Saturday, September 30, 2006

Can we drop the hypocrisies?

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."
- Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, television host

Ellen's audiences laugh themselves silly at jokes like this.

But it's not a joke at all. Simply an observation of some of the hypocrisies in which we conduct our lives.

We laugh at ourselves. It's good that we do. It's healthy. If we didn't laugh, we would have to face up to the fact that we do some of the most absurd things.

Because somebody tells us we should. And that's good enough for most of us.

In 1996, after returning from a trip to India during which I had two meetings with a chartered accountant of some note, in Mumbai (Bombay), I decided to grow my hair long and draw it into a pony tail as my Indian friend had his. Over the past decade, my hair has decided to stop growing on the top of my head and grow long in the back, as a show of support for my bold move.

Prejudiced strangers, declaring that the mullet should have gone out of style with the end of slavery, sneer at me or at least look askance. Therein lies my best reason for keeping my pony tail. It helps me to quickly identify bigots. And bigots they are.

When I speak with people, either one-on-one or in front of an audience, I explain to them why I keep my pony tail. Not one person has disapproved, most applaud my example. Ladies, especially older ones, love to tug on it gently--a new experience for them.

I could cite other examples in which I break down barriers, but the point is that many people would be happy to see those barriers disappear. People frequently tell me that they wish more people would show a freedom of expression as I have. "In fact," they say, "I have always wanted to (insert wish of choice) and now, thanks to you, I'm going to do it."

Many workplaces have Dress Down Fridays in which employees dress comfortably and pay a small sum to a charity for the privilege of not having to dress to some artificial code. People who work from home often report that they work best in their pajamas. They only dress up when they have an online video conference. (Double standard?)

Is it time for the revolution where people finally toss away the artificial and arbitrary standards of dress and cosmetics that have kept many poor and a few very rich? I'm not certain.

Maybe it will depend on whether you have the nerve to be yourself rather than someone that others tell you to be.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to strip away the artifice and get down to reality.
Learn more at

Friday, September 29, 2006

Johnny's not learning, the lazy little bugger

"Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."
- Sam Ewing, US writer and quipster

I never call anyone lazy. My parents were told that I was lazy many times by teachers through my elementary and secondary school years.

By the time I got to college, my teachers thought I was a brilliant student who did a great deal of work to prepare for classes that went well because of my participation. (I didn't, they misled themselves as well my earlier teachers had.)

The difference? By the age I was in college, my brain had finally developed enough that I could keep up with the progress of my classes. Before that, it was not developed enough for me to be able to read, let alone think quickly or be able to readily understand what was being taught.

I would often be able to pay close attention to the lesson being taught in school, taking it all in until I reached my level of maximum intake. Everything was a blur after that. I was not a discipline problem, though I had no trouble understanding how others could be if they were experiencing what I was. I was quiet because I didn't want to be noticed.

The reasons for my slower than normal development are not important to this discussion, but they had to do with my isolation from other children as a young child, resulting in an extreme lack of social skills. Children with underdeveloped or maldeveloped social skills tend to be poorer readers, among their many other problems.

If you are a parent, a teacher or a relative of a child that doesn't seem to be keeping up with the rest of his age mates, perhaps that child's brain is developing slower than the norm. Or perhaps that child is socially underdeveloped, not up with the norms of his peers.

Should the child be held back a year or two in school to help put him in synch socially with other children at his social level? Or should he be advanced with his age peers, leaving him permanently less developed socially than his classmates throughout his school career, until he quits school early? These have been the two traditional solutions teachers and parents have been offered.

Both suck, believe me. I have been in both situations.

Schools are not set up, by curriculum, to teach social skills. Yet ask many high school teachers or vice principals what their worst student troubles are and they will often reply social problems.

Schools are the main places where children gather each day. If all teaching is individual (as all learning must be individual), then school does nothing to improve the social development of a child.

Some teachers devise learning situations whereby social interaction among students is necessary for the completion of the task. When the task is new to everyone, that puts most (if not all) children on a level playing field with their mates. Social learning occurs in tandem with intellectual (cognitive) learning when children discover, together, ways to solve problems.

No child is born lazy. Some adults are lazy. Now you may be able to see a connection you did not before. Lazy adults tend to be social misfits or outcasts.

Please connect the dots. Take your time, someone's future may depend on it.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make schools a bit more equal for the social misfits befor they become lazy adult "failures."
Learn more at

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Some kinds of people will go extinct

"Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you."
- Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

As much as we would like to think that we play a role as an integral part of the world in which we live, this is at least partly a self deception. It is more accurate to say that we each create the world in which we live.

There are happy people who live in the barrios around Rio de Janeiro, while perpetually unhappy people pace the penthouse suites of New York City. Indian ascetics with no possessions, homes or steady incomes feel their lives are fulfilled while devoted religious fanatics can't figure out why the world is so hellish.

Even people who spend every day together don't know each other as well as they they they do.

The reason is that we are not one single entity that was born, lives and dies as might be prepresented by the lifespan of a doll. We are unbelievably complex beings that are patched together as if with plasticine. Each day many new pieces are added, some with different colours, other with textures that are not the same as those they are newly attached to.

Add free will to that. Further, add our ability to plan our own future then shape our own destiny by working to implement our plan. We can become who we want to be.

No one should ever tell you that will be easy. Two people with exactly the same life plan could never implement it in identical ways. Implementing a life plan requires us to adapt to life circumstances.

The ability to adapt to new or unexpected conditions is a feature of humans which has allowed us to be so successful at spreading over the planet and to reproduce so rapidly in some places. However, adapting is not something that we take to naturally or easily. That requires change, which is anathema to most people.

"Oh, yes," we say, "change is inevitable. Just don't make it happen to me." Change is very hard. Some can't do it. They fall by the wayside. Look at the species of animals and plants who are unable to adapt to global warming so are going extinct for examples.

We have many people in our world who are extremely afraid of change. They are passionately, obsessively afraid of it. They will fight wars to avoid it. They will commit suicide for some ostensibly honourable cause to avoid it. They will join fundamentalist religions in the hope of being protected from it.

They will go extinct.

Whether you view "progress" as positive or negative, it means change. If we do not adapt to it and work within new parameters as they change, we will be among the extinct.

War and suicide will only assist with the natural process of extinction. They should be anachronisms. We cannot build anything on destruction.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make the future look as realistic as it really will be.
Learn more at

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

You can be great without being rich or athletic

Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Set aside what we know today that Thoreau had no way of knowing, that Columbus was a merchant explorer, not a great discoverer. Columbus is known, by reputation, rightly or wrongly, as one of the greatest explorers and discoverers of all time.

So what is he doing in your head? Maybe messing with history a bit.

Thoreau, never one for great cities, set aside the life he had known in town (Concord, MA) to build himself a little cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond. He left society for a little over two years to explore possibilities that had been suggested by his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He went to explore whole new continents and worlds within himself. In addition to becoming one of the founding fathers of the environmentalist movement in the US, he became what in our simple way of thinking we call a philosopher.

He thought about himself, about the people he had known, about life, about the relationship between people and their environment, about the future of the world. Most of what Thoreau wrote was in notebooks that survived when he died shortly after returning to town.

Thoreau was considered to be a strange duck who would rather be by himself than to be with others and have to conform to their acceptable forms of behaviour. During his lifetime, he published one book that sold poorly (200 copies) and one that received only a little more recognition (2000 copies sold). Few in his time wanted to read the words of the strange man who became a hermit in Walden Woods.

Today he is adored not as a philosopher, but more like a great poet. His thoughts are pearls that are studied by every student in the USA and in many countries of the world. His legacy of thought far exceeded his accomplishments in life.

