Thursday, August 31, 2006

Technology affects your life in hidden ways

"Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons."
- R. Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller, best known for buckyballs and geodesic domes, disliked the common ways of doing anything. While he was a master of physics, engineering and archetecture, he was not fond of technology itself.

What could those "wrong reasons" be?

Think of companies that produce the newest technological devices that become instant market fads. Do you feel any fondness for them in any way?

Think of scientists who are doing research on the human genome, who can find a gene you have as part of your own body, discover it has an unusual or rare quality, then secure a patent on that gene, a patent for which you will receive nothing in royalties.

Think of scientists who find products that have been used for thousands of years, let's say in Asia (basmati rice from India, for example), then they secure a patent on those very same agricultural products that have grown in gardens in Asia for millennia and want to exact a royalty fee from those same poor peasants for growing what their ancestors have grown since before history was recorded.

Getting back to technology, how do you think the stock values for those companies that produce the new devices will fare on the market? You would expect them to do well. Apple, with its iPod, for example, is doing better than it ever has in its history. Apple is making a fortune while many of its customers suffer from hearing loss.

When a new product is developed, which question do you suppose the companies will ask themselves: Will the world be a better place because this product is now available? or Will my company's stock and my personal fortune skyrocket when this product becomes the must-have gift?

The motive of these companies is always money. What's more, they teach their customers--your children, for example--that money is the most important thing there is. They are teaching your children, by example if nothing else, that they should form their lives around their ability to make as much money as possible.

Technology is a marvellous thing. Who would have thought that it could teach a whole society a new set of values?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make the social drift of values more apparent.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Adult Bullies

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
- Thomas Pynchon, writer (1937- )

"They" are bullies, though they may wear suits. Like more traditional childhood bullies, their objective is to destroy the self esteem of their victim, to wreck their reputation and to irreparably damage any relitionships their victim may have developed.

They don't usually steal lunch money, beat up their victim behind a garage, hold their hands over the victim's mouth from behind so he can't breathe or make fun of his name or his family. Those are matters that children care about more than adults.

Some more socially maldeveloped bullies will use these tactics even as adults. From their hiding places they strike and run.

They want to harm without being caught. Political campaigns are favourite hangouts of these bullies, where they manage to find anything their victim has done that is less than perfect, or make up juicy tidbits if they can't find anything legitimate.

Or maybe they simply want you to ask the wrong questions, as Pynchon said. Maybe they want you to ask questions that they can answer with well manipulated facts that make you tend to think their way. These too are bullies.

When someone actively tries to sway our thinking to what they believe, it would serve us well to consider carefully the motives of that person. What does he have to gain?

What do we have to lose?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make the bullies easier to see.
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Monday, August 28, 2006

The majority should rule sometimes

The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

The fundamental principle of socialization is: Teach the young what you want them to believe and how you want them to live when they are adults.

There is no room for debate about this. It's how life is in every society, every culture, within every religion on earth. It's even the same among animals. Teach the young.

Nietzsche advises against corrupting the young. This only makes sense because no society wants corrupt adults. No culture can succeed where corruption prevails.

Now we must take Nietsche to the finest point, whether to hold those who think alike in higher regard than those who think differently. Here is where the advice breaks down because the quotation was taken out of context.

When teaching children the mores and the standards of behaviour of the society in which they live, the ways of the majority must take precedence. A society would facture irrevocably if parents did otherwise.

However, when it comes to matters of judgment, of choice, to some extent even of morality and politics, we need to teach children to listen to all parties who have an opinion.

In western cultures, for example, children are bombarded daily with examples of violence and sex on television, in movies and in video games. If the children have no countervailing voice--their parents--to teach differently, they will grow to believe that adults treat each other, sexually, the way people do in their games and other forms of entertainment. The weight of sheer numbers of experiences will influence them, at least some of them.

Is that what we want?

Some parents believe that their children will learn about such matters as sex and personal relationships on their own or by watching their parents. A divorce rate of around 50 percent, a rapidly rising number of couples that do not marry because they believe that a relationship will not last forever and incidents of abuse within marriages soon tell us that children do not pick up these important matters correctly by absorbing them from their environment.

Their environment is violent and sexual, at least compared to that of their parents. More and more people are living out the plots of movies and television programs they have seen. Not by intention, but because they didn't have strong enough role models and parental guides to tell them differently.

The need is not to put an end to violence and sex in entertainment, but to strengthen the parenting skills of young adults so that they know what they must do to teach their children fully and properly. Studies show that most teens (88%), for example, consider their parents the greatest influences in their lives. (That study was done in 2001, in Canada, but the numbers are similar elsewhere.)

Kids need to know the boundaries of everything in which they come in contact. Those boundaries will be taught by parents or by entertainment media.

There may be an important role for entertainment media to play in the lives of our children. We need to ensure that the role that their parents play is stronger and more influential.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to establish parenting courses for young adults before they have babies to raise.
Learn more at

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Learning the truth is hard work

"There is no such thing at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you that dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my opinion out of the paper that I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish to write honest opinions would be out on the street looking for another job."
- John R. Swinton, British-born US journalist speaking to a meeting of fellow journalists

If you think that Swinton's quotation applies to your country today, you may be interested to learn his pertinent dates: 1829-1901. He wrote during the 19th century.

