Sunday, July 30, 2006

Insincere apologies may double victim hurt

A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.
- G.K. Chesterton, author (1874-1936)

"You did wrong. You hurt your sister. Now apologize."

"I'm sorry."

"That's better. Now, go to your room."

What was accomplished? The offender was made aware of his offence and that it was unacceptable. The offender was made to lose face by hunbling himself before his sister. The offender was punished. The mother (judge) is satisfied that a wrong has been righted.

Nothing has been done to help the victim to heal, to get past the hurt, to forget. In a sense, the victim was ignored by the administrator of family justice. Being ignored, to a child, is another form of hurt. The victim was hurt twice. The victim hurts more than ever as a result of the misunderstanding of the effects of faults in the family justice system.

Community and national legal systems use the same system for administering justice. The perpetrator is punished, the administrators are satisfied that justice has been served, but the victim remains hurt. An exception, sometimes, is family courts.

While it may be said that legal systems have no way to compensate victims other than by the granting of financial compensation (which is seldom available except when large companies lose a civil suit), families do have the means to help victims to heal.

Families need to be told, preferably before the family grows beyond the man-woman stage, what kinds of healing mother and father can offer to help a victimized child. Otherwise our administration of family justice remains as ineffective as the administration of our legal systems at preventing further hurt.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help parents understand the effects of their parental decisions on their children.
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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Protecting liberty means more than just our own liberty

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
- Thomas Paine, American writer (1737–1809)

Though this quotation was written in a style that would typically interest politicos and philosophers, it has a much deeper message for the rest of us.

First of all, it speaks of a duty, a duty to others than ourselves and those in our family. Duty is a subject only lightly covered in teaching children, as a general practice in the western world.

Paine says that we must protect our enemies from oppression, just as we would protect ourselves from it. To protect your enemies from oppression without saying anything is one thing, but to do so in a supportive and open way is quite another.

To support the welfare of another, openly, is a way of offering friendship. Only truly powerful countries can afford to offer support and friendship to their enemies.

If we take the US entry into Iraq as an example--setting aside the dubious reasons, which matter little today--it was to release Iraqis from the oppression of the Saddam regime. Iraqi supporters of the US invasion were and are still pleased that it happened.

The US had not reckoned on a religious civil war breaking out. All the original plans have been lost or abandoned, so that many Americans believe that the US should pull out of Iraq. That would result in mass slaughter, genocide on an unprecedented scale.

Does an obligation remain to protect Iraqis from oppression? To do that, the US must speak directly to Sunni and Shi'ite leaders in Iraq.

Does that sound impossible? Some would have us believe that. Yet the US has no trouble finding ways to bring the North Koreans to the table with the Chinese and Russians, as well as Japan and South Korea. What matters is will, not "can't."

Iraq's problems can no longer be solved with weapons. They can only be solved with words. The reason is that the religious civil war is being built and waged with words, words taught by Muslim leaders to their simple but devoted followers.

While this is going on, a defensive position can and must be maintained by the military.

Surely the country that claims to be the most powerful in the world today can develop strategies based on negotiations and diplomacy as well as it can based on sophisticated weaponry. It means that the US would have to recognize those with the power of words behind them to produce peaceful solutions, rather than violent ones.

It means that the US would have to make friends, not just allies.

Making friends is hard, as we all know. If the US is as great as its political leadership believes, then it must have the strength of words as well as of weapons.

Make time for the words. Only words can produce peace.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make sense of complex problems so that solutions seem easier to reach.
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Friday, July 28, 2006

What makes you feel good makes you healthy

"Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine."
- Lord Byron, English poet (1788–1824)

This message is not one grounded in attributable fact, but one based on reason. Therefore I make no effort to provide support for any health claims made here. Call it opinion, if you like. If this matters to you, click away now.

Some characteristics about us humans, such as the fact that we can't sneeze and keep our eyes open at the same time, can't be easily explained, but are fact nevertheless. The fact that we can't laugh and worry at the same time is one of those strange characteristics.

Long after Byron's time, medical science showed that endorphins are released in our brains when we laugh. Endorphins are those "feel good" neurochemicals that we just can't help loving.

Addicts get a shot of endorphins when they indulge in their addiction of choice. Endorphins get released when we experience sexual pleasure. The "runner's high" and other pleasureful feelings experienced by those who exert themselves strongly involve a release of endorphins.

Romantic love is the longest period in which the brain frequently releases endorphins. This explains why those who are "in love with love" want it to continue, just as an addict wants more. The brain treats romance the way it treats sexual climax or a recreational drug.

Laughing causes our brain to release endorphins. Since the period is relatively brief, scientists say that we should try to make our laugh periods belly laughs because they cause the greatest release of endorphins and that we should try to have belly laughs several times each day.

It's the infectiousness of belly laughing that causes the producers of TV sitcoms to add laugh tracks to otherwise mediocre comedies. One good sitcom or one good standup comedy program per day should do us a great deal of good. Too bad they are so rare.

Endorphins do more than just give us a temporary feel-good feeling. Anything that makes us feel good helps to stabilize the immune system. During these periods our immune system is not needed (so our brain thinks) so it rebuilds itself from any depletion (such as of white blood cells) from the recent past.

Watching children at play can do that for many people. They can't help smiling while they watch children they don't even know. Watching a mother breast-feed her baby produces a similar endorphin bath for some people. The mother herself experiences an endorphin rush when her baby is feeding. It's all natural.

Doing good for others or helping others directly produces milder forms of endorphin release, but over longer periods of time. This can be very healthy for the immune system.

If you think of the human body as a perfect or nearly perfect life system designed by a higher power, it would be reasonable to conclude that the designer intended that we indulge ourselves in these pleasurable experiences on a regular basis. They improve our health.

Anything that improves our health and well-being should be encouraged because it makes the community stronger, so it is better prepared to cope with tragedy when it comes.

Some people don't want us to experience anything pleasurable. We are doping ourselves, they say. We might want to question the motives and the wisdom of such people. Especially because they claim that they speak for God.

We also might be well advised to avoid confrontations with them because these work against the well-being discussed here. Primarily because they cause the release of epinephrin (aka Adrenaline) which is good in fight or flight situations, but unhealthy if we get dosed with it often or continuously. Long term, epinephrin works against our health.

Give someone a smile to improve their day. Have a good laugh to improve your own. Just thinking good thoughts will benefit your health because they make you feel good.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to spread all the good words.
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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Do you know or just think you know about parenting?

"Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back.
Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can't build on it;
it's only good for wallowing in."
- Katherine Mansfield

Regret is a form of self punishment. It's a form of turture which never ends because people who regret never completely forgive themselves.

Somehow, through my childhood, I must have heard enough people express regret over so many things that as a teenager I decided to live in such a way that I would never have to regret anything.

And I've never regretted it.

I have, however, continued to hear many people who have expressed regret about so many things in their lives. Most often their regret involves things they should have done with or said to people they love, but who died before they got around to it.

Some regret that they did not follow their dreams of being something their parents talked them out of doing.