He took time to think, to sometimes do nothing in a day but think, or to watch eggs hatch in a bird's nest. All day.

His voyage of discovery of the continents and worlds within him can be the role model for us who could only dream of emulating him. Emulating the best of him.

Alas, he died too young, likely as a result of malnutrition because he didn't eat enough. He may have thought that people could learn to survive without food if they had enough self discipline. That's one theory. If so, his final experiment was one from which we can take lessons about minimums of nutrition needed for life. All kinds of nutrition, not just bulk of food.

His greatest lesson? To me, it was to take time to think. If not, we simply follow the trail someone else has prescribed for us.

A well trod trail that is.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage everyone to explore the possibilities within themselves, to break new trails by taking time to think thoughts that can only come with time.
Learn more at

You can be great without being rich or athletic

Be a Columbus to whole new continents and worlds within you, opening new channels, not of trade, but of thought.
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Set aside what we know today that Thoreau had no way of knowing, that Columbus was a merchant explorer, not a great discoverer. Columbus is known, by reputation, rightly or wrongly, as one of the greatest explorers and discoverers of all time.

So what is he doing in your head? Maybe messing with history a bit.

Thoreau, never one for great cities, set aside the life he had known in town (Concord, MA) to build himself a little cabin in the woods beside Walden Pond. He left society for a little over two years to explore possibilities that had been suggested by his friend and mentor, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He went to explore whole new continents and worlds within himself. In addition to becoming one of the founding fathers of the environmentalist movement in the US, he became what in our simple way of thinking we call a philosopher.

He thought about himself, about the people he had known, about life, about the relationship between people and their environment, about the future of the world. Most of what Thoreau wrote was in notebooks that survived when he died shortly after returning to town.

Thoreau was considered to be a strange duck who would rather be by himself than to be with others and have to conform to their acceptable forms of behaviour. During his lifetime, he published one book that sold poorly (200 copies) and one that received only a little more recognition (2000 copies sold). Few in his time wanted to read the words of the strange man who became a hermit in Walden Woods.

Today he is adored not as a philosopher, but more like a great poet. His thoughts are pearls that are studied by every student in the USA and in many countries of the world. His legacy of thought far exceeded his accomplishments in life.

He took time to think, to sometimes do nothing in a day but think, or to watch eggs hatch in a bird's nest. All day.

His voyage of discovery of the continents and worlds within him can be the role model for us who could only dream of emulating him. Emulating the best of him.

Alas, he died too young, likely as a result of malnutrition because he didn't eat enough. He may have thought that people could learn to survive without food if they had enough self discipline. That's one theory. If so, his final experiment was one from which we can take lessons about minimums of nutrition needed for life. All kinds of nutrition, not just bulk of food.

His greatest lesson? To me, it was to take time to think. If not, we simply follow the trail someone else has prescribed for us.

A well trod trail that is.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage everyone to explore the possibilities within themselves, to break new trails by taking time to think thoughts that can only come with time.
Learn more at

Monday, September 25, 2006

Life is cruel. Can you handle it?

Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.
- Virginia Satir

"Supposed to be?" Who said that? Who says, with authority, what is supposed to be about life?


The fact is that people have (and teach to others) all sorts of unreasonable and unsupportable expectations of life. That includes what they expect of others as well as for themselves.

Life is nothing less than brutally cruel for every life form, including both plants and animals. Any animal that canot fend for itself for food, defence or shelter will either die or be eaten. A plant that grows in an uninviting place with too much competition or too little protection or nutrition will die. Nature shows no mercy.

Charles Darwin did not say the fittest will survive. He said that the life forms that can adapt best to changing conditions will survive. In addition to the many other skills needed to survive, successful animals and plants need to be able to adapt.

Adapting to changing environment, food and water availability, defensive ability, technology (including that which benefits the military) and even our way of life is what has made humans so successful that they can be found almost all over the planet.

One of the biggest expectations we can make about life is that it is predictable. There is nothing predictable, fair or even safe about life. At any time. Self deception or believing someone that tells us that life will be good for us will keep us from facing the truth about ourselves.

Those who are prepared to cope with life's circumstances, especially as they change, will survive and thrive best. As life seems to be changing more rapidly than previously in history (for humans), we may want to consider teaching coping skills in order to better prepared young adults for the trials and tribulations they will face later.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to have social and coping skills taught to every school student.
Learn more at

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Only you can heal you

To array a man's will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine.
- Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and writer (1813-1887)

The human body, especially the brain, has been likened to a sophisticated computer where the brain performs functions that operate machinery in the rest of the body. This analogy is simplistic, but easy for a child to understand.

When something goes wrong with a computer, we always call on a human to set it right again. True, predictions call for computers in the future that can repair themselves. If these ever come about, they will almost certainly perform the way the human body does. In fact, many of the components of these computers may be biological.

The human body repairs itself. Doctors and other medical experts merely prompt the brain to do whatever is necessary to heal the problem area of the body.

Let's take the example of cancer in a body. Our immune sytem normally detects and eliminates cells it does not recognize as part of the "self" using its own attack army of T-cells. This helps us to avoid many illnesses. The reason why cancer cells are so hard for our immune system to detect is that they closely resemble other human cells. Cancer cells disguise themselves in such a way as to be invisible to the immune system.

The brain can do nothing about this because it would not normally attack itself. There are a few autoimmune illnesses in which the immune system turns against itself, but these result from chemical or genetic problems, not invading cells.

Medical science today is tryng to find a way to help the brain (immune system) to detect the subtle differences between cancer cells and healthy body cells. Once it learns how to teach the immune system the difference(s) it can reprogram the immune system to detect and eliminate cancer cells.

Call it genetic engineering, but if your life were at stake, you might favour getting rid of your own cancer.

Meanwhile, doctors prescribe all sorts of medicines that do not cure us but instead prompt our bodies to repair themselves. An antibiotic, for example, prompts the immune system to produce more bacteria fighters to kill invading bacteria. The few existing antiviral medicines prompt the immune system to detect and wipe out whatever viruses they can find.

Only treatments such as chemotherapy actually kill anything themselves. The way this therapy ravages the body is not pretty.

The reason why some antibiotics work to defeat invading disease bacteria while others don't is that some tweak the immune systems of some people properly and some don't. We differ in how we react to medicines and therapies. Sometimes only experimentation will find the right one. Recently, antibiotic-resistent bacteria have evolved, which makes tweaking the immune systems of some people very difficult.

Over the past century, medical science has become very good at fighting problems that used to kill our ancestors. It still has a long way to go, further still if we take into account poor people in any country who can't afford therapies that would cure their counterparts in rich countries or communities.

Your doctor should be trying to get you to cure yourself. If he or she prescribes a medication that turns out to be incorrect, remember that prescriptions are often a matter of trial and error. We may not like that, but it's a reality of medicine.

More importantly, your doctor should be trying to encourage you to eat and exercise in ways that would help you to fight off any invading microbe and to avoid having your body organs break down. In theory, your doctor should be trying to put himself or herself out of business. It never works that way because there are always people to fix.

This doctor-prompted healthy lifestyle change does not happen often enough. Consequently, the responsibility falls to us to find out what we need to do to make ourselves healthy.

Living a healthy lifestyle is not always popular or fun. However, we need to keep in mind that what we do today may well determine what our life is like 30 years from now. Strong bodies often take that long to react to abuse. But when it happens, it's wretched, as many aged former professional athletes could tell you.

In the final analysis, your body heals itself. Therefore it's up to you to keep it fit enough to be able to do its job.

