Friday, September 30, 2005

Ignorance is a form of self-harm

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
- Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

Governments routinely ignore facts which may affect legislation that could impact our lives for two reasons. One is that they have not been fully apprised of the facts and their implications. The second is because they are influenced by lobbyists for major business interests.

The first reason results from the situation where we do not have channels set up to funnel information from those who do studies to those who make decisions. Studies by university academics, for example, often fail to reach decision makers in government because the professors have no motivation to go to the effort required to make their new inforamtion available to the public. The except to this is when a study has been sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company or industry with lobby interests.

The second reason exists because, to a great extent, industrialists control the legislation and policies adopted by governments. This is the case because ordinary voters have little interest in learning about wht their governments do. To some extent, voters know little because the information that they need to know is not available to them through the media.

A Turning It Around program would eliminate the second reason for government ignorance by teaching children to be aware of what information is available and encouraging them to participate in the activities of their governments.

A TIA program could also alleviate the first reason for government ignorance by giving new information new channels to reach the public, thus to government representatives.

No one benefits from ignorance, but many may be harmed.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach children to become participating adults instead of ignorant spectators and complainers.
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fascinated by sex?

"It has struck me that people who aren't getting enough sex are always very fascinated by it, even if the fascination takes the form of them being very very cross that other people are getting some."
- John Cleese

I'm not fascinated by sex. Nope, not me.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach people about certain subjects so that they do not become fascinated by the mystery of them.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The power to be humble

It is always the secure who are humble.
- G.K. Chesterton, essayist and novelist (1874-1936)

Those who are secure can afford to be humble. Others, by comparison, are desperately struggling to earn a place in the world.

Healthy and comfortably well off politicians make decisions about health care for children, the elderly and disabled adults.

Financially secure industry leaders make decisions about the prices to be charged for items to be purchased by those who have to scrimp on their food to buy other needed items.

To be secure is to have power. To be humble about it is to be confident in one's ability to hold on to that power.

Yet we each have within us the ability to be secure within ourselves, if we learn how to reach that stage. The power of self confidence is reachable if we are taught how to find it. Thus we have the potential to be humble, no matter what our financial or social position.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach everyone how to achieve self confidence.
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Monday, September 26, 2005

Dinosaurs of humankind

"He that never changes his opinions, never corrects his mistakes, will never be wiser on the morrow than he is today."
- Tyron Edwards

A person who never changes his opinions and who insists that others who change theirs are unstable or lack conviction is someone who does not learn. Such a person ignores history that shows that progress reveals a steady increase in available information and stifles the natural curiosity that caused the human species to be more sophisticated than other animals today.

This kind of person will not be able to hold back progress for long, but he can do a great deal of damage to educated and knowledgeable individuals he encounters along the way. And he may be able to hobble whole societies for decades.

We need to be able to recognize these people as human dinosaurs who, while influential, ultimately do more harm than good.

Progress may not be pretty, but it is inevitable. It's up to us to give it direction instead of letting it run unchecked.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage the natural curiosity of children to remain with them through their adults lives.
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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ignorance breeds prejudice

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge.
- Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882)

A well-educated person, a person with knowledge, is never completely confident of anything. He knows so much that he understands not even the best of contingency plans will cover all possible things that may go wrong.

He also knows what he doesn't know, he is aware of how much more there is to learn about any given subject.

An ignorant person knows so little about the subject that he may proceed with it blithely with great confidence of success or accomplishment of his mission.
A knowledgeable person may become arrogant because he knows so much more than others. An ignorant person may become arrogant because he firmly believes that he knows as much as he needs to know and no further learning is necessary.

Only the ignorant person may become a bigot. Bigotry requires a large measure of ignorance. Prejudice founds itself on the belief that "we know what we need to know".

A bigot becomes confused or angry when presented with more facts. A knowledgeable hungers for more facts.

