Beyond Resilience; the True Opposite of Fragility

3168425434_e86cc09744_b (1)In today’s mainstream society, the concept of being fragile – physically or psychologically – is considered and defended as an ideal characteristic. Historically, suffering has been promoted culturally in each of the Abrahamic religions: Moses suffers through arduous wandering and finds the Hebrew God in a burning bush, then suffers even greater after finding the Promised Land and being forbidden to enter it; Christ suffers greatly in his violent death for the sins of man, inspiring two millennia of martyrs in his name; and in Islamic teachings to die for your belief in and dedication to Muhammed promises a welcome home and great rewards in the afterlife.

It is this concept of the sufferer, either self-imposed or not – so ingrained into the common values and philosophy of Western culture – which promotes fragility in our society by protecting and pedestaling the human form that is gentle, small, weak. We can see this exemplified in the traits we promote in fashion and beauty models, to the extent that it contributes to the growing trend towards androgyny in popular culture. And while this outward idealization is slowly changing on the surface, or by a physical standard (Dove “Real Beauty” campaigns and similar), it is in exchange for an idealization of a deeper, inward quality of fragility; a delicate glass of emotion.

In fact, the standard for treating individuals these days is aptly compared to the treatment of fine glass in a store: you must be extremely careful with it, hold it gently, beware not to mishandle or drop it for fear of it breaking. More importantly, if it does break, you are usually made to buy it; as it is seen as the fault of the person holding the glass, and it is the responsibility of that holder to be sure the glass is safe and undisturbed. But even if the glass is broken and therefore bought, the glass has nevertheless surely suffered while the holder and owner exchange loss and gain around it. The glass is broken and must be pieced together, and this often leaves it much weaker than it was before. Once broken, the glass will be much more likely to break again, and will forever be identified as broken, having been broken, and/or in a state of disrepair.

The parallels are all too clear; the permanence and manifold effects of any emotional “break” is always seen to be caused by the handler, never as the fault of the perhaps un-sturdy glass (i.e. refusal to take ownership or responsibility for one’s own emotional state or well-being). Yet it is the glass itself which suffers most, carrying with it the reputation of broken or “damaged goods,” always under the ultimate control of those who would break or repair it – for their identity or emotional state will always be destroyed or kept intact not due in any large part to its own internal soundness or fortitude, but always at the hands of the forever unpredictable and uncontrollable actions  of external others.

With evermore widespread adoption and appeal in our popular culture, individuals today are encouraged to perceive of themselves as fragile not only to the observable actions and behaviors of others, but as also fragile to other’s mere opinions, feelings, and mindsets. Speaking from experiences gained in the United States over the past two decades, Western culture has shown ever-increasing support for the treatment of individuals and their emotional states as fragile, to such an extent that fragility is lauded as an ideal character attribute, one worth actively and explicitly promoting and safe-guarding. Thus the creation  and proliferation of “safe spaces” and “judgement free zones,” the intentions behind which are understandable and pure, but which inherently support the very conceptions and categorizations that they are supposedly attempting to escape: the definition and prescription of victimhood, and the fragility of said victims (those who would require such a refuge); and the identity of the victimizers, their dominance, and their correspondent “unsafe” and “judgement filled” spaces (anyone not present, and anywhere else, inferentially).

Even worse, this mentality extends beyond the individual level  entirely, into a collective characteristic, whereby groups of individuals identify, by choice or as if inherited, as “broken glass.” This also applies to and is observed more generally in the “politically correct” tendencies of our Liberal elites, who, in an honest effort to support or champion the causes of certain minority groups, implicitly characterize those groups as inferior – in that they perceive of these groups as in need of such assistance that only our (usually rich, white, enlightened) Liberal elites can offer – this ironically yet unmistakably propels the established hierarchy and context in which it operates. While supposing to protect those whom they inherently see as in need of protection, traditional Liberal treatment of minorities foists upon these groups a subservient identity, rooting them in an identity of fragility (in need of protection, prone to predation) which makes them much more susceptible to future “breaking,” or maintaining an identity as “being broken,” collectively and/or individually.

So how do we move away from this identity of fragility?

First, we must understand which direction we will be moving towards: the most commonly suggested opposite of fragility is usually resilience, which isn’t wholly incorrect. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” to quote the sage poet Kelly Clarkson. This concept holds true to an extent, as it is often resilient people who hold economic and social success in our society, despite what we have established as the idealization of fragility and victimhood in common Liberal cultural attitudes. Yet because we view resilience as rising out of fragility, as “withstanding” the attacks on the fragile self, and as remaining the same in the face of destruction, it is still inextricably tied to a fundamental fragility of self or spirit.

This is why Unism emphasizes forging an identity beyond both fragility and resilience. For resilience is not the true opposite of fragility: resilience is continuing strong and withstanding the blows despite fragility. The true opposite of being fragile is to be antifragile, as presented by Nassim Taleb in his 2012 book Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. In an antifragile system, “things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder and stressor…”  What Taleb has brought to light is the concept that, unlike mere resilience, which resists the stresses put upon it, things that are antifragile actually improve when faced with hardship! It is this concept and approach to life that can truly empower us – not the temporary and fleeting empowerment that comes from seeing oneself as a victim, but the lasting and substantial empowerment that comes from seeing oneself as a victor, ever improving.

By the Unist principles of finding one’s own purpose through self-discovery, then cultivating that purpose within the collectivistic value of an individual within a community, we can begin to develop a population and cultural climate which is itself antifragile, through incorporating and adopting antifragile behaviors and attitudes.

Beyond what Taleb defines as getting better because of stresses and attacks, Unism believes that these attacks by others are almost always the result of fear and fragility within the attackers themselves – thus, we can identify with these people as well, and refuse to succumb to “bullying the bully,” just one of the many circular hypocrisies Unism stands firmly against. As individuals who are shaping society to bring peace to the world and create purpose for all, we are both antifragile and antibreaking in our interactions, hence we do not see ourselves as broken, nor seek to break that which is fragile either.

But this starts with making ourselves antifragile, seeing ourselves as becoming stronger with every attack. We don’t “stand strong against it,” taking a victim’s role and reveling in the attention awarded to victims; we improve ourselves because of it, understanding ourselves as something much greater and more complex than our hardships, not as people defined through or by them.

Let us know how you see yourself or others in relation to fragility and antifragility on Twitter,


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