Being a sickly, wasted old person is not something you would wish on yourself.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to teach everyone how to lead a healthy and active old age.
Learn more at

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I have a grenade and I've pulled the pin

Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.
- George Santayana, philosopher (1863-1952)

The subject of the fashion industry makes be uncomfortable because, like the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries, it persuades people, using peer pressure, that they need something they usually do not, often can't afford and may be outright impractical as apparel.

In particular, the fashion and cosmetics industries constitute the ultimate examples in society of corporations leading unsuspecting dupes by the nose to buy products they don't need but are afraid not to buy because they don't want to be "out of fashion."

In this condemnation I do not include high fashion, which is an entertainment industry unto itself for those with more money than they know how to spend on necessities.

Men buy suits and other clothing on the basis of brand name, which they assume will satisfy the envy of their peers who care. Many women, so far as I can tell, empty their savings on a regular basis so that they can look just right for their office jobs in their city's skyscrapers. "Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have."

A recent study in the UK and the USA found that most men (56% or more) from ages 18 to 34 prefer women to wear no makeup. The men surveyed were single and married (but not both at the same time).

When women "dress up," they dress to be attractive, much the way call-girls dress. Some say they buy expensive clothing and shoes to please themselves, which in psychological terms is called narcissism. Some dress to please other women, which either suggests that they are gay or want to impress women who likely bear them no good will.

Some drsss up to please men, either their mates or prospective mates, or just to titilate the men they work with. These I deem to be the most honest with themselves. However, most boys learn somewhere along the way that the most attractive and seductive women should be admired but not taken seriously because they are as apt to walk away from a marriage or relationship as towards one.

Men may lust after the most attractive women, but most will consider them throw-aways they would never seriously plan to keep as mates. Most men know that the women they wake up with in the morning had better have more to offer to a relationship than their first-thing appearance.

There is little point in expanding on the cosmetics industry other than to say that it gained power in the 1940s when a movie makeup man (Revlon) saw a fortune to be made selling makeup to women who want to look like movie stars.

As if any sane woman would want to live the life of a movie star. No, they say, but I want to look like one. Because...? Because the fashion and cosmetics industries have persuaded them that they should look like movie stars.

Of course the tail can wag the dog. Well, not with real dogs. Only with people who want to "put on the dog."

Naturally that is my opinion. I'm comfortable with it given what I have observed in my studies.

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to strip today's realities down to bare facts.
Learn more at

Friday, September 22, 2006

Finding your way to real love

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done."
- Vincent Van Gogh

I am convinced that a majority of people in our modern society have no comprehension of the kind of love that the artist refers to.

They have not experienced that kind of love from others, especially as children, so they have no based on which to give it to others as adults.

To them, love is what I used to understand, as a teenager, was "like." Or the best possible business arrangment that is available at the time.

I understand how heretical that may seem to many people. But those people may be among the ones who don't understand what real love is.

You can't fall out of love. That's one characteristic.

If your kind of love is something you could change your mind about, then it's not what those who have experienced real love call real love.

It would be like getting to heaven, then changing your mind because you'd have to play the same 18 hole golf course every day. Or choosing to leave because you don't like the decor.

It can't happen that way. Real love is not something we can do anything about. It fits, wear it.

Real love is not sexual or romantic in the sense that we might see on television or in a movie. Sex is hormonal. Romance appeals to the same part of the brain that addictions so, the part that emits dopamine, the feel-good natural high.

Real love has not yet been tracked in the brain because medical science has not yet developed equipment that sophisticated.

Real love can be for God, for a mate, for a friend, for a skid row "loser," for a death row inmate, for a criminal, for a partner of the same sex. For yourself, for sure. For real love to flourish, we must love ourselves first. Truly and honestly.

Those who have real love can't explain it to others who don't. Those who don't have real love can't find descriptive words because they don't know what they would be describing. That's why a dictionary has so many ways to explain love.

But a dictionary doesn't explain real love. There aren't words available that everyone would understand.

With real love, we would walk into hell without fear to save the one we love. Why without fear? Because we feel it so strongly that it transcends our mortal existence.

Many will say "Where is the proof?" They don't understand. They ask the same question of those who believe whole-heartedly in God.

You can't buy real love. You can't sweet talk you way into it. Perfume or fancy dress won't do it.

Real love starts within you and grows. Until it overcomes you.

Or it's stillborn. Though some manage to nurture love to live as adults. If they learn how. The seed of love doesn't die until we do.

I have no secret to convey to you about how to nurture the love within you. Just one suggestion.

Ask yourself what God would want you to do with your life. Not your parents, your friends, your clergyman/woman or a TV commercial.


If you can't deal with that question, then you won't be able to nurture the real love within you.

If that question is too much for you to cope with, then happy motoring. Happy like. Find yourself a good deal.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to guide everyone to understand the unexplainable.
Learn more at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A future we can all look forward to

Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.
- John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

We don't need pine trees. We can make decorative pine trees out of plastic. And we can build with steel, which is much stronger than wood.

We don't need mountains. They are nothing more than prehistoric piles of rock. Some of them explode and spew lava over people and landscape. Some rise like slow moving eruptions of a cancer of earth's skin. Some just sit there and wear down, killing some skiers who try to make use of the snow on their upper slopes each year.

We don't need rivers. They only usher rain (which nobody likes except those in deserts) down to the oceans, which are the trash and hazardous waste dumps of the world anyway.

We don't need streams. Fishermen can get their entertainment much easier at fairs, and we can grow the fish in artificial fish farms.

We don't need lakes. Mostly what we do with them now is spoil their purity with carbon monoxide and petroleum from our boats and personal watercraft.

We don't need forests. Entrepreneurs can create artificial forests for those who love to race their all terrain vehicles through them, tearing up the places where wild animals live. Only weirdos walk in the forests. Or joggers who want to be attacked by bears.

We don't need wild animals. Today's zoos provide the best environment that an animal could want, including a regular supply of food, mates and places to exercise. That's what they tell us. Who goes into the wilderness to look at wild animals anyway?

We don't need birds in the wild. Too many of them are dying from air pollution, oil spills and spreading cities taking over their habitat as it is. A controlled bird sanctuary is the best place for us to see birds.

In today's world, especially in North America, 85 percent of the population lives in cities and seldom makes it outside to see the wild places and things. That number is increasing and the number for other continents is rising steadily as rural and wilderness people realize that the city is the only place for real people to live.

What does it matter if the wildness (as Thoreau called it) of uninhabited places transforms into wasteland? We have our cities.

Where we feel safe.

In controlled environments.

Technology will save us.

We will all eventually live in the giant people zoos, with animal zoos for entertainment. And technology to keep us busy the rest of our free time.

If we can live on Mars or the Moon, then we can certainly survive on an earth that is mostly uninhabitable and desertified.

Think positive. The future is ours.

I wonder who will visit us in our zoos.

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to put a positive spin on humanity's self destruction.
Learn more at but only if you don't like the scenario above.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's none of your business

"What people in the world think of you is really none of your business."
- Martha Graham, American dancer and choreographer (1894–1991)

With respect, dear reader, note the final two words of the quotation that are different from what we might otherwise expect.

One of the harder life lessons I have learned is that the negative and destructive opinions of others about me or my work do nothing to enhance my life. Opposition and naysaying come from different places. The naysayer wants to hit and run, not debate.

We need some opposition in order to grow. Without some thought to think against, we have no traction or motivation to think further.

We don't need to win debates in order to grow. Everything we learn, even from an opponent, can be used later to our advantage. As the old war saying goes: you learn more from your enemies than you do from your allies.

In the final analysis, only one person gets to live your life, to experience your woes, your sadness, your trials and tribulations, your moments of elation and joy. You are the most important member of your own cheering section.

