Wasn’t it Plato who said that all kings should be bodybuilders, and all bodybuilders be kings?

No 18. Robert Abela: Bodybuilder

Hunky-dory... Rob switches brain for brawn in new job
Hunky-dory... Rob switches brain for brawn in new job

What are we skinning? Our new Prime Minister’s past as a bodybuilder in the 90s.

Why are we skinning it? Honestly? Because it’s the kind of ‘human angle’ to a politician that is now literally at the top of the Maltese pyramid which is manna from heaven for us.

Okay yes, so it’s kinda funny and kinda novel. But why does it deserve our attention? Oh, but there’s a ‘serious’ side to the equation too. Being a bodybuilder implies a certain degree of discipline and focus, but that discipline can also dovetail into obsession, and the focus can easily be perceived as simple vanity.

But bodybuilding is also a specific subculture, so you shouldn’t make sweeping statements before immersing yourself in it. You’re right, actually. But the fact remains that optically, this all comes at a very key time for Malta…

How do you mean? Well, for one thing, certain international headlines have already used Abela’s bodybuilding past as a lead…

Yes, I chuckled when I read that our new Prime Minister is, first and foremost, ‘A bodybuilding millionaire lawyer’... Yeah, and maybe that doesn’t exactly help our current pariah status in the EU and worldwide, where such an easily-caricatured figure takes the reins of a recent government legacy steeped in (occasionally bloody) controversy…

But surely, some pro-business fat cat would be an even worse option? Oh yes. Paradoxically for a sport which evokes strength and superhero physiques, Abela’s bodybuilding past also disarms him somewhat.

You’re right… it makes me think that, at the end of the day, here’s someone who at one point was obsessively dedicated to something that wasn’t politics and/or money. Granted, competitive ping-pong may have made the anti-vanity crusaders happy, but that would also place him on a dullness scale that verges on the creepy.

You just can’t win, can you? Apparently, you can.

Do say: “It remains to be seen how Prime Minister Robert Abela’s tenure will pan out, and whether he can successfully restore a sense of sobriety to the nation in the wake of an unprecedented political crisis, as well as his own ‘dynastic’ heritage as the son of a former President. But his past as a bodybuilder is a quirky detail that reveals either the workings of a healthy and disciplined mind, or one that is preoccupied with personal vanity. We shall see how and whether this tendency translates into the political sphere.”

Don’t say: “Wasn’t it Plato who said that all kings should be bodybuilders, and all bodybuilders be kings?”

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