Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Carols: A Brief History

Though we often think of carols in association with church services, notably in the Christmas season, they began as anything but.

The word carol itself derives from the French carole, which referred in medieval times to a ring-dance. The first Christmas carols were banned from the church because they were festive dances, though there was singing and often accompaniment by musical instruments.

These were frowned upon by the church in the 13th century as holdovers from paganism. Carolers who arrived at a church on Christmas Eve would have to stand outside. As their singing would disturb the somber attitude of the service within the church, the doors were closed against them. Thus began the tradition of carolers strolling to churches, then homes, as people moved around with their singing and dancing, perhaps to keep warm.

The first time that carols were sung in church, it was the priest who sang them, and only the priest. Those in the congregation kept silent, as was the custom where only the priest would sing within the church. In those days, much of the service was sung by the priest, in Latin.

Most carols, then, began apart from church celebrations. Nearly 200 years ago, one of the few times a carol began within a church setting happened in Austria. The church organ broke down on the eve of Christmas, so the service would have no music if the organist and choir leader couldn't think of something.

Within a short time they had prepared a song which was first sung by two choirmen, accompanied on a guitar by the organist. At least that's the story, believed now by some to be a folk tale. Silent Night has become the best known and loved carol in Christendom. Today it's sung in almost every language on the planet. (Follow the link to see some translations from the original German that differ from the words most of us know.)

Christmas carols are distinguished from Christmas songs mostly by the reference in carols to Jesus or to something relating directly to Christmas. In other words, the church appropriated the songs it once found offensive, adopted them, then controlled their proliferation.

One of the best known Christmas songs is Jingle Bells. While this song is appropriate for the Christmas season, it originated in the USA for the purpose of being a carol for Thanksgiving. Jingle Bells, it was originally hoped, would become the Thanksgiving carol. While it refers to sleighs and bells and snow, which few Americans see on their Thanksgiving in late November these days, it was more common for winter weather to have begun by that time of year in the past when Europe was still coming out of the Little Ice Age and America itself was colder than it is today.

Go Tell It On The Mountain, written by John W. Work, Jr., began as an African-American spiritual that gave hope to people who had little of it a century ago. Its words have been adapted numerous times by various groups for different settings and purposes, but the music continues to inspire. The song has a theme and the music a style that Europeans took to, so it was adopted by Christians around the world when Britain was home to the world's largest empire.

Carols, many people feel, do something for us that other Christmas songs don't. They bring back memories of happy times from Christmases past. They always have a positive message and people who know them find it hard to stand by and not join in when others begin to sing them.

Perhaps more than any other feature of the Christmas season, the singing of carols inspires people to what we often call "the true meaning of Christmas," helping us believe that there is more to Christmas than overloading the credit cards.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the life skills and knowledge they need to be competent and confident adults, including being inspired by music.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

How Advertising Molds Your Beliefs

The tourist business is overrun with people bored with themselves.
- Joan Clark, An Audience of Chairs

A majority of people on vacation have one of two possible objectives: to relax and have fun doing much the same things they could have done at home (with some adjustments) or to have experiences they can share later with others at home (to have stories to tell and pictures to share).

Many cities position themselves as vacation destinations by advertising the wealth and diversity of their shopping facilities. Vacationers going to these cities spend time shopping for items they could likely have found in their own cities if they had taken the time to look. They spend money wining, dining and entertaining themselves in settings only slightly different from what they could have found at home.

Bus tours usually move at such a pace that passengers don't have time to learn anything more than they could have learned in an evening on the internet or by watching a few programs on selected specialty television channels. With no lost luggage, broken elevators or arrogant bellhops.

Those who "get away" to warm destinations during their own winter or who go to relaxing places beside water want to unwind from the hectic pace they maintain in their city lives. They could have done much the same activities at home if they had been able to separate themselves mentally and emotionally from their work lives long enough to enjoy the facilities in their own home communities.

If it seems as if I believe that most people live in cities they want to escape from, you're right. In most countries in the western world, around 85 percent of their population live in urban areas, most in large cities. As of the beginning of 2008, for the first time in human history, more people on our planet will live in cities or similar urban areas than live in rural settings.

We have become a world of city dwellers. Yet most of us know deep down that cities may not be the best places for us to live. We migrate to cities because they have jobs to offer.

We no longer want to do jobs that require hard work, the kind that farmers and those who live in relative wilderness areas must do to survive. Moreover, we don't have the skills those people need. We have to move to cities where employers will give us jobs and teach us what we need to do them. We get higher education to learn how to learn, not how to do. Yet we only learn the minimum we need.

We don't want to live lives requiring us to do manual labour, requiring the back more than the brain. Yet most cities dwellers, when studied closely, know so little about what they should know to live successfully, efficiently and comfortably on their income that they waste a good deal of their time and money on purchases and activities that achieve nothing for them. But they make business owners happy.

By doing little that is physically demanding, they gain weight. So they go to exercise clubs, do workouts at home and go running so that they get the kind of physical activity they would have gotten if they worked on a job that required physical effort as well as some thought. They need the exercise to release some of the tension they build up through living stressful lifestyles. Stress being a consequence of "success" in big cities.

Some city folks with enough money buy cottages or cabins, by a lake or somewhere in woods or a rural area. Because they know virtually nothing about living outside a city, they spend money to transform their rural properties into something resembling suburban communities, but with more trees and maybe some water nearby.

Are they bored with themselves, as Joan Clark said? They don't know. They believe they are doing what they should, meaning that they believe they are living well because they are living the way everyone else in their community lives, doing what they do, spending what they spend, vacationing the way their neighbours vacation.

Bored? They don't believe they are bored because they're doing what their social norms tell them they should be doing. They believe they are happy because they do what advertisers tell them they should do to be happy, which happens to be to spend money on the advertised products. They don't even know if they are truly happy because they don't have a clear idea of what happiness is. To them, happiness is what they are told it is by advertisers.

People who don't think for themselves must depend on others to do their thinking for them. Industries do that and tell people what to do, how to act, what to believe, through their advertising. They do this so subtly and with such incredible persistence that few have any idea that their belief systems are being slowly molded different from what any of their ancestors believed.

They aren't bored, just ask them.

Boring, for sure. It's a challenge to find anyone in a city with whom to have a truly interesting conversation because most people are conditioned to spew small talk all day long. At parties, they must inhale alcohol and drugs to lose their inhibitions enough that they feel liberated, thus happy, they believe. At these most opportune times to exchange thoughts on worthy subjects, they fill their time with small talk and contrived nonsense.

But they're not bored and they are happy. Advertisers have told them they aren't bored and they must be happy if they have bought advertised products. They believe it.

They aren't bored with themselves because they believe they aren't bored with themselves. And they believe they aren't boring. Which demonstrates textbook examples of how people can be made to believe anything if it's presented to them in an effective manner and shoved at them often enough.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children in ways that will grow them into interesting, vibrant self-sufficient adults.
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Friday, December 21, 2007

Charity Means Giving To Losers

A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English novelist, poet, politician (1803-1873)

'Tis the season of giving as I write this, Christmas, or "the holidays," the time when we supposedly think more of giving to others than of taking for ourselves. For the Christian part of the world and those countries and cultures that celebrate the gift-giving season along with their Christian (or nominally Christian) neighbours, Christmas is the season of the heart.

Who benefits from this monetary extravagance? Two general groups. One is comprised of people we know who for the most part don't need what we will give to them. The other would be people we don't know, usually, the unfortunate, the homeless, those who have lost (or perhaps who never had) the comforts most of us enjoy.

The latter group is society's losers. We give to people who don't have the stuff to be financially secure and successful in our world.

Some mammals and birds tend to their sick and injured, but humans are the only species on earth that supports its losers, those who don't have what it takes to survive on their own in this tough world. Like the rest of us do. In other species, the weak die, but in ours we keep them alive, though in poverty.

Is "a good heart" in Bulwer-Lytton's quote our lip service to charities that support those that would not survive in any other species? Yes, if the extreme capitalist doctrine that we are fed constantly can be taken at its full value, that's exactly what charity is. Success, by that standard, is wealth.

Virtually every parent of a young child wants that child to grow up to be happy. They'll tell that to anyone. But more important is that they be rich, or at least have a substantial enough income that they can support themselves in a style equivalent to the one they were raised in.

