Book review: Finally, a proper biography for all the Stoics

“Lives of the Stoics” by Ryan Holiday

I began reading this book with a relatively good knowledge on Stoicism, after reading the 3 “main books” of Meditations, Discourses, and Letters, while adding Enchiridion and On the Shortness of Life into the “ancient” mix. For the modern Stoicism I have read books written by several authors including what many consider as the “main 3 modern philosophers” of Donald Robertson, Massimo Pigliucci, and of course Ryan Holiday with his Obstacle, Ego, and Stillness, while I have been reading The Daily Stoic in its 4th cycle for this year. This, of course, not to mention all the Daily Stoic e-mails, all the podcasts on Stoicism, and the many wonderful articles on Stoicism on Medium.

Hence, when I start reading this book immediately after its release date on 29 September 2020, my instant reaction was finally a biographical book on the lives of the Stoics that I’ve been reading so much about! A book that shows how the Stoic practices were being implemented by the greats. I cannot help but feeling like Star Wars fans when watching Episode 1 for the first time and saw that many Jedi Warriors in action, or more precisely, when I open the book I feel like a little girl wearing princess dress in Disneyland.

I took my time reading it though. Oh no no no, I’m not going to read it like the last time I read Ryan Holiday’s book (devoured it in 4 days and poof the magic was over before it even began). So I savour it, pace it, and enjoy slow reading it very much. And 26 Stoics biographies become 26 days of different role models to meditate from, with one Stoic philosopher a day inspiring me in more ways than I had imagined.

First and foremost, there’s Zeno’s acceptance on destiny and how to make the best out of his situation. Cleanthes’ hard working ethic, industriousness, quick wit, and integrity. Diogenes’ diplomatic skills. Antipater’s kindness and personal approach to his surroundings, and his philosophy on marriage and kids. The awesome Scipionic circle and the way Panaetius embedded Stoicism into the Roman Republic life. And Helvidius Priscus’ bravery to speak his mind.

Then there’s the unflinching moral standing of Rutilius, “the last honest man in Rome”, despite his corrupted surrounding in the Roman high rankings (one virtue that bite him back real hard, which is even a greater lesson to learn on how to deal with personal injustice). Thrasea’s steely courage as an opposition senator to Mad dictator Nero, and the way he deals with the grave injustices around him. Cato’s daughter Porcia, whom as a Stoic herself can withstand so many losses and uncertainties with only her philosophy as her bedrock of sanity. And ultimately for me, how Chrysippus developed his Stoic mentality from his running days (which, as a runner my self, makes him the perfect role model for me) and ever the great researcher and writer, how he codified all the Stoic lessons as well as diligently learn from rival schools to perfecting his defend of Stoicism. The fact that Cornutus inherited a full 700 of Chrysippus’ books when Persius died speaks volume on Chrysippus’ industriousness.

While Chrysippus remains my favourite Stoic, there are some others that really at par: The brilliance and endless curiosity of polymath Posidonius and the way he makes observations, gather data and use the data, while especially useful for me is his views on the corrupted world of politics (he advised many great men, including the great Roman general Pompey whom even travelled to Rhodes to meet Posidonius for advice). Moreover, there’s everyone’s favourite philosopher Cato, with his integrity, brevity, oratory brilliance, and the way he live his life that embodies the perfect Stoic character whom practices Aristo’s idea of being indifferent to everything but virtue.

There are also Athenodorus and Arius whom become the advisors of Rome’s first emperor Octavian, which thanks to these men’s advises Octavian was able to turn Rome from bricks to marbles. There’s Musonius Rufus, “the Roman Socrates”, a great embodiment of the four virtues of Stoicism whom teaches the importance of hard work and endurance, and always try to find opportunities to do good wherever he was and no matter the circumstance (which serendipitously, the very morning I read the chapter about him was the day I had to make one of the most defining decisions in my life, and it could not go any smoother thanks to the brief but powerful lessons about him). And of course everybody’s favourite teacher Epictetus, whose biographical chapter I highlighted the most, and the embodiment of Plato’s philosopher-king Marcus Aurelius.