As a former full time and now part time free-lance journalist myself, I can assure you that the political persuasions and preferences of the newspapers I wrote for always played a role in my writing. In every case, the boas of the owner is a "given."

The closest any journalist or broadcaster will come to speaking against the favoured political party of the medium's owner is when he or she presents a news item that is said to be balanced in the sense that it presents material that all parties would be comfortable with. Few of these appear because they take too long to research and to present.

The political preferences of newspapers and television stations (and networks in the case of the US) are usually well known to everyone who goes out of their way to find several sources for political stories. The casual viewer or reader may not know them.

Learning the point of view (and the rest of the facts, if any were omitted) of all parties to a story is hard work. Even writers have difficulty getting all sides.

It's a lot of work. For many of us, it's too much work.

But, based on information we know to be biased, some of us freely express our opinions on political matters about which we often know very little. Biased opinions emerge from biased sources.

That's democracy. It's also democracy when people have the right to search other sources for facts and opinions so that they may express considered opinions of their own and cast ballots from an informed perspective.

Whether the informed among us point out to the ill-informed how biased and paltry their information is and where they can learn more of the facts is a matter of personal choice.

We live with the results of our actions.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to present a thorough and balanced point of view.
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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Question everything, doubt nothing

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.
- Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author (1743-1826)

Note that Jefferson uses the word "question," not "doubt."

Doubt is a lazy man's way of copping out of something. Rather than actually thinking or working through a question or problem that goes deeper than what appears on the surface, many people simply express their doubt about the thoughts of others, then run.

Those who strike this way and run find it easier than having to stand up for what they believe in and develop evidence into proofs, or at least acceptable positions.

To question something means that a person is prepared to expend some effort to work with facts and hypotheses, indeed to distinguish fact from opinion in many cases, to reach a workable conclusion.

We find this difference most often in political parties. Party members may support their candidates, offer their time and money and work toward the goals of the party, but few have ever stood toe to toe with someone who supports an opposing party and debated the fundamentals of each party's positions. They shout their doubts at each other, but they may not question what is in their own hearts.

It's easy to doubt the existence of God. A simple thought or sentence will do it. To question whether God exists based on the evidence available to science is quite another matter.

I don't know of a single person who has examined the breadth and depth of knowledge provided by modern science, looking at the subject from the viewpoints of as many disciplines as possible, who has not said, at least, "the evidence is overwhelming."

Question everything. Doubt nothing. Doubt will earn you nothing. Questioning will lead you to more questions, but that is what the human mind was created to do, to absorb and process far more information than one person can gather in a lifetime.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage everyone to ask questions.
Learn more at

Friday, August 25, 2006

How to solve a serious problem

"A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved."
- Charles Kettering, American industrialist

While this quote has no place in the chambers of legislature, where elected representatives want as little as possible to do with difficult problems, it should play a major role in our personal lives.

The worst component of most problems is the potential for tragic consequences. Many people have great insight into terrible results that could befall those who have made bad choices. These people emerge from the woodwork, for example, when we must make a decision about whether or not to have surgery. They inevitably know many people who have nearly died from that same surgery, whether badly botched or not, and who still bear the scars of their choice to cut.

Especially bad, to some people, are problems that involve other people. These often involve people they don't care about but have heard much about in gossip. These others, it seems, will always find a way to make life unbearable for them.

What those of us who experience this kind of feeling about what others might do to harm us in problematic situations forget is that, in truth, these "bad guys" seldom care in the least about us. Enemies, by virtue of the nature of their position, must care about us a great deal, almost as much as friends. For the most part, the people with the "bad guy" reputations don't care a whit about us.

They don't want to take the trouble it involves to make more trouble for us. They don't want to be enemies because it's too much work.

We might, however, worry that they will care enough to make trouble. Therein lies the biggest part of any problem: worry accomplishes nothing and only harms the worrier.

There is usually a manageable way through a problem situation, one that will cause the least fuss for everyone involved. It usually involves providing a way by which others can get past it as well as us.

That requires us to state our problem clearly, including possible alternative resolutions. Possible answers can even be mapped out so that the potential consequences of each choice we make can be seen on paper before we make a choice.

By the time we see all of our choices clearly, with possible outcomes mapped out, the route we should take usually becomes transparent and easier to manage than we expected.

The key part of any problem resolution is communication. Problems only get worse when communication is postponed or avoided. Talk to those who must know as soon as possible.

No one wants to adopt your problem as their own. They want you to solve your problem so they don't have another one to deal with.

Talk to them.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to bring problems and their resolutions closer together.
Learn more at

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hoping? Or making a better future?

Disregard what should be and think about what could be.
- Anonymous

When you think about it, what should be is what is not at this time. That is, it's looking back wards and wishing about what should have been.

What could be involves looking forward.

Why not look back? It's who we are, how we became what we are today. We can't learn from our mistakes of the past unless we look back and review what we could have done differently.

But the past will not repeat itself. The future, no matter how similar it may look to an objective source, always looks different to us than the events of our past did.

People who married the wrong kind of person are more likely to marry the same kind of person the next time. People who invest rashly in the stock market are more apt to invest just as rashly the next time.

Parents who beat their kids for their transgressions are more apt to beat them for their offences in the future. Someone who gets drunk to escape from the pain of his or her life is more apt than others to turn to the same form of escape in the future.