The world needs more of this kind of hunger.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to create a hunger for knowledge that will leave no room for prejudice. Learn more at

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The why to live

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
– Friedrich Nietzsche

This is simply a different way of saying that we need to have objectives in our lives. If we know where we are going and have confidence that we will eventually reach our destination, we can understand and accept more readily that there will be bumps on the road that we must endure.

Here are a few possible life objectives that some people aim for:
- I want to be rich
- I want to be famous
- I want to live more comfortably than my neighbours
- I want to help as many others as I can because they will enrich my life

Consider four people with these four objectives, each on his or her deathbed. Which do you think will be most satisfied with their life?
Which will be more prepared for a life to follow?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people life objectives that will make their lives better, not just faster, more complicated or more risky.
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Friday, September 23, 2005

Believe and you will create

Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.
- William James

The strange reality of life is that each life is lived within the brain of the person who lives it. Two people who share the same experience often disagree as to what happened. Two people who are the closest of friends are often surprised at how little they know of the real person their friend is.

The same person having the same experience two or more times might even interpret it differently each time.

Life is not just what you make of it, it's what you believe it is. If you believe that life is worth living, it will be. If you believe it is not worth living, your life will meet that belief.

You build your own life. Fate merely provides the bricks while you create the mortar to build of them what you will.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people strong mortar with which to build good lives.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Can wrong ever be right? Maybe

"Every vice was once a virtue, and may become respectable again, just as hatred becomes respectable in time of war."
- Will Durant

At first blush, this is a tough one to accept. However, consider the circumstances of war, for example, where the common human principle of not killing each other is not only cast aside but is encouraged.

A father with no income and hungry children at home may consider stealing to provide food.

Two people who promise to love each other, honour and cherish each other when they wed, and who fundamentally disagree with divorce may seek this form of escape when the relationship becomes more than they can bear.

A Turning it Around system in place would drastically reduce the incidence of such events. By teaching children in their first few years of life, rather than many years later, we establish within them principles that are so entrenched they are inviolable in later years. By teaching older children what they can do when they encounter the kinds of downturns of life that we all experience (giving them coping skills and people they can turn to when they need help), such tragic events can be avoided in most cases.

How many people really know what is involved with marriage, including how their relationship will change, what their respective responsibilities will be, how to manage disagreements and how to engage their partner in events that encourage mutual understanding and respect, at they time they say their vows? Most simply believe that love will see them through.

Love is great, but you can't eat it and it doesn't substitute for coping skills and knowledge when times get rough.

Teach the children before they need it and adults will have fewer unmanageable problems.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give children the knowledge and skills they need to cope with the exigencies of life as adults.
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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Simplicity does not come naturally. Those who wish to be thorough initially feel the need to include everything so that others will not miss anything.

A level of sophistication (scientists call it elegance) is reached where everything is implicit, nothing is missed by others, yet there is a beauty where each can take what he or she needs from a simple presentation.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make teaching children simple by teaching them what they need, not what industry leaders and movie makers, politicians and religious zealots want them to have.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Healing from the bootstraps

He's the best physician who knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.
- Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)

The number of worthless medicines is no smaller today than it was in Franklin's time. What has increased is the number of effective medicines.

And yet, no medicine works unless the body is prepared to heal itself. If it is ready then medicine might not be necessary.

The key is mental preparedness. That is, whatever method you choose to heal yourself, you must be convinced that it will work or you might just get worse.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach people how to prevent themselves from needing medical care by learning how to live in a healthy manner.
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Monday, September 19, 2005

Who is killing Americans?

"Cars kill over ten thousand times more people than terrorism. So which one does a government naturally use its resources to combat? And I mean any practically government on Earth."
- Eolake Stobblehouse This was originally an opinion, not part of a larger piece from which I took the quote.

Why do governments spend vast resources to counteract terrorism but very little to address deaths from vehicles? Because people are afraid of terrorists and are not afraid of cars.

