; how you choose to think and to act holds significant (and often enduring) import. It is the power of choice and the power inherent in your choices that serve to mold you, your life, your character, and your legacy. Act with character, and time will be your eloquence.
And now, dear reader, we come to the fork in the road; the Arnold approach versus the Mike Mentzer approach; the Machiavellian versus the Objectivist; do you try to sabotage others and by holding them down, so democratize the standard of human achievement that it can be no better than it is right now? Or do you instead focus on your own progress and encourage others to do likewise so that the standards may rise, and yours along with them?
Ben Weider long ago took as his motto for the I.F.B.B., "Bodybuilding is important for nation building," which gives one pause to ponder which character type - if predominant - would be capable of building a better nation? I leave you with a passage from Mike Mentzer's favorite novel, Atlas Shrugged:
Miss Taggert, do you know the hallmark of the second-rater? It's resentment of another man's achievement. Those touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone's work prove greater than their own - they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal - for a mind to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes, thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them - while you'd give a year of your life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them. They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors. They don't know that that dream is the infallible proof of mediocrity, because that sort of world is what the man of achievement would not be able to bear. They have no way of knowing what he feels when surrounded by inferiors - hatred? No, not hatred, but boredom - the terrible, hopeless, draining, paralyzing boredom. Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don't respect? Have you ever felt the longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?
(Ayn Rand, from her novel, Atlas Shrugged, Plume, published by the Penguin Group, New York, © Ayn Rand, 1957, copyright renewed 1985 by Eugene Wimick, Paul Gitlin, and Leonard Peikoff.)
Quo Vadis bodybuilding? The choices -- and the consequences -- are yours.