Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Asking About Someone's Welfare Could Change Your Life

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
- Plato

But it doesn't seem like it, does it?

Yesterday I asked a friend how he was. He replied "Can't complain. No one would listen anyway." I responded that I would listen. His retort was "Yeah, but you won't care."

Was he telling me that I didn't care about his problems, that he didn't want to divulge them to me, that he was afraid of seeming vulnerable by telling me his problems, that he didn't want to take the time to explain his problems to me because I couldn't help him? Maybe simply that he was having a bad day?

Fortunately he knew from other occasions that I did care about him and his family. But that is not the point. Did he believe that everyone is fighting his own hard battle of life and that his was no worse than that of me or anyone else?

These questions cannot be answered by anyone but my friend. However, it's important for us to remember that the most obnoxious or irritable or annoying or sad or even happy person we meet is also suffering his own serious problems.

True, some problems are worse than others. But we raise our worst problem in our own mind to the level of a critical problem in many cases. That is, no matter how severe or mild a person's worst problem is, it seems very bad to him. That's important because some people can't cope with problems at the critical level sometimes.

How people conduct their interpersonal relations show how they are managing to cope with their problems of the day.

How a person responds to a question about their welfare can tell us a great deal about their state of mind.

Given the numbers of murders, of suicides, of people on mood altering drugs and of people who can't cope with their problems to the point where they are about to commit a crime, how we interpret their reply to our question could make a great difference to that person's future.

Maybe ours as well.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make you aware of potential problems that others have so that you know when intervention is needed.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Overcoming The First Weakness Is The Hardest

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit."
- Helen Keller (1880-1968)

Blind and deaf from the age of 19 months, Helen Keller went on to become a feral (wild) child that no one could manage. She was, in a sense, the ultimate pessimist because she believed she had to reason to live, as life meant torture. She raged against the caged torture of her nothingness.

After Annie Sullivan taught her to speak, read and write, she graduated from college and became a lecturer who had the ability to inspire anyone who heard her. Her legend is as strong almost half a century after her death as it was when she died.

Helen Keller went, literally, where no one had gone before. She may not have discovered the secret of the stars or sailed to an uncharted land, but she certainly did open a new doorway for the human spirit.

After she could speak and read, she was respected and supported as an underdog, not put down for being a loser. That's the point where many of us should pick up her story.

She accepted help, which many people refuse to do because they fear being labelled as helpless or a loser. She overcame her worst disabilities and turned them into strengths.

We can each do that. We all have disadvantages and weaknesses. Overcoming them is a big challenge. Once we do that, we will find others supporting us because they want to see us succeed in life.

The first step is to accept help. Help is easier to find if we are prepared to accept it when we find it. In most cases, finding help is a matter of asking questions about where to get help.

Winners are not those without weaknesses or disadvantages. They are those who have identified their weaknesses and disadvantages and worked hard to overcome them. Losers are those who have not done one or the other.

Identify your weaknesses and disadvantages. The job of overcoming them is partly done when we identify them and admit we have them.

There are no solutions to the problems of life until we accept what our problems are. Solutions do not go around hunting for problems to solve.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, the product of a feral child who accepted his weaknesses and disabilities and overcame them.
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Sunday, January 28, 2007

We Are Letting Our Children Become Addicts

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)

Why do we do that? Why do we wait until after a person has died to feel the urge to tell them how fond we were of them? Why do we wait to do many things until it's too late?

It dates to the Victorian era, the period of the 60 year reign of Queen Victoria, of the UK. She and any of the nobility that influenced her are directly responsible for some of the backwards and destructive kinds of behaviours we have today in western society.

For example, we believe that children should not learn about sex until they are adult or about to be married. Then we have 15 year olds getting pregnant and blame the parents for adhering to the norms of society, which are to keep their kids ignorant of the facts.

We seem to believe that no one should be told about drugs or other addictive practices for fear that knowledge will corrupt and those who know will become addicts. Then we have preteens using drugs and even selling them to pay for their habit.

Victoria and her clan taught us that childhood is a time of innocence, that there is lots of time in adulthood to learn about the darker sides of life. In isolation, that seems reasonable. But childhood is intended to be the period where children learn everything they need to know about the world of adults. It's why human childhood is so much longer than the childhoods of most other animals.

We fail our children when we don't teach them the gritty side of life. Whether we teach them or not, they will learn about it.

