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(75) Nero

Taleb advocates weightlifting because it’s anti-fragile: when you weight-lift you tear your muscles a small amount and then, as your muscles heal, muscle mass increases—so this is anti-fragile: small-scale disorder leads to gains (anti-fragile = things that gain from disorder). Anti-fragility leads to mediocrity—corruption, as evidenced in Italy and Israel’s fractious-yet-stable parliaments, is also anti-fragile. Weightlifting goes along with Taleb’s souk-based, corruption-based “Buy my silk scarfs for your habibi—finest in all Lebanon, sir. 100% authentic…” approach to life; his avatar for anti-fragility is a caricature called “Fat Tony”—a gangster. So anti-fragile social things are corrupt: the mafia is anti-fragile, back-room deals are anti-fragile, bribery is anti-fragile…

Taleb extols weightlifting and bodybuilding because his life philosophy is gangsterism, whether on the stock exchange trading floor or in politics. Gangsters need thugs and toughs to shake people down (extortion rackets are both Lindy and anti-fragile—so weightlifting is ideal for “thug life”). Plus, of course, everyone knows weightlifters—like those bent Italian politicians—cheat: they’re all off their heads on steroids (taken, as with Lance Armstrong’s doping, at anti-fragile levels). When you have “skin in the game” you never know when you might have to shake someone down personally…so best bulk up.

Robust immortal sports, aristocratic sports: fencing and ballet—masculine and feminine. Fencing is about beauty and precision (as is ballet); the reflexes and flexibility required are innate—they come from the blood, not through anti-fragile workouts. Indeed, bodybuilding is “gay” because it’s female chthonic; anti-fragile things come from Mother Nature, the root network—fencing and ballet are solar, they come from the masculine sun. Precision, accuracy, honour—as facilitated by a fragile blade, so thin it could splinter (and sometimes does). The fencers face each other in open adversarial combat, not hidden away in networks (or working people over in New Jersey garages). Anti-fragile things always live to fight another day, skulk away—the fencers live in a kill or be killed world. The sword always finds its mark.


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