But then there’s Cicero. While he never claim to be a Stoic, he trained under one (Posidonius), he took care of the blind Stoic Diodotus, commented in one of his writings that the Stoics are the true philosophers, and it is through his writings that much of what we know about Stoicism in the ancient world survives. And it shows how much influence he had on Stoicism just by the long coverage in this book as the only non-Stoic Stoic biography that could easily mistaken as one of Robert Greene’s coverage. What’s with all the associations but never the actual label of a Stoic? It is simply because he also studied under teachers from every school during his 2 years in Athens, to gain wisdom and knowledge from all of them. And it shows immediately from reading this chapter that his behaviour is nowhere near Stoic-like.

The book also perfectly illustrate the conflicts and infighting within the school of Stoicism, with the argumentative and boldness of Aristo challenging the very cornerstone of Stoic philosophy established by Zeno and solidified by Cleanthes. And I love the fact that the Stoics were not perfect human beings whom also struggle with their own demons just like the rest of us, just like the story of Diotimus, or the one error of judgement that made an otherwise flawless Junius Rusticus forever remembered in history as the Stoic that prosecute a Christian, or the un-Stoic like advice by Stoic philosopher Arius to emperor Octavian to kill his enemy’s child to secure the throne (but then again Arius provide us with the best summary of Stoicism’s 4 virtues). 

I also find hard to digest Plautus’ non-action against Nero’s smear and aggressive attacks, confused whether that’s a very Stoic temperance for something outside his control or a lack of courage and a passive acceptance of Amor Fati. And of course there’s the ever conflicting Seneca. While his thinking reflect a Stoic way of thinking, his actions proof otherwise. For example, being a disciple of the frugal school once led by Cleanthes he can throw lavish parties using money he get from his murderous boss.

Of course, Ryan Holiday never claim that the Stoics were perfect human beings, and in fact one way or another all of them eventually violate the lessons of Stoicism to varying degrees. That’s just the imperfect human nature. Nevertheless, for every flawed Stoic there are several tremendous ones that reflect the four virtues of wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice.

Two biographies stands out for me as badass examples of this attitude. First, the story of Agrippinus, with his bravery in the era of 2 corrupt and violent emperors Claudius and Nero, which become one of the role models for none other than Epictetus. His clear principles are indeed admirable, and his temperance in facing his own injustice and banishment is one of the most memorable key moments in Stoic history. He indeed did not add to his troubles by bemoaning them, nor did he compromise his composure or his dignity for any matters whether big or small. And second, the story of Julius Canus, whom was playing chess with a friend while awaiting to be executed by Emperor Caligula, when the guard came to execute him. He then joked to his friend saying “you will testify that I was one piece ahead” and calmly went on to his death chamber with no fear as if it’s just a regular daily task.

Ultimately, the Stoics were not some people wearing robes sitting idly talking about theories. But they’re merchant, long distance runner, wrestler, senator, military general, slave, governor, teacher, mayor, even emperor. They were real people with real-life jobs trying to function in a broken and chaotic society. This is where this book stands out from the rest of the pact, as we get to see the Stoic philosophy directly implemented in action, through 26 different personalities in an environment not that different than ours.

I have a bucket list to someday travel from Cyprus to Greece all the way to Rome following the steps of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Stoa. I expect to found almost no statue or historical artifact of Stoicism, however, as that would not be very Stoic of them (no ego-boosting statues, no trail of extravagant riches, etc). But instead I would be walking in the streets where these great philosophers once walked, and inspired the way they were inspired in their own respective times. And when that faithful day comes, what better book to bring and re-read along the journey than this one? A pure masterclass by Ryan Holiday, as always.

Book review: The personal story to complete the puzzle piece

“The Wim Hof Method” by Wim Hof

“The cold is merciless, but righteous.” By now anyone who’s reading this must have recognised Wim Hof, have watched his shenanigans and his brilliance, or sometimes both in a space of less than 1 minute.

While “What Doesn’t Kill Us” by Scott Carney did a tremendous job on analyzing the science behind the Wim Hof Method, this autobiography completes the puzzle piece by adding the personal touch that gives the why behind the what and the how.

And Wim Hof’s personal story match the larger-than-life character, from his first encounters with the cold at age 7, to his bicycle trip with his twin brothers from Netherlands to Spain, to living freely in a squatter area, to a whole chapter dedicated to his late wife and the struggles they had living with 4 small kids with no money and odd scrap jobs just to get by, and a depression in his wife’s part. It’s deeply moving and this vulnerability is what makes him relatable as a human being, the Clark Kent to the Superman.