If I have regret of any kind, it's regret that I didn't know more about what I should have known to competently and confidently be a father to my children. Everything I knew about parenting, I learned from my parents and grandparents. Which was nearly nothing, as I grew up in feral conditions without love, guidance, caring or anyone to help me through my social and emotional development.

I learned about what a child needs by paying attention to children when I was an adult. Most adults have a majority of their childhood needs satisfied, which is why they tend to take them for granted when they become parents. I had to learn them from nothing, as an adult.

My children will never learn what I have learned about child development, which is far more than even most sociologists specializing in education know. They will never know because I have been denied the opportunity to teach them. They teach their own growing children without any influence from me or from their now-dead mother or their deceased grandparents.

I will never know my grandchildren and never again have the opportunity to try my best to be a good father. My grandhchildren have been told that I am dead. I failed to meet their needs that badly.

Nature does not provide enough information to us about parenting. Through my experience as a classroom teacher as well as a teacher and mentor of adults, I have learned that many, perhaps a majority, of young adults become parents without knowing much about parenting other than what they learned by watching their own.

I can't regret what I did as a father because I tried my very best in the absence of knowledge about parenting. Even today few good books tell young adults what children need to assist with their social and emotional development. They teach about intellectual and physical development mostly.

I have vowed to teach others what I have learned. I will not be dissuaded by people who don't know what they are talking about, are comfortable with their own ignorance and don't want anyone to tell them different.

I will not regret having missed the opportunity to teach the extraordinary knowledge I have learned. I will teach those who want to learn. As many as I can. For as long as I can.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' an essential handbook for parents and teachers, with a title that sounds far more academic than the writing style of the book. It's a book that everyone can read comfortably.
Learn more about the book at

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why should you care? What's it to you?

"People who say they don't care what people think are usually
desperate to have people think they don't care what people think."
- George Carlin

Carlin's comedy revolves around finding quirks of human nature then making fun of them in our faces. This observation, however, has an undertone of fear. The fear of not being liked.

It's true that people who really don't care what other people think don't make an issue of it publicly. The reason, by its own deduction, is that they don't care enough to tell anyone.

The others do care what people think. This group would be divided into those who express their care, such as the people who take offence at something that is mentioned in a article that has nothing to do with them personally, and those who deny caring.

Those who deny caring were raised in families where they were taught that it is important what other people think of you. The "others" define your reputation.

They were taught that it was important to be nice to the teacher because misbehaving might cause the teacher to grant a poor grade or to give less personal attention.

They were taught to be nice to everyone in their peer group because it was important to make friends. These people became disillusioned adults when they discovered that some people are inconsolably mean or bitter and some are just plain not worth having as friends.

This human characteristic, like others involving human behaviour, is one of the hardest to shake as an adult. I find it hard, for example, to turn away from someone who has been intentionally hurtful to me, though I know that it's the best thing I could do for myself.

Bullies know how to attract the attention of their victims.

Harder still is not stepping in to defend someone who has been deliberately hurt, often without due cause, especially if that person is not capable of defending herself or himself.

Some people are not worth caring about, if they are hateful, hurtful, bitter or mean.

And yet, we must avoid teaching our children not to care about what others think of them. It's how they will survive in the working world. It's how they will learn compassion for others. It's how they will become people who matter to the world.

Caring about what others think of us goes along with caring about the welfare of others. It doesn't make sense in terms of business ethics, but it's usually true. We should be able to separate the two. Many people can't keep them separate.

It follows that people who care most about others, who show the most compassion toward others who need guidance from a mentor or who need help in a time of need, likely have suffered many times from the abuse of nasty people.

They are quiet heroes in ways few others but themselves understand.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make sense of the confusion that sometimes dominates our lives.
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Monday, July 24, 2006

Turning injury into hatred

It is human nature to hate the man whom you have hurt.
- Publius Cornelius Tacitus, historian (c.55-c.120)

Human nature easily qualifies as the most peculiar characteristic of nature. Whether or not we are the most sophisticated stage of evolutionary development in animals, we are the strangest by far.

Not the least reason for this is the fact that some people seem to exhibit behaviour or make personal choices that are to their own detriment. I say "seem" because we make choices based on a wider variety of input than most other forms of life.

The choice to take a hallucinogenic drug, for example, might be made as a release from psychological pain that is hidden from everyone else, even if taking that drug is known to result in another form of pain (discomfort of some sort) as the effect of the drug wears off. To most people, the long term pain (and potential health risk) is not worth the short term gain of the high.

Another example is the one noted by the Roman historian Tacitus. In our personal lives, even if we accidentally hurt someone, we may get angry at that person because it must have been his fault. Or so we rationalize. (It's a generalization, but sociology is about generalizations, not about 100 percent accuracy with every individual.)

On a macro level, the behaviour is similar among countries. One of the greatest ways that one country may learn to become the enemy of another is if the first country hurts the other. For example, did Hezbollah intend to start a war between Lebanon and Israel when it entered Israeli territory and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers?

In reaction, Israel finds reasons to hate anyone who happens to be close to where it believes Hezbollah members may be hiding out and where it drops bombs. Dropping bombs on civilians violates international law, but Israel found more reasons to hate Lebanese enough to continue to fire still more missiles into the cities of its northern neighbour.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, after likely intending only to annoy Israel more than anything else by kidnapping its soldiers, declares that the captives are prisoners of war. This causes Israel to accept that war has been declared and it proceeds to kill more Lebanese and anyone else its bombs happen to hit in Tyre and Beirut.

There is no doubt that many Muslim militants in the Middle East, most audible among them Hezbollah, want to wipe Israel off the map. And likely all Israelis (Jews, especially) off the face of the earth. What is questionable is the wisdom of attacking or kidnapping soldiers of a country whose military might overpowers that of Lebanon and all of its neighbours combined by many times.

The explanation we hear from the media is that they hope to rally all Muslims against Israel. This has never worked and could never work because most Muslims are peaceful people. Indeed, Israel's Muslim neighbours benefit from trade with their relatively wealthy neighbour and employment of its nationals within Israel.

Perhaps Tacitus was right, we develop a hatred for those we have hurt. With so much history of hurt in the Middle East over the past half century, there is lots of scope for hatred.

Where there is hatred, martyrdom rears its head. There always seems to be someone who receives a message from the almighty that martyrs will be welcomed eagerly into heaven. That someone (those someones) can rarely be found sacrificing his (their) own live(s) for their cause. They are always much too important for that.

Hatred is easily taught as an outcome of fear. Where there is fear, someone always steps into the middle to generate hatred. Fear and hatred are means by which otherwise average people may becokme leaders.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help us keep our eyes open as we move cautiously into an increasingly dangerous future.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

The first step

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."
- Mohandas K. ("The Mahatma") Gandhi

Note that the "Great Soul" did not advance the cause of nihilism, of getting as much as we can today and to hell with tomorrow. He recommends that we act today as if we want our actions to have an effect forever.

If we know what is right, we should take action on it. Today. Without waiting for others to show their support.