Rich people, including some of our movie and sports stars, are the epitome of success in western culture. Let's get this straight, no rich people are happy. Not really happy. Fake happy, yes. Do you know a happy rich person? They revel in their money, their ability to spend and to impress others. But underneath, most are more miserable than they would like anyone to know. They have money, which they learned and have come to believe is the most important thing in life. But they aren't truly happy.

They don't fare any better in their marital relationships than the rest of us. They have few or no real friends, people who care about them and not their money. They may not divorce at quite the same rate as the average, but that's because their mini-society says that they can afford to have affairs they can pay to cover up. Their friends can be bought and sold. It's a continuation of the value system of old European nobility.

What about those poor people, the ones the rich consider to be losers? Many of them have more real friends than rich people. The homeless ones live in temporary communities that are far more mutually helpful and supportive than any other in the larger community.

Somehow society missed its opportunity to teach them the knowledge and skills they needed to have to support themselves when they were children. How could that happen? Schools are not designed to teach life skills, they're structured to teach the knowledge and skills that the biggest employers in the country need. Industries control the school curriculum because they provide the employment that generates the income that supports the nation.

Parents used to teach life skills, as did neighbours and other members of the community. In smaller communities, this is still the case. Kids learn life lessons from their hockey coach, their scout leader or the nice lady who bakes cookies for the kids. Some learn them in the religious institutions their family belongs to. But none of these are dependable in larger cities. In cities, winning--the capitalist mantra--is everything.

As of the beginning of 2008, more people will live in urban areas of the world than in rural settings for the first time in history. Most countries are becoming urbanized, citified. As if this is a good thing. It's a good thing for industry because it provides a pool of labour for their work force, but it's not so good for so many communities that have become cultural and social ghettoes. Their primary values are to work and to spend. Just like industry wants.

While industries hold wealth and acquisitiveness as ideals of society, which give us happiness, what most of us miss is that the happiness that industry wants for us is fake. It's all advertising mind-twisting.

The "losers" of many societies of the world know more about real human values, traditional values, values that work to benefit the community as well as individuals, than those with money.

So let's continue to support these less fortunate members of our society. They may not have the knowledge or skills that most of us have, but they are perhaps the sole repository of basic human values that industry is trying to brainwash out of us through its persistent advertising.

Or, for the more adventurous among us, get to know some of these people. If you do, you will find that they know stuff you don't, stuff that could make your life richer. Not your pocketbook, your life. You know, the reason why you're here. (It's not really just to work and to spend, you know.)

Consider this. How much will industry care after you die? How will it remember you? Of course it won't. No one expects that. But so many of us adhere to its preaching about working and spending that we must think industry will offer us its own form of heaven.

But, no. Industry can't do that. Industry is not just heartless and sociopathic, it's atheistic. Industry has to be atheistic because it holds money to be its deity. Even industry knows that money is a false god. It just doesn't bother to tell us because it wants us to believe in that god.

Merry Christmas, dear readers! May the spirit of the man whose birth is celebrated this season fill you with love and charity. May you give of yourself to those who will most appreciate it, not necessarily to those who expect it of you. If you do, your life will be richer for it, especially if you get to know some of the beneficiaries of your giving from the heart.

The head always thinks of itself first. The heart thinks of others. Jesus said.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the lessons they need to live full lives, as real people not as puppets of industry.
Learn more at

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Getting The Best Out Of People

If you cannot mould yourself entirely as you would wish, how can you expect other people to be entirely to your liking?
- Thomas รก Kempis, Roman Catholic monk and author (ca.1380 - July 25, 1471)

It's so common we could say it's a part of our human nature. We expect things of others that we don't expect of ourselves.

Or we expect more of others than we do of ourselves. We allow ourselves the maximum leeway (give ourselves a break) because we understand the circumstances under which we are living and working, but we don't understand the constraints others have so we don't give them much slack.

If we could mould another person exactly to our liking, what would that make us? God? Slave owner? Mystic? Magician? Brainwasher? In truth, if we did mould someone exactly the way we would like them to be, that would mean having control over their behaviour, which means over their life. That would be against the law of every country and the moral code of every religion of today.

Rather than being disappointed at how others don't meet up to our standards to satisfy our needs (even if we are paying for the service), we should celebrate the fact that we have people we can depend on to some extent. Many people have isolated themselves from others so much that they have no one to turn to when they have needs they can't meet themselves. That's really a state of helplessness.

We can't get people to do whatever we want them to do, even if we pay them. However, we can encourage them, coax them along, express the unfortunate state we find ourselves in because the job we want done has not been completed. Encouragement helps. Patience, when it's demonstrated as patience and not as shutting up and taking what we get, is appreciated.

Three friends who I depend on for various important tasks I can't do myself--one fixing cars, the second fixing computers, the third doing odd jobs like welding and other skilled projects--routinely take longer than I would like to complete what they do for me. However, by explaining how important the job is to me and attempting to show patience by understanding the time problems they have themselves, I usually get more than I pay for when each job is done. If not, I often get special favours later.

We have no real way of knowing the problems that others live with and the effect these problems have on them. What we can do is to explain the problems that are bothering us and hope that this spurs the others to act on our behalf sooner or more completely. And we can be patient with them when they need it from us.

Every person in our lives, no matter how important they are to us, will eventually disappoint us. No exceptions. However, there is no rule telling us that we have to hold their faults against them. We can achieve more by overlooking their short term disappointments while focussing on the long term benefits we derive from associating with these people.

A saying people have around where I live is: Look at the donut, not at the hole.

Give most people an opportunity to deliver their best for you, even when they are under pressure, and most times they will come through much better than strangers we pay more would. True, we don't have the opportunity to tell our friends and associates what we really think of them at the time we need to most, but holding back pays of in the long run if we manage our relationships properly. And it builds better relationships.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to be competent and confident adults.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What We Should Teach Children

One realizes the full importance of time only when there is little of it left. Every man's greatest capital asset is his unexpired years of productive life.
- Paul Weeks Litchfield, Goodyear executive and ACF Trustee

Though this is perhaps the most famous of the quotes of "P.W." it's by no means the only one that people credit to him with fondness. Under his guidance, Goodyear became the largest tire and rubber manufacturer in the world.

Litchfield was one of the first executives of large industries who showed care and compassion for both his employees and his community. Had there been more executives like him, the union movement may never have taken hold because it wouldn't have been needed.

This quote is something of a lament as he observes a characteristic of human nature over which he seems to feel he has little control. In general, people are careless with their time until they believe they have little of it left.

Read anecdotes of people who have had near death experiences, or "come back from death," or who have a death sentence ahead of them as a consequence of terminal cancer. Most say that those days were the most precious or their lives.

Not all. I once had a neighbour who was told that he had cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and at least one other affliction (heart problem), any of which were expected to end his life within months or weeks. He went on alcohol and drug binges for days at a time, only recovering long enough to buy more. After about eight months, he realized that he wasn't about to die, so he cleaned up his life and gave the boot to the leaches who had been drinking and snorting on his dime. He became, for the first time in his life, a good father. His story was the reverse of most.

Too many people live most of their lives as if they subscribe to the "life sucks, then you die" philosophy. Rather than arranging their lives so they accomplish what is important to them and bond more securely with those they love most, they focus on what's bad in their lives then seek relief in thrills, depression, mental illness, addiction or acquisitiveness.

Once they realize that their escapes have done nothing to improve their lives, often when their end is near (sometimes never), they cast off the crutches and live to the fullest for their remaining days. They live, in effect, their whole lives within a matter of days. And they love those precious days and hours more than anything else they have experienced.

Why do so many people wait that long? Because we don't teach children the wisdom that we gain over a lifetime. Since children aren't prepared for the ups and downs of life as they grow through adolescence and into adulthood, they adopt escapes of their own, often the same ones as their parents had before them. Like their parents, they feel the need to experience something positive, even if it's a drug rush that is followed by a long and agonizing recovery.

No matter how much money a person has, that person cannot buy a day, an hour or a minute of time for life, any more than you or I can. Let's teach that to our children.

This is not to say that we should teach nihilism, existentialism or some version of "live today for tomorrow we may die" philosophy as they tend to be cast off eventually as unacceptable over a whole lifetime. However, we can teach kids that they need to focus on what is good in their lives instead of what is bad.

They need to know that most times they can increase the good and decrease the bad once they learn how. We can teach that too. They need to know that they should prioritize their lives so that they accomplish what is most important to them, even if they do not accomplish what is less important.