In order to win praise from others, once the heady days of childhood where every drawing finds a place on the refrigerator, we need to be good at something. Not the best, just better than all or most others in our circle of acquaintances.

If what we are good at also benefits others, then we get greater recognition. For example, we may not remember who got the most gold medals for our country in the last Olympics, but we remember a friend or teacher who helped us through a period of strife.

We don't have to be the most talented, the most skilled or the most muscular/pulchritudinous to receive the kind of recognition we need over a lifetime. These tend to be fairly short-lived attentions. We need to be good at something that would be deemed of some value to others or from which others can learn. In a chess club, that would be skill at chess. At a dance, it might be skill at dancing or at helping partners feel good.

In every community there are people who deem it their job to point out to others the faults and failures of as many people as they can. If we listen to these people, whether they speak about us or about others, we give them something they don't deserve. We don't deserve it either.

When helping a young person to decide what they may want to excel at in life, advise them to choose something that will last for a very long time, if they want recognition that will extend for many years.

And to not give the naysayers the recognition they desire.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person avoid too much sightseeing on the road of life.
Learn more at

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Who teaches that killing is good?

A moment that makes life thrilling:
watching a gathering of crows.
Then thoughts of war dead come chilling.
As every soldier rightly knows,
there’s no god who favors killing.
- Anthony S. Maulucci, US born poet and novelist

Recent documentaries and interview programs have convinced me that soldiers do not kill "people," they kill enemy entities. They are trained to annihilate devils that they are persuaded inhabit the bodies of the men, women and children who stand before them. The actual people who die are, to the soldiers, not really people any more than those in a video game are real.

Is this realistic? It's the way soldiering has worked since the "profession" began. Like it or not, right or wrong, soldiers are trained to kill entities they believe are less than human.

"There's no god who favors killing." Yet every soldier in just about every modern war is trained to believe that God (by whatever name) supports what he or she is doing.

No modern religion favours killing. Older ones--now mostly extinct--accepted death under certain circumstances.

However, sects within religions preach death by suicide and even murder. Al Qaeda is a collection of such extreme sects, even though Islam teaches that murder is wrong and suicide is the ultimate sin. Within Christianity there are many examples, but Jamestown comes to mind.

We know who teaches that suicide and murder are supported by God and are good.

Who teaches that a gathering of crows is worth watching? Or fish leaping from the lake surface to catch flies that have recently hatched and are hovering above the water? Or the flight of a hummingbird? Or the swirling mist over a lake in the early morning that shows how hurricanes and tornadoes form? Or how much the smile of a baby can touch the heart of a mother?

Someone should.

If not enough people teach these things, we can't blame it on those who train the solders. We can't blame it on those who train the minds of religious sect members.

We shouldn't blame it on our own parents. Maybe they didn't know.

You know. Are you teaching actively or passively, by example? Doing nothing is a lesson to a child, by example.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to encourage everyone to teach the things they believe are important, instead of leaving it to others.
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Monday, September 18, 2006

Your need for touch

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

Good line, John.

When I was in high school, a common behind-the-back statement about a cranky person was "Well, she's (he's) not getting enough."

In the western world, where sex is in our faces on television, in movies, in video games, on billboards and flyers and on the sides of buses, we have been unknowingly taught to believe that an important component--some would say the most important component--of the life of each person, whether in a committed relationship or not, is a steady supply of sex.

Those who want something different, by unreasonable deduction, must be mentally unbalanced.

I say unreasonable because most of us miss out on an important component of our lives, one that often goes hand in hand with sex: touch. Specifically touch that moves over all or parts of our bodies.

Sex, as we know, is driven by hormones. Every species that reproduces by sexual means has some version of sexual need that is triggered by hormones.

Where does touch come into it? Loving touch is often the action by one human lover that turns on the hormone rush in the other prior to sex. But there's more.

Touch is a basic human need. Not quite at the level of nutrition and water as needs. More like our need for shelter. Our prehistoric ancestors lived for many millennia without the kinds of shelter we have today. But they still sought some for of shelter from the weather and from predators. They needed shelter.

Often they sought this huddled together, in trees, in a cave or behind a big rock. The slept touching each other, as big cats and many other non-human mammals do today, ones we think of as social animals.

Today the most touch that people get is from their bed partner, as they sleep. That touch, however, seems not sufficient to satisfy our need for touch.

We need a moving kind of touch. As we do when we pat a dog or cat. These pets do whatever they can to get us to pat them. Not because they are bored, but because they need to have moving touch.

We need that kind of touch too. Elderly people thrive better when they have a mate or a pet living with them that they touch frequently. Hospital and nursing home patients heal better when pets are introduced into their environment.

Those who are potentially suicidal--notably those who attempt suicide without intending to succeed (which constitutes a large majority of suicide attempts)--suffer from a severe lack of moving touch.

Ornery and angry people suffer from lack of sufficient moving touch. Unfortunately, by the time they reach this stage, they believe (have made themselves believe) that they don't need anybody, that they don't need touch. Even with the best coaching by a touch therapist or a mate, they never completely recover from that period of touch starvation.

They may also never be good at giving touch to a mate. Witness how many women complain that their husbands want sex, but seem clumsy or reluctant when it comes to being affectionate.

Children need touch perhaps more than anyone. Remember, they came into existence being totally surrounded by nine months of constant moving touch. Then there is separation. No wonder they cry.

Unlike pet cats and dogs, children often don't ask for touch, especially if they are not used to being touched (hugged, rubbed on the back, snuggled against) regularly by their parents or siblings. In this sense, cats and dogs are smarter than human children.

Any child up to the age of about 11 years can easily accept a new effort by a parent to engage in moving touch. After age 11, they tend to look for it in their peers and will likely want to avoid touch from their parents. Preadolescent and adolescent boys and girls find all sorts of way to touch each other, mostly for non-sexual reasons. Team sports are excellent examples of how kids satisfy their need for moving touch in socially acceptable ways.

It may not be sex that John Cleese's very, very cross people lack, but moving touch.

The loneliest people feel the greatest sense of need for the touch of another person. People get married to the wrong mates just to get moving touch on a regular basis.

Rapists may be driven not so much by the need for violence or for sex, but for the touch of another person.

No child who lacks sufficient moving touch will be happy, no matter what service the school provides or how many toys the parents give. The child will likely be no more than an average student, no matter what his intelligence. He may also have trouble with social relationships and have trouble reading.

Don't expect proof of this because it has not been studied. The evidence is only anecdotal at this point.

What is a massage therapist but a professional who makes people feel better with moving touch? Healing touch therapy does not involve actual touch, but the hands of the healer move close enough to the patient that body heat is exchanged. Reiki works because of the application of hands touching, not voodoo magic.

Touch is our most underrecognized need.

A smile is nice, even warming to another person. But find a way to touch them in a non-sexual and non-threatening way and you may make yourself a friend.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to put hands to use as healers.
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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Do you really want to know about yourself?

"Circumstances do not make the man, they merely reveal himself to himself."
- Epictetus, Greek/Roman philosopher (c.55 – c.135 C.E.)

This assumes the desire and willingness to find out about himself. No trivial matter.

Do you really want to find out about yourself? From my experience, most people don't really want to know what is at the heart of themselves.

They are afraid of what they might find.

At what might they find? Faults? Weaknesses? Grave errors? Genetic mistakes? Chasmic gaps in their childhood development? Almost certainly.

But they would also find their strengths. Some people don't know their strengths because others have not pointed them out or because they have not worked hard enough to find them out themselves. A small minority believe they don't have any strengths. Such people are emotionally fragile.