Many of us don't learn from our mistakes. So we might as well launch in new directions to give ourselves a chance to make new and different ones. Maybe we won't make mistakes next time if we do things differently.

We can't change anything about the past. As we look at the present, it is in fact our past because we can't change it either.

The only hope we have of changing anything, in our lives, in the lives of our friends or family, in our community or in the world is to plan for change in the future.

The only hope we have of changing anything in the future to make it better than our past is to do something differently.

The keywords there are "do something."

Here's another quote from that famous Anonymous: Remember that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.

If you think I am leading you astray here, consider how often you have thought that the behaviour of some people you know has been nothing less than insane. Yet they keep doing it.

There is no point in doing the same things the way we have been doing them and hoping that the results will be different. It won't work. It has never worked. According to Anonymous, it's insane.

We need to look for new ways that offer real hope by changing things in manageable ways.

We need to take the first step...choosing to do something differently. After that it gets easier.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to provide news ways with real hope.
Learn more at

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why do so many people go wrong?

"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism."
- Charles M Schwab, American industrialist (1862-1939)

Those who argue against this claim that pe0ple are naturally lazy, thus they must always be prodded and pushed to do their best.

There is, of course, absolutely no evidence that people are naturally lazy.

If laziness were natural, it would have to be demonstrated in children. Children who are brought up in healthy environments (intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally healthy) have an abundance of energy and want to use it at every possible opportunity.

Lazy people are adolescents or adults. Only sickly children seem lazy, and that is never by choice. Adults developed that characteristic during childhood. This can happen through constant reinforcement that the child is a nuisance, never does anything worthwhile, is stupid, is negligent of responsibilities, has no identifable good qualities and has nothing good to look forward to in his or her future.

An adolescent may also seem lazy if he or she has a learning problem, so can't adapt to the teaching style of school, can't read much of what must be read for homework, can't understand instructions regarding responsibilities at home, can't remember them and receives little or no positive reinforcement of his or her value as a person. These are circumstances over which the child has no control.

In fairness, a person should not be held responsibile for circumstances over which they have no control. And yet we do just that in our society. We blame people for being poor, for example, in the twisted belief that they have been somehow responsible for the misery of their own life circumstances. We say we don't blame them for being poor, but our public policies regarding poor people say otherwise.

We also blame people for what they don't know. The basic premise of our legal system is that ignorance of the law is no defence against violation of the law. As we do not teach basic laws to all children, giving them notice of what they are expected to abide by, this premise is patently unreasonable.

By the same token, we blame parents for the faults and troubles their childrent find themselves in. No matter how hard parents may try to do their best to raise their children well, if they don't know the responsibilities of parenthood and the basic needs and developmental progress of children, something will go wrong with those kids. What goes wrong may not show up until they are adults, or may not even show up until their own children grow up.

There is no known benefit to keeping people ignorant, unless the purpose is to enslave them. Yet only a small percentage of young adults know what they need to know to be good parents when they have their first child.

If an industry does not practise quality control in the manufacture of its products, that industry fails. Yet many children grow up in an atmosphere of parental ignorance.

This is a fundamental failure of society. But one that may so easily and cheaply be fixed.

Prisons are filled with people who are socially underdeveloped or maldeveloped. Mental institutions are filled with people who are emotionally underdeveloped or maldeveloped, and doctors treat with medications many patients whose primary problem is that they can't cope with the circumstances of their lives.

Our educations sytems teach people how to get jobs. They don't teach people how to live lives. They don't even teach people how to hold onto the jobs they get (this is simply expected of a new employee).

People are not born with attitudes, they devleop them based on the circumstances in which they live. Attitudes, like many other life skills, must be taught or they will develop by accident of circumstance.

All of this requires only small changes to our education systems. We have the knowledge and the skills already, we only need to teach them to everyone. If psychologists can fix broken people, the same knowledge and skill can be taught to young people before they break.

It only takes enough people to understand and speak up.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give every person what they need to live a confident and competent life.
Learn more at

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How to become a thinker

"Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand.
The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus."
- Alexander Graham Bell

Multitasking is a wonderful skill, so necessary for mothers and business people who find themselves with many simultaneous demands on their time.

As we bustle about our busy days, being able to tick off high priority tasks on our To-Do list is critical in order that we do not fall behind in productivity or even in dust control.

However, it's not thought. Thought is not an activity that may be engaged fully while participating in anything else.

Inspiration, yes. Many people get good ideas while lying in bed, while ironing, while driving a familiar route or while completing some common task that requires little attention from the brain.

What we do with an idea is thought. That requires total commitment of the brain, total focus on how one idea may be manipulated or massaged to produce something worthwhile.

Real thought need not take long. It may happen during a daydream break at work, while waiting for a traffic signal to change or when music on the radio is suppressed in the mind so that the gears all work in synch.

Or thought may take years to produce something worthwhile.

People who claim to work well under pressure produce solutions, grind out work, meet deadlines, but but they don't necessarily create great thought. Doing and thinking don't happen at the same time.

Real thinking is a solitary activity. Thoughts may be shared for the purpose of moving along some line of thought when the thinkers are alone later. But thinking itself is done alone. Only when a person is alone with their thoughts can they wander through the various possibilities of their thoughts, search the niches and crevices for weaknesses, learn to love what they have produced.

A great thought will have enemies, at least opponents. Without opposition, the thinker cannot fully explore the weaknesses and potential consequences of his thought. A person who cannot withstand opposition to his thought is not totally committed to it.