Think about it. The US has suffered one attack by terrorists, in one city, since 1941, yet it has terror alerts that apply to 285 million people, no matter where they live. As a result of that one attack, the US government launched two wars (which are still going on) and cost US taxpayers about two billion dollars per day.

Even though the US military is involved with two wars, Americans kill more other Americans with hand guns and with cars every day, every month, every year than well-protected soldiers die in those wars.

Not only that, their president insists that terrorists are a constant threat that must be fought tenaciously and constantly for many years to come.

How many American lives are "really" at risk due to terrorism? In fact, most Americans live peaceful lives, have jobs and families, get along well with their neighbours and co-workers, enjoy sports, hobbies and relaxation in ways that people in all parts of the world enjoy.

The only terrorism that risks the lives of American citizens is the psychological terrorism that is perpetrated on them by their media. And the more the media play up potential danger, the more US citizens buy newspapers and watch television.

That's self-inflicted psychological harm. An individual who did that sort of harm to himself would be committed to an institution.

Children need to be taught to recognize media manipulation of their minds. They can learn this stuff, even easier than adults can learn it.

Children can learn not to be afraid. Once they have fear firmly entrenched in them as adults, it's hard to dislodge it.

Teach the children and save the world. Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach children how to protect themselves from media mind-twisting before they become psychologically broken adults.
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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Don't defraud yourself

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by littlestatesmen and philosophers and divines.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

A foolish consistency means staying with something when we know it doesn't make sense.

There's no reason why a religion, a political philosophy, a business policy or a personal way of life should not make sense. Something that does not fully make sense should be thought through until it makes sense. If even then it doesn't make sense, it's time to change to a position that does.

The two keys here are to think it through and that what we settle on must make sense. We cannot live comfortably in an environment where what we believe in doesn't make sense. Deep inside we know that we are defrauding ourselves.

You don't have to "have faith" in something that doesn't make sense. Faith is the fall-back position for those who cannot justify what they believe with the criterion of making sense.

Most positions that ask us to have faith can be rationalized so they do make sense. Some cannot. The ones that can't should be discarded.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people the tools to evaluate whether things and beliefs in their lives make sense.
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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Crazy man becomes world hero

Canada is an extremely large country. Most Canadians don't see more than small bits of it in their entire lifetimes. Many find the thought of driving across the country a quest only for those who have nothing else to do with their lives.

A few Canadians have actually walked the many thousands of kilometres from the eastern shore of Newfoundland and Labrador province, on the Atlantic, to the western shore of British Columbia province (either the mainland or Vancouver Island). These people are considered to be insane by most Canadians.

Running across is out of the question. Running across if you only have one leg reaches beyond what the imagination can cope with.

Terry Fox, born in Winnipeg and raised in B.C. province, tried to do just that, though he had lost one leg to cancer.

His beginning, where he dipped his prosthetic leg into the Atlantic Ocean, was barely noticed by Canadian media. He planned to dip it again into the Pacific a few months later. He would "run" the equivalent of two marathons each day--kind of a hop and skip with each successive step.

Along the way he would ask people to sponsor him so that he could raise money to find a cure for cancer. Terry called it his Marathon of Hope.

By the time Terry passed through Quebec province, most Canadians knew who he was and what he was doing. When he neared the far side of Ontario province, every Canadian knew who Terry Fox was.

At Thunder Bay (city), about a day's run from the border of Manitoba province, Terry had to stop. His cancer had returned and his doctors advised that he go no further. His pain was constant and intense. That was September 1, 1980.

Terry Fox died in June of 1981. Yet his name is known around the world today. People in over 50 countries conduct their own Marathons of Hope each year. In Canada alone, some three million children in every province and territory will be involved in "The Terry Fox Run" this year, be they running, walking or pushing themselves in wheelchairs.

The name Terry Fox is a symbol of hope for the world. Terry's posthumous projects have raised over $360 million for cancer research.

