‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell

The personification of success equals the characterization of the person in our society that has established an unwritten pervasive eugenic rubric of material success in representing where you live. The stories of Rags to Riches are mainly to blame because they are modern-day mythology of heroes and heroines or fairytales to imbue the populace with slim hopes that can also be dangerous, like mass-marketplace placebo anti-depressants. From Hercules to Cinderella, those whose success from their humble origins we love is not self-made as they claim to be in their memoir or interviews but are made of chance and circumstances. This book reveals how these outliers are not outliers but are insiders of the leagues of winners in sociological terms and facts.

The book opens with a remarkable bible passage from the Gospel according to Matthew, dubbed as the “Matthew Effect” thus: “For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him, that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” It means that success results from accumulated advantage and vice versa. The accumulated advantage is a combination of one’s ability and ambition interacting with the particular circumstances surrounding their rise over difficulties or challenges. Indeed, people who make lots of money must have burnt their midnight lamps to arrive where they are, but they also have people who help them and time to achieve their goals without worrying about other cares of the world. Hence, I don’t like JF Kennedy’s proclamation, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. You can criticize people on welfare as losers lacking motivation and diligence when they need personal structural guidance and constructive public assistance to help them stand on their feet. You can’t just leave those behind the race as being slow or inadequate for the race.

In ancient Greek mythology, the human race was born of mud by Prometheus and imbued with intelligence by Pallas Athena. Prometheus then gave sacred fire stolen from Olympus to make a better life. In the Old Testament, God blessed Abraham with wealth, who also helped his chosen few from those who instigated his wrath. Although modern-day outliers are not prophets or demigods, they certainly have their lucky stars. As Shakespeare agreed, “it’s the stars that govern our conditions.” Even if you disagree, you should not judge people who make less money than you, or no employment, or live in humble housing, thinking their situations result from their faults.


There’s no such thing
as a classless society
even if the patriots sing
No blue blood aristocracy
but those trembled in needs
with no jobs, no money
are a class of their own
pushed and patronized
by the joy luck classes
chanting in Salem’s fervor,
“Beggars are losers!”

Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis by Jared Diamond – book review

Jared Diamond’s Upheaval analyzes why a nation is how it is now. Of course, culture plays a role in changing the ethos of each new zeitgeist. Still, it is not so much a differentiating element as a distinguishing factor to characterize a national character. Instead, it is a mindset of individuals, including the governing elites in the nation, that determine the success and stagnation of the nation’s progress.

Of all nations’ approaches to and results of political and sociological revolutions, the most successful example is Japan’s Meiji Restoration in the 19th century and democratization in the aftermath of WWII, both of which are one-of-a-kind upheavals yielding to outstanding progress. Japan’s confrontation with the West might have blown their isolated cultural prestige. However, rather than coiling in fear of the changes, Japan sprang back with new attitudes adapted from Europe’s and the U.S.’s technological development and cultural legacy to survive the new zeitgeist as the time’s juggernaut.

On the other hand, the United States today needs change because it is highly polarized by political affiliations, ideological inclinations, and racial stratifications. The U.S. seems to have lurched in the above marsh when it should focus on the constructive, substantial, and realistic aspects of political agenda and social movements. For example, Americans tend more to ideas than facts that collectively affect individual needs, such as universal healthcare, a better educational system, employment opportunities, housing assistance, welfare programs, and workers’ rights. It s because American politicians aim to mobilize an army of people, aka constituents, to win their ideological war for occupying more congressional seats. In fact, American exceptionalism, that America is the best of all other countries in the world, averts the eyes from the lessons from other countries simply because they are beneath.

Diamond is a polymath well versed in science, literature, philosophy, geography, psychology, and sociology. He talks about his family, students, and friends from other countries. He is no stranger to their cultures with the knowledge of the languages and cultural cues, which entitles him to an appellation of “a citizen of the world.” This book reads persuasive and perspicacious, among other books on similar subjects. Maybe I am biased, but if the man whose assessment of nations strikes my chord, then I can’t help it.