Sapiens

Sapiens-AUS

Just finished reading it and I was so astounded by how rich of the knowledge this book has. It’s so well-written by Yuval Noah Harari, a professor/Israeli historian, he tells a lot not only about the history of homo sapiens in general, but also pretty much about everything related to human. Imagine in less than 500 pages, we could learn so much about the origin of homo sapiens, what makes us different, the revolutions we’ve been  through, wars, politics, religions, economy, and prediction about the future. Well that quite sums everything doesn’t it? It’s the whole package of social science altogether that unfolds many layers about homo sapiens.

My favourites are the last three chapters of the book; A Permanent Revolution, And They Lived Happily Ever After, and The End of Homo Sapiens. I particularly like And They Lived Happily. Through all the revolutions at least for the past 500 years, it’s raising a question “Are we now happier?”

“Happiness” is such an enigmatic term. By coincidence, I’ve just read another two books from Jonathan Haidt, an NYU’s ethics professor that describes happiness. They are both compelling, the title of the books are The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis. I found the explanations are rather akin.

Perhaps people nowadays posses more prosperity but suffer greatly from alienation and meaningless, this is may contrary to our ancestor’s circumstances who found much contentment in community, religion, and a bond with nature. People assume that wealth brings happiness. And they are right, but only up to a certain point, and beyond that point it has little significance. For people in terrible economic condition, of course more money means greater happiness. However after a certain point, it won’t make a big difference. Another interesting finding is that illness decreases happiness in the short term, it’s becoming a long-term distress only if a person’s condition is constantly deteriorating. Family and community seem to have more impact on happiness than money and health. People with strong family and community relation are significantly happier than people whose dysfunctional family and never be a part of community.

Yet the most important finding is that happiness doesn’t really depend on objective conditions of either wealth, health or even community. Rather it depend on correlation between objective conditions and subjective expectations — being satisfied with what we already have is far more important than getting more of what we desire. Then if happiness is equal to expectation, two pillars of our society — mass/social media and the advertising industry — may be the ultimate source of our depleting contentment.

We’ve talked happiness in social scientist point of view, in biological way happiness is determined by a complex system of nerves, neurons, synapses and various biochemical substances such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. Our internal biochemical system are programmed to keep happiness levels relatively constant but vary between each person. So, to be happy, it can be as easy as taking prozac to change our biochemical.

Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel prize in economics, found that happiness rather consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.

The important key is to know ourselves. Most people wrongly identify themselves with their feelings. People are not their feelings. Maybe it is not so important whether people’s expectations are fulfilled and whether they enjoy pleasant feelings. The main question is whether people know the truth about themselves.

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South Sudan

I was surprised to learn that South Sudan surpassed Syria to become the fastest growing humanitarian crisis in the world (source: NPR). Little that I know about South Sudan, glad I found this Vox video, hope it’ll explain it better.

Such an irony that the newest nation is divided by the same cause why they separated from Sudan — civil war. The situation is worsened by mass exodus and starvation. This video from The Guardian explains why do people still got hungry.

So what can we do about it? One quick help is by giving donation through UNHCR. You can choose it either monthly or one time only. It’ll be used mainly on building shelters. If you choose one time donation, there will be range from 35 USD – 75 USD with each allocation relevant to the amount. Technology has made it so easy to outreach anyone and God has been so good that we all still have roofs above our heads with clean water and plenty of foods, we literally no longer need to have an excuse to not be thankful enough and help those in needs.

Roots

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Could you believe it’s been 6 months already since the last post? Planned to do the writing regularly but I guess I always had trouble with commitment eh, so yeah here’s the update finally.

Actually there were a quite few interesting topics to write though, especially since Trump became president. But I think it would be more relevant to talk about refugee, moreover 20th June also commemorated as Refugee Day.

Refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. I know that sounds very distant and hard to relate. It happened to me too, I felt terrible about it yet I was pretty sure that I’m never gonna be like them, I felt safe, at first.