Without complaining how badly others are behaving. Without accusing them of greed or self-interest. Without faulting them for doing little or nothing to improve the situation.

Complaining or accusing others of doing wrong accomplishes nothing, except to create enemies and opponents to change. No advance can be made in a negative environment.

As Mao said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (even that is a paraphrase, I believe, but the gist is there). That step must be made by one person. And it's a lonely first step as so many others do not want us to move from the status quo they cling to desperately.

The Mahatma accomplished what many believe were miracles by virtue of his own voice, his own thoughts, his own determination and his ability to see roadblocks as detours, not as dead ends. Single-handedly, he prevented rioting and mayhem in Calcutta when the British army stayed away believing that it would be the victim of mobs. He guided a fundamentally peaceful and poorly educated population to independence from what had been the world's largest empire.

Gandhi had many enemies. Yet he did not worry about his enemies. Instead he focussed on gathering friends and supporters.

He learned much along the way. I, as a very young child half a world away in a rural backwater, learned from him as he learned. I listened when he spoke.

I have taken the first step in my generation. And many others since. I have found many who would oppose me in my quest to make the world a better place. They hate. I care nothing for them.

I love those who have joined me, those who have come to understand the way to make things better.

There is only one way, so the choice is not hard. The choice is to join, to hate or to do nothing.

Learn today as if you will live forever. Learn first, then choose.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' shining a small light on the long path to a more peaceful, healthy and loving world.
Learn more at

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Solutions don't speak for themselves

If you want to have friends, be friendly;
if you want to be trusted, be honest;
if you want to be loved, be loving;
if you want to be safe, be brave.
- Gil Hardwick

The world is as bad as you think it is. It's also as good as you think it is.

What you think is what you believe. What you believe is who you are.

The world is safer today for the average person, no matter where they live, than at any previous time in history. Yet we fear for our safety.

There are more people today helping others in need, especially strangers, even in parts of the world they know nothing about, than ever before. Yet many of us have trouble developing genuine love in our own lives. (Present company excepted.)

We have more need for trust today than ever before in history. Yet our leaders show us by example that even they cannot be trusted when we trust them.

Most of us are surrounded by people every day. Yet we have trouble making friends who would be committed enough to die for us.

Based on sheer numbers of humans and where we have populated ourselves on earth, we are the most successful species ever. At least since the age of the dinosaurs. Yet we, unlike other animals, foul our own beds.

You read this because you are a caring person. You likely taught your children to be the same way. You may assume that everyone teaches their children as you do. Your assumption, if that be the case, would be wrong.

The only way, the only way, the only way that we can ever achieve the kind of future we want for ourselves and our children and grandchildren is for everyone to teach their children the same messages.

The only way that can happen is if the messages are taught to parents before they have their first child and to children in schools.

The only way that can happen is if you care enough to tell others what you know and they don't.

If they ask for more substance than just your opinion, give them a copy of 'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems.' It may be the most important gift you ever give in your life.

Without you, nothing will change. You already know something that too few people among the 6.5 billion of us on earth know. You know that solutions for a better life are possible.

But they won't learn from you if you sit there with your mouth closed and your hands in your pockets. If it really matters to you, spread the word.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give you the tools we all need to make everyone's life better.
Learn more at

Friday, July 21, 2006

How did you learn to think?

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an
injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are
aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons,
especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.
- Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920- )

I have great respect for Professor Szasz (and not because he can pronounce his own name and I have no idea how to say it). He is a wise man and has provided people with much good advice.

However, this quotation is an example of a man who is very knowledgeable in one discipline believing that his opinion is valuable in all others. In this matter, that of childhood learning, Professor Szasz doesn't have a clue.

He is correct in that some adults feel it beneath them to have to learn something new in order to repair a broken device in their home, for example. Rather than admit that they know nothing about the device, they maintian their feeling of superiority (not needing to know) and pay someone to come in to fix it. The someone has no pangs of guilt about overcharging such a homeowner in order to help him feel better about himself.

Children don't learn just because they have little concept of their own self importance. On the contrary, most children learn very young the level of importance they hold in their family.

Kids learn because that is what they were programmed to do. Every animal and plant is programmed to learn what it must in its early days in order to survive. Professor Szasz has apparently not heard of the survival instinct. Every living thing has it.

While the brain of a young child is not its full size, it is disproportionately large for the size of its body. Even at birth, the brain has unbelievable potential. (Its final growth spurt is in the late teens when the frontal lobes--the part that determines right from wrong, good from bad--develops.) The brain is programmed to suck in information (especially in the first five years) at an astounding rate. Most children, for example, learn about half of what they know in their entire lifetimes by the age of five years.

Languages are relatively easy for a child to learn up to the age of 11 years. The language part of the brain is programmed to soak up language like a sponge. As the brain is not programmed to differentiate between languages, a child may learn any number of languages during this period. He may even cross them with each other when speaking to a parent or whoever else is teaching them languages. It's more difficult for a young child who is learning several languages to keep within the confines of one language than it is to learn several languages.

Around the age of 11 years, a change occurs in the brain, a change that allows the brain to use what language(s) it has learned in ways that will benefit it as an adult. In other words, the brain develops its first adult functions around age 11. This conforms to the age at which boys and girls in our prehistoric past reached adolescence and were required to adopt adult responsibilities. They often became parents by age 13.

By age 11 and after, people have much more difficulty learning a new language. The reason is because the brain changes, physically and functionally.

Here is where Professor Szasz and I differ. I believe, and my teaching and sociological studies support this, that children learn how to think in depth before the age of 11 years. After age 11, they learn information they process through the machinery they have built in their heads to produce the level of thought they will have as adults. Of course adolescents and adults will improve upon and refine their thinking processes, but thinking itself is as hard to come by after age 11 as is new language if these have not been learned before age 11.

Children in their first decade of life don't have much knowledge accumulated with which to think in depth. What they have is learned from parents (about 85 percent, including their teachers), from family, peers, their community and their various other associations. They learn to sort through and process what they do know so that they can reach conclusions that serve them at the time.

Those children who are given little op[portunity to think at any depth beyond that of basic needs, including in school, become adults who are incapable of thinking beyond the depth of basic needs of the present. Kids who are given opportunities at home and in school to think about what is happening around them, including the preconditions for it (history) and the consequences of what they do today as life unfolds in their future will become that small percentage of adults who can think at the level for which humans received their scientific name, homo spapiens sapiens. (Yes, two "sapiens" is technically correct.)

Keeping important subjects away from young children harms them not only because they don't know anything about topics that may be critical to their lives as teens and adults, but also because they will not have the knowledge on which to base thought that will form the thinking processes they will have for the rest of their lives.

Anything about childhood learning that disagrees with this is old and out of date. My "theses" will not be proven here simply because they are an assembly of the work of many current sociologists. And because this is not a book.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give children the opportunities they need to become thinking adults.
Learn more at

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The goal may not be where you are headed

"People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things."
- R. Buckminster Fuller

But, Bucky, people accept the usual ways of doing things precisely because they don't give any thought to them. They assume that many others before them have thought everything through and discovered the best ways of doing everything.