Wim Hof acknowledges 3 pillars for his method: the cold, breathing, and mindset. And on each one of them he took us in a journey of his discovery, through trial and errors, through skepticism even ridicules, through borderline “freak shows”, through so many lab tests that finally confirm the science behind his madness. Indeed, the science part is still very much exist in this book, where the “Iceman” shows a high degree of understanding on the workings behind his method as well as its effects on our brain and body.

When it comes to teaching the method, however, it gets pretty repeating. I understand that there’s a need to reiterate and reconfirm so that the lessons will be remembered, but this made the relatively simple method into somewhat complicated for novices unfamiliar with it. Even Wim Hof himself acknowledge that “[b]y now you probably think I sound like a broken record, and perhaps that is so. I don’t care” but he reasoned that “[r]epetition is the mother of learning, and I’m banging the drum.” Moreover, the flow of the book is not necessarily linear, and every once in a while you’ll find bits and pieces jumping from one chapter to another only to reappear again in the next chapter.

All in all, the book is chaotic and a little messy, but filled with so many touching stories from him and those who have implemented his method, and the narration always accompanied by how to adapt the Wim Hof Method in any given situation. Yes it is repeating at times, but that only guarantee that the lessons of the book will surely stick in our minds and we will left feeling excited to implement them. I expect nothing less from a book written by the free-spirited man himself.

Book review: Like a real-life monk training

“Think Like a Monk” by Jay Shetty

This book gives me the clear and content feeling during and after I finish reading it, the same feeling I had during my pilgrimage to Mecca or when I went to a retreat with my Catholic school. Whatever pain I didn’t know I had, it feels healed. And whatever virtue that I’m lacking, it feels fixed and fulfilled.

Drawing lessons from the many wonderful stories across culture, science, religion, and different types of monk, Jay Shetty breaks down the most important factors that would bring us closer to inner peace and serenity. And one chapter at a time the book slowly guide us to be free from our ego and judgements, detach us from our material possessions and status, direct us towards discovering our true self and our dharma, and help us to develop a great sense of compassion for our surroundings.

This might sound like just another personal development checklist, but the way Shetty wraps the lessons from the lens of an actual monk experience is what distinguish this book from many others. Hence, this book can be seen as part autobiography part spiritual book and part practical self-help tool. And just like a real life monk training, it’s not easy, it takes dedication, focus, and hard work. But it’s worth it.

It is one of the slowest books I’ve read this year, where I fittingly slow my pace down in order to fully absorb the timeless wisdom, just like I would have done if I’m physically there at the ashram. Beautiful, beautiful book.

Book review: A once in lifetime kind of book

“The Hero With a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell

This is by far the best book ever written on mythology and religion, and I can confidently say with absolute certainty that there’s probably won’t be anything like this book ever again in our lifetime. It’s that distinguishable.

The author, the now-legendary Joseph Campbell, read a lot of religious scriptures and mythology from many different cultures and can identify the common themes and surprisingly common story developments among them, in which he then proceeded to write them all into one single unifying timeline without corrupting the original texts. It’s quite literally reading multiple mythological and religious journey all at once (hence the book title) and it’s a mind-blowing experience.

So what’s really going on, as it can’t be a coincidence that multiple mythology and religious texts that were born hundreds or even thousands of years apart can have a similar “hero’s journey”?

A single passage captures the essence of the book perfectly, at Emanations chapter: “it appears that through the wonder tales – which pretend to describe the lives of the legendary heroes, the powers of the divinities of nature, the spirit of the dead, and the totem ancestors of the group – symbolic expression is given to the unconscious desires, fears, and tensions that underlie the conscious patterns of human behaviour. Mythology, in other words, is psychology misread as biography, history, and cosmology. The modern psychologist can translate it back to its proper denotations and this rescue for the contemporary world a rich and eloquent document of the profoundest depths of human character.”

It is by far the hardest book I’ve ever read because every word is seemingly important and could become the key to understand the next few sentences. It’s so packed, concise, and inter-connected. Heck, it took me 2 years to finally finish this book, as every single paragraph in this 432 pages book is so damn interesting and important. I’ve said it once and I’m going to say it again, there’s simply no other book that can match this masterpiece.

Book review: Epic autobiography

“Shoe Dog” by Phil Khight

Holy moly, what an insane story. This book is an exhilarating memoir of the adventures of Phil “Buck” Knight, from a backpacker with a crazy idea to eventually building one of the most iconic brands on the planet.

