“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength.” – Henry War Beecher
Let’s define success. That collective groan you hear is my online friends sounding off together, pleading with me “can we stop with the defining shit for a while?” Oh, but it makes discussion flow when you have an idea of what you are trying to talk about.
I’m not opposed to steroids, since being opposed to a thing places blame on it rather than a person’s relationship with it. I just don’t understand the sometimes obsessive drive that would pull someone into using them. For the bodybuilder, looking like an uberstud has twisted roots in our shallow little society that somehow make sad sense, but for an athlete, the arrow-tip focus that replaces logic, fun and common sense with defining success as being a one-hit wonder in the athletic world just seems, I dunno… boring maybe? My observational bias may stem from constantly living with my amazing physical prowess and stunning good looks which give me an already omnipotent edge over everyone else, therefore I might just be confused with why any of you inferior folks would even bother trying.
Or maybe not (but a boy has to dream, right?). Speaking of dreaming, the premise of Chris Bell’s Bigger Stronger Faster begins with a boy dreaming. Dreaming of being a recognized peer amongst the modern giants of his childhood, like Hulk Hogan, Sly Stallone, and of course, the Austrian Oak (ya know, our current governor). For no other reason than they were huge and kicked ass – they raised to bar of what it was to ‘be a man’ – and Chris was far from the only one to be both intimidated and inspired, with the desire to eliminate the former by acting on the latter.
Our buddy up north, Kat Rickers, wrote this review about the movie, and i have a bit to add to it. I do not disagree with a word she wrote, since she is completely correct that the movie pointed out an interesting twist. Even though they might lack the media-blown dangers that are so often associated with them, they might still be far from ‘safe,’ since they can effect more than the person doing them. Unfortunately, I can see many a man walking away from this movie thinking “so what? Where do I get ’em?”
Kat writes that the movie proves that “steroids are inevitable in modern-day America and its foreseeable future, because of the culture and technology America has provided to nurture some of the most treacherous characteristics of human nature – competitiveness, the tendency to cheat, the hunger for purpose and identity.” Yup. Like David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture, says (in the ‘deleted scenes’ special feature of the DVD) “envy is the most powerful emotional current in America today, and envy is a poisonous, poisonous force.”
So is all this steroid taking bad if it brings folks what they want and doesn’t quite do the damage that we thought it did? Let’s consider this:
“Success has become divorced from virtue. We live in a time where being a winner doesn’t mean you worked the hardest or are the most virtuous or the most creative person,” says Mr. Callahan. Well put.
There are two things to consider:
1) Do we disregard true competition and the virtuous success of our own merits by succumbing to chemical enhancement? In other words, just toss the rules out the window and focus on the end result rather than the path to get there? Our spiritual and mental health develops from the struggles and victories that challenge us on our path. Didn’t Kennedy say only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly?
2) Where does it end? Why does no one EVER address the fact that since steroids, envy, greed, etc. seem to be inevitable, then wouldn’t the end result be ultimately frightening? Sure, they might seem less-than-harmful now, but knowing that science never reigns itself in and is always exploiting every new discovery to the most ridiculous and dangerous conclusion, in the next half century anyone who can afford it will become super heroes. The bionic man is no longer mere fiction, steroids are developing into a precise art form, and gene technology will be creating ‘super’ body parts probably within our lifetimes. Name one of these that will stay confined to the ‘health industry’ and not become consumer available. If ‘steroids are inevitable,’ so are all of these.
Does that not frighten anyone else? Alright, let’s look at it this way…
Chip’s Paranoid Conspiracy Theory:
The more advanced of the possibilities I mentioned above won’t be cheap. Only three major categories of people will have quick access to them: the government (military), the mafia (include terrorists into this category, or maybe the former category, depending on who you talk to) and the super rich.
Scared yet? Perhaps an argument could be made that the prices will come down, as all technology eventually does, and everyone can be a super-jacked wonder being… because, of course, the government/mafia/super rich will allow for that to happen, right?
Is it possible to find evidence that this world and it’s medical industrial complex are actually benevolently co-existing, creating nothing but happy cures and idyllic scenarios for our bodies to embrace personal and cultural empowerment? C’mon… today’s medical industry is poised to be the next big thing in the military industrial complex.
All this inevitability is okay with everyone?
Mark Bell, one of the three brothers featured in the film, is the nicest, funniest guy you’d care to meet. It would be interesting, as a follow up to the movie, to ask him, or any of the folks interviewed who have admitted to having a needle in their butt at some point, further questions about this inevitability and their possible role in it. What is ‘too far,’ and why? If that 1000 pound squat is worth it now, what would they be willing to face for adding 200 pounds to it, if new gene splicing or bionic technology enabled them to do it (a squat suit is pretty close, but so far no military coup or clandestine enslavement has been linked to Inzer or MetalGear)? And why?
Let’s face it. As a culture we take things to dangerous extremes, therefore the extreme of chemical, medical or technological enhancement is what this ‘inevitability’ will lead to. Final chapter: Genetics and hard work will have nothing to do with physical superiority, but money will. And physical superiority will simply be a byproduct of whoever is trying to dominate a country or society at that point.
That is the TRUE inevitability if we don’t start questioning our values currently. That is the true ‘danger’ of steroids, that we are obsessed with some sort of physical ‘success’ without understanding that EARNING it is where the real lessons await. Might not happen in this decade, or even the next couple, but a little foresight might be worthwhile, eh?
Another Bigger, Stronger, Faster quote from an anonymous man-on-the-street: “We’re getting away from the American way. Now the American kids are being taught is that it doesn’t matter as long as you’re number one. You cheat, steal, lie, it’s okay.”
High school student Willie Litvack said “there’s a line that must be drawn in the sand [with] healthy determination on one side and the desire to win at all costs on the other.”
Competition doesn’t benefit anyone unless it benefits EVERYONE. Win or lose, we must learn and grow, and maybe we can include that in our definition of ‘success.’ Meanwhile, this inevitability that we keep mentioning is our society’s loss of these lessons. At that point, a tribe fails and dies.