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Anti-fragile: the Internet, women, souks, City traders, rhizomes, Jews, silly putty, guerrillas, the free market, the mafia—hell. The latter is the root network, it is the place of disorder (chaos)—the more you hit it, the stronger it grows.

Taleb makes “anti-fragile” sound like a positive characteristic, but that is because he himself esteems his anti-fragile archetypal character “Fat Tony”—a “wise guy” who always survives whereas his more nerdly rivals snap under the pressure, fooled by illusory order (too busy worrying about their credentials and their spreadsheets). Well, Taleb might aspire to be a gangster but he doesn’t act like a gangster—and, actually, would you want to be a gangster?

As it happens, everyone wants to be a gangster today—there are endless films about gangsters from Hollywood, not many films about knights. The American president is a gangster, of the old Irish variety—and nobody seems to mind that much. Don’t you want to be mobbed up? Don’t you want to be in Peaky Blinders? Don’t you want have a little gang like MacHeath with his flick-knife (dark with red)? If you want to get ahead, shouldn’t you get mobbed up? Nice social media company you’ve got there, would be a shame if something happened to it…as the ADL said to Musk…

I’m tempted to say that to be anti-fragile is neutral—but, on balance, it tends towards what we call evil; and perhaps that’s because it tends towards the feminine, which is associated with chaos (with that which gives birth to things) and is, hence, regarded as evil because evil comes about through excess and chaos is always excessive; to be excessive is intrinsic to its nature—it has to be cropped back, like nature, by the male sculptor in order to have any form. The Internet, for example, gives birth to constant novelty—which entrances people—but it also gives birth to considerable disorder.

Free market—greed; mafia—violence; rhizome—weeds; guerrillas—war without honour; the Internet—information chaos. The fact that a thing grows stronger from disorder is seen as a plus for Taleb, but it skips the holistic question altogether—“Well, the main thing is I survive, at any cost,” so says the anti-fragile person; and that’s why women see themselves as “survivors”, like the Jews—like the mafia, “I did what was necessary, no questions asked capisce? That’s how it is on the streets.”

In other words, the law of the jungle—civilisation is fragile, or, perhaps, robust (precarious virtue). The downside to the anti-fragile gangster or free-marketeer is that there’s no transcendence in their life—just like pirates are great fun (until they decide to make you walk the plank). After a while, you hanker for something more than “the filthy lucre” or to “win at any cost”.

Democracy is anti-fragile too—it degenerates into mob rule, and the mob is a woman (the more disorder you put into it, the more you beat it, the stronger it grows). The right often points out the weakness in democracy, but the great strength in democracy is that it can mobilise the masses—it can use mass enthusiasm, it can initiate the levée en masse.

The first modern democracy—Republican France. She could win wars because “the people” rose up to defend the nation—the Marseilles, doesn’t it stir the heart? Even if you’re not French—hell, it’s a democracy, who cares if you’re not French? We had a stage where we talked about “the nation” against the king, but now…zut…we’ve gone further, all men are brothers…marchons!

It’s why Ukraine has an advantage in the current war—it’s a democracy so it can mobilise people on a genuine mass basis. The Russians can’t compete with that enthusiasm—even if they could field more battle-hardened elite troops, like Wagner. The psychological factor, morale, is “faculty X” in war—and the democracy has it.

Sure, it means the democracy is often stupid and irresponsible, but the mob is anti-fragile—for every person winnowed out, there’s another who makes it through. It’s one reason why the Roundheads, the Union, the Red Army, and so on prevail in civil wars—the masses roused have irrational enthusiasm, and that’s anti-fragile.

It’s associated with youth—and youthfulness is also anti-fragile, the young gain from a disordered environment (the old, with brittle bones, think twice about risking that icy path). The democracy is youthful, irrational, and anti-fragile. It’s like nature—which is perennial, not eternal. That’s why hell is likened to going into a dark thicket, like a fairy tale, where the brambles tear at you and catch your clothes—the more you struggle in it, the more caught you become (anti-fragile, your energy turned against you).

Yet you shouldn’t occupy hell—Taleb wants you to occupy hell and become a demon there, be anti-fragile and live on (in a perennial fashion, on earth). However, the ancient Egyptians used to say that you sank down into hell, into the blackness, in order to reach heaven—to be reborn, you have to go down (that is the quest—that is the hero’s journey).

That’s remembered in Dante, in his journey into hell—you have to keep going through hell to be reborn, the deeper down you go, right to the bottom, the closer you are to a way out (which is to scramble down Satan’s fur and so come up, by his legs, the right way up—in paradise).

Men like Taleb want you to linger in hell, but you should crack on through hell—it is the journey that makes you an absolute personality; it makes you differentiated from the mob, the mob persists because it is a hardy perennial, but it is not eternal—you can exist “forever” in the mob because the mob makes people interchangeable. That which is eternal has clear boundaries, not jagged edges like a market (or a cancer cell). If you want to be eternal, you have to go through hell.


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