With a gripping style of writing the founder of Nike tells it all through all the epiphanies, the lucky encounters, the boardroom battles, courtroom battles, the many ups and down of his own personal story and the people surrounds him, the many times they nearly get out of business, this one promise he made to himself to someday come back to Manila, how they came up with the name Nike, how he accidentally met the designer of the swoosh logo, and all the tragic tragedies that almost shock me into tears, all of which cannot possibly be mentioned here without giving away the great plot of the story.

Indeed, the book reads like an epic movie that kept me glued way longer than my usual daily reading miles. I even lost sleep for couple of days as I could not possibly put down the book before bed. And now as I write this review a couple of days later since I finished the book, I actually miss reading it and wondering how the guys are doing right now.

Phil Knight runs, he reads a lot of books, he’s a backpacker at heart, a romantic poet of life who often gets his inspirations from the great men of history. And his charisma and worldly charm shines bright in the written pages of the book. What’s not to like?

Easily one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Ilusi New Normal

Kasus penanganan Covid-19 di Indonesia sekarang ini mirip dengan kasus subprime mortgage market di US yang menyebabkan global market crash 2008. Problem utama nya dicuekin, dan di bungkus secantik mungkin sampe kasih ilusi kalo semuanya udah aman. Dan ketika problem utama nya akhirnya meledak, it’s all too late to react.

Jadi di awal tahun 2000an mortgage lenders di US bikin subprime mortgage loans untuk minjemin KPR ke orang-orang yang nggak punya aset, nggak punya kerja, nggak punya income. High risk sekali dan hampir pasti gagal bayar? Well, subprime risk nya ini digabungin ke satu instrumen yang namanya Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) yang isinya dicampur dengan instrumen-instrumen aman lain nya kayak government bond, US dollar, gold, dll. Dan CDO ini dapet rating A+ dari ratings agency, jadi kasih kesan aman.

Karena ratings A+, CDO jadi laku keras dan dijual belikan banyak orang dan masuk ke global financial network, dimana pemerintah berbagai negara banyak yang beli, hedge fund beli, mutual fund beli, pension fund beli, semua banks punya, insurance punya, sampai investor retail juga banyak yang beli.

High risk nya subprime mortgage secara perlahan jadi dicuekin dan dilupakan, karena udah di bungkus secantik mungkin di CDO. Tapi problem nya tetep nggak ilang, orang-orang kategori “subprime” yang minjem KPR ini tetep nggak ada uang untuk bayar, dan mayoritas jatuh tempo nya 4-5 tahun. Subprime mortgage loans mulai banyak di issue tahun 2003, jadi di tahun 2007-2008 bakal jatuh tempo. Dan by tahun 2007 CDO udah nyebar banget diseluhur dunia, ketika satu per satu subprime borrower nya mulai gagal bayar. It’s a ticking time bomb, yang akhirnya meledak collapse setahun kemudian di 2008. Global crash!

Subprime Covid

Kasus Covid-19 di Indonesia bisa masuk ke analogi subprime crash. Problem nya jelas, ada deadly virus pandemic. Tapi sama pemerintah di bungkus secantik mungkin jadi keliatan nggak bahaya. Mall buka, GBK buka, boleh CFD di sebar di beberapa titik, tempat hiburan dibuka, bioskop mau dibuka “biar happy”, tiba-tiba ada banyak “obat” abal-abal yang quick fix (jangan mau ditakut-takutin Covid, cuma tinggal pake kalung Covid aja beres, atau cuma minum jamu, atau cuma jemur matahari, minyak kayu putih, dan masih banyak lagi yang nggak ke verifikasi secara ilmu kedokteran).

Ironis nya, ketika PSBB mulai diterapkan pada bulan Maret orang-orang pada ketakutan stay at home semua, ketika penyebaran masih dibawah 100 kasus. Tapi sekarang pas udah 150 ribu – 200 ribu kasus? Kalo di subprime mortgage crisis ada CDO, di krisis kita ada yang nama nya “new normal.”

Dan pemerintah kita, yang udah terang-terangan ngaku nutup-nutupin data keadaan asli nya biar nggak “nakutin masyarakat”, berhasil mengajak banyak orang untuk menjalankan semangat “new normal new spirit.” Berawal dari kumpul aktifitas baru, kongkow makan-makan “kita kita aja” sambil lepas masker, ktemuan sebentar dan foto rame-rame pake masker dan sekali lagi tanpa masker, dan untuk yang takut di kota jadi naik gunung rame-rame nggak pake masker dan ketemu banyak orang dari luar rumah juga.