The trouble with that is that when they learn this stuff from their peers or other sources than their parents, they usually get the message wrong. If you doubt this, think about how much you knew about sex (including the usual period of female fertility) and the consequences of pregnancy when you first began to "make out." Most people knew almost nothing, though they were engaging in an activity that we would all agree eventually leads to copulation.

Childhood is not a time of innocence, but of ignorance. The longer we keep children ignorant, the greater the risks we take with their lives and their ability to cope with the realities of the adult world.

Timing of the teaching of life skills and knowledge is important, of course. But how do you know what the right timing is? It is critical (in the extreme) that children know what they need to know before that knowledge is needed. Before, not after kids have problems, as it is today.

Since primary school kids are being introduced to drugs on their way to school or in the school environs, the time to tell children about drugs is when they first go to school. The time to teach them about alcohol is not long after that. Grade school kids in many areas are exposed to offers of alcohol away from their homes.
A responsible parent has learned when kids are first introduced to the activities we would rather them not participate in and teaches what his children need to know before that age. But how many young adults know enough themselves to manage that responsibility?

In fact, what most young parents hear from many sources causes them to believe that their kids are better off kept "innocent" until they are old enough to be addicts or to have destroyed their lives in other ways, such as being parents at age 15.

"Innocence" equals ignorance. Learn it. Make use of it.

We need fewer people in prison and on Prozac, not more.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring the truth to those who don't recognize it.
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Saturday, January 27, 2007

War And Politics: Social Twins

"War is nothing but the continuation of politics by other means."
- Carl von Clausewitz, 19th century Prussian military thinker

Some may argue that "by other means" disqualifies or devalues the whole message of the quote.
Others may say that war is but a continuation of business by other means. Those countries that begin wars or that support insurgents or revolutionaries in another country always have their own financial interests at heart somewhere along the way.

War is life. It's the way life is in all forms of biological existence that we know, be they plant or animal. What is different about the human form of war is not just that we kill for reasons other than for food (a few other animals do that), but that we do so in highly organized and socially powerful groups with detailed planning. Socially powerful meaning in ways that influence human enemies most effectively.

However, war is our way of showing that we have not progressed far beyond what our prehuman ancestors, the way our genetically close primate relatives are today. It is the most primitive way of conducting the affairs of large societies.

War is our way of demonstrating that we have failed to advance as civilizations. We have the potential to make advancements beyond the primitive, but we keep falling back to the ways of our forebears. Our prehuman, small-brained ancestors.

Why do we allow this to happen to us? Because we pay most attention to those who claim that "others" are a great threat to us and least attention to those who want to adopt friendships with the others to trade and socialize for our mutual benefit. In most cases, the claim that the others are threatening us is false.

We are still, most of us, simple creatures whose natural tendency is to look to others for instruction and for protection. Like the apes. We follow the apparently most powerful and the loudest among us.

We will know when we have risen above our natural instincts when we see war and violence as activites of simpler, more primitive animals. We have the brain to do it. We need to use that brain to demonstrate that we are more advanced than apes.

You can do your part. Pass the word.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us advance the process of civilization one small step at a time.
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Friday, January 26, 2007

Life Lesson: What Makes Life Worth Living

"It is not enough to live; you have to have something to live for."
- Commander Adama, Battlestar Galactica (television program) (2003)

Life is not reflected well in science fiction television programs. Yet they often show excellent examples of human aspirations, foibles and life lessons.

In this case, the life lesson is about having something worth living for. But, what?

Many people fail to find what they want out of life. They die still wondering what they could have done to find it.

The problem is that they had been looking for something that would come to them, something that would enhance their lives, something they could acquire that would make their life complete. That never satisfies the desire to find what life is worth lviing for because we humans can never find enough to satiate our desires. We are, by nature, greedy.

By deduction, what makes life worth living must be outside of us. What makes life worth living is not what we can get, but what we can give.

Being greedy, many people never learn that lesson. The laws of economics say that you can't get more by giving away what you have.

But the laws of economics suck. They have destroyed more lives than wars have. According to economics, the only things worth having are what comes in to us, what we can acquire. Because of our greedy natures, if we style our lives around what comes in to us, we will never be satisfied and feel that our lives have been worth living.

Those people who give the most of themselves to help others know what fulfillment is.That's not just feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving money to the poor or sending blankets to Kosovo. It's helping anyone who needs help with anything.