We need to teach them that what benefits industry and politics does not necessarily benefit individuals, that people need to live their own productive lives irrespective of what industries and politicians tell them through their advertising and propaganda campaigns.

We need to teach these messages to young children before they're old enough to suffer the misfortunes that are visited upon them by life and by devotion to what society's establishment wants them to do.

Many of us need to realize that what we have believed (what we have been taught) is wrong, that we can teach our children different from the way we were taught and we can improve our own lives by not being puppets to advertisers and professional snake charmers.

That can't be done in schools because that subject will never make it onto a curriculum. School curriculum is largely controlled by industry: what industry wants, schools provide. That's how the system works.

If we want our children to learn the value of each day of their lives, we need to teach them that value in our homes and in whatever other activities the kids may be involved with.

It's up to us. Industry and politicians only teach them how to be followers, believers, sheep.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the valuable lessons of life they will need to live healthy and successful adult lives.
Learn more at

Friday, December 14, 2007

How To Cope With The Worst Of Times

Happy is the man who can endure the highest and lowest fortune. He who has endured such vicissitudes with equanimity has deprived misfortune of its power."
- Seneca, Roman Stoic philosopher (c. 4 BCE – CE 65)

I'm not certain that happiness consists of enduring the highest and lowest fortune has to offer. Most of us endure such highs and lows (or believe we do) during our lives.

Depriving misfortune of its power by living through the vicissitudes of life can hardly be the road to happiness if all of us that don't die in the process manage to live through them. Enduring them with steadiness of mind may be a sign of emotional flatness, an inability to feel strong emotions, even in times of stress.

Seneca's true meaning may have been lost in translation. I'm going to say he meant that people who can live through the trials of their lives as well as the high points without succumbing to excesses or emotional trauma were well prepared to face them.

Being able to cope with the best of times and the worst of times requires skill and knowledge. The knowledge is pretty simple. To cope with these eventualities, we need to know that they will come, both the good and the bad, and that we will survive them and return to some sort of normal state of life. Bad always passes, for everyone, so long as they live through it. Exceptionally good times don't last forever either.

Just knowing that much makes us prepared to face the ups and downs of life better.
The skill part of being prepared for the inevitable variations of life means having the ability to see past the emotional element to the results or consequences that will follow.

If we are going to a place we haven't been before and we travel for hours without knowing exactly where we are, we might feel that we're lost. Even if we know we are following a route proposed for us, we may feel uncomfortable about the fact that nothing around us is familiar. Yet if we focus on the road as the path to the goal and not as a place of discomfort and unfamiliarity, we can get through the trip knowing that the end we want to reach will arrive, in time. We aren't lost if we know we're on the right path.

Life is the same. If we know that hard times will befall us, we have a plan to get through them and something to fall back on to ease the strain, we can feel confident that we will get through them safely. If we know that good times won't last forever and prepare a plan to account for severe downturns, we can live through them with equanimity as well.

Preparation, having a plan for coping, is the key.

Most people fear bad times but have no plan for coping with them when they arrive. They also don't likely have a plan to get through good times without indulging in excesses ("We've got to have a bigger house and a better car"). When either arrives, they fall apart (in some sense), though in different ways. Look at the statistics of what happens to the lives of lottery winners, even though they may buy tickets for years hoping to win.

We don't have to live our lives as if we are going to die next month or next week. But we should keep in mind that some day the very last day of our life will come. We need to make sure that we have taken into account everything we would like to have accomplished, no matter when that day may arrive. That includes what we might say to or do with our loved ones. That day may come decades from now, or it might come tomorrow.

Worse, for many of us, would be when our spouse dies (or leaves the family home). Though we may be as devoted as possible to our mate, we also need to consider the possibility that a day of being alone may come. If we have a plan for what we would do if that eventuality should arrive, we can put the plan into effect and survive it as safely and with as little self destruction as possible.

Life is not just a matter of living. Living through the vicissitudes of life requires us to have plans we can put into effect when fortune deals us a bad hand or a particularly good one at any unexpected time.

What would you do?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the knowledge and skills they need to live with equanimity through the ups and downs of life, and to teach them before they're needed.
Learn more at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Man Is A Crook!

Once upon a time a man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbour's son.The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief.But the man found his axe while digging in the valley, and the next time hesaw his neighbour's son, the boy walked, looked and spoke like any otherchild.
- Lao-tzu ("Old Master"), philosopher (6th century BCE), considered founder of Taoism

Whether Lao-tzu was a myth, a single wise man of exceptional insight and observation, a non-existent personality who personified a collection of the wisdom of his day, or even whether he was a contemporary of Confucius or in fact lived in the 4th century BCE, the sayings attributed to him tell us much about human nature today.

In this saying he shows that we tend to see what we want to see. In a police lineup, does the person behind the one-way glass pick the "guilty" party (providing excellent evidence for the prosecution) by actually remembering the person who committed the crime, by comparing a fuzzy memory with the possibilities presented and making a best-guess choice (later sticking with that choice under pressure from police and prosecutor), or by assessing many contributing factors that might help make the decision then choosing the best option?

In my case, I might be able to identify a face I haven't seen for 20 years, but be unable to identify someone I just spoke with ten minutes earlier. Science tells us that we identify whether a person is male or female based on some 200 different factors. How many of them or by how many other factors may we identify someone from memory? And how do our wishes influence our memory?

Lao-tzu says that we see what we want to see, what we expect to see.

In my personal experience with Employment Standards Officers of the Ministry of Labour, Province of Ontario (Canada), when I owned a small business, I discovered that two of them had their minds made up about me before they had any evidence from me (after receiving evidence only from former employees). One investigated my books thoroughly, then apologized for his presumption of my guilt, deciding in my favour.

The other didn't both with evidence from me (refused to even hear it over the phone), found me guilty in absentia (without prior notification of a hearing), broke several laws in the process (including two from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) and began a legal dispute which has gone on for over a decade. (The ministry has continued to support the law-breaker, refusing to admit guilt by an employee.)

While we may see what we want to see, how we act on that "evidence" determines whether we are morally correct ourselves. In the case of Lao-tzu's example, the man who suspected his neighbour's son of stealing his axe apparently didn't take action against the boy. Rightly so, it seems, because when he later found his axe he saw the boy as innocent as any other "not guilty" child.

What was not part of Lao-tzu's parable was whether the man held a grudge against the boy or against the boy's father (his neighbour) until he found the axe that he had mislaid himself. Holding grudges is not only unwise, it's self destructive because it always hurts the grudge holder more than the other party (who usually forgets the incident in question quickly). In the parable, if the man had held a grudge against either the boy or his father, the man would have been doubly guilty himself--and suffered himself greatly for it.

No one among us is without guilt for at least a few major sins. Nor is anyone without good qualities, if we choose to explore them. That includes ourselves. If we are not perfect, we should not expect perfection of others because it's a prescription for self hurt.

People will disappoint us. It's life. Some will disappoint us intentionally and regret it later. Some will disappoint us unintentionally and not even realize that they have done so. A few will disappoint us unintentionally, learn about it and feel guilt and remorse about it. No matter which of the three we can identify with in any example of disappointment or hurt in our lives, if we do not forgive we hurt ourselves.

Hurting ourselves is not just wrong, it's stupid. We see people hurting themselves every day, by various means (mostly damaging their own health). It's still wrong and stupid.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Because we don't learn the "facts of life," especially about human nature, early enough in our lives. If we learn about human nature as children, we can avoid huge amounts of personal hurt later in life because we are prepared for it and have the skills to cope with it. If not, we suffer.

The world is full of adults who are suffering because they haven't accepted the realities of human nature and learned to cope with them. Some drown their sorrows with alcohol, some with drugs (prescribed or street), some by gambling, some by driving fast, some by beating their mates, some by inflicting harm on themselves.

We can teach that knowledge and those skills to children. Most adults know what they should teach, but decline to teach it to younger children because they want to "keep them as innocent as possible for as long as possible." Innocence becomes ignorance and ignorance is the beginning of hurt and suffering. An innocent child is a person growing to become a hurt and possibly broken adult.

As the Crosby, Stills and Nash song said, "Teach your children well." Start today.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the "facts of life" that go beyond procreation and get into real living.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 09, 2007

We Have Become Emotional Slaves

I don't think happiness is necessarily the reason we're here. I think we're here to learn and evolve, and the pursuit of knowledge is what alleviates the pain of being human.
- Sting, (Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner), CBE (born 2 October 1951)

What does a rock star know about the lives of ordinary people anyway? As it happens, quite a bit. Far more than most people in his occupation, Sting is an ordinary person once he is off stage/camera. He's also a fair thinker, as this quote suggests.