We have been socialized, at least in the western world, to understand that we will be judged by our weaknesses, our mistakes and anything that make us different from perfection. Many people cover these as much as possible, refusing to acknowledge that they are not perfect. Many even attribute their own mistakes to others to take the heat and attention off themselves.

You may not be among these people, but no doubt you know some.

Who judges us this way? Based solely on the negative? In almost every case, people we should not care about. Unless, of course, they are our mother, in which case they may be forgiven for wanting us to improve, to be our best.

We have no reason to care about neighbours or workmates who judge us by our mistakes or our weaknesses. If such people were worthy of our care, they would help us to overcome these problems. If they don't, they are not worthy of our time or our care.

Treasure the people who acknowledge your strengths. They are not just rare, but they have a quality about them that makes them worth knowing. And, usually, worth learning from.

Finding such people is like prospecting for gold. You go through a lot of rock, sand and detritus before you find the real goods. Like gold, they never lose their value.

More importantly, they never lose your value.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help every child become an adult worth associating with.
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Is somebody else running your life?

"If you don't run your own life, somebody else will."
- John Atkinson, Baron Atkinson of Glenwilliam (1844–1931)

This lesson should be taught to everyone. While many people today give the running of their lives over to others, desiring to satisfy what others want of them rather than what they want for themselves, a few take total control of their lives. This is often done after making several critical mistakes that teach how important it is to run their own lives.

Teaching that lesson brings with it the obligation to ensure that each person has the tools with which to make the decisions needed to run their own life.

At present, children go to school mostly to learn the skills and knowledge they need to get jobs. Some parents assist with this to make certain that their children have better jobs than their peer group.

Some teachers and some parents teach life skills. Their children find mates they stay with for life. They have families and enjoy as much of the life available to them as they can.

However, statistics tell us that not nearly enough adults fit into this latter category.

Does that mean that parents are failing in their responsibilities? It certainly means that many parents are not teaching what their kids need to make comfortable lives for themselves.

But is that the fault of the parents? No. Most new parents know very little about what young children need, how to recognize the onsiet of their needs and the stages of development (especially social and emotional development) that their children will go through. What's more, they don't even know that they should ask about what they don't know. They assume they will learn as their kids grow.

It's all very well to say that parents should teach these things to their children. It's not fair to point fingers at those who fail (judging by the behaviour of their children) when those parents may not have been given the tools they need to be parents. The information they need may not be available in their communities.

Parenting, the most important responsibility that we have in life, is the only one where people are allowed to go into it knowing very little at the most important time (of their children's lives).

"Can't" and "won't" have been tossed around for years, for generations, for centuries. They are tired and lame excuses for the fact that we have not stood up and told our legislators to give their school boards the responsibility to teach parents what they need to know before they become parents.

There are no good excuses. Bad excuses abound.

Someone must stand up and be heard. Others will follow if they believe the first will not be killed in action.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to make our needs so obvious that someone will decide to meet them.
Learn more at

Friday, September 15, 2006

Is education the key to world peace?

"The highest result of education is tolerance."
- Helen Keller, 'Optimism,' 1903

As odd as this quotation may sound, I believe it has merit.

In this case, "tolerance" has many meanings. Among them are tolerance of the opinions of others, of their different religions, skin colours, cultural identities, family histories, even hair colours, tatoos and pierced skin jewelry.

Tolerance, however, also includes those differences which cause many to go to war. Some wars are motivated by greed for what another has that they want and for power over the others. Modern wars concern themselves more with defeating concepts which some find vile.

This latter could include the so-called Cold War. The Cold War, ostensibly one that did not involve fighting, but competition over political ideologies and for dominance in space, was indeed a violent one as the two opposing sides sponsored acts of violence (including supplying weapons) and murder, even genocide, in what the western world called Third World countries. In the First World, these were considered by many to be more skirmishes and revolutions in small countries where power was all that mattered.

When disagreement must be settled with weapons that kill, civilization is but a hollow concept. To those who are motivated by greed or revenge for real or perceived offences, words alone may not turn them back. But a physically powerful opposition that refuses to use its overwhelming brute force to defeat a relatively meager enemy would be a satisfactory first step toward opening dialogue.

In today's world, where no country threatens to take over world domination by force, no reason exists to use superior force. Words would do in many cases. This supposes, of course, that the more powerful force wants to use words rather than weapons and that it knows the right words to use in a dialogue.

Words will also stir up those who seek to use any excuse for violence. We might want to consider the motivations of the Pope of Rome in his recent attacks against Islam, attacks which were supposedly based on facts, but which any student of Islam could have told him were blatantly false and clearly inflamatory.

It's hard to convince people to beat their swords into ploughshares when their leader encourages making more swords.

Words work both ways.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to use words to encourage those who want peace and to defeat those who want war.
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trust what you believe is right, not what others say

You can out-distance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you.
- Rwandan Proverb

There are no acceptable excuses. No matter what we may say to convince ourselves.

We are not turtles that carry our problems around on our backs. We have choices.

No one can cause us hurt unless we accept what is dealt to us is hurtful.

No problem can cause us stress unless we accept that a detour on the paved highway of our lives over rough ground is worth imposing emotional grief on ourselves.

We accept the burdens of our lives because we view them as burdens. If we viewed the same tasks and responsibilities as joys or honours, they would not be burdens. It's a choice.

Every road has rough patches. So does every life. That's life.

On the other hand, it's not so easy to shake off the life lessons, such as morals and right/wrong, that were taught to us as children. No matter how far we stray from what we were taught was right and good, those concepts remain with us for the rest of our lives.

This can be good or bad, depending on the lessons. Try to explain to a member of the fundamentalist Mormon sect in Utah that what their leader dictates to them is illegal, personally hurtful, emotionally devastating and just plain wrong according to the scriptures they call holy and you will be told to mind your own business and go away.

That is why we must teach what we believe that all children should know to all children. If we agree that murder is wrong, we should teach that to all children. As difficult as it may be to believe, we don't teach that to all children. The ultimate example of the effect that can have on a community is when Palestinian families praise the most recent member of their family to have committed suicide when he or she blew up a few or many Israelis in a market or restaurant.

If we believe that rape is wrong, we must teach that to all children. If we believe that helping others who are in desperate need is right, we must treach that to our children, to all children.

If we believe that change in cultural practices is necessary in sub-Saharan Africa to stem the tide of AIDS in that part of the world, we must do what we can to see that someone teaches the necessary lessons to the children. We teach it in North American countries and it's working.

The ideal would be for parents to teach their children all the necessary lessons. But some don't and every parent misses some critical lessons.

The only way to ensure that every child receives the same necessary lessons is to have them as part of school curriculum. And to teach the lessons in the primary grades.

Some will say that it would violate the rights of some people to have the same lessons taught to all children. This would not be necessary if plans were in place to survey everyone on what they believe are the basic lessons that should be taught to all children. It's highly unlikely that lessons against murder would violate anyone's rights. What a difference it would make to our cities and even our rural areas if everyone grew up believing that murder was wrong.

There are many lessons about life that should be taught to every child in a community. The community members can choose what those lessons will be, with guidance and assistance at the state/province level or the national level.

It's time to tell those who claim that teaching social lessons to children is a violation of rights that it's the way--the only way there ever has been--that all adults will know those lessons. Ignore the specious warnings about "the slippery slope" and "the thin edge of the wedge." They are propaganda warnings intended to create fear by edging us closer to anarchy.

Yes, you read that correctly.