When Terry Fox ran half way across Canada, cancer research was in the doldrums, having made little progress over the previous generation. Today many kinds of cancer are with reach of being stopped and untold thousands of Canadians are alive because of the attention that Terry brought to the disease and the resulting early diagnosis of so many people.

Terry Fox is a Canadian hero. Yet he is also a hero to the world, no matter what the skin colour, religion, home country, language or culture of the people who honour him.

Terry Fox is one reason I and many of my fellow countrymen confidently call ourselves proud Canadians.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give every person reason for hope for a better future.
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"Up to his designer stubble"

"He looks to me like somebody who is up to his designer-stubble in stolen moments of illicit love."
- Daisy, Keeping Up Appearances (BBC1)

Another quote on the lighter side. This is one that drives psychologists, psychotherapists and sociologists crazy because it has buried within it a boatload of background that one may imagine for the character who spoke the line.

It's the kind of line you expect to see in written literature because it's almost too powerful to be a spoken line in a TV show.

Test it yourself. What kind of person would say something like this?
Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people the tools to understand each other better.
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Friday, September 16, 2005

Why are people afraid of growing old?

One of the more common fears in western society is a fear of growing old. This fear, once of lesser importance in non-western cultures, is growing as societies that once highly valued its most elderly generation now treat them more and more as redundant vessels that must be cared for but are of little use.
What is it that people fear about growing older? Do they see elderly people in nursing homes who are crippled and feeble-minded and worry that they will become like these people? Do they see families where younger generations can't wait to get the older folks into nursing homes? Do they see families where middle aged people spend all of their free time and some of their work time looking after weak and helpless parents?
I suspect that most people see those who experience these situations in their families the way they view people who become drug addicts or gambling addicts. Bad luck, but it will never happen to me.
Then what are they afraid of?
They are afraid that they will not be prepared to be "old." They don't want to be physically unable to care for themselves. They don't want to be mentally unable to think for themselves. In short, they don't want their future to be in the hands of younger people or a government that will treat them like mail to be shuffled around but not well looked after.
They don't want to be physically weak, but they will not do exercises now, when they are younger, to strengthen their muscles and their bones. Because they are too busy now.
They don't want to be mentally weak, but they will not do what they must to strengthen their brain to defend against it breaking down from lack of cognitive thinking. They don't have time to read and think. Reading and thinking are hard work. They are too busy and too sophisticated to do that much hard work.
Too busy now, afraid for the future.
Or is it too lazy now and the expectation of being even more stupid in the future than they are now?
No one makes people become stupid. They stupidify themselves.
Some people have bodies that will not last in peak condition until they are 80 or 90 years of age. That's life. But many others could be much better if they would get the exercise their bodies need before their bodies become too weak. After a body is broken is not the time to try to protect it.
Every brain will last far longer than the body it inhabits. That is, it will last longer if it is exercised.
But that's hard work and sophisticated people don't want to do hard work. That's the way of life in the western world.
Self stupidification.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' a book and program to prevent self stupidification by teach childrne what they need before they need it.
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Thursday, September 15, 2005

US and North Korea, not necessarily enemies

Everyone wants the six nation talks involving North Korea and its generation of nuclear fuel to end well.

The US, which is polluting its air to an extraordinary extent with its coal-fired power generating stations (often sending their foul air to my part of Canada), has decided that nuclear power is the only viable form of power generation for the long term of its country. The US knows that nuclear power generation results in radioactive waste, which it is prepared to bury for 10,000 years or more (until a method to dispose of it safely appears).

The US has also decided that North Korea should not be able to use nuclear power because it has abused nuclear capability and knowledge in the past. The US also views North Korea as one of its "Axis of Evil" countries--basically this list is comprised of any country that has a severe dislike for the US and its ways.