Dan semua nya di posting di social media dan kontribusi untuk kasih kesan keadaan udah A+ aman, dan ignore the fact kalo “subprime covid” nya angka nya naik terus dan nyebar makin cepet. I mean, kalo mau keluar rumah do it responsibly, jangan lepas masker sama sekali, bener-bener jaga jarak, dan just don’t post it di social media dan bantu create availability bias (info yang available di social media itu cuma postingan semua orang udah keluar-keluar dan aman).

Efek nya, yang uneducated dan ignorant nggak peduli (malah marah kalo dikasih berita-berita update Covid, “tolong jangan membuat resah”). Dan yang well-informed dan educated selalu coba cari justifikasi untuk kelakuan mereka, share berita-berita yang ngejelekin komunitas/kegiatan lain tapi ignore problems di kegiatan mereka sendiri, atau coba downplay angka official Covid sebagai hoax atau “permainan rumah sakit biar dapet duit dari pemerintah” (selalu hear say, dan belum pernah ada Bukti nya).

Dan sekali nya ada yang kena positif Covid? Mereka nggak pernah posting kalo mereka kena, cuma ngilang aja dari social media jadi nggak pernah kontribusi nunjukin kalo penularan nya ini nyata (bantu create survivorship bias, alias yang orang-orang liat di social media itu cuma yang survive aja). Dan yang sembuh, sadly bakal keluyuran dan posting-posting lagi karena it’s just their nature. Yang nggak abis pikir itu yang punya uang, banyak yang positif Covid dan mereka milih untuk isolasi mandiri di hotel tanpa mikir mereka expose pekerja cleaning service dan room service hotel tersebut.

Sementara itu, di saat angka penularan terus naik, tenaga kesehatan harus banting tulang kerja keras untuk nyembuhin orang-orang yang kelakuan nya kayak gini. Kita bukan cuma darurat Covid, tapi darurat empati juga.

Jadi nggak heran, ketika ada orang yang komen “udah enak-enak mulai normal eh dihajar lagi ditutup PSBB sama gabener.” Mereka cuma liat CDO nya, dan nggak liat subprime mortgage problem nya.

Peran pemerintah

Kalo kita liat New Zealand yang berhasil sempat clear 100 hari dari kasus covid mereka (dan sekarang tetap rendah dibawah 10), approach mereka simple: PM nya bilang ini kasus medis jadi dia nurutin 100% saran dokter dan scientist untuk solusi nya. Kalo di semua negara lain di dunia, masalah medis solusi nya dari politisi yang di politisir. Di Indonesia udah di politisir, decision making nya sengaja dibikin layer birokrasi lagi karena pemimpin nya nggak decisive dan nggak mau disalahin. Presiden lempar tanggung jawab ke gubernur, tapi gubernur harus minta ijin dulu ke kemenkes (yang di bawah presiden). Jadi menimbulkan benturan kepentingan dimana antara pusat, pemda, dan para ahli beda semua mau nya / pendapat nya.

Kayak sekarang,“tiba-tiba” PSBB mau diterapin lagi di Jakarta. Ini karena pendapat dokter dan scientist nggak didengerin dari awal, dan kebijakan pemda dan pusat lebih mikirin ekonomi harus tetep jalan dibanding short term putus penyebaran Covid nya. Dan berkat “new normal, new spirit” rakyatnya jadi ngeremehin dan di fasilitasi pula (semua dibuka, asal… Dan condition “asal” nya ini nggak di supervise). Seperti masuk ke Ancol cuma boleh terbatas, untuk social distancing, tapi dengan bodoh nya pembatasan ini menciptakan antrian panjang desel-deselan diluar gerbang Ancol dan dibiarin aja.

Jadi apakah PSBB lagi itu perlu? You damn right perlu banget. Tapi sebulan yang lalu, bukan dadakan sekarang ketika tinggal beberapa minggu lagi health care system kita bakal collapse.

Karena “mendadak PSBB” lagi itu last minute panic nya pemda DKI, di keadaan yang udah rada telat. Dan karena panic, justru PSBB yang drastis banget measures nya bisa bikin usaha-usaha mati. Kayak nggak ada planning mateng dari awal, semua serba reaktif dari liat keadaan yang uncertainty nya tinggi. Tapi kalo nggak PSBB lagi?