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Tsunami Evacuation Camp, Siberut Island, March 2nd 2016

I remember quite vividly about that night, March 2nd 2016, things went as usual, we had dinner together and I went back to my room, nothing much to do in Mentawai at night — and actually I really enjoyed that, quite relaxing. After ten minutes on bed, I felt gently swayed, I thought I must be already dreaming but the sway getting intense so I woke up. I walked outside the house and had conversation with the neighbours, we were positive it must be an earthquake. Short after that, people bustled us to evacuate because it was confirmed as a 7.8 SR tsunami-potential earthquake, I was so confused. I rushed to my room and grab my backpack and flashlight. That night all the people in the village were dashing, running up to the hill searching safe place before tsunami reaching us. Well, I did think a glimpse about death but strangely I wasn’t too bothered, I just wished I hadn’t forgotten to put my ID in my backpack, so people could identify me easily in case I didn’t make it. What bothered me much in fact after we safely reaching the shelter on the hill. It was quite close-packed, I think half of them are kids and babies. I couldn’t believe that less than an hour ago kids were still doing their homework, babies were sleeping, and most people maybe just wandering what might they do in the next day. And suddenly, now we’re here together, forced to leave home, being both hopeless and hopeful. I was so fortunate that we were in good luck, no tsunami and we could get back home. But I will never forget the experience and the idea.

The idea that refugees are basically ordinary people like us — like you and me, who once had job and family and were so confident, so hopeful, and so optimistic that things are gonna be just fine tomorrow.

There might be no warning before, no time to prepare, all they knew is the urge to leave home in order to survive.

According to UNHCR, June 20 is the day the world commemorates the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. The number of refugees in the world is the highest ever seen. Imagine there are 20 people per minute forced to leave everything behind. By the end of 2016, there are 65 million displaced people around the world — men, women and children who had no choice but to flee their homes to escape violence and persecution. What we can do about it? Refugee has become a major concern in the world and needs international cooperation to provide shelter and everything they need. Everything has been taken away from them, but it’s essential to assure that they still have hopes and dreams for safer future.

In order to achieve that, UN has made petition for decision makers to:

Ensure every refugee child gets an education.
Ensure every refugee family has somewhere safe to live.
Ensure every refugee can work or learn new skills to support their families.

The campaign continues until a global compact for refugees is adopted in 2018. I really really hope it goes well.

What we can do as an individual? 65 million refugees flee from war, persecution, and terror. It’s so clear that all rooted from hatred, or may I rephrase, all rooted from an unhealthy, blind, and excessive favouritism of something, that makes you believe that everything beyond that is a threat to you. What we can do to avoid that? Please don’t get consumed by the darkness. Put a light on everything including to your belief.

Please open your mind and shed a light to your heart and to your faith.

 

The Gap

Promised to write something about inequality, so here it is…

This writing mostly taken and inspired by “The Great Divide”, I accidentally found this book on my mentor’s bookshelf. It’s written by (believe it or not) her friend, Joseph E. Stiglitz, a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and the John Bates Clark Medal. The book mainly focus on inequality as diagnosed greatest economic challenge in America but still relevant to inequality everywhere.
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Cover of “The Great Divide”

There are many things claimed as reasons for inequality; labour-saving technology, worldwide marketplace triggered by globalisation, but another thing could not be ignored, the fact that there is a group of people benefited from this circumstance. One of big reason why we have so much inequality is that the top 1% want it that way. With the money and power they can have profit from tax policy, monopolising the market, and manipulating the the financial system.
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What’s so wrong with that? Imagine 1% or maybe less, have control over massive share of wealth and where a main determinant of power is wealth, the system tends to corrupt, holding back policies that would improve life for people in general. When a certain group holds too much power, the policies stipulated to gain profits for themselves in short term rather than help society in long term. With too much money piled up on top, the consumption rate or average spending will be declined, and the demand will suffer. Inequality plays significant role in distorting our society in every imaginable way. With social media as a well documented lifestyle, it affects people outside the top 1% to progressively live beyond their means, in America it relates to credit bubble, another way of widening gap. The most damaging consequence of income inequality is inequality in chances. No children in this world could choose their family or where they want to grow up. But unfortunately, as result of inequality, they have different condition of welfare, education, social justice, political right, basically anything that can help them to live up their potential.
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When is this going to end? It will eventually stop when rules of economic globalisation are no longer likewise designated to the rich. Government holds a significant role to make policies in favour with people. We need to define growth better than merely GDP. Government should start to aim more for sustainability; by developing and investing in infrastructure, education, and technology, and by preserving the truly most valuable resource: people, so they can live up their potential.
“The only true and sustainable prosperity is shared prosperity.”
― Joseph E. Stiglitz