A thought must not only be created and developed, but defended against those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Thought inevitably involves change.

Truly great thoughts often take longer to be fully appreciated than the thinker has years to live. The thought, the great thought, becomes the legacy of the thinker.

Thought lives on when facts have become history.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person produce great thoughts.
Learn more at

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Take time to think

Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!
- Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)

Charles Dodgson (Carroll's real name) was a master of social commentary. Following the pattern of great writers of the past, who wrote nursery rhymes and children's tales with meanings that would come through to the adults who would read them to their children but which could not get them convicted of treason, Dodgson kept his position at Oxford while pointing out the duplicity, the hypocrisy, even the insanity of the English nobility of his time.

In this quotation he felt what many of us have felt about "the rat race," that you have to keep moving or you will get run over by the hoard following you. If you want to get somewhere in such a society, you must run faster than the rest.

Yet deep thinking, of the kind that may develop a new social order, new social paradigms, new philosophy or new theory requires the thinkers to do little but think. Thinking requires what we now call "down time," time in which we apparently accomplish nothing.

Most of the great physicists of the past, for example, produced their seminal work in their younger years, only expanding on it as they aged. Einstein was barely out of university when he developed his theories of relativity and special relativity. Labouring in a patent office in Switzerland, he had time on his hands, time to think, time he didn't have later when he had a family and a university career and theories to support within his discipline.

Thinking takes time. Great thinking takes longer. That's not to say that great ideas don't crop up quickly, but rather what is done with them takes time to develop.

Adolescents tend to have more free time than older adults, thus they find more problems with the society their parents operate in than the parents do themselves. They have the time to see the gaps between what could be and what is, while their parents are too busy trying to keep up with what is.

A person who is "doing nothing" may be pondering great thoughts or he/she might just be vegetating. The only way you can be sure which is to ask. Even vegetating may not be bad if it's a proper rest time before another round of mental exertion.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage everyone to take time off to think.
Learn more at

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Getting much?

"Most people are willing to pay more to be amused than to be educated."
- Robert C Savage

While the value of this quotation would seem to be self evident, there are those who would dispute it.

The problem is not with what amuses people, but what educates them. Other than formal education that takes place in classrooms, a possibly anachronistic practice given the degree of functional illiteracy that pervades western society--some studies have shown functional illiteracy just over 50 percent for seniors and around 45 percent among adults younger than age 65--what constitutes an activity that is clearly educational? Or not?

Is playing video games an educational pursuit, for example?

Studies have shown that teenagers who play video games regularly have higher mental acuity and better eye-hand coordination than those that do not. Even seniors who have been taught to play video games have demonstrated improvement in their mental acuity, the long term benefits of which could be avoiding senility and warding off Alzheimer's disease.

Does riding a horse constitute an educational activity? Or driving to and from work in your car? Not only is there skill in riding a horse, but the rider may learn a great deal about a non-human animal of nature in the periods before, during and after the rides. Many people use their car radios to update themselves with the news, to educate themselves through taped or CD books, and every driver learns road skills that cannot be taught in classrooms.

The point here is not to disagree with Savage's quotation, but to point out that to adopt its validity at face value may be to underestimate the value of other activities that are not usually associated with education.

One unintended motivation within the quote may be that we should examine the educative value of amusement activites to see if they generate any benefits. Most amusement activities that people pay for have little or no educative value, though some people may derive educational benefits from anything they do.

Perhaps one way of deciding if an activity has any real educational value would be to examine if people doing it are escaping from something or escaping to something. Those who pursue an activity as a release from the stress of something else--such as escape from a job or a tense home life--may learn little from a given activity, whereas someone who consciously chooses the activity may be more mentally prepared to learn something while doing it.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people choose escapes to activites that will benefit them.
Learn more at

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Are cheap foreign imports really a ripoff?

"Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people."
- David Sarnoff, televison and business personality (1891–1971)

Since Sarnoff died in 1971 another factor has crept into the mix to confuse and confound the issue for us. Extraordinarily cheap products or knock-offs that may never work or that break after only a few uses.

These are often sold in stores which have a "no returns" policy. The products themselves almost never have a warranty. The ones that do force you to ship the product to the manufacturer at your expense, a cost the is often greater than that of a new version of the same item. This creates waste when we throw them away.

The prices of some of these products are as cheap as five percent of the originals.

People buy the cheap products believing that they can get five, ten, even 20 of the cheaper product for the same money as they would pay for one of the original.

What they forget is the time involved in replacing items that fail, the emotion wrapped up in being ready to do something but unable to complete the task because the cheap product won't work and the cost involved in travelling to get the item replaced.

There's also the risk that we will adopt the opinion, based on our many failures with cheap products, that "everything is made cheap today and nobody backs up their products with good warranties." That opinion may be totally wrong because we don't want to pay what a good quality item is worth. We may get what we pay for, but we don't want to pay much.

I was once told that the people of an Asian country in which I was doing business (by a businessman in and of that country) did not want top quality products. "They want third rate quality, they deserve third rate quality," I was told. Those of us who live in western countries may find ourselves as deserving because of our buying habits.

There is no doubt that cheaply made products and knock-offs put some legitimate and quality manufacturers out of business, resulting in the loss of great numbers of jobs in western countries. However, attrition would look after that anyway. Those companies that will not or cannot adapt to changing conditions usually disappear from the market for one reason or another. "Cheap foreign imports" is just a convenient excuse for failure to adapt.