People are often free about telling others their problems, whether the others want to hear them or not. Sometimes we can offer to help them. Anyone standing by a vehicle at the side of the road needs help, or at least some company, maybe a sandwich or coffee.

Sometimes helping someone else means nothing more than helping them to cry, to grieve, to let out the emotion that is eating them from the inside. Sometimes all we have to do is to listen.

If you want to know what makes life worth living, help someone. Do it more than once because the first time you may not recognize within you the feeling of having done something good and right. The more often you do it, the more it will seem the natural thing to do.

The laws of economics may be natural, but so are tsunamis and earthquakes. If it really matters to you to understand what makes life wonderful, give of yourself to help others.

Until and unless you have tried it, you won't understand. I don't understand economics, tsunamis or earthquakes. You can teach me once you have learned the lesson I have to teach.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you how to make it all worthwhile.
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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Nietzsche Said Groups Are Insane

Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.
- Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher (1844-1900)

Insanity in individuals doesn't seem so rare now when television programs showing videos of stupid stunts and events gone awry are common. But it's still not as common as insanity for groups of people.

How often have you wondered "What were they thinking?" when one of the governments to which you pay taxes passed a law that didn't make any sense, was unenforceable, would punish those it was trying to save more than those who were trying to hurt them, would cost fortunes to implement with little value foreseen for the money?

Or when corruption charges were laid against politicians who were, in effect, collaborating with criminals who would have destroyed the kind of lives the politicians were elected to defend and advance.

Or when a nation believes it can prevent war by starting one.

Or when a national leader creates fear within his own people by falsely accusing "others" of trying to make them afraid by threatening them. Hitler and the Nazis were an excellent example of that.

Or when a club, social group or service organization elects someone they know is the wrong person to lead the group, simply because no one else has volunteered to run for the office.

In the security business, be it national security, municipal security or security of digital records on computer, leaders sometimes hire criminals to advise them about how to guard against other criminals. As nutty as this seems, it works. Only a crook thinks like a crook. It also gives many criminals an opportunity to use the skills and knowledge they have learned to make life better for others, rather than worse. That's not crazy, but it seems that way to an unknowing layperson.

Groups of various kinds do apparently insane things and make crazy decisions not because they are all loonies, but because they think like individuals. Individuals seldom think in group terms.

Group decision making and action requires people who know not just the procedures for helping the group to survive and thrive, but the consequences of decisions that are to be considered.

Individual group members may be inclined to see only the consequences of how a group decision might affect them personally.

No doubt many stirling initiatives died in committee. But at least many totally foolish ones did as well. Committees have a way of sorting through the trash, even if they throw out some good stuff in the process.

Every group is conprised of individuals. Fortunately, some groups have individuals who think of the welfare and the future of the group while they are fulfilling their roles as group members.

The alternative for many groups is dictatorship. Benevolent dictatorship is the best possible form of government or of leadership. But benevolent dictators are rarer than sane governments. I would like to offer a good example of a benevolent dictator here, but most of the good ones went sour eventually--absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to see through the smog of reality.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Listen, Hear, Make A Friend

The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Many people equate hearing with listening. They believe that if they are facing a speaker and not talking themselves, they are listening and hearing. Listening, more than anything, requires a person to point their face at the speaker. Hearing obliges the non-speaker to engage his brain with the purpose of making sense of what is spoken and replying to it.

Some people don't hear what another person is saying because they don't care what is being said. They are more interested in what they have to say themselves.

Many times two people appear to be carrying on a conversation, but it's not a dialogue. It's two adjacent and alternating monologues with each speaker smiling at the other and looking at him or her frequently. Everything in that conversation is out-going, with nothing coming in to be considered by the brain of either participant.

Actually taking the time to listen to someone, considering what they have said, then replying in such a way that they realize you have heard, understood and thought about it is one way (one social device) of making a new friend.

People get so used to being virtually ignored by others in a conversation that they treasure anyone who will take the time and effort to hear them and respond.

Of course, a friend is someone who will also listen, hear, consider and respond to what you have said. Not everyone will do that. But it's a good way to filter out those you don't want as friends if you are meeting new people with the objective of befriending some.

In any case, actually attending to what someone has said and repling accordingly is a form of respect. It's cheap and effective. It's a sign that you are a caring person, that you care about the speaker.

Bill Allin
Turning It Arounjd: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to clarify some social skills that every person should learn.
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Why Make Friends When Things Are Going Well?