And those "many others before them?" They thought (or, more accurately, didn't think seriously) the same way.

Most of us seem to have a natural tendency to believe that because we do something one way, that it must be the right way. And that if we were taught something one way, that it must be the best way.

In my personal life, I have been baffled many times over the past few years about how to proceed with a problem, usually a problem about how to repair something without having the tools and skills that a professional would have ready.

While I am fussing and ranting about how luck has dealt me another bad blow, concerned that I might have to invest in a new object to replace the one I couldn't repair, my wife comes along and suggests that I try something a little different.

You should understand that my wife is a very smart woman who disguises herself in the clothing of a court clown so that no one will know how knowledgeable she is. Her wisdom slips out most often when I am perplexed with a problem. Her solution is fast, cheap and easy to implement.

Sometimes I'm a dummy at night, unable to find the answer, but by morning I have figured out how to solve that complex problem that seemed intractable the previous evening.

It's true that taking a break from a disturbing problem and looking at it later often sheds new light on its possible solution. It's also true that the human brain hashes and rehashes over our daytime problems while we sleep, often resulting in the solutions presenting themselves fully formed when we wake up.

As a side note, this also explains why writers often wake in the middle of the night with a great idea and a need to commit it to print right away.

Looking at conventional problems in a different way doesn't mean just staring harder at them. It means looking away and thinking about something else for a while.

It means rethinking causes that might not have been considered before. Often times knowing a cause (or newly-considered causes) of something will give insight into its solution.

The key word in the Buckminster Fuller quote is "think." Just fussing and worrying about a problem is not thinking. Thinking about a problem is a process, like a journey that we travel many times until we finally discover the right way to reach our destination.

Sometimes that solution is quite different from the conventional way of getting there. If it is, those who take the conventional ways will object, mostly because they have not been through the same thinking process that caused us to reach the better solution.

Those who find the best solutions often work alone for a long time until others catch up with what they discovered.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show you new, simple, cheap and easy ways to solve big problems you thought were unsolvable.
Learn more at

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

You could harm youself without knowing it

"It is never wise to seek or wish for another's misfortune. If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang."
- Charley Reese, American commentator

This is a brutally hard pill to swallow. First of all, it's hard because we learn from the society around us that vengeance is the way of life.

In church we hear about turning the other cheek. However, since we virtually never see anyone do that, we tend to ignore it even if we believe it is wise.

This quotation speaks not of doing something against another person, but simply of wishing misfortune on another. Can a wish be harmful? Can we will something to happen for which we are then responsible?

Not likely. The boomerang effect refers to the cancerous feelings of doubt, of guilt, of wishing something bad on someone when we wouldn't want anyone to wish the same thing back on us.

Simply thinking badly of someone harms us. Anything we think has absolutely no ill effects on the other person. That person goes scott-free. It's we who bear the grudge.

Grudges get heavier with time. They never, ever, do any good for anyone. They always, without exception, do more harm to the person who carries the grudge than to the other person.

While the person against whom the grudge is held is out playing golf, skipping stones or otherwise larking, the grudge holder fumes and foments his own unplanned destruction.

Holding grudges or wishing ill of others is masochism. No people on earth value masochism when it is not done for a religious benefit.

Think of it this way: If the person who did you wrong thinks nothing of you, why should you give that person more than a passing thought, let alone harm yourself by wishing him harm?

Learning to forget people who have harmed you is difficult, but it can be learned with practice. The key is self discipline.

In this case, self discipline is made easier because you know how much harm you can do to yourself by holding a grudge.

It might help too if you kept in mind that anything that impinges negatively on the brain impacts the immune system, usually by compromising it such that the body is more susceptable to disease attacks than normally. Holding a grudge could, literally, turn a precancerous condition you don't know about into a cancer that you find out about when the grudge-causer is well gone, for example.

If you must keep someone in mind, keep a winner in mind, not a loser. Be a winner and keep your own best interests and best health at heart. Flush the losers out of your life.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help you to live a long and healthy life.
Learn more at

Monday, July 17, 2006

How to create world peace

"Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people."
- Jawaharlal Nehru, first prime minister of modern India (1889–1964)

India, at more than one billion population, is the world's best example of peace being a state of mind.

India has its share of problems, and more. It has both the preconditions for terrorism and terrorists themselves. It has more HIV/AIDS than any other country.

It has poverty, assisted by annual floods in some states and unrelenting drought in others. It has living conditions in some places that would make a home in a refrigerator carton seem like a palace.

India has militants, notably in the Kashmir, the northern part of the country whose "ownership" has been disputed since shortly after Kashmir gained independence from Britain in 1947 and its Hindu leader agreed to join with India in order to avoid takeover by Muslim Pakistan.

India has nuclear weapons and the ability to launch them at Pakistan. Pakistan also has such weapons. Both have international media who have played up the possibility of impending war between the two countries for half a century.

Yet despite the media hype, no war between India and Pakistan has ever been seriously considered by their respective leaders. The two countries are, by nature it seems, peaceful. Despite the deaths of about ten million people when Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India were created and Hindus migrated to India from the western country while some Muslims travelled to Pakistan, most of the people of the two countries consider themselves kin under the skin.

Indians of old, whether under the control of the Mughals or the British, remained relatively peaceful people while those of nearby nations were frequently at war. Whether Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, the vast majority of the populations of India and Pakistan are peace-loving.

Why are Indians such peaceful people? They are taught, from early childhood, that they are peaceful people. Canadian and Swiss children are similarly taught, as are the children of many European countries who seem reluctant to go to war and thus gave in to conquerers in the past.

It can be a challenge to determine hallmarks of a peaceful people without people of more aggressive societies considering these to be marks of cowardice. However, a worthy marker for a people that is not peaceful is fear.

Fear and peace cannot live in the same heart.

Both fear and peace are taught to young children, whether actively or passively (coincidentally, such as through television).

Those who want peace must teach peace to their young.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' promoting the concept of T3: Teach right, teach good, teach peace.
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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Did you make it to the starting line?

"Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."
- William Jennings Bryan, American lawyer and politician (1860–1925)

People love to assemble coincidences in their minds to develop theories (or conspiracies) about all kinds of matters about which they know very little. That's how all superstition arose.

Destiny, free will and fatalism, all inextricably linked in the minds of many, fall into this category.

Were you born knowing what you would be as an adult? Did you know, before you could even speak, read or understand spoken words, whether you would be an architect, a spouse beater, a prostitute, a beggar or an institutionalized psychiatric patient? Could you feel any of these things were true of you as you progressed through the first years of childhood?

If not, then what you made of the life you got is the reason for the life you have.

But... But... But... Of course your environment played a huge role in what you were able to make of yourself. And of course no one taught you that you could make of yourself whatever you wanted to make, you could be what you wanted to be, and provided you with the skills and opportunities to reach them. We adults should do that for children, but we don't.