If it's right, then let's teach it to every child.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show the anarchistic fear mongers for what they are. And that we have to reason to fear them.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

To manage your life and be creative, simplify

"Unnecessary possessions are unnecessary burdens. If you have them, you have to take care of them! There is great freedom in simplicity of living. It is those who have enough but not too much who are the happiest."
- Peace Pilgrim (1908 - 1981) See her web site at

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler."
- Henry David Thoreau

Both authors have similar messages, though they approach the subject from diffierent angles.

Many people decry how busy they are, how they can't keep up with everything that must be done, how they lose sleep because they have so much work to do or how they can't figure out how to get off the treadwheel of the rat race. Some work 60 to 80 hours a week at their jobs, then come home to more work that needs to be addressed.

They act as if every task is of equal importance. More importantly, they refuse to give up some of those "necessities of life" to make their lives simpler. Many of those necessary things are necessary for a lifestyle, not a life.

In the rat race world, those who lead simple lives are considered to be simple, deviant, lazy or stupid.

Those who actually lead those lives that have been reduced to only what they can manage, and have free time to relax and recreate, do not see it as their responsibility to convert any of the rats to their way of thinking. They don't proselytize because they use their zeal to create new things instead of converting nearly dead ones.

Only those who have some time to do nothing have time to think, deeply and creatively.

One of the gretest problems of being part of the rat race is that you die like a rat. Be honest, how many of the rats you knew a year or two ago do you still remember today?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people build lives they can manage.
Learn more at

Monday, September 11, 2006

It'll never work. You must be nuts.

"College isn't the place to go for ideas."
- Helen Keller

Grade school was designed to produce workers who would follow rules obediently and adhere to the dictates of the (mostly industrial magnates) establishment of the 19th century. College was designed to catch those who managed to escape the clutches of the sculptors of the common man of the times.

Not a great deal has changed.

Helen Keller agreed, as do a large proportion of people who passed through college then went on to postgraduate studies. And those who couldn't hack it in school, dropped out and became millionnaires in something school could never prepare them for.

In many colleges marks are awarded for agreeing with the instructor. Higher marks are granted for making a strong argument for the instructor's way of thinking on assigned papers. Any student who dares to contradict the instructor or (gasp!) prove him wrong or incompetent may have a rocky future ahead of him.

Does this mean that college should be avoided? Not at all. A truly creative and industrious person needs to know what the vast majority of people experience, know and believe, so that he will understand why he must accept himself as being clearly different from the rest. If you don't know what the norms are, you can't know how far you stray away from them.

Ideas? They can come from daydreams, from coffee conversations with a friend, from an all-nighter bull session with peers or from graffiti on a bathroom stall wall.

Of one thing you may be certain if you have a good idea: most people will dislike it or think you must be crazy. If somebody doesn't hate your idea or think you must be daft, your idea likely isn't much good. To grow, you need opposition.

No one slides easily up the mountain.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show you that opposition is a good thing, at least sometimes.
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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Do they understand what you mean?

So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.
- John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

Locke, an educated man, was concerned about how the meanings and imperfections of words could be conveyed to other educated people. His only tool, he says, is words.

When we convey messages to others, especially in person, we use many other tools, sometimes without even being aware of them. Our audience may not be so well educated as the readers of Locke's works or may not expect to have to use the tools available to them.

Facial expression is one of our non-verbal tools. A&W has a commercial on now that is really a movie in 30 seconds. It's based around the facial expressions of the female actor of the "couple." She deserves an award for her performance. A&W believes that her facial expressions will sell hamburgers.

We learn the various forms of facial expression and how to perform each ourselves when we are children. By adulthood, we do them naturally as we speak.

Body language is another non-verbal tool. Even position of the person delivering a message with respect to the position of the listener is important. If the person is behind a desk or their face is higher than the listener's face, the speaker is in a position of power for delivering a message. In written messages such annoying things as spelling, punctuation and use of grammar can affect how a reader interprets a message.

Written language lacks all of the easy tools of speech. Thus it opens itself to misinterpretation more than spoken messages. It's all too common for a reader to fix on one particular sentence of a written message, taking it out of context, and draw conclusions about the meaning of the whole message that are contradictory to the writer's intentions.

Years ago when I was the supervisor over many entry level employees, I gained a reputation for being the only person my colleagues knew who could dismiss an employee for incompetence and make them feel good about having to look for another job. Yet when I wrote simple notes asking that certain people do particular (and necessary) cleanup jobs, I was too often accused of "yelling" at them when my intention was anything but that.

Written messages have a different impact on people because they are managed in different parts of the brain than spoken messages. More correctly, the path taken by visual input of a written message through the eyes has many more places in which the information must be processed before it is understood, compared to the input of spoken words from a person who is facing the listener. More steps means more possibilities for errors or misinterpretations. Also more possibilities for the reader to become sidetracked on a tangent resulting from associations of certain words.

No matter what our level of education or the number of words at our disposal for speaking or writing, it would serve us well to consider not just how to word what we say to convey our message, but what unintended impact the combination of words we choose might make on our listeners or readers.

A good writer gives great importance to how his or her reader will react. A good speaker knows the reaction he or she expects and uses every verbal and body tool at hand to get that reaction.

The rest of us muddle along and wonder why so many other people are so stupid that they can't understand us.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to get the words right to convey the intended message.
Learn more at

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Recovering from personal oppression

"As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air--however slight--lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
- US Supreme court justice William O. Douglas (1898–1980)

As we have all heard enough of political oppression, this will deal with personal oppression.

Two of the meanings of oppression given in one dictionary are as follows:
(1) The act of subjugating by cruelty
(2) The state of being kept down by unjust use of force or authority

For those who have suffered from oppression by another, Justice Douglas says that it creeps up on them while they little notice the change. By the time they realize the state of their life, they can't explain how it happened.

What's more, the oppressor often can't explain how it happened either.

One person may have gone "a little too far" and the other, in a quiet attempt to be understanding, forgave the offence. The next time, it got a bit worse, and so on.

What neither the oppressor nor the oppressed often does not understand is that the oppressor (the cruel one) has lost control not just of an occasional situation, but his life. He feels overwhelmed by his situation, as if he is sliding down a slope into a bottomless pit. His cruelty is an attempt to show that he can control something in his life, even if it is at the risk of harming the last good thing he has left in it.

Does this mean that we should forgive the cruelty and forget its damage? Not at all. It does mean that we should be aware that some people keep their problems so much to themselves that by the time a loved one or friend notices that something is terribly wrong, the cruel one's life is totally out of control.

We need to be aware of small signals and clues, as they may be the only ways we can tell that something is wrong and may be spiralling out of control. When the oppressed one tries to cover or make excuses for black and blue bruises, the lives of both people may already be totally beyond their control.

It is possible to turn a life around, to make a new beginning with better control and new goals. However, this tends to be very expensive, emotionally as well as in time or money or both. Such a change takes much longer than anyone would like to believe.

Does an oppressed person have that much time? Can the oppressed person work to make that change themselves? Rarely and no. It takes a professional who specializes in reprogramming individuals. Most psychologists are not trained to deal with such deep psychological problems, though some will act as if they have the ability and begin to take money for "therapy" that seldom works.

What's the answer then? As with most problems that have reached the point of being severe, solutions take a very long time. A person who has lost control of his or her life, be they oppressor or oppressed, is like a recovering addict: a recurrence of the problem is one bad move away.

Addicts have support groups for those trying to kick the habit. People who have lived with personal oppression have only limited resources in terms of support. Those who have been oppressors have either no support or extremely limited support, which is why many of them find themselves in prison.

The purpose of this article is not to be depressing. There is an abundance of that on the street wherever you go. The purpose here is to point out that some people need help and have no place to get it. Support is desperately needed for a former oppressor and for the oppressed.