Secondhand Judgement

To hate somebody just because someone you know hates them or to like somebody just because someone you know likes them without even knowing them well or interacting with them more than once or twice, well I find it similiar to watch a movie review. Maybe it could describe the movie well, but most of the time you should watch the entire movie to decide.

Self-Interest Rightly Understood

“Self-interest rightly understood.”

Without doubt, everyone has their own self-interest. But rightly understood? This makes quite contrast. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that Americans voluntarily join together in associations to further the interests of the group and, thereby, eventually to serve their own interests. Putting common self-interest becomes essential condition before attaining self-interest. Turns out taking care of other isn’t only a good for soul but also for economy.

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Alexis de Tocqueville

In the beginning of history, the concept of “self-interest rightly understood” is one of many motivating forces behind democracy, transforming United States into a strong economy power country. What about now? America is still the richest but it’s also the most unequal nation. What does it mean? The economic growth has not been fairly shared and the gap between rich and poor become wider. In a nutshell, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, with higher presentation goes to, of course, the poor. Does it happen only in America or other rich countries? No, it happens across the globe. In developing countries, as stated in UNDP report (2015), a significant majority of households in developing countries—more than 75 percent of the population—are living today in societies where income is more unequally distributed than it was in the 1990s with the income inequality rate increasing 11 percent in only 10 years.

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I plan to write about why does inequality matter and what we can we do about it in the next post. Anyway it’s been 5 months since the last post (phew, what have I been doing tho? Like seriously?). Hope we don’t have to wait that long for the next post. In addition, here are few great related articles:
For more comprehensive source about income inequality, I recommend you “The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them” by Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and former chief economist of the World Bank.

Why “What can we do about it?” is The Best Response

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“That’s very sad” or “I feel sorry about that” is a common response when we heard a bad news. Wether it’s sincere from our heart or just an expression of sympathy, we have to admit one thing; the situation would likely remain the same. An intention to jump-in and help is in another level. It embodies a will to posses the problem and being altruistic. How can one does not truly care about what possibly can take and simply just give instead? This notion will make no sense for individual interest, but in bigger picture,  it maybe the best solution for our sustainability and well-being problem which predominantly revolves around modern individual tendency to become more and more self and fortune-centered.

So the next time we hear an unpleasant news or aware of terrible condition, after express our sympathy and condolences, let’s try to ponder for a moment “what can we possibly do about it?”.

Are We Living in A Bubble?

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Bubble is a metaphor for a comfort shell that distances human empathy in modern life.

The breadth of the world depends on how we see it. How far we set the horizon. Unfortunately we tend to see what we want to see. The horizon of our sight is so cramped, it resembles partition of those sad office cubicles. The source of information mainly revolves around social media, which mostly superficial and distances us from the actual and more important things. It appears that now, each of us is living in a separate bubble, floating to the air by social status that acts like buoyancy. Regularly we see other bubbles hovering in the not so different level than us, but we scarcely see at distant bubbles. We need a bridge to connect and we have to work for it.

Identity in Globalised World: How to Promote a Harmonised Society

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It seems that the extensive growth of information technology has made the world more connected than ever. It brings the world much closer since its role as the main facilitator and driving force of globalisation, which primarily regarded as being about the interdependence of societies on a world scale, existing links and those that can be developed globally between individuals, communities, nations and organisations (Harvey, 2003). Globalisation has strong impact on economics and social matters. It gives bigger opportunity for international trades and investments. But along with the upsides, it is suggested that globalisation can also endanger the harmonised society. But I believe, diversity can bring no harm if we, especially youth, actively spread values such as peace, empathy, active listening, and non-violence communication to support and sustain living in harmonised society.