Few kids receive these opportunities. Most of us have the potential for taking advantage of opportunities squeezed out of us while we are still little. Do you think, for examples, that Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Leonardo da Vinci behaved any differently than you did when you were all in your first year of life?

The most difficult thing about building your own destiny is establishing a starting point and getting moving toward a goal. Most of us are so busy fussing over the annoying and delightful little details of life that we don't bother setting long term goals for ourselves. Most of those who do never reach the starting line.

Sadly, many of those who choose a life objective and work doggedly toward it did not consider the consequences of devoting themselves to being the best at something. You wouldn't really want to trade lives with any of the celebrities you know, with any of the extremely rich people you have heard about or with the political leader of your country. You would soon back away if you knew what their lives were really like, if you breathed their air.

When choosing an objective in life, we need to consider far more than simply the great benefits of those who succeeded at that lifestyle before us. For each great success, there was a cost that someone paid. Maybe more than one someone.

Sometimes just being pretty good at something, while still retaining a firm grasp of the wide range of meaningful components of life, makes for a pretty healthy and sustainably happy lifestyle.

Set your goals for life. Establish the lifestyle you propose to have while moving toward that goal. Consider the negative as well as the positive consequences of being in that place. When the weighing is done, make your choice.

Then move up to the starting line. It won't get closer on its own.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show not just what life's goals are but also the choices we have to make to reach them.
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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Power and greatness, friends or opponents?

"We have, I fear, confused power with greatness."
- Stewart L. Udall, U.S. politician

Though I hesitate to quote politicians at any time (I quote acknowledged statesmen on occasion), Mr. Udall make a point worth noting.

His comment applies to political leaders. There are still many who believe that Adolf Hitler was a great man and a great leader, that his only problem was that he lost his war to conquer the world. Indeed, these people still praise Hitler for bringing western nations out of the Great Depression and for providing an industrial model that countries such as the USA follow today.

The US has the power to create wars with other countries with whom it has major disagreements, wars that are fought mostly within the boundaries of those countries, and to draw many other nations into the conflicts to legitimize them.

Udall's comment may be applied to countries as well as to individuals.

Is George W. Bush, the self-proclaimed "war president," the saviour to the world that so many believe he is?

Is the USA "the greatest nation on earth," as Mr. Bush says so often that it is?

Many will say that the world changed on 9/11, that the events in New York and Washington that day made the War On Terror necessary. This has been repeated as a mantra for the past almost five years, to the point that it has become accepted as fact.

In a conversation I had over several days with a teacher friend in Virginia in the spring of 2000, I predicted several times that if George W. Bush were elected president that November, the US would be at war within a year of the election, maybe even within six months. September 11, 2001 was almost eight months after Mr. Bush's inauguration. His country was at war two months later.

All the elements were in place for Mr. Bush to go to war, sufficiently so that observers other than myself were able to predict an impending war, before 9/11.

While I make no comment as to who was responsible for 9/11, I submit that the US was about to go to war under Mr. Bush's leadership whether or not 9/11 happened. He made war noises long before the election, making his countrymen more afraid of "foreigners" than they had ever been before. War, under Mr. Bush, was inevitable.

Your evaluation of the consequences of what has happened in the succeeding five years will help you to decide whether Mr. Bush is a great leader because of the power he exercises and that he flaunts before the world.

And whether the US is truly a great country as a result of its actions, as it transforms itself from the world's only superpower into a second rate world player as it spends billions of dollars per day (money it must borrow from countries such as China) to support its war efforts.

Remember when the USSR was the other superpower?

Power comes at a cost. A devastating cost.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make people more important than wars.
Learn more at

Friday, July 14, 2006

Creating the you that you were meant to be

"People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates."
- Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center

Don't worry about finding yourself, dear. Mommy will drive you there.

That's my quote, from myself. If parents do everything for their children, including providing them with the latest electronic toys and "in" gear, when do the children have the opportunity to create the person they want to be? They don't even know that is what they are supposed to do.

Some parents do very little for their children, believing that they will find their own way, as the parents themselves did when they were kids. Sure enough, the kids do find a way. It may not be the best way or even a healthy way. Maybe it's "cool" though.

Both of the above scenarios are prescriptions for possible dilinquency or emotional stress in children, usually during their adolescence or later (for the emotional problems especially).

Most of the people who will read this are mature, meaning that they have managed to scrape through the early years of their lives, often at great personal peril, and have built at least a tentative new life for themselves. I say tentative only because people who create lives for themselves well beyond childhood are often uncertain if they have made the right choices, especially as the choices were not often those recommended by their parents.

They're doing it right, but it's not the way prescribed by the social establishment.

Eventually those mature adults become wise adults. Most of you fit that description.

Many adults are neither mature nor wise because their lives are nothing more than the fulfillment of the prescribed workaday lives expected by industry (aka the establishment). All they are certain of is that they must be doing the right thing because they are making money and spending it dutifully the way the big companies want them to spend it. They are emotional slaves, but they believe they are happy and fulfilled because the establishment approves of what they do.

To those of you adults reading this, both mature and wise, congratulations! You have done something the majority of people never accomplish.

How could we get more children to grow up to develop the kind of maturity and wisdom that you have? Ohhhhh! I can't answer that question without directing you to my book, which answers that question and many more.

You can, however, read a great deal from my web site which will give you some very good clues as to how to answer that question about how to develop sound and intellectually, emotionally and socially fit adults from today's and tomorrow's children.

Scientists refer to reproduction as the biological imperative. In nature, young animals who are not taught properly and completely by their parents die young.

In human society, they roam the streets and involve themselves with all kinds of anti-social behaviours.

It doesn't have to be that way. It really doesn't. You should learn how.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make everyone aware that there are answers and solutions to the worst problems we have, as individuals and as societies.
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

To listen, to hear or ignore

I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.
- Diane Sawyer

A most engaging TV interviewer, Diane Sawyer has the skill to be able to prepare new questions for her interviewee, listen to her producer barking commands into her ear, while at the same time listening to the person speaking to her so that she can respond with pertinent reply questions where appropriate.

Most people listen to those with whom they share a dialogue. That is, they face the other person with their mouths closed. Not so many actually hear what the other person has said.

They are too busy preparing the next portion of the conversation in which they will continue to elaborate on the subject that takes their interest at the moment.

What the other person wants to talk about or whether that person wants to hear what the speaker has to say often receives short shrift. The important thing to them is to express themselves to someone who will listen, not to find a subject of common interest where the two people will each express their respective opinions and share comments in reaction to each other's thoughts.

Television has made us recipients of a constant barrage of talk coming at us incessantly. At some point we realize that no one on TV is hearing us back. We feel the need to express our thoughts to someone who will listen back.

So we sometimes have conversations which are, in effect, two monologues running in alternative fashion. Each party has something to say, but nothing they want to hear.

Like ships passing in the night, waving at each other with flashlights.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help every child learn to hear, and thereby learn.
Learn more at

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More air for the rest of us

If I could wish for my life to be perfect, it would be tempting but I would have to decline for life would no longer teach me anything.
- Alyson Jones

Therein lies the secret to life.