Someone who has suffered in an oppressive situation often will get sympathy if they venture to open up about their case to others. But that sympathy does not last long enough to be of much help to a recovering person. When it suddenly stops, the recovering person feels abandoned.

If you really want to make a difference in someone's life, you could offer to be that support. But, be aware, it sometimes means dropping everything you are doing to help when the help is needed. An undependable support person can be worse than none.

New lives are possible when someone cares enough to provided the needed support.

Bill Allin
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help everyone learn the clues and hints that may lead to others who are in deep trouble.
Learn more at

Friday, September 08, 2006

What does "freedom" really mean?

Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.
- Graham Greene, novelist and journalist (1904-1991)

It's an awkward way of delivering the message, but the wisdom is within.

If a society has freedom of thought, there will always be those who consider the thoughts of some to be heretical. Departure from the "accepted" way of thinking is usually considered to be heretical by some, perhaps genius or original by others.

This kind of heresy is where ordinary citizens decry the words of one person or a group. If a government does the same thing (usually resulting in imprisonment or worse), there is no freedom of thought. At least no freedom of speech.

Is it possible, then, to have freedom of thought without freedom of speech?

More than one philosopher has claimed that freedom itself means freedom of thought. That means that everyone who believes that he or she has freedom of thought, with or without freedom of speech accompanying it, is "free."

No man can imprison my mind, even if they incarcerate my body.

Within prisons in the western world today, it is possible to use the internet and television to do the same kind of research and learning that anyone can do on the outside. Prisoners can use their minds to explore the world, the extent of recent research on any subject, even the depths of the human mind as easily as a free man. Perhaps more freely than the free man who considers himself to be too busy or too important to take time with matters that will not earn him more money.

If this thought line has confused you, then you are thinking. That is the objective.

What does "freedom" really mean? Who is a "free man?"

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to show each mind how to be truly free.
Learn more at

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A real way to end war

Oh to have a lodge in some vast wilderness. Where rumors of oppression and deceit, of unsuccessful and successful wars may never reach me anymore.
- William Cowper, poet (1731-1800)

It would be nice to escape all the bad news. Most of us wish for that if we live long enough.

Cowper wanted to go to "some vast wilderness." Why not just meditate somewhere in the city?

When a person feels connected to nature--a real part of the nature that surrounds him or her--he or she also feels connected to other people. Oppressing or deceiving other people you feel connected to in a positive way is not likely to happen.

Wars happen in cities. Not since the days when Agent Orange that was used to denude "enemy territory" of all forms of plant life so movement of opposition troops could be seen from the air have planes dropped bombs in rural or wilderness areas.

War is a city thing. It was, apparently, when Cowper made his statement in the 18th century.

Regretting the disconnection of people in cities from our origins in nature provides little help for the problem. Only when children are taught to connect on a real and palpable basis with nature can there be any change toward elimination of oppression, deceit or war. Of course there is more to it than that. Rejoining nature is the beginning.

If you have been a part of connecting a group of children with nature, you know how any disputes among tham are forgotten, how any bullying disappears, how much joy they share in getting their hands into the dirt to plant something, to grow something or to inspect something.

As always, real social change must begin with children.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help everyone make the connection back to nature and peace.
Learn more at

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Parenting should not be learned on the job

"Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings."
- Laurence J. Peter

Mr. Peter is best known for the Peter Principle: "In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." Like Mark Twain, he tends to entwine his observations of life with wit.

As much as I admire his writings (one of his book sits beside me as I write this), I must disagree, slightly, with this quotation.

We do not correct our faults by confessing the shortcomings of our parents, rather we make excuses and allowances for our own faults by attributing their origins to the shortcomings of our parents. Correction implies change, which few people do, except under the direst circumstances.

As each of us ages, we tend to see the behaviours of our parents showing up in ourselves. "I've become my mother!" We didn't like the behaviour when our mothers or fathers did it, but we adopt it ourselves nonetheless. But why?

We tend to follow the only examples we know well, which were those of our parents. Some people consciously and with great determination keep their vow to be different from their parents. In those cases, the parents were a negative role model that people use as something to avoid.

An important point to note here is that we see our parents in ourselves when our own children are much too old for us to change our ways to avoid them having the problems we had and disliked as we grew up.

Our only hope to make things different is for us to somehow influence our children to be the kind of parents we were not. This often does not go over well. We treat our grandchildren in the ways we should have treated our children when they were kids.

It's not the psychiatrist who nudges us to change so much as the legacy we want to leave in our descendents that forces us to face the reality that we didn't know much about parenting when we were parents ourselves. We learned on the job.

Since the most critical years of a child's life are the first five, learning parenting on the job is the worst form of apprenticeship.

'Turning It Around' advocates parenting classes for young adults who plan to become parents. These classes would follow the Lamaze classes that so many soon-to-be parents take before their first child is born. As an incentive, tax breaks or insurance benefits could be granted to those parents who took the course.

Given the tax savings that governments would have as a result of teaching the right lessons to children at the proper times, thus reducing crime rates among other things, tax incentives would be an easy benefit to apply.

With good teaching of the lessons that children need to know before they grow to the point of needing the knowledge or skills, a whole community would change as the newly-prepared children reached the ages when the benefits of the newly-taught lessons kick in.

Imagine a generation of children who were taught from a young age that violence and drugs are harmful to their bodies and should be avoided. The downstream benefits of personal and community problems that could be avoided would be tremendous. For example, if all children of a generation avoided all non-prescription drugs, organized crime would have to find another source of income, crime in general would be greatly reduced and people would have far fewer personal problems.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to provide the ways and means to clean up society's worst problems.
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NOTE: Generalities in the piece above were made as part of the argument leading toward the need for parenting classes. Whether the reader accepts or rejects one or more of these generalities does not alter the need for parenting classes.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Will you be useful when you are old?

"An obstacle is something you see when you take your eye off the goal."
- Anonymous

I scoured the internet for the source of this quotation, without luck. It obviously came from an inspirational speaker, likely one associated with business.

Business is filled with problems. Without problems, there would be no such thing as business. The key is for your customers to have problems you can solve, while solving your own with a minimum of fuss. In business, you always have to keep your eye on your objective or goal (usually a part of your mission statement) or you will soon be without a business.

However, keeping your eye on your objective applies as much to life as it does to business. Most of what we do in an average day does nothing to help move us toward our objective in life. Most of what we do in a day is "living" which is an essential part of reaching an objective, just as wearing equipment to the park is necessary on game day for a football player, but it doesn't win a game.

A few things we do, decisions we make, people we choose to help or to associate with, stuff we learn, activities we participate in, times we allow someone else to help us, move us closer to our objective. We can never be certain whether what we do will move us in that direction or not, so we have to keep trying all sorts of things.

It usually takes many years to reach a life goal, especially if it's truly a life goal and not just a lesser objective such as getting a different job or getting married. In my case, I made my decision about my life goal in my mid teens and didn't reach it until I passed my 60th birthday. The old saying that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy applies in this case.

In generations past, young people made decisions about what occupation they wanted to enter for their working lives. Most died before retirement age, so occupation was a good long term choice.

Now most people will live into their 80s, many into their 90s and a growing number will cross the century mark. That means decades of life after the traditional age of retirement. Will that be a time when useless old farts gather together in nursing homes every day to sing songs, do exercises in their wheelchairs and make crafts? Or will it be a time when people who have built their store of wisdom and skills over decades will be able to teach younger generations so that life really can get better on earth as time progresses?

Signs tell us that older people are trying to use the skills and knowledge they have gained to help younger ones, through mentoring programs, Young JayCees programs and so on.

