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How Nassim Taleb’s Hysterical Fear Porn and Fake Intellectualism Taught Me to Embrace Actual Risk-Taking… and to Put Him On My Ignore List

Mar 11, 2021 | Leadership & Personal Development

Reading Time: 5 minutes

One key takeaway you might not immediately see when you read the New Testament is regarding Jesus’ role as a great physician. Now, sure, Christians have talked about the healing aspects of his ministry for millennia. After all, it’s a central part of the story. But there’s a part that most of them are missing when put up against our current times. And that’s Christ’s seeming disregard when interacting with the most virulent diseases of his day.

Take leprosy, as one example. Although the Greek word used, λεπρὸς, at the time could cover a range of similar diseases, you don’t see Jesus, in Mark 1, for instance, asking the afflicted what his symptoms were, so he could verify that all was safe. And you most certainly don’t see him shirking away. This is the case, even though this disease had no known cure and wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience. In fact, Jesus took quite the opposite approach and physically interacted with the sick, despite all the prevailing wisdom of that age.

And he did so without showing any fear of the afflicted.

Now, compare one of the intellectual sages of our own age, Nassim Taleb. As a quasi-philosopher and popular author on the (rather esoteric) subject of risk, he’s enjoyed a rather fortuitous place in the limelight over the past decade. And he’s best known for milking the shit out of his book the Black Swan. He also happens to say he’s a Christian. Yet, in the photo of him, below, which he’s shared to his social media over the past year to browbeat the public about mask wearing, we find a rather different attitude than that of Jesus. Here, we find a man who would have us believe he’s nearly paralyzed by concern for humanity, even as he jetsets about the globe. And even as he shares selfies of himself appearing to squee for his God damn Twitter followers.

Apparently, one of the scariest symptoms of Covid-19 is social media excitement.

Taleb Clown

Now, in contrast, simply because Jesus had no fear of death doesn’t mean that we don’t take everyday sorts of precautions in our lives. Or that we plunge ourselves into the wildest dangers at a whim. Still, historically-speaking, men appreciate risk-taking. But they also appreciate a sense of bravery alongside level-headed action toward a goal. Call it courage, daring, or just plain good ol’ fashion guts.

To complement that bold determination, men also often place value on that keen perspective that comes with age, that ability to prioritize what matters most in the thick of the greatest challenges. Or to come away from crisis with a deeper point of view that will allow an experienced man to help us all navigate through the churn of frothy seas– to see what can and should be done in the here and now, no matter how great the threats or the demands might be.

Over the centuries, we’ve called this wisdom or sometimes discernment.

And when you think about it, turning back to Christ’s ministry, Jesus wasn’t simply willing to pay the greatest price for others. Of course, there is that part of it. Rather, he was also willing to do something else for us. And that is how he chose to live the example of a fiercely brave dissident, but also, with a heady sense of wise judgement that was anything but conformist. He was at once and the same time rebel and king.

Can you imagine him refusing today to share communion unless everyone had their masks on?

Or advocating for people to live, not just lives filled with terror of possible contagion, but lives sterilized of meaningful human relationships through social distancing?

In the case of men like Nassim Taleb, acadamians and technocrats, you find that they’re answering, yes, yes, YES! And we discover in them very contrary to the example of Jesus. In fact, they’ve morphed into a class of professionals who try to pass themselves off as experts of the human condition.  But based on their failed policies and hysterical actions, they’re anything but. And they’ve abandoned prudent decision-making in favor of absurd, often nonsensical priorities, as we’ve seen over the past year. And often, their politics, around masks, lockdowns, and whatever else, just so happen to benefit them, either financially, or is more often the case, through an increase or consolidation of their power as experts.

Call them the new managerial class.

And make no mistake, they’re ready to manage every aspect of your life and then some.

Meanwhile, over the course of his career, Nassim Taleb has made a name for himself masquerading as some sort of contrarian with a deep insight into the nature of risk. Yet, judging by that picture of him, he seems to know almost nothing about real human risk outside his stock portfolio and the comfort of a warm airline seat. If he spent half as much time on his academic theories as he seems to spend managing his image on his Twitter account, we’d probably all be better off.

But an understanding of risk or policymaking related to it?

This is not someone I think of when I think about understanding danger, exposure, or crisis. Or who I would ever turn to for wisdom or discernment, never mind the complete lack of balls. In fact, when you look at the careers of these sorts of men, you find they appear more familiar with grifting and fearmongering than with gaining an understanding of how anyone, let alone society, should make our way through our most difficult times. And they don’t seem to be familiar with putting themselves in any sort of danger, however mild.

They are, as you can get a sense from in that selfie, morally bankrupt clowns and cowards.

Nevertheless, if that is the case, and the ship really is without a sane captain, what should we do?

First, I’ve put Taleb and several of his compatriots on “ignore.” They’re not much more than technocratic wanna-bes, despite their best intentions to seem otherwise. And while I was never much impressed by anything outside of Taleb’s work on options trading, I won’t go to the trouble of reading anything by him in the future. From that photo of him and his advocacy of lockdowns, I conclude that he’s a senseless man with little real experience in risk taking, outside of a failed hedge fund and running a silly online school that bilks youth out of their money. Business acumen, military insight, or policy knowledge, he has not.

He might not be a fraud, as he likes to call others, but he surely is a fool.

But more importantly, I see now why it is so very important that men such as you and I do more than simply stand against wickedness and tyranny, we must also do something greater.

We must choose, bravely, not to shy away from creating a world that is firmly in opposition to these sort of evil men. This is as much true if we’re doing big things like building businesses or running for political office, starting new churches or making sure we’re there every Sunday come hell or high water.

But also, it’s true in doing the small yet ever-increasingly significant acts in our restricted world, like holding the hand of a grandparent as they pass or allowing a child to see the smile on our face. You know, that smile that says, even during the worst, the most terrifying, or the most hopeless of times that everything is going to be okay because I’m here with you.

And I will most certainly fight for you and for what is right, risks be damned.

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