However, it should be noted that North Korea did illegally buy technology from Pakistan, manufacture its own nuclear technology (including weapons) and sell them abroad.North Korea, as a nation, is literally starving, mostly because of its Stalinist ways. So the US wants to use nuclear power to advance its own industry, but it does not want North Korea to have the same opportunity.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is sitting on its hands and whistling Dixie. The US wanted the UN to reform itself into a modern and effective form of international diplomacy, monitoring and peacekeeping organisation. UN member countries decided it didn't want to be quite that effective. In other words, UN member countries don't want to mind anyone else's business. The US, of course, wants to do just that.

I applaud the US for its efforts with the United Nations. Too bad the UN doesn't have either the leadership or the willpower to do what the world needs at this time. The US has set it up so the UN could take more responsibility, but the UN wimps have chickened out.

The US, to its credit, is trying to do a juggling act with one hand tied behind its back. Bravo! to the US for showing true leadership in this time of crisis.

To the United Nations: How do you manage to have your thumbs in your ears, your mouth and your anus all at the same time? You should only be allowed to plug two orifices at once.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give each person the tools and knowledge with which to make wise decisions.
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Untested government legislation can kill you

Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.
- Donald Knuth, computer scientist (1938- )

Most of us have experienced problems with computer programs that do things that don't make sense. We freely blame the programmer, while at the same time we nonchalantly accept activities and programs by our governments and their respective agencies that are little beyond the stage that Knuth describes in the quote.

Top down government fails in the same way that top down business or top down computer programming fails. If the most important people in the business or in the government system are not well served by a policy or program, it will surely fail.

The most important people in a business are those who deal directly with customers, as they are the ones on whose shoulders rest the income of the company. In a government program, the most important people are those the program is intended to help, not those who administer the program or those who pass the legislation to implement the bill.

When legislation wording, protocol and red tape get in the way of helping people, governments fail their people. This was never more evident than in the aftermath of the recent tragedy in the southern US.

Never mind if a program should theoretically work. If a government program doesn't serve the needs of its people, it is a waste of tax money and a fraud on the part of legislators who made it happen.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give people the skills with which they may survive and thrive. Learn more at

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Live today, don't relive yesterday

There is one art, no more, no less: to do all things with artlessness.
- Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

"Artlessness" does not mean without skill. Rather it means in an innocent way, as a child would.

When we conduct our lives ever mindful of the emotional and psychological baggage we have collected over the years, we do ourselves a disservice, binding ourselves to past ways of doing things just as surely as if we were bound by chains.

Each act we do should be considered and done for its own merit. Just as today the world has moved on from where it was yesterday, we must move on from the emotional baggage of our past.

Today can only be a new day for us if we let go of what happened yesterday, whether yesterday was a good day or a bad day.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person make today a good day.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

How bad are you?

"I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am."
- Samuel Johnson (English writer and lexicographer, 1709-1784

Johnson may take self-effacement to an extreme, but he does make us aware that we all have our dark sides, our sins, our weaknesses, our failures that we would prefer to not have on our "permanent records."

What is important is that we focus more on our good sides, the positive parts of our personalities.

Johnson's style of self-critique may be good to cleanse the soul, but only working on our positive sides gives us a decent life.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' working to help each person put their life in pespective.
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina: Finding the Positive

Much has been made of the tragedy in the southern US over the past week and a half. The media have enjoyed immensely showing us scenes of people who were stranded on housetops and stuck in unhealthy shelters.

Sadly, what most of them missed was the good stuff that was happening to the large majority of one million people who were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their home states to bunk in with others, sometimes total strangers. Some, for example, are staying in Canadian universities.

However, that is not the point of this message. I want to make a point about how Katrina may change the direction that the world will take over the coming years.

September 11, 2001, made many Americans believe that everyone who was not a US citizen was potentially dangerous, a threat to "the American way of life," perhaps to their personal safety.

Since Katrina, over half the nations on Earth have contributed supplies and/or expertise to help the people of the US, generally considered to be the most hated nation on Earth. Put those two concepts together--hated nation and half the planet help its people.

