How to Take a Stance without Taking a Stance

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In this age of uncertainty, you need beliefs and practices but not dogmas and preaching

“Let me tell you about COVID, the COVID vaccine, and Bitcoin.”

If any person starts telling me about those things, I write them off.

All three of those things are new and huge. As a result, they occupy a weird spot in the world of opinion: Everyone needs to have a stance on them and nobody’s stance is worth anything.

It’s difficult to reconcile such a paradox, but here’s one way: Take your stance, be prepared to shift it, and keep it to yourself.

Beliefs and practices, yes. Dogmas and preaching, no.

A wealthy client of mine recently asked a well-known financial guru for his stance on Bitcoin. I was a bit surprised the guru replied to the email, but I wasn’t surprised to see him take a strong stance: Bitcoin, he assured my client in all caps, is another Tulip Mania.

How can he know that? Bitcoin isn’t like the tulip in 17th-century Holland. It might be in a bubble like tulips were, but it’s not a known thing like tulips. Bitcoin is brand new. At best, we can analogize Bitcoin to tulips.

Analogy is a great thing. It allows us to see things that are similar. The problem is, it first requires that the things be different.

That’s why the Tulip Mania reference is so compelling yet not. Bitcoin is not an instance of “This time it will be different,” which is the mantra of every person riding an inflated stock market, only to crash when it comes down. Bitcoin is an instance of “This time is the first time.”

A reference to a crashing stock market doesn’t need analogy. We’ve seen it crash many times. Bitcoin needs analogy because we’ve never seen it. And by its very nature as something that requires analogy, we don’t know what it is or what it will do. We can only analogize.

Analogy is a great way to help develop a stance: beliefs and practices. But I wouldn’t rely on it to be dogmatic and preachy.

Shift to COVID and the vaccine. The exact same thing applies.

Joe Rogan has caused a stir by saying he won’t get the vaccine. He said it might be good for some people, but he stays healthy and doesn’t think he needs it.

The dogmatists (see that link immediately above) are attacking him, pointing out that he says he’s a “f***ing moron,” but then holds an opinion on something like the vaccine.

That, quite frankly, is exactly what Rogan—and the rest of us—should be doing: develop an opinion but admit we’re “f***ing morons.” Rogan wasn’t preaching and he sure as heck wasn’t dogmatic about his vaccine stance. He just said, “This is where I am now, but that’s just me. It might be good for others. Let them decide for themselves.”

Men’s Health, though, doesn’t accept that. It criticizes Rogan on all sorts of grounds, some or all of which might be legitimate, but none of it certain.

It emphasizes the long-term effects of COVID, without acknowledging that we simply don’t know the long-term effects because it’s new. It says people experience brain fog and myocarditis “for months.”

Well, yeah. Myocarditis has always been associated with viral infections, like the common cold. We know, by analogy, that’s not good, but it’s only analogy, and the analogy in this case cuts both ways: it’s not a big deal (the common cold has always been a gateway to Myocarditis) but can be fatal. We also know Myocarditis often heals itself, which would coincide with Men’s Health tacit admission that its “long-term effects” of COVID aren’t long-term at all: they’re simply a matter of months.

We don’t, in other words, know anything yet about the long-term effects.

As for brain fog, I can testify to this. I came down with COVID on December 1st. I thought I was fully recovered by Christmas.

But in January, I was trying to read Frederick Wilhelmsen’s Man’s Knowledge of Reality. I couldn’t. I stumbled through the first chapter and started the second chapter, struggling, nothing making sense, even though I’d been assured by a philosophy professor that it would directly answer issues I’m struggling with (and, therefore, issues I’m at least acquainted with), and one of my favorite writers of all time is Etienne Gilson, whom I’ve devoured in the past.

Wilhelmsen’s book, in other words, shouldn’t have been difficult sledding, much less impossible.

But it was. I put it aside, discouraged that I couldn’t work the key for that door of knowledge, and concluding that Wilhelmsen must be one of the worst writers of all time.

I then picked up the book again three days ago, determined but nervous, and tore through chapter 2 with no problems. The book isn’t easy, but it’s stuff I’m accustomed to and I cut through it in about fifteen minutes. I am now greatly looking forward to reading the rest of the book and optimistic that it won’t take me long. The difference, quite frankly, startled me. I was relieved, but also startled.

I’ve also noticed other mental faculties “come back online” for me over the past four weeks, like the ability to remember simple digital sequences (to read “29012” and then try to remember it for, literally, three seconds was beyond me).

So, do I believe in lingering COVID brain fog? Heck yes I do. Do I think it’s “long-term”? Nope, not at all. Do I think it can be in some people? Yup.

As a result, I have a stance on the long-term effects (to wit, there are lingering effects), but I’m prepared to shift them, and I’m not going to preach to others with my stance. My stance is on shifting sands, not a stump.

Everything I said about Bitcoin and COVID above applies even more to the COVID vaccine. It’s huge like Bitcoin and COVID, and it’s even newer than Bitcoin and COVID.

If you think you know anything about the COVID, you’re delusional. You, however, need to develop a stance, especially if your civil rights start getting curtailed because you refuse to take it. That’s unfortunate, but it’s reality. COVID is a huge problem. The vaccine appears to be a huge remedy. You’re going to be forced to take a stance.

But keep it to yourself, or if you talk about it, make it clear that it’s just your personal approach and that you, like Rogan and I, are “f***ing moron” because you really don’t know anything about it.

And when you read headlines like the Men’s Health headline: “Joe Rogan is Dead Wrong about the COVID Vaccine,” rest assured that you’re seeing the work of the real morons.