"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."
- John F. Kennedy

The old song Manana (Spanish word with ~ over the first n) comes to mind. Why fix the roof on such a sunny day? Kennedy's reference was to that song.

Why fix the roof indeed when the rain is not pouring in on top of us? In other words, why fuss about problems with relatives, friends, neighbours (be they personal or at the state level) when all is going well otherwise?

The answer of course is that the midst of a crisis is not the time to worry about patching up relationships. We need to do repairs when it's possible to do them with less risk than during a crisis.

The present situation with the US is an excellent example. Its friends are those countries with whom the US has courted good relationships over the past decade or more. Its enemies are those it has insulted or viewed with suspicion (if it gave them any attention at all) over the same period. In time of war, the US could not count on any non-friends to join it in its invasion of Iraq.

The recent US friendly relationship with India follows many years of courtship during the Clinton years. The US has trade to offer to India today, but it offered respect during the Clinton years. The years of respect led to the new trade relationship. Respect built trust.

When we have a personal crisis, such as a crisis between two friends, it's hard to patch things up on the spot. With the passage of time, it may be easier, but we then would have moved on to focus on other matters and other people. Yet that smoother time would be the ideal time to rekindle the friendship because there would be no conflict involved.

Failure to do that can mean a dwindling number of friends, whether they be friendly people or friendly nations.

The best time to make friends and to re-empower old ones is when things are going well for us.
But don't depend on the media to tell us when times are good. For the media, there is no such thing as a good time. Every period is always worse than previous ones.

Assess your own good times and act on them to build while you have the time and ability.
Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the difference between real life and what the media report.
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Tomorrow Can Be A New Life

"Tomorrow is another day."
- King Valdemar of Denmark, 1340-1375. Valdemar has the nickname "'Nother-Day" (Atterdag) in Danish due to this famous and healthy attitude. Valdemar reestablished a kingdom that had been ripped to pieces under his predecessors.

Sometimes setting all the problems, grudges, disagreements and confusion aside is not just the best solution, but the only practical one.

Many people have said that taking a night to "sleep on a problem" has led to its solution. Often by the following day the solution seemed "so easy, so simple."

Our lives are neither easy nor simple. No matter what may be on our minds, many other matters impinge on us, needing to be attended to. These almost always add clutter to a brain that is trying to focus on one problem at a time.

The key to waking up with a solution seems to be to go to sleep thinking about its associated problem. At some point during the night, the brain selects out that problem and focuses on it. Not in a dream, but during a different period of sleep, usually after the REM and deep sleep that refreshes the brain. So it's a fresh brain that tackles one problem.

Many of us have a habit of making immediate problems seem important, giving them undue status. If they involve other people, those people sometimes do things that we didn't expect on following days, making the route through the mess to a solution much easier.

Tomorrow is also another day in a different sense, a more philosophical one. What happened yesterday to us is no different (in effect) than what happened 500 years ago in history. Events are cast in stone in terms of their times being past, but each is available for interpretation and remodeling as we see fit. Memory can be conveniently inaccurate.

Each morning brings not just a new day, but a new life. What we do with that life does not necessarily have to depend entirely on the life we remember from yesterday. We can forgive someone today, for example, where we might not have been willing to forgive yesteday.

We can look forward to each new life/day with anticipation because we can't be certain that it will turn out exactly as we had expected. Sometimes life simply looks different the next day.

Here's to a good day for your tomorrow.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you a better day tomorrow.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Not Thinking Enough Causes Us Grief

To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
- Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)

We have no trouble with people not digesting enough. Obesity is shockingly in evidence in almost every country, with developed countries at or near critical levels.

We do, however, have a problem with reading. The Canadian government recently released a study showing that only six percent of Canadian adults reads more than three books per year. (Canadians and Americans usually score similarly on such surveys.) When you consider that many people must read a variety of books just to remain up to date with their profession, their interests or even their love of recipes, that percentage is extremely low.

People do read, of necessity. Television news programs often force viewers to read what the presenter does not speak, but is offered as extra material. Medical prescriptions come with data sheets that should be read to ensure that the patient can regain health (not lose it) as a result of taking the medication.

New electrical or electronic equipment always comes with installation and safety warnings which should be read. Ingredient labels on packaged foods allow us to know what nutrients we buy and ingest so we know whether to avoid them or not.

The prime motivator for people to read today is the internet. Fully half of North Americans use the internet as their primary source of news and an even greater percentage use it a their major source for other information.