Even Cuba, which has medical expertise far beyond its economic status, offered to send doctors to the US to help out. I have not heard whether or not the US accepted the offer--if it was to decline, I don't think I want to know.

Katrina was the worst natural disaster ever visited on North America, perhaps even on the western hemisphere. When the US showed itself to be its most helpless (and in many cases hopeless), most of the rest of the world--the ones who could afford to do something--pitched in to help.

The media and the politicians are not aware of this now, but the minds of Americans will change toward the rest of the world. After 9/11, "others" equalled "enemies." Since Katrina, "others" equal "strangers that could be friends."

It takes that magnitude of tragedy to change the thinking of a nation. But that tragedy might change the future of our world.

Al Qaida claimed that Allah had wreaked vengeance on the US for its misdeeds. Everyone else was prepared to come to the aid of the US in its hour of need.

Americans don't forget that kind of thing.

Within four years we have experienced two turning points in history. I dare say that no other people since our species began could make that claim.

Now we will watch to see if the neo-conservatives in the US continue to tear down the humanity of their nation, or if their others=enemy concept is buried and them aloing with it, or if there is a movement toward middle ground of socialists and conservatives.

It was the hands of men who brought about the turning point of history on 9/11. Was the natural disaster called Katrina just coincidence? Whether coincidence or not, Katrina arrived at a remarkably convenient time, when the world needed it most.

Feel free to send this message to anyone you like. However, if you send it to anyone else, please include the following attribution:
Bill Allin'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' searching for the common good in everyone.Learn more at

Who robbed you?

I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, becausealthough they took my purse they did not take my life; third, becausealthough they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.
- Matthew Henry, minister (1662-1714)

This well-known quote aptly fits the approach to negative situations and events taken by many religions. Note that it focuses on the person who was victimized by robbery.

Turning It Around would propose to give the robber the skills, coping mechanisms and knowledge he needs before he got to the point of having to steal from another because he didn't know what else to do. These skills and this knowledge can be given to children and adolescents before they need them, thus preparing them for the downturns in their future and (in most cases) avoiding the need to resort to anti-social measures.

Have you ever met a child of three or four years of age who wanted to grow up to become a robber, a murderer, a drug addict or even a divorced mother or father? No, they all want to be something positive. Some simply don't have or learn the tools they need to survive. These tools involve teaching, not money.

Teach the children.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give every child the tools and knowledge he or she needs to stay on the right side.
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Friday, September 09, 2005

Freedom to die?

It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defence, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties which make the defence of our nation worthwhile.
- Earl Warren, jurist (1891-1974)

The United States of America has fought for well over two centuries for the causes of liberty and freedom. Most wars over that period have been fought for those causes, no matter where in the world they have been.

It would serve us well to consider carefully what those terms mean, liberty and freedom, to keep their meanings in the forefront of our minds before we send young adults to kill and be killed in their names.

What kind of freedom does a young man have who is sent to his death in a war? Does "freedom" include the freedom to die for a cause which is unjust or in which he does not believe?

It would also pay us to consider that those states that do not build up large militaries and arsenals and search for causes to fight for never seem to get into wars. Switzerland, for example, has not been involve with a war for 500 years. Nor does anyone want to attack Switzerland.

Canada, criticized by many of its own people for its undersized and underarmed military, is known around the world for its peacekeeping efforts today. In the past, when it was more associated with the UK, it was also known for its war successes, with little thought being given to making peace.

We are what we want to be.

We should consider whether what we want to be should be shaped more by our leaders or by ordinary citizens.

Leaders don't necessarily always lead their people in the right direction because they are more interested in their positions as leaders than they are in the direction that they lead their people.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people consider what they want themselves and their country to represent.
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Honour strengths not weaknesses

Best they honor thee who honor in thee only what is best.
- William Watson, poet (1858-1935)

We all have our weaknesses. It's up to us to know our weaknesses and faults and to do what we can to correct or improve them. It serves no purpose or advantage for others to point out our faults or weaknesses unless we are unaware of them or have chosen to ignore them.