Some manufacturers of good quality products adapt their marketing strategies and improve their products beyond what they had been previously in order to compete. Thus we have top quality products available to us at premium prices, if we are prepared to buy them. If marketted properly, these products will sell to a market that is committed to buying products that last. Over the long term, these products may have greater value than the cheaper ones.

As to competition bringing out the worst in people, you don't need examples for that. You live them every day.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people see the differences so they can decide based on realities that go beyond price.
Learn more at

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

You Can Change Your World

Compared to the unimaginable immenseness of all that we know exists, you are an insignificant speck. Indeed, the whole planet on which you carry on your life is like one grain of sand on an ocean beach.
You are one person among 6.7 billion people. The number of humans alive today is so vast that it would be impossible for us to meet everyone, even if we greeted a different person every minute of our lives. The number of babies born in China or India each year would make meeting every citizen of those countries impossible in a lifetime.
Yet, without enough grains of sand there is no beach. Without you, the world would not be the same.
Unlike grains of sand that influence each other only marginally, you have the ability to influence many other people. In fact, you do that daily.
Think about how bad you feel when you are mistreated by a clerk in a store, how upset you get when someone honks a horn or gives you the finger without a good reason, how helpless you feel when you pass a homeless person on the street or walk the hallway of a hospital peeking into each room as you look for the patient you came to see.
These people have influenced you, touched your life, without even intending to.
When you are treated well by a store clerk, you may have a good feeling for a few minutes afterward. Without your being aware of it, that good feeling might last for several more hours. It may make you want to pay forward the good feeling that someone gave you, to improve someone else’s day.
We all know how easy it is for others to cast a black could over our day. We may not realize what an extensive effect someone’s good deed or smile can do for us. If we do, we can pass on the smile or good deed to others.
You may not be able to turn around the lives of each sad or miserable person you meet. However, you may begin an avalanche of goodwill by simply giving a smile to each person you meet.
You have no influence on the great world around you if you believe you don’t. If you believe you can influence the world, begin with a smile.
When you improve the day of each person you meet in one small way, you will influence them to help improve your day.
We have many examples of rude behaviour and bad role models available to us and to our children. We have greater power to show compassion, support and helping, to be good role models to many people if we choose to begin small and do what we can with what is available to us.
In broadcasting school, students are taught that if they want to put warmth into their voices while “on air,” they should smile while they speak into the microphone. The same effect happens when we speak to others we meet while smiling at them.
Smile while you speak to those you meet each day. You will find that eventually the world around you will have changed to meet what you want of it. It’s a long process, but it can begin with you.
Please accept this smile from me. And my wish that you have a good day.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the world a better place by giving everyone a place to start.
Learn more at

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You choose how you invest your time

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."
- Carl Sandberg, American poet and biographer (1878–1967)

Time is the only real treasure we have in our lives. What we do with our time makes it worthwhile or not. Time has no intrinsic value.

We can spend it complaining, worrying or being depressed over what we don't have, and working long and hard hours to get it. Or we can enjoy what we have and make the best of it each day.

We can grouse about the people we don't like, fussing over the actions they do or the things they say. Or we can enjoy the company of the people we do like and ignore the rest.

We can work to make our lives healthy. Or we can relax, indulge our whims and enjoy a life of spoon-fed intellectual pablum.

We can work to be admired while we are alive. Or we can work to be remembered long after our life has passed.

We can live lives of our own choosing, even if that means we have to create a life path from barren ground. Or we can follow the path that is taught to us by industry leaders and the social establishment.

We have no choice about the bodies we were born with, their strengths and inadequacies, their propensities for disease or their abilities to ward off or recover from the worst tragedies. We do have a choice about how we use our minds, every hour, every day.

We can believe or we can disbelieve. We can commit or we can float free. We can be drifitng sand or rock solid.

We can regret our failing bodies or we can expand our brain's great potential as we age.

We can fuss over the can'ts or rejoice in the cans.

These are choices we make every day, whether we realize it or not.

Choose wisely how you invest the coin of your life.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make us aware of the value of the coins of our lives.
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Monday, August 14, 2006

I will not lie to you

"Who never sold the truth to serve the hour,
Nor paltered with Eternal God for power."
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), poet laureate, eulogizing the Duke of Wellington.
[palter - 1. To talk or act in an insincere or deceitful manner, 2. To haggle]

Regarding lying, the choice is between saying that lying is wrong, fundamentally wrong, hurtful, deceptive and ultimately even "white lies" cause more harm than good, and saying that lying is sometimes acceptable (usually so that the truth will not hurt the feelings of the person who is lied to) and having the boundaries of white lies expand to infinity.

I submit that we have been lied to so often by so many people (parents, religions, advertising agencies, employers, politicians) that these powerful forces have brainwashed us into believing that lying is sometimes the best route to take.

It isn't. It never is. People whose feelings are hurt when someone tells them the truth have become accustomed to being lied to. That kind of self deception does not make lying right. Self deception makes for screwed up lives.

The world revolves around lies. It does. No question. But the world has an unbelievably large number of people whose lives are messed up (some are in prison) because they learned that lying is acceptable. They may even have learned that lying is profitable.