While it might have been worded better, Sting's thought is profound.

He begins by talking about happiness. The desire for happiness is one of the "needs" that have been falsely and improperly promoted by advertisers for large industries. Most advertising is intended to appeal to needs, real or more commonly invented by the agencies that concoct them. The concept that we were put on this earth to be happy is one of the major myths created by advertisers to promote products and services that supposedly make people happy. In fact, they mostly separate people from their money.

Sting (even his mother calls him that) says that we aren't here to be happy. We have a more important purpose. However (here is where he runs into problem with industries who want to turn everyone into mindless consumers), that more important purpose is not well promoted, as industry sales (greed) is.

I disagree that it's important that the pursuit of knowledge "alleviates the pain of being human." It's a distraction, but so are spending money to buy advertised products we are told we "need" as well as other endeavours. Distractions divert our attention from pain, which is true, and is the primary non-pharmaceutical method for pain relief. When our mind is distracted from pain (which is created in the brain anyway), we forget about our pain.

To learn and evolve seems an ethereal purpose for existence. Sting means evolution of the mind, which is the only kind of which we are capable, as corporeal evolution is beyond us by natural methods.

Learning can only take us so far, then we stop because we are filled with stuff we can't use. The evolution he refers to only happens when we teach what we have learned to others.

Industries put such an overwhelming push on us to mold our thinking (more like brainwashing, if taken in total) that having people teach other people about life goes against the thrust of industry. Industry doesn't want us to learn or to evolve. It wants us to be unthinking followers of their mind-molding techniques.

The more we learn and think, the more we realize that we have become willing victims of brainwashing by industry. As societies, we have adopted industry as God. We don't need a deity any longer to tell us what to do with our lives because we have industry to tell us in minute detail. No one disputes the fact that industry exists. The major power behind the message that "God is not real" is industry, because it wants to remove the mind-molding power that religion once had over us and replace it with their own message.

The unknowing ones may doubt that industry controls our lives and dictates our belief system, but the more they study the more they will realize that we have become emotional slaves to industry just as people in the past were made (unwillingly) physical slaves. Our enslavement has been willing, at least in the sense that no one is forcing our bodies to buy the stuff industry advertises.

We can't evolve, as Sting suggests we should, so long as we don't teach each other to think independently and to advance the real causes of humanity rather than the false causes invented by advertising agencies. If we try, we can expect that we will face enormous opposition from industry because it controls not only the resources and the political system, but the media that have now become the primary purveyors of what we should believe.

You and I don't have to worry about that level of opposition. We need only to do two things. Okay, maybe three. First, we need to learn how industry controls our lives and to change the way we think and act so that we cast off the bonds of our emotional slavery.

Then we need to talk to others about it. We don't have to preach or to write great works of literature to get our message across. We only have to include what we have learned in our conversations with others. Just plain lunchroom/coffee shop talk.

Of course we must teach our children accordingly. We must teach them in stronger messages than they receive from television, which is the primary brainwashing mechanism for industry.

It's not necessary for us to prevent our kids from watching television. We simply need to teach them how to be critical viewers who know that advertising is trying to twist their minds to get them or their parents to buy, buy, buy what industry produces. Once a child learns that lesson, they never forget. They see it everywhere. They resent industry for trying to twist their minds.

As important, they teach it, in conversation with their peers, in ways that industry can never hope to compete with. And so we evolve, as Sting said.

It begins with you and me. It starts today. Go, now, and talk.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, when and what to teach children so that they do not become emotional slaves to industry advertising and mindless consumers of stuff that adds nothing to the value of their lives.
Learn more at

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Live The Person You Want To Be

Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.
- Bruce Barton

I can do this.

Some may think it's impossible, but I know I can do it.

I couldn't have done it in the past, but I can now. I didn't have the knowledge, the strength, the skills or the courage. Now I have more than enough.

Others wouldn't dare to try it, or wouldn't think of it, or wouldn't put the effort into making it happen if that did, or they just couldn't figure out how. I can.

I am better than I was yesterday, much better than in the past. Others may not see me as different, but that's because they think of the old me, before I grew. Before I knew.

I won't ask why, or whether, or when. I will ask only how to do it.

I will welcome the cooperation and assistance of others, but I won't depend on them. I'm the only one I can depend on 100 percent of the time. If I put my will into it.

When I complete my task, my quest, I will share what I have learned with others. With those who want to learn the easy way what I have learned with my sweat and toil, with my thought and effort, with my courage and devotion from the core of my being.

I will become my goal. I will be my objectives. I will be there in thought long before the reality around me catches up.

When I reach my goal, I will not expect others to accept it readily. As it has taken me much time and effort to change into a new reality, it will take others a while to join me.

The new me that results from this quest will be much more than I am today. As my body aches with effort and creaks with age, my mind will be better than others around me if they allow their minds to atrophy with their bodies.

I will not consider myself superior to them. They had their chances, made their choices and must live with the consequences. I made mine and will glory in my achievement.

I will be different. Not just different from the me of my past, but different from those around me. They will know it, I will know it. That will not daunt my courage or effort.

They will get used to the new me. If not, I will associate with them no longer and begin relationships with those who appreciate me as the new me.

I will know that I am who I am because of what they did or neglected to do in the past. That will not entitle them to own me then any more than it does now. I will not refuse to acknowledge the good they did for me, nor will I hold their neglect and their misguided attempts to mold me to their will (with good intent) against them.

I will be the person I want to be, now, so I can grow into that person rather than twisting and bending to what others who want something different of me. They may not like my independence. That will be their problem, their cross to bear, because I have cast mine off. I will not adopt a cross they formed for themselves as if it were my own.

I can be more and better each day. I will learn from my mistakes, improve and gain wisdom along with my other achievements.

Stick around for the change. Watch it happen. Join me if you dare to live beyond who you are today. I will assist you if you wish my help. I will not cease my quest because you want to quit. If necessary, if you prove that you can't keep up, I will leave you behind.

I will grow each day.

I can do this.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to establish a framework for children that will allow them to grow to become more than generations past thought possible.
Learn more at

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who Is Worth Trusting?

I always prefer to believe the best of everybody--it saves so much time.
- Rudyard Kipling

One of the most emotionally taxing things we experience in our lives is trying to decide if we should trust people or not.

Trust is not just critical to our well being, it truly forms part of who we are. We tend to be either the kind of person who trusts people or the kind who doesn't really trust anyone. We all like to think that we are between the two extremes, but seldom are we.

The trouble with trusting people is that they will, inevitably, disappoint us. Every single person we trust will eventually--and to varying degrees--disappoint. Maybe even betray our trust. Not that it's in our nature to disappoint others. On the contrary, few would say that disappointing those who count on them is acceptable. It's just that we're fallible. Agonizingly and repeatedly fallible.

The greatest reason why we disappoint others--and why they disappoint us--is that we forget. This is forgetfulness in a major way. Why have we all become forgetful? News and information sources such as the Information Superhighway not only give us access to incredible amounts of information, some of our commitments require us to absorb enough data to drown us. Many medical doctors, for example, spend one day each week (often more) updating their information and skills. We not only expect it of them when they care for us, we demand it.

Doctors have no choice. We can choose, most of us, but choosing to ignore most of the information available to us makes us stupid. Not immediately, but eventually. First we pass through a stage of progressive ignorance, a condition most people don't realize they are in. By the time real stupidity is upon us, we are little more than moving, noisy protoplasm. Then we think the rest of the world is wrong and we are above it all.

Simply knowing, understanding and accepting that many people will disappoint us will help us to adjust when they do. It should be considered a life skill to be able to accept that people make commitments they have every intention of keeping, but they break those commitments due to forgetfulness or unforeseen circumstances.

Not trusting people causes us to lose much of the deeper values of life. Distrust forces us to shut down our emotions. While shutting down the emotions that would cause us to feel disappointment or grief when someone lets us down, we also shut down our ability to appreciate positive emotions such as love, joy and happiness. Either we have a broad range of emotions or we don't. We can't have a bit of the bad and a lot of the good. Life doesn't work that way.