It's easy to find what is a weakness or a fault in someone else. What is much harder is to find strengths and successes, especially if the successes are personal ones that involve overcoming personal weakness or tragedy. Yet, it's by our strengths and our successes that we should be known.

Our heroes are known by their successes and their strengths, while we ignore their weaknesses and failures.

We owe the same consideration to ourselves as we give to our heroes.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help us give recognition to people for their successes and to help them to strengthen their weaknesses.
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Thoughtless, at your own peril

"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; But if you really make them think, they'll hate you."
- Don Marquis

This is a motto for all groups that attempt to direct the behaviour of others among them.

Al Qaida makes its followers think they are reasoning through the situation such that the only conclusion is to commit suicide and kill as many others as possible at the same time.

Television advertisers make us think that we need their products and we reason that theirs is the solution to our need (which in many cases does not even exist).

Leaders of religious sects have their followers believe that they are making a conscious choice based on the (limited selection of) facts at their disposal.

However, this mind-bending method only works with weak-thinking people up to a certain age. There comes a point where some people don't think at all, at which time they will accept the simple suggestions of anyone who has anything good to offer (no matter how fraudulent the offer may be).

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make reasoned thinking a life-long activity.
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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Why our general health is getting worse

"One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine."
- Sir William Osler, Aphorisms from his Bedside Teachings (1961) p.105

Osler, an icon of the medical community, is not clear in this quote what he means by educating the masses "not to take medicine." He didn't mean that ill people should not take prescribed medications.

He meant that people should be educated about what they can do to make their bodies healthy enough that they will be protected from illnesses. We don't do that enough.

Pharmaceutical companies drill their customers and potential customers daily on television about why they need to take prescription and over-the-counter drugs for any problem they have. They do not, ever, teach anyone how to live in a healthy way so that they will not require drugs. Nor, oddly enough, do health insurance companies.

We must take that responsibility ourselves. Governments don't teach it either because they do not directly control curriculum in schools. Schools don't teach it, in general, because they are required to teach too much other curriculum that such "options" as teaching good health methods and techniques are cast aside, if they are ever considered.

We know what people must do to be healthy. We know as a society. What we are not doing is teaching this to those who don't know, the ones who get sick and who develop debilitating illnesses.

Teaching good health methods and habits should be a high priority in a society that is becoming progressively dependent on drugs and medical doctors.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' working to teach people how to look after their health so they have a better chance at finding happiness.
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

What are you looking at?

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look atchange.
- Dr. Wayne Dwyer

While at first glance this quote may seem similar to yesterday's quote, it actually takes a different direction. They both have to do with the way we look at life around us.

However, this quote suggests that we look at different things when we change the way we look at things. That is, if we decide to look for the positive in events of our day, in our co-workers, in our family members and friends, we look at different events and behaviours than we would if we were looking for negative things.

When we want to find the positive in our lives, we tend to ignore or overlook those that are negative because they hold little importance to us. Forgiving, for example, is easy if we don't consider the mistakes of others to be important.

This conscious choice to seek positive things around us and in people relieves us of a great deal of stress. When we find ourselves relieved of stress simply by looking at different things, we must conclude that stress is something we heap on ourselves, rather than what others give to us.

We can turn ourselves into slaves to our jobs and our bosses will seldom interfere. We can turn ourselves into golf addicts and the golf pro will never complain. We can turn ourselves into shopaholics and the store owners will never tell us to stay home more.

Each of these behaviours adds to the stress of our lives because they mean we are doing things to excess, which causes us to look at different things than those that are important to us over the long term.

Change the way you look at things. If you are doing a great deal of something, consider what you will think of your participation to that extent on the last day of your life, if you are given the opportunity to look back over your life.

What really matters may not be what you are spending the most time on now. In fact, you might lose what really matters to you if you spend too much time on things that are not really important to your life over the long term.