In China, some people commit the most outrageous frauds to take money from other people. When they are caught, they may be executed. Untold numbers "disappear" each year. Yet the numbers of frauds commited each year in China has not decreased because of this "deterrent."

Some people must be brave enough to draw the line and say that perpetual lying, deceiving others for our own gain or to make ourselves feel better, will stop with me. I will teach my descendents that lying is wrong. They will, in turn, teach their own children and grandchildren.

If being truthful gives many people more secure lives knowing that they can trust others around them, this will be a quality that will work like natural selection. Eventually it will spread around the world.

I will tell the truth, no matter how brutal you may find it. You will recover and eventually realize that you can trust and believe someone who will tell the truth under any circumstances.

Pass it on.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to set the world back up on its feet again and take its ego out of the mud.
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Sunday, August 13, 2006

The desire of a woman

The desire of the man is for the woman, but the desire of the woman is for the desire of the man.
- Madame de Stael, writer (1766-1817)

This quotation is so like a novelist. De Stael writes from a distinctly female perspective with the objective of appealing to women.

"The desire of the man" is said to be primal, natural, the biological imperative to reproduce. "The desire of the woman" is sensual, personal, wanting of affirmation and commitment.

I submit that men place being desired by a woman to be as important and self-affirming as the desire of the woman.

An opinion from a man's perspective.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to illuminate all possible perspectives.
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

How can we judge elected representatives?

"Political tags-such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth-are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."
- Robert A Heinlein, US writer (1907-1988)

Many would dispute this generality, but it certainly qualifies as one way to avoid common labels while attaching a broader label to anyone.

As clever as Heinlein's quotation is, I doubt its value as a tool for identifying people according to their basic human qualities.

I would tend more toward saying that humanity may be divided politically into those who want to help people in need and those who would rather ignore them and take advantage of those with little or no power.

In politics, big numbers can make anything seem "right." Some would argue that any measure could be deemed to be "right" in a democracy if a majority of people vote in favour of it.

To those people I would note that Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party (later known as the Nazi Party) won a majority of votes in a democratic election in Germany in 1933.

I would argue that how a person votes on any one issue is not important, though how that person votes on a variety of similar issues might have relevance to their suitability as a voter.

In almost every vote in a legislature, the issue could be approached according to whether it helps or harms people. True, fiscal responsibility plays a role where money must be spent.

However, if a bill will gives advantage to industries while ultimately making people suffer (such as through environmental pollution or unhealthy working conditions), it can be deemed to take advantage of people rather than helping them.

This, too, could be argued to fudge the whole issue of political decisions. Especially by those who would choose to allow industries to take advantage of or take precedence over people.

A democratically elected government that is by the people and for the people should put the best interests of people first, not business.

People live, become ill or injured, have personal and family problems, have their health fail, then die. Business lives on.

People care about people. Business, in general, cares only about profit.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to put people first.
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Friday, August 11, 2006

Jealousy: recipe for relationship failure

Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.
- Maya Angelou, poet (1928- )

A charming quotation, though I disagree with the whole concept of jealousy. The word was fudged up to give a name for something apparently so mysterious and incomprehensible that it relieves most of us of any responsibility for its causes and its results.

A jealous lover is the most common use of the term. What have we here? Someone who has not tended sufficiently to the needs of a relationship that it is in danger of vanishing. Or someone who is so fearful of losing a partner, usually caused by a serious psychological problem or underdeveloped social or emotional skills, that he or she assumes that someone else is trying to take away the partner.

In either case, the jealous one has not done enough to cement the relationship or maintained it sufficiently to make it last. The jealous one feels insecure.

Another possibility is that the jealous one never had a relationship as sound as they thought in the first place.

The jealous one wants to hang on to something that is not worth hanging onto. The behaviour of the jealous one becomes repulsive to the other partner, making that latter want to leave the relationship even more.

To sum up, where jealously exists in a relationship, there is likely not enough good stuff to make the relationship last. By that time, the relationship has failed and the jealous partner wants to hang onto something for fear of being thought of as a loser. Jealously, ironically, makes that person a real loser. The captain going down with the non-existent ship.

Any relationship brings with it a set of responsibilities. It's up to the parties to establish what those responsibilities are and for each to live up (preferably more than the minimum) to that commitment.

Human nature being what it is, such that we overestimate our own contributions to a relationship and underestimate contributions of the other person, each person in a good relationship should feel that he or she does more than their fair share of the work to make a good relationship. Some relationship specialists suggest 85-15 as a ratio for each to believe, and each must be happy with their perceived contribution of 85 percent and the other's 15 percent.

Tough standard to follow? Not for someone who wants a relationship to last a lifetime. Any lifetime commitment requires a great deal of effort and sacrifice.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to put relationships into perspective.
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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who are you? How do others know the real you?

I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an Islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us.
- Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)

Byron wrote this 200 years ago, yet his words are as fresh today, in the UK or any other country, as they were in his time.

About 6.7 billion of us inhabit this orb. Of this number, how many people do we know very well?


It's impossible for us to know what life is like in the skin of anyone else, even those who are closest to us. We can make assumptions, but they are often wrong. For example, jokes about husbands who don't understand their wives or wives who don't underst and their husbands flood the internet daily. "What do women want?" "What do men want?"

We try to learn what others are like by listening to their words. Yet words often mislead us, sometimes are intended to mislead us.

