Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Garry Kasparov on Risk Taking, Being a Champion, and the Differences Between Capitalism and Socialism

Last week, in Garry Kasparov Laments the American Left's Embrace of Socialism, I cited some of the former World Chess Champion's brilliant thoughts and observations about socialism's flaws. I found another Kasparov interview that is also brilliant and timely. Kasparov did a wide-ranging interview with Patrick Bet-David in which he spoke about risk taking, what it takes to become a champion (a subject that has always intrigued me), and the differences between capitalism and socialism. 

The Kasparov/Bet-David video lasts 72 minutes, but the investment of that time to watch the video is well worth it. Time is our most precious commodity, and time well spent yields lasting dividends. Put another way, the saying "You are what you eat" is true on many levels. The food that you put in your body is the fuel that determines how efficiently and effectively your body works; it is also true in a broader sense that you are what you consume: if you put nonsense ideas in your head then you will have a confused mind. 

We are dealing with an epidemic of confused minds that have consumed nonsense. 

When I read Garry Kasparov's words or hear him speak, I know that I am consuming material that strengthens the mind and spirit.

Asked how he maintained dominance over the chess world for 15 years, Kasparov replied, "If you challenge your own excellence, you will never run short of opponents." Kasparov explained that there is no such thing as playing a perfect game. The loser made the last mistake, but the winner also made mistakes, and the smart winners--the champions--learn from those mistakes. In Habit, Attitude and Promises to Yourself, I cited words of wisdom from John W. Scott's book Step-by-Step Basketball Fundamentals (Prentice Hall, 1989), including this gem by Sydney J. Harris: "A loser is afraid to acknowledge his defects; a winner is aware that his defects are part of the same central system as his assets, and while he tries to minimize their effect, he never denies their influence."

Kasparov mentions that working hard is a talent, and the combination of that talent with other talents produces a champion. That reminds me of a quote from Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Harry Gallatin; he was asked how he became a great rebounder, and he replied that he was blessed with the talent to work hard. I was struck by that notion of working hard being a talent, and I never forgot it.

Many people talk about risk, and they try to figure out how to eliminate risk. Kasparov has a different perspective: "Taking risks is risky. Not taking risks is riskier." Kasparov understands that it is not possible--or desirable--to live a risk-free life, and there are benefits to taking risks. Of course, risks must be calculated accurately, and balanced with potential benefits, but the notion that it is possible to eliminate all risk--for example, to live in a COVID-19 free world, which some politicians appear to believe to be a realistic goal--is foolish. 

It is disappointing--and concerning--that within living memory of the collapse of the U.S.S.R. there are so many people who are trying to implement socialism in America. Kasparov quotes Winston Churchill: "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries."

Comparing the free world countries to the countries dominated by totalitarianism, Kasparov declares, "We had an experiment: China gave us a virus; America gave us a vaccine." Kasparov has emphasized in previous interviews that he is not saying that China intentionally created COVID-19, but rather that COVID-19 emerged from a dictatorship that is unwilling or unable to create an effective vaccine, while in contrast America--a country so reviled by the self-proclaimed "progressives" in our midst--produced a life-saving vaccine in record time.

Asked to expound upon the difference between America and the Soviet Union, Kasparov begins by stating, "The problem with Americans is you take things for granted. You keep forgetting the wise words of Ronald Reagan...that freedom is a fragile thing that is never more than one generation away from extinction." Kasparov adds that when he lived under Soviet tyranny, "We knew America had problems. Again, there is no perfection in this world! Compare this country to any other place on the planet and you will not find a place that offers more opportunities for people of all races, genders. That is why people like me are getting so concerned when self-criticism turns into self-flagellation." He rightly calls it "nonsense" to assert that America was built on evil, and he adds, "I know that a lot of people may feel uncomfortable with what I am saying, but I speak on behalf of millions and millions and millions of people from Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, other places who look at America and they are confused and scared and don't understand why this great power is in retreat." 

America is not evil, and it is not courageous or "speaking one's truth" (what a vacuous phrase that is!) to call America evil. America is not perfect, but America is--in the timeless words of Abraham Lincoln--"The last, best hope of Earth." It is courageous to speak that truth in a time and place where speaking truth can get you canceled. I applaud Garry Kasparov, and I hope that his message plays a role in helping to reverse the deplorable trend of American self-flagellation that has become a badge of pride to some but is in fact a badge of ignorance and shame.

Kasparov concludes by noting that the free world is at war with tyrannical forces and regimes, whether or not we understand and accept that challenge--and it is a fight to the death. He wisely notes that America did not end the war in Afghanistan and we certainly did not win the war; we retreated. We must be eternally vigilant to build a better world not only for ourselves but for our children.

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