Identity can be defined as the distinctive and collective characteristics and aspects belonging to any individual or shared by members of a group, by which they will be recognised. But in globalisation, there’s such thing as global identity which Javanmardi (2013) stated that it does not necessarily distinguish a human being with different levels such as attributes, namely; gender, racial, national, cultural, ethnical, class, profession and etc, however it contains all of them. This implies that at a global level, an individual does not distinct identity among these mentioned attributes. According to Suarez-Orozco (2003), increasing globalisation has stimulated an unprecedented flow of immigrants. According to UN statistics in 2015, the number of global immigrations increases year by year. As comparison, in 2005 the number of immigrants in United State is around 39 millions people, in 2015 it becomes around 46 millions. The USA has the highest total number of immigrants, being home to 19 per cent of the world’s immigrants. It strongly assumed that the high number of immigrants has correlation with economic motives that stimulated by globalisation. With the high rate of immigration flow, it also encourages the emerging and broader range of cultural, religious, linguistic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds in society.

If the diversity is dealt with lack of social values such as empathy, peace, and tolerance, it’s likely can instead lead into some misunderstandings, violent clashes, or even radicalisations that can lead into terrorism. It’s reported that some 750 million people face socio-economic discrimination or disadvantage because of their cultural identity (UNFPA Report, 2008) and also shows that global economic impact of violence is USD 9.8 trillion or 11.3% of global GDP (Global Peace Index, 2014). The damage doesn’t stop there, terrorism which is driven by lack of respect for human rights and tolerance often used as a threat of violence to further a political cause, has made it even worse. From the data of Global Terrorism Index in 2015, terrorist activity increased by 80% in 2014 to its highest recorded level. Ninety-three countries experienced a terrorist incident in 2014, targeting private citizens more on their attacks and causing the economic cost to its highest ever level in 2014 at US$52.9 billion. This is a 61% increase from the previous year and a ten-fold increase since 2000. So it appears that globalisation brings a great destruction of cultural identity and harmonised society.

But is it reasonable to attribute the globalisation with destruction? Is it utopia for us to have a harmonised society in diversity? The problem with this view lies on how we cope with diversity. It should be appreciated and celebrated instead of making it as a bullet to harm others. We especially youth should actively involve to promote peace and respectful non-violence environment and communication to value diversity in order to achieve a harmonised society. Why youth? Global youth population swells to record 1.8 billion with 89% reside in less developed countries (Time, 2014). In Indonesia there’s 25.8% population of youth. Looking at the statistics, young people clearly are the biggest stake holders of the future, making us as very prospective agents of change. There are certainly many things that we can do. I believe the fundamental of valuing diversity started from ourselves. First, we have to understand our own identities, cultures, and how we want to be treated. We have to implement empathy, active listening, and non-violence communication as our value-based mindsets and behaviours in our daily bases. Then, we should make them as contagious as possible. The keys of promoting radicalisation are media and propaganda. So why not spreading empowering information as massive as they do. Use social media wisely to broadcast peace message Stay informed with what’s going on with the world through internet, TV, and newspapers and try to contribute as much as possible. Be a mentor for younger people in empowerment program at school or local community. Don’t discriminate, make a group study or group discussion unexceptionally. Propose to engage partnership with external actor who can deliver the values in after school activity. Actively involved in community based activity such as sports, art, music, and theatre. Be in a volunteering program to create social connection, develop sense of belonging, and don’t forget to share the experience. Last but not least use political right to vote for candidate who support harmonised society.

If young people actively promote peace and spread values such as empathy, active listening, and non-violence communication in many ways, the diversity as consequence of globalisation certainly won’t be a threat anymore. We could eliminate all the “dark sides” of globalisation such as violence, discrimination, and terrorism led by radicalism. The main root cause is the lack of respect for human rights and tolerance. By nourishing the values in ourselves, breaking the silence, and starting to act something for the sake of humanity, I believe, we can achieve a global harmonised society with the ability to bridge, respect, and celebrate all the differences as they should be, as Scott Adams said, there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.