We try to learn about others of our kind by reading about them. Yet for everything we read, someone else has written something that is contrary, that may even contradict what we have read.

We generalize, formulate stereotypes, label people, categorize them, pigeonhole them in order to better understand enough about them so that we can understand them. No one, not a single person, ever completely fits any one category.

How, then, can we ever understand even the people we know? Watch them. Watch them carefully and often.

We are what we do. Not what we eat. Not how we dress. Not what religion we subscribe to or what party we vote for. Not where we live, what clubs we belong to or what hobbies we have. Not what we watch on television or who we may dream of having sex with.

We are what we do. Anyone who judges you on anything other than what you do is fundamentally wrong. You must evaluate others likewise if you hope to be correct.

Here's another way to think of it. What if God (or Allah, Jahweh, The One, The Great Spirit) doesn't speak English, or German, or Dutch, or Spanish or any other language of us simple beings? In a sense, God would be like a visitor from space come to earth to evaluate us. He could only do so based on what we do.

Based on what we do, and only on what we do, how would God evaluate us?

When you die, people will not eulogize you for your Armani suits, your Perrier habit, your wealth, your poverty, your command of the language or the car you drove. Then they will speak of who you were by what you did. Actions are your legacy.

Live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.

And, following Byron's advice, learn about others so they will be friends who are spiritually by your side, not enemies who want to blow you up or sell you a lemon.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person live the life they were intended to live instead of the life that others want them to live.
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Love alone won't keep us together

"It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Such insight from a man whose life was a bit scrambled itself.

Let's take the quote apart. No one knows what love is. The word traditionally has the greatest number of entries in dictionaries. Everyone has some idea what love means. All are right, all are wrong, nobody knows for certain.

Two things I do know about love. If you really love someone, their welfare is usually given higher priority than your own. And (perhaps the least understood fact of life) love is shown (even measured) by touch more than by words or deeds.

Friendship is not a mystery. Psychologists and others in the social sciences know what friendship is, how to achieve it, where to look for it, how to make it last and how people who are good friends feel about each other. They may not be able to do it themselves, but they know the theory that works.

All of this information is available in academic papers produced by many highly educated people around the world. The trouble is, this information is rarely taught to children, especially to young children who are in the "formative years" of relationship comprehension.

What Nietzsche is saying, in effect, is that if spouses can't be friends, then love alone won't make the marriage last. This despite what the songs have taught us.

We don't teach friendship, as a concept, at any level of education, or preschool when it is most needed.

Yet we wonder why people have trouble forming lasting friendships these days and why so many marriages fail.

Do the arithmetic. We teach children and young adults how to prepare for jobs, but we don't teach them how to build a life.

We should consider carefully who is responsible for this situation, who benefits most from young adults who are prepared for jobs but have little idea how to make fulfilling lives for themselves. When they get into a job, they make their job their life because they have not been taught any different.

Let's do it.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to change education systems so they teach what people need instead of what industries need.
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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Look after yourself first

"It is easier to do one's duty to others than to one's self. If you do your duty to others, you are considered reliable. If you do your duty to yourself, you are considered selfish."
- Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry at the State University of New York Health Science Center

In small business there is a maxim that everyone who takes a course is advised to follow: Pay yourself first. While it may seem as if there are more important bills to pay, paying yourself first gives a good indicator of the health of the business as to whether there is still enough money left to pay the other bills. This grants that the business is far enough along into its business plan that the owner should be about to be paid.

We are taught that looking after ourselves first is selfish, egocentric or narcissistic. However, that only refers to an excess of looking after ourselves first, maybe an obsession with ourselves.

If we do not look after our own welfare, our own health, our own income, our own family, we will not have the ability to look after others, eventually. This is part of the survival instinct for most people.

Of course we should be compassionate and help those whose needs are greater than our own, who have been dealt misfortunes, who need a hand back up out of the hole they have found themselves in. Helping others is part of the grand scheme of why we are a social species on earth.

However, there are some who look after the welfare of others to a great extent, even exclusively, without giving thought to how this affects their own lives. These people have confidence that they will be looked after by a higher power that they depend on.

With rare exceptions, these selfless creatures survive and thrive. Mother Teresa is but one example of such a person. Many others toil in relative anonymity.

We each need to make up our own minds where our priorities lie. And how much we can depend on ourselves to live the life we profess to believe in.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give you options.
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Monday, August 07, 2006

Conservatives, Liberals and Hardheads

"A conservative is a man who believes that nothing should be done for the first time."
- Alfred E. Wiggam

"A liberal is a man who believes that misery should be spread equally."
- Mark Maresca

The terms conservative and liberal are labels. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with labels. Especially if they are applied to someone other than ourselves.

We need labels to help to identify others, how they think, whether they might present some risk to us or not. They are descriptives, words that help us to order our thoughts about people.

We usually use such labels about "others," not about ourselves or those who think like us.

Trouble arises when labels don't fit people. These particular labels don't fit any one person. Instead they fit concepts of groups of people. They are stereotypes.

Stereotypes, by their nature, are inevitably wrong when they are applied to individuals. Stereotypes are pejorative, their connotative meanings intended to express disapproval of whomever they are applied to.

To come full circle, the terms conservative and liberal are words of prejudice. Words of prejudice are used by people who are prejudiced.