Like it or not, we read. Whether we reflect is another matter.

Low voter turnouts for elections in western countries show that few people care enough about the results to read about the candidates before an election. Dissatisfaction with those elected suggests that those who voted may not have read enough about the people they voted for.

Perhaps one of the reasons why religious institutions in western countries are losing more members than they gain is the fact that attending most services requires reading of several passages from books. We may believe in God, for example, but we couldn't tell anyone what the religion we were raised in teaches about the subject today because that would require reading and thought.

What Burke meant by "reflecting" we might consider as thinking about what we have learned. Judging by how easily people are deceived by advertisers, charlatans, politicians, service businesses and anyone who claims to speak on behalf of God, we don't think nearly enough about matters that affect our lives deeply.

We even ignore health warnings about materials such as tobacco that we are told will likely shorten our lives. We hear people say "I'm not sick now, so I guess it won't affect me." Then they die years before they would have otherwise.

It would serve us well to think more about what is important about life and spend less time thinking how to spend our money.

On the final day of our life, what will be important is not how we spent our money but how we used the time allotted to us. On that day, if not before, money no longer holds any importance.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the differences.
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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Life's Major Choice: Learn Or Decay

Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.
- Chinese Proverb

Such sayings exist in every language and culture. Yet far too many people in western countries today carry emotional burdens so heavy they don't give a thought to learning.

"Learning is for the young."
"I'm far too old to be keeping up with modern developments and the rat race."
"The world's going to hell in a handbasket. I don't want to stay up with the pace of destruction."

Literature from ancient times shows that older people then thought that young people were flighty, inconsiderate, rude, uncommitted and thoughtless abour the consequences of their actions on their own future and the future of their people. Little has changed that way.

But people in ancient times valued learning and respected older people whom they considered to be wiser because they knew much more than younger people.

What has changed? The pace of life in modern times has sped up alarmingly. Wisdom earned the hard way in the past may have little application in the present. Unless the older people of the present can keep up with younger people in terms of what they know. Wise old people have no audience if they can't speak the same language as young people.

Only when two generations can speak to each other, as equals, but one with greater depth of experience and knowledge, can wisdom be passed along to younger generations today.

Until 30 years ago, the desire of a majority of working people was to reach retirement age when they could be on what amounted to a permanent vacation. When Baby Boomers saw their grandparents enjoying only a few years of retirement, then dying because they did not work their bodies and their minds, many decided to change their concept of retirement.

We are still in the transition phase between the old way of thinking where we have an abundance of elderly people who fear keeping up with today's rapid advance of developments and those in the newer phase who consider learning to be a lifelong pursuit.

Many people still don't understand how light a burden learning is. More importantly, by not having the knowledge they may need, they don't know how to work their way through many of life's problems that cause them real emotional burden. So they struggle.

The human body and brain were not designed to relax for long. They were both designed to solve problems and do work. Those that don't, decay.

There is no status quo to maintain.

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Civilization Progresses As We Help Each Other

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. - John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)

This opinion enters the realm of morality. Only in part does it involve legal repercussions if inaction causes injury to others. Morality and law often overlap (by design), though mostly in the area of criminal law.

If you were to stand by watching another person being beaten or killed, you might be charged if you could have done something to prevent it but did not.

At its core, this dual responsibility (guilty by action or inaction) raises the question of to what degree we are each our brother's keeper. That is, what is our responsibility to help someone who may not have helped us if the roles were reversed? Are we both responsible to and for each other and what are the consequences of not acting?

In an urban environment where helping others has become less common than it was in pioneer days or when people were spread across the land more evenly and people helped each other because they knew that one day they were need help themselves, many of us give little thought to the possibility of helping others.

Charities must beg for donations because people do not have a natural inclination to give money to help others. Yet stories of heroism where one person has risked death or made a great commitment to help another reach the news media as well.

Today someone who helps another is considered to have done so out of goodness. In the past, it was more of a social obligation for everyone. Mill considered it duty.

In movies, on television and in newspapers we give unintended social lessons that each of us must look after our own best interests because no one else will help us when we most need help. In general, we have responded to this with me-first selfishness.

Yet the good examples, the role models, are with us every day. With each passing day, especially as the world experiences increasing numbers of natural tragedies, more opportunities to help others present themselves. At the same time, more people than ever before complain about the selfishness, the greed and the thoughtlessness of others.