That means that people must make long term life choices about what they want their lives to be like when they are past age 60 while they are still relatively young. In turn, that means that we must teach young people what they need to know to be able to make such critical life decisions.

Right now, most of what kids learn in school will prepare them for their first job in the working world. They learn the knowledge and skills needed for a job, but too few know what they need to build a life. Very few seem to know what they will do with their lives in their senior years.

If they make the wrong choices, we will have horrendous health care bills and infrastructure problems as we need to care for huge numbers of old people. Age alone does not determine "old." Many people of great age live active and useful lives.

As you age, do you want to grow old or grow wise? That question could be asked of every young person. That may be enough to get them thinking about their lives well beyond their problems of the day.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to prepare every young person to plan to live a whole and healthy life.
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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Take care of your body

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
- Jim Rohn, motivational speaker

The 1970s mantra that "your body is a temple" really didn't hit home for most people. those I spoke to about it didn't really understand it. They were uncomfortable with the "temple" thing.

Now, "your body is the only place you have to live," that can mean something. It makes you feel a little like the turtle carrying its home on its back, but we can adjust to it.

What many of us 21st century folks find hard to believe is that until a century ago--not very long in the history of medical science--very little was known about how the human body operates. The physics we knew. The chemistry is still a mystery today.

Some of us see people abusing their bodies to the extreme, then living for decades more, as if to prove that our bodies will take any kind of abuse and still retain our health. Keith Richards comes to mind here, though I know several people who would fit into the category who are not well known.

The problem about health matters is: who can we listen to and feel confident that we are getting the best advice? You aren't going to like the answer.

In matters of health, as in political matters, everyone has a position and for every position that someone in the field takes there are ten who will call him a fool.

Then who should we believe? What can we do to set our bodies up to live healthy and well for as long as possible?

I apply a formula that I also use for other matters. I read a great deal about medical science and health studies and I also read articles by those who have ideas they believe are worthy but cannot be supported because studies have not been undertaken. The latter must be supported by excellent logical arguments that refer to things we already know about how our bodies operate.

Next I lop off my list opinions and studies in the extremes. These can sometimes be identified by inclusion of words like "always" and "never" or "caution" or "always seek your doctor's advice." These often (but not always) include studies that were made with full support of pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in their results. Pharmaceutical companies pay well for results that show their products in a good light.

I also avoid in the extreme any offer of medication from my doctor if he says that "the first two months are free." That indicates that thereafter the patient will never get off the drugs.

I usually ignore any article that says that I can't accomplish whatever it is I want to do without taking drugs. The reason is that all healing is self-healing. All most drugs do is to tweak our body's systems (such as the immune system) to get to work doing what we want them to do. Despite what the articles say, I can do that myself. And have, many times.

That leaves a little bundle of recommendations from the middle of the list. I can usually make a choice from those feeling confident that I have not strayed far from what is best for me.

Look at the rides vitamins C and E have taken over the years. Some studies said they would extend your life and prevent all sorts of diseases. Other studies "proved" that these vitamins do nothing but soak up cash. Once the noise died down and the blood cleaned up, many new studies advise that regular consumption of supplements of these vitamins or of fruits and vegetables that provide sufficient quantities of them will indeed help to prevent problems. These include diseases and syndromes. But they must be taken over long periods of time.

The catch is that most important things in the body take a very long period of time to affect our daily lives. Today's football and basketball heroes are near-cripples 20 years later, for example. Smoking tobacco doesn't kill anyone quickly, as many studies showed in the past. Today we know that tobacco contributes to many different diseases.

Take the middle ground when it comes to health matters. Avoiding something because a pharmacuetical company's study advises against it may not be the wisest choice. Learn more.

Were our bodies built to withstand the intake of particulate matter (such as from smoke) continually, for years? Of course not. That doesn't make sense. Were they built to withstand extreme exercising for long periods? No, as our prehistoric ancestors didn't have to do these kinds of things to survive. Every health choice should make sense to you.

Ignorance will not do anything to improve your health. You have to learn a lot of stuff, then sort through it. Saying that it's all too much work to do that is like getting into bed with ignorance.

There's a great deal of stuff to sort through, but the result is worth it. If you are going to live to be 100, as many of us will, then it might be nice to have the health to be able to do something other than to park our wheelchairs in the hallway of our nursing homes and watch the nurses pass.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to get us all learning what we need to know to live long and healthy lives.
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Saturday, September 02, 2006

The shepherd and the sheep: a modern fairy tale

The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.
- Stendal (Marie Henri Beyle), novelist (1783-1842)

For those of us who have no idea what this quotation is about, it's allegorical. The shepherd doesn't really haved quiet little chats with each of his sheep while the rest are grazing. The sheep are people and the shepherd their leader, as in many allegorical stories that we call nursery rhymes.

Remember when Beyle lived, so you won't get the idea that this man with the pseudonym is referring to US President George W. Bush.

For the leader's interests and the interests of the followers to be the same, the leader must give a feeling of unity among the group. The easiest and most dependable way of deriving unity of purpose and of cause among people is to make them fear a common enemy. If necessary, an enemy may be created from nothing, just to serve the purpose.

The Cold War was an example of such contrived enemy-making. The US and the USSR, neither of whom wanted anything to do with another war and both of whom wanted to strengthen the power of their countries both politically and financially around the world, created the appearance of enemy of the other. The nuclear weapons and the rhetoric were all parts of the show.

It worked, although the two entered a poker war in which the USSR finally went bust. And, to the great joy of the USA, "democracy succeeded." In fact, the USA does not have a true democracy any more than the USSR had a system of communism. Political ideology was also part of the act. Russia's political system today varies little from the communist system of the USSR, though the candidates in elections are more numerous because more have been approved by the establishment to give the appearance of greater democracy.

What happens now, when the US doesn't have a pretend competitor with whom to have a quiet war? The US has entered into real wars and is heading for the same financial disaster as the USSR suffered--$2 billion dollars per day for the Middle East conflicts alone, much of it coming from borrowings.

Leaders don't like to change course. They remain, just as Saddam did, until their final curtain call. Notice how President Bush and Prime Minister Blair spout basically the same propaganda slogans today as they did before they entered Afghanistan. However, this time the enemy (who is only an enemy because the US declared it so) is terrorism, which exists in every Muslim population, as the US and its allies are quick to point out.

The US is not at war with Islam, President Bush has declared many times. It is at war with terrorism, which just happens to exist in every situation where Muslims exist in large numbers.

The US is led by a man whose largest support base is fundamentalist Christians.

In politics, every instance of coincidence should be questioned because they are very seldom accidents.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people tell the difference.
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Friday, September 01, 2006

An ordinary opportunity for extraordinary joy

"There is no greater joy nor greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life."
- Sister Mary Rose McGeady

We are all familiar with people who would take issue with the degree of importance Sister Mary Rose placed on making a difference in someone's life. Surely, they would say, there are more joyful endeavours than this.

Like making money. Or making more money. And still more.

Or just getting ahead of the next guy.

Maybe saving a bundle on taxes by sidestepping through a loophole would be nice too.

Such people have little fear of their world being troubled by thoughts of making a fundamental difference in someone's life.

They are probably already parents imbuing their children with their value system, making that fundamental difference while knowing nothing about it.

They will never know the joy that Sister Mary Rose McGeady felt by helping someone who was in despair about how tragic life was or who was bitter about how they had been dealt such a bad hand in life. Maybe someone who was just plain beaten down by hard luck.

Her joy surpassed that of the greedy ones by a factor of ten, or more. She knew what life was about. She had no doubt about why we were placed on this earth.

I have been extremely fortunate to have experienced that joy as well.

I hope you have the opportunity.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to give others that special opportunity.
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