People who are prejudiced devoutly deny their prejudice. To them, the way they think is perfectly acceptable and usually logical. Prejudiced people have loads of arguments at their disposal, though all their arguments are highly editorialized, one-sided.

Words of prejudice are fighting words, though they may be used like gossip or cheap shots by those who have no intention of stepping into a ring with those to whom they give their labels.

Too bad. While I am a devoted pacifist, I believe that no one deserves to be beaten more than people who are prejudiced. They are bullies who wear the cloak of decency to cover their cowardice.

Watch for the people who use the terms conservative and liberal. They don't justly apply to any one person, but they will tell you something about the people who use these words.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to reveal the bullies to those who are their innocent victims.
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Sunday, August 06, 2006

The fear of oppressors

"About the only thing oppressors really have to fear is rising awareness. Unfortunately for them, it is also the hardest thing to stop, because awareness can come from almost any communication, and they would have to kill everybody and then have nobody left to rule. So they stick to fear mongering, since fear makes people withdraw and slows the awareness process."
- (author’s name withheld for personal reasons)

This quotation is an example of great thinking from an ordinary person.

What he calls "rising awareness" could otherwise be called education. When education about the conditions in which each person in a country lives is increased, the likelihood of the people of that country falling under the rule of a dictator decreases.

In countries where education levels are high, people can be fooled, and they certainly are. But not for long.

Where education levels (specifically about the living conditions in which they live) are lower, people are more apt to believe the single line of propaganda dealt out by the dictator. (I use the term "dictator" in a loose sense of one whose power is sufficient to control the politics and other behaviour of people in his country.) In Cuba, for example, people can receive a good education in any subject except politics, which is centrally controlled.

We fight wars, but we don't teach the people whose militaries (or militias) we oppose anything different from what their leaders have taught them. Their leaders have taught that "the enemy" is bad. War proves that point, so far as the people are concerned.

When citizens are taught that only one way of thinking (believing) is right and that any other way of thinking is treasonous, those people are oppressed.

In a true democracy, many ways of thinking exist. Debate can be bitter and opposing positions strongly held. But no one is killed or imprisoned for what they believe or what they speak or write, unless it contravenes existing law.

Democracy has many faults, but it's still better than the competition. Democracy fails when education levels and standards decline or information streams are restricted.

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach people about their living conditions and their needs as well as sterile information and skills.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How do we determine what "normal" is?

Shadow owes its birth to light.
- John Gay, poet and dramatist (1685-1732)

Without light, we know nothing about shadow. On the other hand, without shadow, we have no means of evaluating or appreciating light.

While this quotation seems to launch a discussion of contrasts in physics, its importance reaches far beyond that into our daily lives.

Almost daily we see or learn of people who are doing things of which we disapprove. We also know of people who do too little, causing us to disapprove of their apathy or lassitude.

We need contrasts, even extremes, in order to make up our own minds about what should be "normal" behaviour. Assemble many opinions on these various subjects and we have what become the social norms of communities, the ethics of our professional organizations and the morals of our religions.

In order for a censor board to determine whether a particular work of art or a movie violates the social norms of a community, it must have opinions from many people in that community about what they believe the norms should be. In order for the owner of a web site or service that offers and exchange of articles or instant messages to determine if one member has violated the norms of the community, that person must have input from many of the users of the service.

Those who subscribe to the extremes of behaviour seem all too willing to express their opinions about what is acceptable and what is not. The media play these up to get reaction from the large majority of people who usually say nothing about such matters.

If the large majority do not speak up, the boundaries (the "new" boundaries) of the extremes become the new norms.

And there you sit, in the middle, wondering if you should speak up or not.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to wake up the majority so that everyone knows what we all need to know.
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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Banks control our lives

"It is well enough that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."
- Henry Ford

Why is the first Henry Ford worth quoting? He had two failed businesses before he finally got his production-line auto business to work successfully. He knew banks.

What could he have been talking about? Maybe the fact that banks often sponsor both sides in wars. In the Second World War, for example, US banks loaned money to Hitler to conduct his construction of weapons. The owner of one of those banks even became a US senator, though he had to resign in disgrace when his previous association with the Nazis was made public. US banks today often fund the purchase of weapons for both sides in wars in which the US is involved. Wars exist because banks fund them.

Maybe Ford meant that banks routinely loan money to people who already have enough equity to secure loans (to people who don't really need it) while they may deny loans to those who have excellent personal or business plans. At the same time they invest heavily in loans to poor nations, at high interest rates, even though sometimes the poor nations default on their loans and the "hometown" bank customers must pay extra for the bank sevices that formerly were offered without a fee.

Today you can't have a business discussion with business loan people in some banks without paying a hefty fee, even though the discussion centres around a business loan from that bank. Yes, you have to pay the bank to discuss the possibility of borrowing money from them. If the loan officer discusses his golf game or his upcoming vacation, the customer still pays. There are exceptions within the banking system, of course, especially where a bank is anxious to loan its money because it has not reached its quota for the month.

Banks today exact fees for everything, even for exchanging one denomination of cash for others of the same currency.

The larger banks are the most profitable businesses in most countries. You know who keeps them in business--you, one way or another.

Their most profitable business investments are loans which produce interest. And whose money do they use to make those loans? Always someone else's money.

Henry Ford may not have been correct about a revolution before tomorrow morning. But he was on the right track.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help you be a more informed consumer.
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