The best approach to trusting people seems to be to begin by trusting everyone, as Kipling said. If a few people betray our trust repeatedly, we may have to consider putting distance between us and them. That distance--social distance if not physical distance--means that those few people cease to play major roles in our lives. Instead of shutting down our emotions because we have been betrayed, we close out the individuals who have proven that they no longer warrant our trust. Keep what we want, cast off what we don't.

Living life to the fullest means hanging our emotions out there on the edge. There they can pick up crap and get battered around, but they can also gather treasures in ways that we could never imagine by remaining within the safe zone.

It's also important to understand that the treasures we find out there on the edge don't look like treasures as they approach. They may look like space junk. Remember, gold and diamonds don't look impressive when first dug out of the ground.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important lessons of life, such as trusting people. The book gives specific guides for both parents and teachers (and grandparents).
Learn more at

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is Domination Our Proper Role?

Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot defend themselves or run away. Andfew destroyers of trees ever plant any; nor can planting avail much towardrestoring our grand aboriginal giants. It took more than three thousandyears to make some of the oldest of the Sequoias, trees that are stillstanding in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mightyforests of the Sierra.
- John Muir, naturalist, explorer, and writer (1838-1914)

Everyone agrees that trees are living things, but are trees really life as we like to believe we know it?

Let's begin with ourselves. Our bodies are composed of billions of cells, each of which contains a DNA blueprint of who we are as living things. Trees are each composed of billions of cells, each of which contains a DNA blueprint of who they are.

We breathe in oxygen (a minor component of air, at 21 percent), use a small portion of it, then give off a tiny amount of carbon dioxide as waste. Trees take in carbon dioxide through a process called respiration (our process has the same name) and give off a large amount of oxygen as waste. Through a different process, trees also consume oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, which may be involved with their reproductive system.

We eat plant matter and animals that have consumed plant matter to obtain the nutrition by which we exist. Trees acquire their nutrition through their root system, which often brings them the bodies of small animals that have died (the small animals being microscopic, or close to it, but which usually contain the decayed and consumed matter from the bodies of larger animals that have died).

Our circulatory system uses blood as a vehicle, blood being the name for a version of water that transports oxygen and nutrition to our cells. The circulatory system of trees isn't usually red, mostly because the water doesn't contain red blood cells that are part of the immune systems of animals, but it too contains the nutrients the tree needs for each cell to survive. Including components of its immune system.

Each cell of a human is composed of multitudes of atoms and molecules, which is also true of trees and other plants. However, composition of atoms is also true of minerals, the third "kingdom" in the animals-plants-minerals triumvirate we usually think of as comprising "stuff" in our world.

We don't consider rocks to be alive because they don't reproduce, don't strive for survival, don't consume nutrition or give off waste materials. Or, maybe they do, but they don't do it in a timeframe that we recognize. Watch a film about plate tectonics and volcanism before deciding on that question.

Each molecule of oxygen that we breathe, mathematicians have calculated, has likely also been breathed in the past by Leonardo da Vinci, Genghis Khan, the prophet Mohammed, Jesus of Nazareth, Confucius, even the biblical Abraham. Given that trees also consume oxygen, it's also highly likely that the oxygen atoms they take in have been through similar historical human bodies.

We look with varying degrees of interest on the search for extra-terrestrial life in other solar systems and galaxies, which we assume we will identify first by some form of communication that transfers over vast distances of space. Yet we cannot communicate effectively with any other form of life on our own planet, despite the sophisticated communications systems we now know many have.

The closest we can come to communicating with another species of animal is to teach a baby chimp to understand English and to speak back to us using a keyboard. Though this has been done, it's not that we have learned the language or system of communication of another species, but that we have removed a baby chimpanzee from its native forest and brought it up as a human child. That's anthropomorphism in a supremely arrogant form.

In short, we are a destructive, arrogant species of animal whose success has depended largely on our ability to survive the worst possible natural catastrophes while defeating any other species of plant or animal that stands in our way.

We consider ourselves apart from the whole of "what is" rather than one component of it. Some of us don't believe in God because we have defined our existence in such a way that we believe we are as close to gods as any living thing can get.

Trees and people are different forms of the same thing. We are trees, trees are us. So, for that matter, are rocks that we explode, crush and transform for our use.

As movies have taught us to fear life from any place other than earth while we believe we have the power to dominate any form of existence on our own planet, we should hope that if any form of life not originating on earth has the ability to travel through space, it does not have the misfortune to come in contact with us.

If it does come in contact with us, it almost certainly will have characteristics that we will recognize as similar to our own.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach children the true position that people have in the system of existence we know as "what is." We can teach them respect, not fear, not violence.
Learn more at

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How To Show Others The Best Of Yourself

When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.
- William Arthur Ward

People like people who try to bring out the best in them. They may resent the methods used sometimes, but that's because the two may not have agreed on how the methods should be implemented.

Everyone wants more respect. Most prefer to earn the respect of others if they can. That's where the helpers or mentors become so valuable. The mentors try to improve their "students" so that the students will deserve greater respect for their skills and accomplishments. What's not to like about that?

Some people don't want to go to the trouble that inevitably is involved with reaching for greater heights of skill, knowledge or achievement. If the drive of these people is strong enough, they learn the skills of power management instead. They work to become powerful. They gain the respect that derives from having power, though they can't receive respect for their knowledge or skills.

US President George W. Bush, for example, endured lots of criticism during his first years in power because of his undistinguished accomplishments in any field of endeavour. However, he overcame that deficit by becoming the (self designated) "war president" which gave him recognition far beyond what he would have received as president of the US because he had the power to invent causes and invade countries, putting them at war with the most powerful nation on earth. That's power.

President Bush doesn't have to bring out the best in people, he simply has to have others find them and hire them for his Cabinet. Donald Trump doesn't have to bring out the best in people, he simply looks for clone-like representations of himself. Young up-and-comers line up in droves to please Mr. Trump because of his power, not because of his ability to improve their skills. President Bush and Mr. Trump have their own best interests in mind rather than the interests of those they employ.

As Ward said, bringing out the best in others has the additional benefit of bringing out the best in ourselves. What he didn't say but could be a corollary of his quote was that those who bring out the best in others are rarely power mongers. They tend toward the gentle, though their methods sometimes come across as rough. They are often viewed as having "hearts of gold," no matter what manner of exterior they present.

Those who help others up accomplish more than simply giving them a handout. It's the "feeding someone a fish versus teaching them to fish" thing. They become better people by helping others become better.

They never wonder what their mission is in life because they fulfill it with their actions. They live by example the lives they wish for others.

In turn, they advance the cause of humanity in ways that power lovers never could.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the critical lessons of life so that they become competent and confident adults without resorting to the escape methods that incomplete adults today do.
Learn more at

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Weird And Fascinating Facts About Hygiene

The word hygiene comes to us from Greek. Hygieia was the goddess of health, cleanliness and the moon. The lesser Greek gods had multiple responsibilities to maintain their importance in the hierarchy, like today's politicians.

If you have seen a commercial about a monk (looking possibly Buddhist) turning over an upturned turtle and moving a crawly thing from indoors to the outside by carrying it on a piece of paper, then sneezing into a tissue and screaming when told he has killed millions of germs, you may have seen something almost real. Monks of the Jain Dharma (an offshoot religion from Hindu, having several million followers in India) wash only their hands and feet. They do not bathe other parts of their bodies in order to do no harm to millions of microorganisms that live there symbiotically.

The human body harbours some one thousand species of bacteria, most of which are beneficial to us and live in a mutually beneficial relationship with us--we keep them alive and they keep us healthy. Killing all bacteria on and in you, despite what you may read in advertisements or see in commercials, will make you more vulnerable to disease.

There are far more bacteria on your body than there are people living in the United States. It's estimated now that we have more microorganisms living on our skin and inside of us than we have cells of our own bodies.

Antibacterial soap has been found to be no more effective at preventing infection than ordinary soap. The active ingredient in most antibacterial soaps, triclosan, can actually mess up your hormones and affect your libido.

A recent study involving over 11,000 children showed that an overly hygienic environment--especially in their first decade of life--increases the risk of their having eczema and asthma. Bodies of young children have relatively immature immune systems that need to work very hard to build immunities to many harmful pathogens in the environment. Other studies have examined how a sterile environment may affect allergies in children.