While so many people strive to learn what life is all about and what it has to offer them, what truly matters is what they have to offer as a contribution to the total existence on earth.

Those who pray ask for things instead of committing themselves to doing something of value to the world.

Many who do not pray cry that the world is too hard on them, caring little or not at all about the burden that they place on the rest of the world.

Those who don't know how to manage their lives sometimes turn to addictions. Work, sex, drugs, religion, gambling, excessive eating, obsessions, hate, idol worship, they are all ways that people try to find meaning that the world can give to them. Not one of these contributes a thing to justify why these people use up natural resources.

Many people avoid getting involved with all kinds of things because it would mean too much learning for them to gain sufficient knowledge. Learning is work and they have been taught that work is to be avoided as much as possible.

Some are comfortable with their own ignorance, which eventually matures into stupidity.

Many people wonder why more people don't like them. They consider those who give freely of themselves to benefit others to be suckers. "If someone wants to be my friend, they can give me something or do a favour for me first, as a gesture of friendship."

In time, they find themselves standing on the corner waiting for the next bus. But there was only one bus in their lifetime. They missed it. They keep searching.

Few mourn their passing. It leaves more air for the rest of us to breathe.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Ep[idemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage those who can to create more air for everyone to breathe.
Learn more at

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The eyes have it

I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may, light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.
- John Constable, painter (1776-1837)

A master painter or photographer can make anything look beautiful, worthy of attention and admiration.

Artists can't create beauty. They find beauty, then emphasize it so that it's more obvious to others.

You can find beauty as well. Beauty is all around you, no matter in what direction you look.

Your brain may have been trained to see many things around you as ugly, as useless, as trash, as unworthy. You have been trained to think that way by others. Those others don't want you to see beauty where they are unable to see it. Where they have chosen to not see it.

They want you to join them by surrounding yourself with the same ugliness and unworthiness as they see.

What if you don't?

You can see the beauty in anything if you choose to. Don't let others persuade you to see only the worst of everything. You can choose to not see the worst of anything, if you wish.

For example, our media lead us to believe that the world is a more violent and dangerous place than it has ever been in history. That's not true. There are fewer wars going on today than have been going on at any point in history for the past 2000 years. There is less personal violence happening--life is less risky--today than ever before in history. These statistics are in proportion to the total world population at relative time points.

What is of greater risk to your health and safety than the ugliness of life around you is the person who wants you to focus on it and not on the beauty.

Do you want to make yourself beautiful without even wearing cosmetics? Smile. Smile with your heart, not just with your lips.

Your heart expresses itself in your eyes. A heart that sees beauty smiles through the eyes.

The easiest place to find beauty is in the eyes of a loved one. Or in the eyes of someone who is loved.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show you how to make your heart smile.
Learn more at

Monday, July 10, 2006

It hurts outside the box

"Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything."
- George Lois

The reference is to creative thinking, not so much creative art. "Thinking outside the box" is a current way of saying the same thing.

Why is it called a "box?" Not because everyone who acts within the box thinks the same way.

The box is more like a prison, confining people through social (peer) pressure to ways of thinking, acting, doing, buying and believing that are acceptable to a limited few who hold power few others recognize.

The box is not a line drawn in sand. Sand lines may be easily erased and redrawn. Or they get washed away with time.

Thinking creatively is an act of daring, sometimes equivalent to shaking your fist in the face of a police officer. Just as the cop could have you arrested, community pressure to conform can act to confine a creative person to a social prison of ostracism or rejection.

Part of the inherent problem with creativity is that, of necessity, the creative thinker must go beyond the bounds of social acceptability in order to discover what is possible (if not previously thought of) and what is socially within the bounds of community standards. Social standards themselves are only stressed when someone steps beyond them.

Creative thinkers are seldom venerated within their lifetimes. More often they are rejected or treated as pariahs who want to upset the established applecart. Albert Einstein, though respected by many during his lifetime, was abhored by many too. In the half century since his death, he has gained the status of a demi-god of physics.

My conclusion from this? If you want to leave the world something truly worth remembering after you die, be prepared to suffer rebuke, rejection and unfair criticism while you live from those who will leave nothing worth remembering.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to find a foothold on acceptance for a cause that is greater than any of us.
Learn more at

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The ugly truth behind the curtain

"Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either."
- Gore Vidal, US writer

Never at a loss for words that will offend someone, Vidal nevertheless provides an opening to look briefly behind the political curtain.

Political speech writing is not what it used to be. In the days before television was embedded inside people's brains and the 20-second soundbite almost daily ruled the political world, speeches were written to rouse a live audience in a hall or a park.

In those days, the objective was to say enough hopeful and patriotic things that the crowd would be cheering (it didn't matter for what--the flag was always a good topic if nothing else presented itself) as the candidate left the staging area.

Today's political speeches are either vehicles for propaganda or they are enhanced commercials (but I repeat myself). Their message (each speech has one primary objective) is presented professionally. The politicians attend special courses, taught by professional speaking coaches, to learn how to speak most effectively.

The speeches themselves are written by propagandists. Speechwriters often come from the ranks of advertising agencies or broadcasting commentary programs. During his first term in office, President Bush's main speech writer was a Canadian professor, journalist, the son of a prominent former Canadian ambassador to Washington. Today that man is eying the leadership of a Canadian political party, and will no doubt become Prime Minister if he achieves the leadership.

Political candidates and leaders don't have either the time or the skills to write their own speeches. Their most important skills are schmoozing and making promises they have every intention of forgetting later (and blaming someone else for it).

Political leaders are, in a real sense, puppets who spout what their party needs to be said. The larger the country they represent, the more realistic this statement is. Presidents Bush and Putin (of Russia), for examples, owe much to those who have the power to get them re-elected in the next vote. And those who can get their proposed legislation passed today.

Political parties, at least the larger ones, are animals (a large carnivore). Their ethics are determined by what will keep them in power and what will keep them in the grace of their people. Power is of primary importance, with money following in second place (its significance determined by the needs of the day). They eat more than they need.

Those who do not write their own speeches do not say what they really mean. They say what those who hire and pay the speech writers want said. They keep their complaints, their gripes and their plans for vengeance for private moments with those they trust (who could usually be counted on one or two thumbs).

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make reality look more like the truth.
Learn more at

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Complain, adapt or die!

Nature is slow, but sure; she works no faster than need be; she is the tortoise that wins the race by her perseverance.
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Nature adapts to every situation and condition. It has been thus since the so-called Big Bang.

Since life began on earth some 3.2 billion years ago, there have been many large extinctions of life, some that nearly wiped out the entire animal population that lived on land (such as the one 225 million years ago at the beginning of the Triassic Period).

When life began, plants grew in conditions that no known plant could live in today. In fact, until recently scientists believed that no life could life in those extremely toxic conditions. There may be life forms that exist around vents in the sea floor (about which we know very little at this time) that exist today in those primitive conditions.