People will tire of the ethics of reality TV programs and realize that the world should not be that way. It's part of a cycle.

In the past, such cycles were traditionally broken by war, where people need to help each other through catastrophe. Most countries of the world are not at war today, but their people take a greater interest in the welfare of people of others countries than ever before. When people hurt and die, others will care.

Civilization advances only when people help each other. This opportunity presents itself today as more of us take an interest in an earthquake in Iran, a tsunami in Sri Lanka or a flood in Bangladesh. They all kill people. We feel the need to help the survivors. In doing so, we learn about the lives of people we previously knew nothing about.

More of us than ever before no longer stand by and watch tragedy and wrong as spectators.
Mill said it was an obligation. We see it today as more of a necessity to help others in need in the global village that is our home.

The lessons of civilization are learned slowly and painfully, but they happen and we do progress.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light through the dark smog that some people view as life today.
Learn more at

Monday, January 15, 2007

Community Problems: Where Society Goes Wrong

"Vengeance is not the point; change is. But the trouble is that in most [people's] minds the thought of victory and the thought of punishing the enemy coincide."
- Barbara Deming

This is such a difficult topic for me to discuss because I have mixed feelings about it.

Most of the problems that become the causes for possible vengeance were preventable in the first place. Not all, as we are fallible beings.

If children are taught from a very young age the tools they need to survive and thrive in their culture as adults, the kindesses and courtesies that should be accorded to others, the compassion that yields great benefits in terms of friendships rather than enmity and the emotional and social skills that will see them fit into a mutually beneficial community and nation, they will have no need to resort to the kinds of behaviours that cause others to want vengeance.

There is no need to resort to vengeance if the behaviours that precipitate it do not occur.
However, they do occur in our world. Rather than seeing them as signals or calls for help, as indicators that the "perpetrator" has needs that have not been filled and he or she cannot keep their life balance without some form of correction and addressing of needs on the part of those closest to that person, we choose instead to punish.

Punishing is so much easier and faster (if vastly less efficient in the long run) than tending to needs that should never have been ignored in the first place. Instead we let the fresh milk go sour, then blame the milk for being at fault.

Do people actually think of punishing a perpetrator as a form of victory? Absolutely, yes! Even a school principal who punishes a child for misdemeanors believes that he has done the right thing in defending his community against the ravages of evildoers (or those who will eventually become evildoers unless they are stopped young).

Parents do n0t usually consider themselves as heroes for disciplining their children following a mistake or commission of unapproved behaviour. They believe that "this hurts me more than it hurts you." Sometimes it does, in an emotional sense, because the parent knows intuitively that something has gone wrong but has no idea how to correct it.

The fact that I had to write that a parent "has no idea how to correct" the behaviour of his or her child is itself a condemnation of a society that does not teach parenting skills that it knows are required.

If we have the knowledge and skills to correct those who have "gone bad" through psychology, therapy or reprogramming, we have the knowledge and skills (the same ones) that should be taught to every young adult before they have children.

Every person who fails at life as an adult reflects back to a failed upbringing by parents. However, it's not the parents who are at fault because they didn't know what to do. Almost every new parent enters that awesome project of parenting as an amateur who knows too little about what a parent should know.

Some failing parents will blame the school and teacher for their problem children, some blame the community or peer friends, some blame television, some blame the other parent. No one wants to blame themselves because it would serve no purpose. They know they did the best they knew how.

No one puts the blame where it belongs, with a society that doesn't teach young adults what they need to know about growing and developing children.

If we want to think in terms of punishing anyone, we should punish politicians who will not authorize school boards to teach new parents and authorize teachers to teach what kids need to learn besides what is on the intellectual-stream curriculum.

Politicians are the only segment of society that reacts positively to punishment. They know what to do (at least some do) but do not make it happen. They do wrong by doing nothing.

Punish that and we will see how quickly education will change from job training to life preparation.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put the right information into the right hands, then encourage those hands to get to work with it.
Learn more at

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Adapt To Change Or Suffer Disengagement

Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
- Flannery O'Connor, writer (1925-1964)

Yet many people act as if it does. Or they deny what they know to be true, in the hope that a miracle will happen to change truth to what they want it to be.

Witness how many people fervently believe that the universe and eveything in it was created in six earth days, as is stated in Genesis of the Abrahamic bibles. Scientific evidence can prove beyond a doubt that the universe took billions of year to come to its present form and, indeed, is still changing. These people are troubled by the teaching of the results of scientific study because it contravenes what they believe.