The word soap derives from the mythological Mount Sapo. Women washing their clothing in the river below found a "natural" cleaning agent in the water. It turned out that fat and wood ash from animal sacrifices on the mountain drained into the Tiber River. One of the first recorded cases of human waste products polluting a waterway turned out to be beneficial to humankind.

The Aztecs and the people of ancient Egypt were known to rub urine on their skin to treat cuts and burns. Urea, a key chemical in urine, kills bacteria and fungi, major causes of infection.

England's King Henry IV made a grand move toward cleanliness when he insisted that his knights bathe at least once in their lives, during the ritual of their knighthood ceremony. The rest of his people stuck with their belief that bathing was unhealthy.

The daily bath or shower has only become common during the past half century.

If you have seen women in movies tossing human urine and excrement out the second story windows of their homes in 18th century London you will understand how the city's water supply was constantly contaminated. It's said that the good citizens of Londontown got their daily supply of hydration from gin.

The "five second rule" or "ten second rule" about something dropped on the floor or ground not being able to pick up germs if it is picked up within that time frame is nonsense. An object (including skin) that touches something contaminated can become contaminated itself as soon as the touch occurs.

Most people get colds and flu from handling something with germs on it then putting their fingers in their mouths, touching food that then goes into their mouths or even from rubbing their eyes. The mouth has natural defences against germ attack in the saliva whereas the eyes have virtually no protection.

Those commercials that urge you to kill all the bacteria in your mouth with their mouthwash will also have you kill all the good bacteria that form the body's first line of defence against disease. If you wipe out your body's first defence (in your mouth) you must depend on your gastric juices (in your gut) to kill the bad microorganisms before they get into your bloodstream. The companies that make mouthwash don't usually make drugs, but the link would make you wonder.

A school science fair in Florida recently crowned a seventh grader with top prize for proving that ice machines in fast food restaurants harbour more bacteria than the water in your toilet bowl. The belief that fresh toilet bowl water is automatically contaminated is not necessarily true unless you clean the bowl rarely. Pets who drink from the toilet bowl may know more than their owners about clean water.

The toothbrush was likely invented in China somewhere around 1498. (Since the Chinese travelled the world as explorers--even to the Americas--a century before Columbus ever set sail, it's possible that the Chinese picked the idea up from somewhere else.) Someone wired Siberian pig hair to a carved cattle bone. Before that it was sticks and bones used as toothpicks and for rubbing the teeth.

Brushing of the teeth didn't become common in the United States until after World War II. Soldiers during the war were required to brush their teeth to prevent decay. (Not many dentists made it to the front.)

Brace yourself for this. In 1935, Northern Tissue introduced "splinter-free" toilet paper as a grand innovation. The Innuit (aka Eskimoes) of the far north used tundra moss. The ancient Romans used a sponge with salt water. In the American west--fondly known as the Old West--it was common to wipe the butt with corncobs (with the kernels removed, and "splinters" too).

In the 17th through 19th centuries in Europe and the Americas, one-quarter of all women died giving birth due to contracting puerperal fever. They picked up the pathogen from doctors and nurses who commonly didn't wash their hands. Death in childbirth wasn't just bad luck or insufficient knowledge as movies would have us believe.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that television remotes in hospitals do the best job or spreading bacteria. Even better than toilet handles (maybe they had been licked by visiting dogs). TV remotes accounted for the majority of deaths from antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus in hospitals, which annually runs around 90,000 people (er...ex-people).

James Garfield, one of the few US presidents who died in office, did not likely die from a gunshot wound from Charles Guiteau after all. He more likely died (three months after the incident) from severe infection that originated from the hands of his medical team. Their hands were contaminated with manure stains.

Those latex gloves that doctors and nurses use today seem like a great idea now, don't they? The medical people think they're protecting themselves from picking up something from us. Do we really want to know how doctors attending the president of the USA had manure stains on their hands?

[Primary resource:Discover , September 2007]

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about teaching children the important lessons of life--including washing their hands--before they need them as adolescents and adults. Our people have too many problems because they didn't have the information they needed soon enough.
Learn more at

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is Anyone Paying Attention To You?

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should read and a worldwide plan to make the world a safer and healthier place to live. Learn more about the book and the plan at

The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.
- Sir Winston Churchill

Though Churchill was referring to writers of history and the sciences, in which case they water down their premises and arguments to the point where it would be hard for anyone to disagree with them (example: "motherhood" issues), the quotation applies as well to today's writers and even to non-writers in terms of their behaviour.

Political correctness comes to mind first. Initially its purpose for each person is to prevent the offence of an innocent second party by an unthinking or boorish first party. The problem, however, is that political correctness kicks in so that an arrogant and supercilious third party attempts to control the behaviour of the first party. The objective is not learning a lesson, but control of another's behaviour.

Political correctness has become the weapon of bigots who presume to support the cause of avoiding bigotry. Practitioners of political correctness on a scale where it is intended to affect the behaviour of others (accused of bigotry) are themselves bigots, especially with their bullying ways.

As a response, innocent people try to avoid being labelled as racist or as bigots by writing and speaking in wishy-washy ways so that they can never make a strong point in an argument for fear that it may offend someone. Meanwhile we can see the ultimate in extremist political correctness on such services as FOX-NEWS where an interviewee or guest may suffer verbal abuse at the hands of a host who purports to be a defender of the innocent.

In the United States the hypocrisy of political correctness reaches absurdity as people with white skin may be fired from their jobs or suffer overwhelming condemnation for using "the N-word" publicly or privately in a way that becomes public later as a result of spying. Meanwhile African-Americans freely use the whole word in large public gatherings and hi-hop music lyrics. Somehow, the inequality of that issue doesn't strike home with the advocates of political correctness.

What hits home with more people is the effect of the movement on how they speak. Some get so tied up with striving to use the politically correct words that their listeners or readers lose track of what the purpose of the issue at hand is.

When conveying messages of any type, you can't please everyone. If you do, you find yourself with an audience that cares nothing for what you have said.

When making a strong point in any argument, whether written or oral, if your words don't generate at least some opposition, even enemies, then not enough people are paying any attention to your message. Without opposition, the mountain you want to climb becomes a plain, a desert where you can get lost and no one will notice. Or care.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to grow into competent, confident adults worth listening to.
Learn more at

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Most Commonly Broken Law

"In life and business, there are two cardinal sins. The first is to act precipitously without thought and the second is to not act at all."
- Carl Icahn

In business, acting without thought, planning and due diligence may be fatal to the business. However, can this be true of life in general? Is doing nothing or doing something without careful thought a cardinal sin?

Icahn likely doesn't mean cardinal sin in a religious sense, only in the sense of being critical to good health.

If doing nothing is critical, then it seems a large portion of the populations of most western countries has reached that stage. What they do is to buy and, in the case of some, to devote themselves to a religious belief set proposed by a few people who have as much (or more) to gain from selling their religious concepts as industries have from bringing in customers through their advertising.

Thinking seldom enters their lives as an active pursuit any more than it does a predator animal when it chooses between two potential victims.

It has become progressively harder to get people out to vote because they have little or no idea who to vote for. Many who do vote do so based on what they have been told by someone else (including the media) or on the emotional wave that has followed some personal issue among the candidates (such as prior drug use or marital indiscretion of one).

I happen to live in a rural municipality where city cottagers leave their accumulated weekend waste at the landfill (dump) at the end of each weekend. Many arrive in their $60,000 SUVs and must ask the attendant (every weekend) where to put their newspapers, their cardboard or their recyclables. Some don't even ask, they simply put what they have into the wrong bins despite the fact that each bin has acceptable contents clearly shown in illustrations and in words on their sides.

These give no evidence that they have the ability to think beyond the minimum necessary for doing their jobs and for survival in the family.

Ask any one of them if something should be done to alleviate the problems that precipitate global warming (climate change) and without exception they will reply in the affirmative. Yet nothing in their behaviour confirms that their belief has been transferred to a change in behaviour. Their reaction toward the climate change question is knee-jerk reaction, with no actual thinking following up.

At least the people who act precipitously and make mistakes learn from them and don't make the same mistakes more than seven or eight times. The people who learn nothing do no thinking.

Perhaps that is the moral aspect that Icahn called a cardinal sin. Doing nothing is an indication of no thinking. In the animal world, these people would be the first course of lunch when the first predator came around. That's a violation of natural laws.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how and what to teach children so that they don't become SUV-driving, drug-using, non-thinking vegetables as adults.
Learn more at

Monday, November 19, 2007

Let's Look Into Your Future

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121 AD - 180 AD)

Many people fear the future, mostly because it's unknown and they fear that which is not familiar to them. Anything unknown, they learned somewhere, should be feared, or at least faced with apprehension.