Some life did survive each great extinction. There may even have been primitive animal life (bacteria) or viruses that existed in those times before life as we know it existed.

In the intervening billions of years, everything that constitutes environment for life changed dramatically. With each change, plant and animal life adapated, many died and some began new life forms.

Glaciers came and went in more recent history. Animals and plants adapted to survive in conditions similar to those currently near the North and South Poles. Alaska and northern Canada were at some times almost totally frozen and at others tropical. With each change, plants and animals died and others adapted to the new conditions.

It would be totally foolish for us to believe that climate modification would mean the end of life as we know it. Humans have adapated to live in every climatic condition that exists on earth today. Nothing in our history suggests that we could not adapt to any change that happens as a result of "global warming."

Despite all the abuse we have heaped on the atmosphere that surrounds our planet over the past 200 years, surface air temperatures have risen only 0.6 degrees C in the past century. Some parts are hotter than ever before, but others are cooler. Some glaciers have shrunk in recent years, but others have expanded considerably.

Not one coastal city has been flooded, despite the direst warnings. Not a single person has moved from one of the most at-risk island groups on Earth, the Maldives, because of rising sea levels. Their highest point above sea level on any of the islands is one metre.

Our media ply us daily with warnings about weather disasters and warming statistics. Rarely, if ever, do we hear that the very same greenhouse gases that will warm our atomosphere are toxic for us to breathe. Rarely do we hear that humans contribute only one-tenth of the conditions necessary to warm the atmosphere, whereas nature provides 90 percent.

The industries (especially including those that produce power, as a majority of those use coal) that contribute greenhouse gasses to the air above our planet are poisoning us with their fumes. These contribute to the compromise of our immune systems, which makes our bodies more susceptable to disease and degeneration.

While our media warn us that our air might get another half a degree warmer, we continue to breathe the toxic fumes that reach us from smokestacks. Nature adds nothing to that situation.

We can't do much about changing our atomosphere. We can do something about our being systematically poisoned.

We had better do something soon. Or adapt.

Considering how reluctant people are about stepping forward to complain about industries poisoning the air they breathe, we might better hope that we can adapt.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help us adapt our attitudes to changing conditions around us.
Learn more at

Friday, July 07, 2006

Failure seekers need not apply

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
- Helen Keller

Blind and deaf from the age of 19 months, Helen Adams Keller knew what it was like to have nothing in the world. During her critical formative first decade of life, she knew nothing except what she touched, smelled and tasted. From the stories that were told of that early period, even those senses were all bitter.

Helen had a brilliant mind, but nothing she could do with it. It was the worst kind of imprisonment. No one says that she went mad as a child because no one says that about children. She acted mad.

Only Anne Sullivan was able to bring her, slowly, out of her private hell. Though she remained blind and deaf, she went on to graduate from college and become a lecturer and writer until here death in 1968 at the age of 88 years.

She knew from intense personal experience that suffering can be overcome, if someone cares. In this case, Anne Sullivan not only cared, but she knew how to solve Helen's problem, at least to overcome the worst of her handicaps, her imprisoned mind. Anne knew how to release the potential for great good.

We can only imagine what Anne Sullivan felt like when she was able to bring such a heroine as Helen Keller to the world.

Would you have made the sacrifice that Anne made, if you knew the results that could be achieved?

If you could make only a small investment of time and energy to end wars, drug use, home invasions, most crime, homelessness and many kinds of mental illness, would you make that investment?

That's all the supporters of 'Turning It Around' are asking of you. Learn about the program, tell others about it (there is nothing to sell, it's just a matter of telling others about what you learned in a book) and be prepared to join with others when submissions are made to politicians to make changes in direction for education systems. Those changes will all be approved by you because they will be things you agree with anyway.

There will be no revolution involved, no more than Helen Keller experienced when she became a real person instead of a "wild animal." You will know what is right and you will be asking (along with many others) for what is right to be taught to all children. Not just to most, to every child.

Think it can't be done? Many people told Anne Sullivan that she could never make a difference in the life of the wild little girl who couldn't see, hear or speak (she had a voice, she simply had nothing to do with it).

If you want to ignore this message, go ahead and quit. Anne Sullivan didn't, and the world is grateful to her for what she accomplished with a task that required far more sacrifice than TIA will every require of anyone.

These major changes can be made. We know how. You will too, once you read the book. But they can't happen with only a few people in each country. We need more people to know about it.

This is the biggest and most important movement for social change in human history. You are fortunate to be here at the beginning. You can become a founder.

Please visit our web site and join our support group (no cost to either of those). If money is a problem, borrow the book from your local library or borrow a book from someone who has already read it. They will share.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to spread the word that there are simple and cheap ways to end the social problems that affect every one of us. More people need to learn how.
Learn more at

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Help others, help the world

He helps others most, who shows them how to help themselves.
- A.P. Gouthey

This is a variation on the saying about giving a hand up as opposed to a handout.

A handout is a temporary resolution to an immediate need. We give food to people who are starving, medicine to those who would otherwise die, shelter to those who have been made homeless.

None of these solutions solve a problem. They only put a patch on what is almost certainly a more urgent need.

Starving people need the skills and the resources to grow their own food if securing it from other sources on an ongoing basis is impossible. Those who are ill often need to be taught how to live healthier lives, to protect themselves from disease and dysfunctions due to unbalanced nutritional intake. Homeless people need to learn how to build themselves a home, in addition to getting the materials and tools.

The other kind of homeless people, the kind who choose to live in shelters or without any protection at all, need more than that. They need other people, first and foremost, to understand that they chose "the bottom of the barrel" because it was the only way they could be certain that they could not fall any further, that they could not lose any more, that life could not get any worse. They need that as a reference point.

These people need more than a home, they need to build a life. In most cases, their childhood provided them with some of the conventional "things" but not nearly enough of the skills they need in terms of social or emotional development.

They were not prepared to be self-sustaining, self-sufficient, self-confident adults, much less parents. This is not their fault. They should not be penalized as adults for what they did not receive as children and adolescents.

It's not part of the job description of a child to tell his parents what he needs. Mostly because he doesn't know what he needs, even when he suffers badly from unfulfilled needs. Have you ever known a child to say "Mommy, I need a hug, I need to be held" If you have, then you have known a rare child.

It's the job of parents to know what their children need and to provide it at the right times. But how do parents know what those needs are and when the right times would be? They don't. That deficit accounts for almost all of the social (community) problems and most of the personal problems (and broken people) with which we are all too familiar.

As communities, we have the skills to fix people who are broken for one reason or another. Those would be adults, not children. Almost no one knows how to fix a child who is socially or emotionally broken. Fortunately, most children don't break in that sense during their childhood.

How can we teach parents what they need to know to raise their children properly, safely, in a healthy and supportive manner? Draw a line directly from Dot 1 to Dot 2.

If the skills and knowledge are in the wrong hands, change the system ever so slightly so that the people who need the skills and knowledge learn them from the people who have them. This would cost almost nothing, considering that we have the education system and the experts in place already.

