Wherein our hero falters and redeems himself…
Nicholas Taleb writes about risk in investing and in general, and burst onto the scene with his widely praised The Black Swan. For those of use who may have read The Black Swan and then got on with our lives, his real vocation is now Being Nicholas Taleb, contrarian tough-guy who can’t expound long without mentioning deadlifting or beating up someone from the vast, decadent class of non-deadlifting humanity.
He’s been a sensible critic of US foreign interventions but as a “Greco Levantine” Christian whose influential family was impoverished by the Lebanese civil war, he’s no fan of such as the Taliban. So when he encountered Taliban encountering, maybe for their first time, gym equipment in their new digs (courtesy of the US taxpayer, natch) he delivered what Steve Sailer called “the most on-brand response” to their triumph:
The gym of the Presidential Palace in Kabul.
Not a single Taliban tried to deadlift. One of them pressed ~50 lbs. Tells you something about the strength of the other side. https://t.co/atIZVWBlMb
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) August 16, 2021
So, rousing myself this morning to post what I’d been thinking in the back of my mind about this curious spectacle (Taleb, not Taliban) since I saw it, I went to Mr Taleb’s Twitter and found this:
On the day the Taliban start training in gyms, with proper form and commercial equipment, they will start losing wars. https://t.co/atIZVWBlMb
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) August 17, 2021
Which is pretty much exactly what I’d been thinking. Taleb’s first response (if he wasn’t being facetious) represented Western delusion coming up against reality–delivered by the “Medieval” Taliban out of the “seventh” (or is it “eighth”?) century–that never went away. America has made fetishes of muscles and military might, in film endowing special forces with mythical powers of physical capability, where they’re played by absurd comic-book caricatures like the Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The pro-military genre (which is probably now a thing of the non-woke past) post-Rambo not only presents a wholly false impression, it likely has helped degrade the elite forces it’s romanticized–dropping the great magnetic lure of Hollywood before them.
Our servicemen have been holding at bay those scrawny Taliban only by virtue of technology, as one of them will no doubt tell you. The Taliban have been doing very little but waiting for about a decade. So it isn’t as if our defeat in Afghanistan was military–it was entirely moral. For twenty years we provided the Western model, wealth and liberty and gym equipment and it dissolved the moment the powerful hand of technological superiority was removed. But the curious thing is we deploy battalions of physical specimens, who shelter behind walls and call in air power whenever a fair fight presents itself–with their skinny, sandal-clad enemy.
I’m entirely serious when I say the Taliban should do to the gym equipment they find what they did to those Buddhist statues, blow it up with ceremony, for therein, like many of the temptations we’ll have left behind, lurks their doom, just waiting to be released by their vanity. You want to defeat the Taliban? Get them lifting, bro. They’ll be posting shirtless selfies and obsessing over their diet in no time.
Congratulations on your victory and may peace finally prevail in your country. I’m an unlikely ally, but trust me, you students of Islam, you don’t even want to get started with this shit. Shut it Down, as the meme goes.
Here’s a little inspiration:
Zabriske Point, Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970