Some look with trepidation to the future because they see the present being so much worse than the past they knew and are concerned that the conditions of today will only get worse in the future. ("I wouldn't want to have to raise kids today.")

What they fail to realize is that in their younger years they were relatively ignorant of the conditions of the world of their time. As we get older we gain a broader perspective of many things in life, whereas when we are younger we focus more on our immediate present.

This condition even exists with vision, where younger people can focus better on specific objects in the distance, but not so well the whole scene, whereas older people can take in a larger picture and assess the overall conditions better but may not be able to see specifics as easily. For example, kids can find Waldo in the Where's Waldo puzzles far easier than older adults.

A few people don't want to think about the future because they imagine that it will bring more of the pain they have suffered in the past and they are not certain they can tolerate any more. Those people may not consider the good parts of their past, thus see little possibility of a balance between good and bad in their future. The good was there, but they allow the bad to overwhelm them, so they believe the future will be equally as bad.

The future is neither good nor bad, not any more so than the past. We tend to remember that which impacts our emotions most, especially the negative emotions, and forget (most of the time) the good times we experienced. Our memories of good experiences may not be as vivid as those of the bad ones. At least not until we have lived long enough to be able to look back more than 40 years into our own past.

Life is filled with good times and bad times. We may miss some of the good times because we spend so much time focussing on our problems while not appreciating what we have that is valuable. Often, for example, we don't consider how fortunate we are to have people who love us, though many people in the world have no one who cares deeply for them. Love is a treasure beyond compare. Though it doesn't pay the bills, it's far more valuable than the money that does. If we appreciate it. If not, love is wasted.

Life really is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. There's nothing fair about it. Life being fair is a misconception we were taught as young children, often when we were expected to share something tasty or a toy with siblings. ("Be fair and share.") Life, in general, is not fair.

We have no right to expect that life should be fair because no other life form on earth experiences fairness in life. For most of us, just surviving after we have made grievous mistakes or terrible errors of judgment gives us a huge advantage over other animals who would have become lunch for a predator for making the same degree of mistake.

The future will be as good as we want it to be, as good as we expect it to be. Or as bad. In general, life for us humans is improving. You don't have to study much history to discover that life in the past--any part of the past--was much worse, much riskier, shorter and with fewer benefits than life today. In western countries alone people live twice as long as the average life span of their grandparents' generation.

Almost everyone forgets one thing about the unknown aspect of the future. It doesn't remain unknown. And it doesn't remain the future. We only ever get to experience it as the present.

Considering how many bad experiences you've had in the past and weathered them, you can expect that you will do as well in the future. Maybe better, as you have more experience that should allow you to make fewer mistakes thus generate fewer downturns in your life.

And you have the good times to look forward to.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about arming children with the knowledge and skills they require to live healthy and positive lives, as opposed to the lives of many troubled adults of today.
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Message From The Taliban

When the Soviet military pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, Afghan citizens cheered wildly because the Soviets had reportedly killed about one million Afghans during their occupation of the country.

The Mujahideen that had nominally routed the Soviets separated into their various (mostly tribal) factions and began turf wars within the country, each determined to dominate the economy. This would be somewhat like organized crime gangs battling each other, only lots of innocent citizens were robbed, raped and killed, including children. Torture of the (summarily convicted) "accused" was a daily practice.

The Afghans cheered again in 1996 when the Taliban defeated the warlords in most of the country. By then an estimated 50,000 innocent Afghans had died in the conflict in Kabul alone at the hands of the gangs of the warlords.

Most of us have an idea of how brutal the Taliban regime was before it was driven into the mountains along the border with Pakistan. What follows below accurately depicts the true nature of the Shari'a law theTaliban put into place immediately.

It's worth keeping in mind that even today the Taliban intends to retake control of Afghanistan. And Shia militants from the south of Iraq and Iran (with military weaponry support from Iran) plan to turn all of Iraq into a Taliban-style repressive regime.

We already know what the Sunni militants did to Iraq during the Saddam years.

What follows was broadcast on the radio, from loudspeakers atop each mosque and printed on flyers that were dropped all over the streets where every citizen could find them.

Our watan is now known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. These are the laws that we will enforce and you will obey:
All citizens must pray five times a day. If it is prayer time and youare caught doing something other, you will be beaten.

All men will grow their beards. The correct length is at least one clenched fist beneath the chin. If you do not abide by this, you will be beaten.

All boys will wear turbans. Boys in grade one through six will wear black turbans, higher grades will wear white.

All boys will wear Islamic clothes. Shirt collars will be buttoned.

Singing is forbidden.

Dancing is forbidden.

Playing cards, playing chess, gambling, and kite flying are forbidden.

Writing books, watching films, and painting pictures are forbidden.

If you keep parakeets, you will be beaten. Your birds will be killed.

If you steal, your hand will be cut off at the wrist. If you steal again, your foot will be cut off.

If you are not Muslim, do not worship where you can be seen by Muslims. If you do, you will be beaten and imprisoned.

If you are caught trying to convert a Muslim to your faith, you will be executed.

Attention women:
You will stay inside your homes at all times. It is not proper for women to wander aimlessly about the streets. If you go outside, you must be accompanied by a mahram (a male relative).

If you are caught alone on the street, you will be beaten and sent home.

You will not, under any circumstance, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.

Cosmetics are forbidden.

Jewelry is forbidden.

You will not wear charming clothes.

You will not speak unless spoken to.

You will not make eye contact with men.

You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.

You will not paint your nails. If you do you will lose a finger.

Girls are forbidden from attending school. All schools for girls will be closed immediately.

Women are forbidden from working.

If you are found guilty of adultery, you will be stoned to death.

Listen. Listen well. Obey. Allah-u-akbar.

Not only were women thereafter forbidden from receiving an education, they received no vote or political status, including no representation in the government.

In Kabul one hospital was designated for women, while all other hospitals (including those for women only) were assigned for men.

Children had to attend the hospital for women unless they were taken by their fathers to the male hospitals (only if they were boys).

The one hospital for women was given no supplies, including no drugs for anesthesia during operations and no fuel for power generators.

Female surgeons were to wear their burqa while conducting their surgery in the operating theatre.

The power and influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and militant Muslims in Iraq is why foreign troops are in those countries. We believe that we cannot treasure life in our own countries while allowing the slaughter of innocent men, women and children elsewhere.

Every Muslim mother in Iraq and Afghanistan has the same hopes and aspirations for her children as your mother had for you. We want to give those children a chance.

It's the right thing to do.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about what, when and how to teach children what they need to know to be competent and confident adults.
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Friday, November 09, 2007

Why We Suffer And What We Can Do About It

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

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omitto do, and more in the light of what they suffer.
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and writer (1906-1945)

Putting these two quotations together I'm tempted to believe that how we cope with the bad things in life is to suffer them.

Sure enough, that's what most of us do. If we don't die in the midst of our suffering, conditions change and life gets better. Sometimes it takes longer thanothers and some don't live long enough to enjoy the coming good times, but it's safe saying its a rule that life always gets better a some timeafter the worst of its bad times.

Why do we suffer? Because we don't have the skills and knowledge about how to cope more effectively. If we had the skills and knowledge, we could busy ourselves working our way out of the messes we find ourselves in.

Simply knowing that life always gets better eventually after a bad period is a good beginning toward giving people the motivation to endure the hardships of the bad times in order to eventually reach the good ones. That's an extremely important life skill. Most of us were never taught that as children or adolescents. If we learned that lesson, it was the hard way for most.

Knowing that every life has downturns is another very important fact about life. Everyone has them. Everyone has bad times several times a year. How bad they are, how long they last and how our life changes as a result of them may be determined by coincidence. Some might call it fate or bad luck, but it's more often coincidence of conditions that results in downturns.

Sure, many of them may be attributed to ourselves. We make bad decisions and suffer the consequences. Yet it's not as simple as that. Seldom is a bad decision all bad. We learn from our mistakes. The more we learn, the wiser we become. Therefore the more bad decisions we make the more we have to learn with a personal experience base. That's the most common way we learn about life. Not the best way, but the most common.

Of course we all shouldn't go about making mistakes just so we can learn from them. We could be taught, as children, about how to avoid making many major life mistakes.