You can't have everything. Make sure you look after what is important. That means you must look at those important things now, not after they are gone.

Don't assume that what is important to you will look after itself. It never does.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic SocialProblems,' waking us up to what is important in our lives.
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Friday, September 02, 2005

Your reality, my reality--not the same

The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.
- James Baldwin

Consider how you know about what is happening in the world outside of what you experience each day.

Do you learn about it from the television or newspapers? These media have a vested interest in making money, which means telling you about tragedies that will get your interest. They focus on tragedy and misfortune because that is what builds their viewership and readership.

This very situation causes you to have a perverted view of the world. You are bound to think that the world is a terrible place because you only learn about what is bad about it.

Do you learn about the world from what you hear from others talking about it? These people tend to take the worst of what they have read or seen on television as subjects for their conversations because they are so extreme. Only listening to these people will give you an even worse impression of what the world is about.

To get a clearer idea, consider the people who live in your neighbourhood. They aren't all bad, even if a few of them are. Apply that to every neighbourhood in the world. The ratio of good to bad people in the world is about the same in every part of the world.

The bad guys are few. We just hear more about them so we get the impression that the world is filled with them. It isn't. The world is filled mostly with good people like you and me.

Not many of us make the news.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' working to put life in perspective for everyone.
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Thursday, September 01, 2005

The sound of one hand clapping

As a teenager I remember hearing of a mysterious religion known as Zen Buddhism (sometimes shortened to just Zen). It was mysterious not just because my fellow teenaged ignoramuses and I had never been introduced to something so sinful as a religion without a god, but because it thoughtfully considered questions to which the answers were not simple or obvious.

One of these questions, as I recall, was stated this way: You know the sound of two hands clapping. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

The answers tended in two different directions. One was that there was no sound created without the other hand to clap against. The other noted that one hand could clap against something other than another hand, such as a leg, a face or another person's hand. Very esoteric, I'm sure.

Now know the original question. Japanese Zen master Hakuin (1686-1769), devised it as follows: In clapping both hands, a sound is heard. What is the sound of one hand? (In casual discussion this is usually corrupted to: What is the sound of one hand clapping?)

I now offer you a new interpretation based on years of considering this question.

What is created when two hands clap is sound, which is a kind of energy converted from air waves set in motion by kinetic energy from the two hands, originating from a signal from the brain telling the nerves to have the hand slap together using energy derived from nutrition taken from eaten food. I hope you see the symbolism of circulating energy here, a conservation of energy that is never lost, but simply alters from one state to another.

The air waves that create sound become kinetic energy that may transfer itself to some other form elsewhere. You may have read about the flapping of the wings of a butterfly in China eventually becoming a hurricane in the United States, as an example of how energy moves and transforms itself.

However, back to one hand in the air. One hand alone does not have the ability to make a sound unless it collides with something else. However--here is the new interpretation--one hand has the potential to use its energy to create many other things that require energy.

What is the sound of one hand clapping? It's the sound of potential. If you do not understand what on earth I am talking about, continue your quest for knowledge, my friend. You have much to learn.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' working to help people develop the skills to use their minds creatively.
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Stress is wasted life energy

"Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important."
- Natalie Goldberg

Nothing is that important. Nothing.

Stress, we assume, is placed on us by ourselves. Yet in most cases we place it on ourselves because we believe that others expect things of us that may be beyond our ability to produce comfortably within the normal scope of our lives.

Eating and sleeping are critical to our lives. But missing a meal or a day of meals will do us no harm and missing a few hours of sleep or a whole night's sleep to help a friend in need causes us little harm.

Those things that cause us stress tend to be things that will not be of much importance a year from now.

What could you not recover from if you lost it? That is important. Yet that is likely something that is within your control if you take proper and reasoned measures to deal with it.

Stress is wasted life energy. Nothing is that important.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' trying to help people understand what is really important in their lives instead of what others tell them is important.
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