Ini kayak 2007 dimana financial institutions ignore problem subprime mortgage yang bentar lagi bakal default satu per satu, mengabaikan semua pihak yang udah kasih warning dari awal, dan even have the nerve untuk ngomong kenaikan market ini (yang ada andil dari property bubble karena subprime people tiba-tiba bisa beli rumah, jadi create demand) bisa berlangsung selama nya, seperti yang di claim oleh CEO Dow Chemical dan CEO Citigroup pada saat itu.

Dan di 2008 awal ketika mortgage lenders Fannie Mae dan Freddy Mac mulai collapse, regulator fail to see cause-and-effect nya yang eventually collapse nya bakal merembet seperti ini: mortgage lenders yang issue subprime mortgage – investment banks yang create CDO – all kind of funds and countries yang beli CDO nya – insurance companies yang issue insurance just in case CDO gagal – corporations yang nggak pegang CDO tapi yang credit line nya di freeze di bank mereka karena bank nya collapsing – the economies kena imbas big time.

By the time Fannie Mae dan Freddy Mac collapse, udah a little too late kayak Covid-19 udah 3000+ kasus per hari di Indonesia. Karena kalo ini kayak dinamit di film-film kartun, sumbu nya udah dinyalain dan mulai merembet jalan. Jadi ada PSBB lagi atau nggak, does it really matter at this point?

The problem is, baik di level pemerintah pusat maupun level pemda peraturan dibikin sedemikian rupa untuk menjaga bisnis dulu, baru manusia, dan nggak bisa liat jauh ke depan kalo selama virus nya masih nyebar terus, bisnis-bisnis ini bakal mati juga in the long term.

Dan ketika kita ngomong bisnis, lebih tepat nya bisnis nya orang yang ada leverage. Mall dibuka, tempat hiburan dibuka, dan kalo ada yang positif Covid? Cuma diumumin aja di berita (kayak satu toko di mall di Senayan). Ada yang positif di restoran mahal? Nggak ada tindakan. Tapi kalo ada yang positif di pasar tradisional? Pasar nya langsung di paksa tutup.

Penegakan hukum yang setengah-setengah dan diskriminasi sekali seperti ini jadi create privilege bias, kalo ini sorry to say “penyakit orang miskin.” Kalo di “klaster komunitas” ada yang kena Covid? Tracing satu komunitas dia nggak di tindak sama sekali. Tapi kalo satu warga desa ada yang kena, satu desa harus di karangtina.

Orang-orang menengah atas pada umum nya jadi gede kepala, that they’re untouchable. Sedangkan yang rakyat miskin bakal mikir ini cuma conspiracy orang kaya aja yang mau control mereka. Hasil nya, jadi socio-economic problem yang totally ignore the main problem dari awal: ada deadly virus yang terus nyebar.

The collapse

Waktu subprime mortgage market crash merembet menjadi global financial crash di tahun 2008 setelah Lehman Brothers collapse, banyak yang bingung nggak ngerti kenapa “tiba-tiba” crash dan collapse semua, kenapa tiba-tiba CDO A+ yang mereka pegang jadi worthless dan uang mereka jadi ilang.

Dari cara Covid-19 di handle sampe sekarang, dari sisi pandemi nya with 3000+ new cases setiap hari kita keliatannya tinggal tunggu waktu aja untuk healthcare system kita collapse (17 September di DKI kalo menurut para ahli, sebelum PSBB diperketat kembali), ekonomi juga kemungkinan besar akan masuk resesi, dan usaha-usaha banyak yang udah mulai tutup. Alias dengan kebijakan yang setengah-setengah tanpa bener-bener tackle problem utama nya, pemerintah bakal end up jebol di semua sisi.

Ini bakal jadi kegagalan pemerintah pusat yang nggak berani tegas decision making nya dari awal, dan kegagalan pemerintah daerah yang terlalu reaktif dan nggak ada planning yang matang juga, dimana dua instansi tersebut terlalu dengerin opini short-term lobbyist pengusaha dibanding opini long-term para ahli medis.

Dan nanti the same “CDO holders” nya Covid yang udah telen mentah-mentah ilusi “new normal” yang di create sama pemerintah dan komunitas mereka masing-masing, bakal bingung juga kenapa tiba-tiba semua collapse di sekitar mereka. And these same people bakal yang kritik pemerintah pusat dan pemda paling keras, sembari makan-makan dan ngobrol lepas masker. And they won’t see the irony kalo kelakuan mereka ini justru yang kontribusi besar ke penyebaran virus nya.