It would require a change of attitude of politicians, who would then direct their education leaders to alter curriculum to implement the needed changes.

Politicians change their attitude quickly, if they have enough voters who wnat them to change it.

So? We have the skills, the people and the plan.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to connect the dots and provide the plan to accomplish it.
Learn more at

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Are you ready for your fall?

"Criminal: A person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation."
- Howard Scott

Though this quotation was intended to be humourous in its original position, out of context in today's world it seems clearly wrong.

The criminals we hear about most are those who perpetrate the greatest of white collar crimes and those who commit the most violent. The violent ones care little about investment capital unless they happen to be collecting from sources such as prostitution, gambling or drugs.

Today's white collar criminals, at least the ones we read about, have worked their way through the system of business to positions of power. Unlike the military, where position may be achieved through retirement or death of a superior, a position of power in industry is attained through relentless hard work.

Often, success happens too quickly. This is when people are hated or when they have problems themselves that they can't escape.

In politics or the military, a power base of people who are not just supporters but are dedicated to fulfilling every need of a leading politician or superior officer is built slowly and carefully. Someone who achieves great power in business too quickly may not have that complete a power base beneath them in the hierarchy.

We could think of the situation like a pyramid that is missing blocks in some major positions below the summit. Eventually, the weaknesses will show. What does the man of power (the one represented by the summit) do then?

Too often he turns to means of supporting the positions he has taken on various matters that are illegal. He may not even know they are illegal because he is not well enough versed in the law as it relates to the work of his position.

The recent death of Enron's fallen angel/CEO Kenneth Lay, a fatal heart attack following convinction not long ago on several counts, suggests that he could not accept the fact that what he did was illegal. He didn't believe that he was responsible for the crash of one of America's largest empires. It was someone else's fault, but he took the rap. His body couldn't take failure on that scale.

There's a saying that applies to those who venture into the air in an ultralite craft: Don't fly any higher than you are prepared to fall. A corollary would be to make preparations for a major fall so that no serious harm will come from the mishap.

Whether a businessman or a high rolling criminal, the label "successful" is only granted to those who die without being caught. To those who either didn't fall or who fell to a soft landing and recovered to fly again.

While it's unwise to avoid taking any risks in life (it's a waste of oxygen), we should be prepared for a fall. They happen to almost everyone. We should know how to recover, even if it takes years.

We can prepare young people so that when their turn to fall comes, they do not find themselves suicidal, criminal, addicted or emotionally wasted.

If social scientists have the skills to repair broken people, their skills could be used to teach young people how to avoid breaking themselves in a fall.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to have education systems teach young people how to avoid breaking when their fall comes.
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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Plan consequences, don't fear them

"Nothing would be done at all if a man waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it."
- Cardinal Newman

Think about it. Is this not exactly the problem that politicians face so often, causing them to back off from taking an initiative they know is the right thing to do?

In Canada, the governing party in parliament for 13 years was considered to be "the party that represents most Canadians." It knew exactly what Canadians wanted, knew exactly what sorts of things it should be doing to make their country and the world a better place.

The party lowered the national debt in magnificent fashion, but did none of the things Canadians considered important. It was voted out of office early in 2006.

The new party in power (in a minority government situation in a multi-party parliament) has undertaken more initiatives in its first few months in power than the previous party did in 13 years. No doubt, it's making mistakes. But it's also trying to fulfill the policies that got it elected. A novel concept in itself.

This maxim applies to our personal lives as well. Many people do nothing about a problem because they are afraid of making a mistake, or afraid of change. They support nothing because they fear being wrong, of offending someone with a different power base.

They postpone doing anything (procrastination is the more realistic word) until their situation becomes so bad that a life changing course of action must be taken.

Although a majority of young couples getting married have little idea of the skills that will keep them together over many years, about half manage to hold it together. It deserves consideration that perhaps some of the parties of the broken marriages might have saved them if they had taken some action before it was too late.

Those who find themselves with addictions would likely benefit in the same way. Sometimes things need to change in life. Nothing changes because the person is afraid to make a major alteration in their lifestyle or habits. They wait until their problem gets bad enough that they turn to some form of addiction (for the "high" not for the addiction itself) to give them temporary relief from the stress. Some have emotional breakdowns.

While it's true that every action has its consequences, we should not be afriad to take any action for fear of being wrong. Schools can teach young people the skills of decision making and the consequences of making the wrong ones without thinking out possible results. The death of a classmate, for example, should not be necessary to make the point about drunk driving.

Let's put real decision making skills in the hands of young people before they need them and before they make mistakes that result in tragedy that hurts themselves and innocent others.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give young people the tools they need to be confident and competent adults.
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Saturday, July 01, 2006

One father

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.
- English Proverb

This proverb was obviously cast by someone who had a father who was a mentor, a guide to life skills and a friend. Someone who had a kind heart and a loving hand.

Not so many children have such fathers today because the fathers don't have enough time to devote to their children and because they don't have the fathering skills to pass along themselves. "Love," to many fathers, is parcelled out in "quality time."

Children do not understand the concept of quality time. They understand "time," counted in minutes. They also understand when their fathers are teaching them something of value and when they are merely filling in the time with various forms of purchased entertainment.

What should we expect of a schoolmaster? The general guideline is that the teacher will escort the child through his or her intellectual development. Lipservice is sometimes given to the child's physical development, but as few teachers are trained to have any understanding of physical development of children and the skills they need to develop, not much should be expected.

That leaves the social and emotional (psychological) development of the child. Many parents cry that it's the job of parents, not schools, to guide the social and emotional development of their children. Right. So why do we have so many young adults with underdeveloped or maldeveloped social and emotional skills?

The simple reality is that most parents have no idea, when they have their first child, what that child will need to develop in a healthy and progressive manner. Some still don't have these skills when they become grandparents. They can't pass along what they don't know.

Many people are quick on the draw to condemn parents of teenagers who have "gone wrong" for their poor upbringing. Some say the kids must be "bad seeds" because the parents provided all the comforts and love that anyone could expect of a parent.

There is no doubt that children need love. They also need life skills, more than are taught to most children. Since young adults seldom have sources available for such skills, they can't teach their children what they don't know themselves.

What we do have are expert psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists who can help damaged people put themselves back together. A small number are even in prisons, which are notoriously filled with socially underdeveloped and maldeveloped inmates.

Someone needs to put two and two together or we will never reach four. We exercise our expertise in fixing broken people instead of preventing them from breaking in the first place.

Social and emotional skills need to be taught to children. Ideally they should be taught to growing children so that they have enough to use themselves and to teach to their own kids when they are young.

We don't need to wait until our society is in total disarray before trying to rebuild it. We can fix our problems by teaching the teachers, who will then teach the children who will one day be parents themselves. Or, the teachers can teach new parents, who will in turn teach their children.

Nothing improves by pointing fingers, building prisons and training more psychologists. Our moeny would be much better invested by putting the expertise into classrooms where young adults are learning to be teachers.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to provide the plan we can use to make the necessary changes.
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