When do we teach our children about life mistakes they may face? Usually when they are in their teen years, when they no longer want advice from us and aren't likely to accept it. That's too late.

Children form their major concepts of life during their first ten years. After that it's hard to break into that core of being to tinker with the fundamentals and make changes. In general, every major lesson about life should be taught to children before they reach their tenth birthday.

When each one gets taught may be a matter for debate, but by age eleven they have almost passed the stage of being able to internalize life lessons and reformulate their life concepts other than through the ones they experience themselves. In other words, by their tenth birthday they are ready to ignore all advice and make their own mistakes, whether they realize it or not.

Most adults seem to think that children younger than ten years are too young to learn about the grisly facts of life. Those adults are wrong and their children pay a great penalty for the ignorance of their parents. The kids, inevitably, make more mistakes in life than they need to make. And they suffer more, needlessly. Because their parents just plain didn't know.

Strangely, the most important job in life is parenting, yet we hand it over to those least knowledgeable and skilled to handle it. By the time most young adults have learned about the developmental stages of the lives of their children, the kids are beyond age ten and it's too late for the parents to do anything to make major differences. The kids have already learned by the examples set (as role models) of their parents.

The very same parents who had no idea that their kids were learning so much from them when they were so very young.

Children learn the most important life lessons through teaching in their first decade of life. After that it's just fine tuning. And learning from their own mistakes. Hard to believe those little guys are forming such grand concepts of life when they can barely write and they don't know much math or geography or science, isn't it? That's the way life works.

It's the way it works for every species of mammal on earth. Every other animal learns those life lessons early or they become lunch for a predator. If we don't learn them in time, we suffer for many decades afterward. We usually don't die, we just suffer.

As the 1960s song by Crosby, Stills and Nash said, "Teach your childrenwell." And teach them young. Don't keep then "innocent." An innocent child becomes and ignorant adult. Look around you to see the results ofso many families who kept their children "innocent."

Life eats the innocent for lunch.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about what, how and when to teach young children the important lessons of life that schools don't teach and many parents miss.
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Contact BillAllin directly at
It's an excellent gift for your grown children who have young childrenor will soon.
Pretty good for older parents to learn what they missed too.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Life Is A Waste Of time

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should read and a worldwide plan to make the world a safer and healthier place to live. Learn more about the book and the plan at

What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention ofits recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty ofattention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among theoverabundance of information sources that might consume it.
- Herbert Alexander Simon, economist, Nobel laureate (1916-2001)

Let's try to put the ducks in order here. We have too much information available to us constantly. The Information Highway became the Information Superhighway, which became an information stampede. Trying to stand firm in the face of any stampede brings challenges and risks. Not the least of which is that we could get run over.

The wealth of information tends to come to us from only a few major sources. Television, radio and the internet bring us news, not just local and national but from every corner of the planet, 24/7. Some of those sources believe that we need to know that opposition groups in the former Soviet state of Georgia are demonstrating for change, that Vladimir Putin is putting the squeeze on European countries that buy oil from Russia and that the Dalai Lama visiting Washington and Ottawa has upset the establishment in Beijing.

Do we really need to know all this news? In today's world, knowing what's going on in the countries of the preceding paragraph could affect who we vote for in our own national elections. International relations and reputations among countries of the world are extremely important when they often help to determine what trade alliances happen or fail, which can affect the long term stability of the economy of our country. Yes, it is important to know this stuff.

What we need for all this news that could be important is a time management technique that will allow us to attend to the news when we make time to absorb it and to ignore it until that time. Those who do not exercise that kind of time management can become news junkies, who may know what is happening on the far side of the planet but not whether their own kids are taking drugs after school.

From the way many people pay attention to their surroundings it's obvious that they are in the grip of information overload. Spend some time watching people in the aisles of supermarkets, on roadways or even at parties and you will see how much time people waste because they can't focus on what is supposed to be the object of their attention at the moment. They waste their own time, waste a great deal of the time of others by their thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour, and even create situations that can precipitate such incidents as road rage, office rage or household bickering because they can't cope with the amount of input to which their brains are subjected.

And what do we do about it? We form committees and commission studies which prove that our anecdotal observations are correct. What we seldom do is to teach the conditions of life in modern times to young people and give them the skills of time management so that they know how to prioritize the many demands on their lives.

We could do that. But it takes time. No one has enough time to devote to making it happen.

Just another one of those things that would benefit everyone, but no one wants to take the time to change the education system a bit to put the change into effect. So we all waste time, either by our own design or as a result of having to put up with others around us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to change education curriculum to address the real needs of children instead of only the needs of their future employers.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Specialists Destroy Their Lives

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should read and a worldwide plan to make the world a safer and healthier place to live.
Learn more about the book and the plan at
Our age is being forcibly reminded that knowledge is no substitute for wisdom. Far and away the most important thing in human life is living it.
- Frank R. Barry, 08/18/2004

Yeah? So? No one's going to argue against living life.

To really get a sense of what Mr. Barry intends in this quote we must look to the first sentence in order to make sense of the second.

"Knowledge is no substitute for wisdom." In this case, knowledge is what we learn from other sources, either by reading and listening or by somehow experiencing someone else's life vicariously. In this sense, knowledge is not what we learn from our own experience.

An old saying, which I have taken the liberty to modify, suggests that wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from making a lot of mistakes. The wisest among us have made the most mistakes and learned from them, enough that they feel comfortable--sometimes even committed--to sharing their experience and what they learned from it with others so that they do not need to make the same mistakes.

The trouble is that most people don't want to listen to someone else's bad experiences, unless they're looking for a new place to get their car fixed or for a new dentist or doctor. Advice is worth what you pay for it, another saying goes. This is a good saying only to some extent. Some advice comes from wisdom based on experience. (Other originates from rumour and fraudulent internet messages.) People who pay attention to the good advice may have an easier time of their lives by knowing the advice and at least considering it, perhaps even following it.

Life isn't long enough to make all the mistakes ourselves. We have to learn some from others. However, the mistakes we make ourselves are the best lessons, if we learn from them and avoid making the same ones again. How we deal with our own mistakes determines how we live our life thereafter.

One of the biggest mistakes many people make in their lives is to restrict their activities to their jobs, their families and their immediate interests (sometimes even only one of those). Simply reading any article in the daily newspaper concerning a particular subject over a long period of time can add a great deal to a person's knowledge. I studied China for a decade that way. That experience has served me well in my dealings with Chinese and my understanding of why China does what it does in the ensuing years.

We tend to expect doctors to study all aspects of medicine so much that they can answer any question. Many do. But medical research today becomes public so frequently that staying up is almost impossible. Divorce and family breakups are much higher among medical professionals than in the general population because researchers and doctors spend so much time learning about the subject of their specialty that they neglect many others things in life, often including their spouses and children.

We expect lawyers to know every law, even though it's a challenge to stay up with legal precedents and changes in laws in their own area of speciality. Many lawyers spend much of their "free" time schmoozing with others in their network, including both colleagues and potential new clients. They may know nothing about fixing a car, planting and tending a garden, the feeling of hiking a nearby trail, how to play basketball enough to teach their own kids or even how to play many of the games they give their children as gifts.

The rest of us don't care. We want a lawyer to know everything when the time comes for us to engage one. We care nothing if their marriages, their families, their lives are in tatters. When these tragedies happen, the lawyers themselves have no idea what to do about them, how to cope or even how they could have done some things differently if they had known what was important other than law.

The Frank Barry quote suggests that we get a broad range of experiences of life so that we gain wisdom for ourselves. Knowledge alone may be great for the job, but it won't substitute for living a full life. When money or the quest for it is the most important thing in life, much is lost from the experiencing of a full life. Money quests are terribly restrictive.

Imagine someone standing over your grave after you die. Will that person say "He was a good engineer, didn't know diddly about anything else, but he knew how to build bridges" or will that person say "He lived a full and joyful life and was happy to share it with others"?

In case you have missed out on much of life and wonder if it's too late to change, it isn't. A life can be changed as simply and as quickly as making a decision. Perseverance and willpower at sticking to the transition to the new life is important, but it can begin today if you want.

You are the biggest obstacle in the way toward change. So if you want to change your life, get yourself out of your own way. And start soon.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach children the important things about life before they make severe mistakes and ruin their own lives. The book provides the methods and the lessons.
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