Book review: Back to fundamentals

“The Intelligent Investor” by Benjamin Graham

Warren Buffett often said that reading this book is the greatest investment that he has ever made, and it’s not difficult to see why. Buffett even specifically mention that chapter 8 and 20 are the most essential ones to understand how investing and the market work.

But if you want to learn about the very essence of the book, chapter 14 is where the real gem is. This is where the core Graham principles are presented, which the commentary on chapter 14 (as well as chapter 18 and its commentary) prove that this principles can stand against time for more than 3 decades.

This book to investing is like The Art of War by Sun Tzu to warfare, or The Origins of Species by Charles Darwin to evolution. An absolutely vital book to read.

Book review: The summary of seemingly every prominent crime stories in history

“The Crime Book: Big ideas simply explained” by DK

After reading few books on happiness, well being, and stuff like discovering your inner Buddha, I thought to myself you know what I haven’t read for a while? A f***ed up book on f***ed up people. So, here we are.

It is an absolutely billiant book with a complete history of every crime imaginable, covering organised crimes, heists and robberies, gang violences, mafia related violences, white collar crimes, serial killers, political assassinations, and so much more. With prominent names and cases from Yakusa, Jack the Ripper, Ponzi scheme, Bernie Madoff, the murder of Tupac Shakur, the charm of Ted Bundy, the enigmatic Rasputin, Pablo Escobar and the drug wars, the assassination of JFK, and hundreds more sick stories that shook the world.

Holy cr*p that was one gruesome book. Couldn’t recommend it more. 5 stars.

Book review: You think that today is the most violent era in history? This book shows that it’s in fact the most peaceful one

“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why violence has declined” by Steven Pinker

This book is the ultimate history of human violence. The thick book brought us in a journey into the very dark places in history, with gruesome details on how different civilisations in different parts of the world in different periods of time conducted their violent acts as a daily occurrences, which can be overwhelming to read at times. The historically accurate Roman-style brutal crucifixion, for example, is even more sadistic than the depiction in the movie The Passion of the Christ.

Indeed, the book seemingly covers every single violence known in history, from war, murder, rape, bullying, violence against women children homosexual, all the way to violence towards animal.

But as the book progresses, it then points out the many pivotal moments that turned humans into a less barbaric creatures, such as the introduction of printing press that introduced empathy, and completes the thesis with its main point that today humans have evolved into a more civilised and peaceful beings, and that our time today is the most calm and peaceful era despite all the media portrayals. The gradual narrative is also complemented by all the available social theories known to man about the particular growth periods.

However, I stop reading it mindfully 3/4 of the way after I realise the arguments that Steven Pinker is presenting in this 800+ pages book are directed toward overly justifying the current status quo of State and capitalism (with weak cause-and-effect association from his own data) that ignored the dark and also violent side of it. Moreover, it also dawns on me a little too late that his arguments are biased towards New Atheism doctrines that would make Richard Dawkins blush (an argument that can be easily refuted, but that’s for another day).

All in all, great build up, impressive data, but disconnected conclusion. It certainly a big let down after such a promising start of the reading, hence the eventual 4 stars.

Book review: It’s understandably not easy to follow up from a masterpiece

“Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens is one of my top 3 favourite books of all time, so I had such a tremendous expectation for this sequel. In retrospect, it is still a brilliant book with vast range of topics filled with plenty of data and insights that are signature of Harari. Some parts are even world class.

However, almost the majority of the contents are stretched a little too long, and give the feel like they are only the extended notes that didn’t get the cut in Sapiens. Moreover, it is not really a direct book about the future, in which I expected to be like the brilliant last chapter in Sapiens. But instead it dwells quite some time in history, thus the overlapping feel with his 1st book.

And when we finally arrived at the predictions of the future? Nothing is really new, although to be fair I have read, watched, and listened to a lot of interviews with Harari talking about this book.

All in all, when reading this book, I can’t help but feeling like when I’m watching the 8th season of Game of Thrones. Sure, it’s brilliant on its own. But when we compare it with the early 7 seasons it becomes obvious that it’s a rather disappointing follow up from the build up.

Already bought his 3rd book though. And I remain a massive fan.