The present administration in the USA believes it can end the war in Iraq and bring the country to a meaningful place at the table of international wisdom and concensus by killing off or imprisoning those who want the US military to leave their country. This despite the fact that President Bush has no idea how to bring his dream for Iraq into reality and considerable doubt exists as to whether the majority of people in Iraq want that goal anyway. In his quest, Mr. Bush spends billions of dollars each day of taxpayer money on his military, claiming that he is protecting his citizens from an enemy that wants nothing to do with the US (other than financial aid until it rebuilds what the US military destroyed).

Many people buy lots of lottery tickets each week or visit gambling casinos or events despite the fact that many more people have destroyed their lives and wrecked their families than have ever "won big." Many reasearch projects have shown that winning a huge amount of money is apt to permanently destroy the life of the winner and his or her loved ones because they have no idea how to manage the demands and responsibilities having that wealth entails.

Many people who suffered terribly when their first marriage failed blamed their spouses for weaknesses and faults, then went out to find second spouses with those same weaknesses and faults, only to have that marriage fail as well. They have trouble accepting that it is them that must change, not the people they choose to marry then try to change.

Truth and reality are not so mysterious for those who insist upon adapting themselves and their thinking to what is needed to accommodate the circumstances of their lives and the realities of what has been proven by others (and often by themselves).

People turn to some devastating and destructive devices and strategies for managing their activities in order to avoid facing up to evidence that disagrees with what they believe. In many cases they harm themselves and those they love because they will not change what they believe.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, trying to put the truth into perspective and self-deception into history.
Learn more at

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Grade School Can Be the Worst Thing That Happens to a Child

"It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever."
- Philip Adams, Australian broadcaster (1939- )

People have vast potential when they are given the opportunity as adults to show what they can do. Often they will surprise themselves. However they seldom get that chance.

Young children have vast potential as well. Some have the opportunity to demonstrate what they have while others are ignored or given little support for their efforts.

The biggest roadblock arrives when kids hit grade school.

Many of us think of grade school as a couple dozen happy children and one highly motivated teacher working together to develop the future of each child. That impression is wrong.

Grade school classes have curriculum to cover with only a limited number of days and hours to do it and very limited resources and supplies with which to accomplish their tasks. These constraints focus every child on limiting what they think about, limiting what they can accomplish outside that curriculum. Limited resources confine learning in many cases to what is in books and in the teacher's brain.

Computers help, but mostly if the classroom has enough competent adult assistants to guide the kids through the learning they need. That doesn't happen often enough.

Discipline problems result when children must slow down their natural instincts to learn huge quantities of information and produce fascinating results with it. In many cases, lessons require relative quiet with all attention on paperwork or on one speaker. The speaker in many cases is another child answering a question, someone who is no smarter or more knowledgeable than the many listeners.

Often someone who gives the wrong answers.

But each child must be given his time to be heard before the whole class. That's equality. Equality and curriculum come before anything else.

Except accountability. Tests--often many of them each week--assure that the teacher has taught the required curriculum and at least some of the children have taken in the lesson material. Testing, in effect, is an accountability factor for the teacher, not for the children.

Children will not learn if they have other things of greater importance to them on their minds. Problems with friends, at home, with hunger or with bullies on the street are but a few matters that any child considers more important than classroom lessons.

The school board cares nothing for these perceived childhood problems. Their focus is on results, test scores, measured progress along the line of the curriculum.

Thus the minds of most kids learn to focus on what the teacher wants, which is what the curriculum dictates. There is no time for much variation from the curriculum, except in better schools. In some schools, problems of the children require so much class time as a result of disruptions that lessons cannot be taught properly.

Schools have the answer to children with problems. They punish the kids. It's the way it has always been done. No one claims it makes any sense.

Most schools do not have the time or the approval of the community to teach the social and emotional (psychological) skills that kids with problems need.

So we have communities filled with adult followers who know little beyond what was on the curriculum in school, plus full jails and prisons, and medical offices lined with adults with problems they can't cope with.

Far too many people die with that vast potential they had within as children them still untapped.

And in most cases they never knew they had it in them.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help schools grow competent and confident adults, not just kids who know how to take tests.
Learn more at

Friday, January 12, 2007

One Solution for Our Biggest Problem

"Discovery consists in seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what no one else has thought."
- Albert Szent-Györgyi, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1937

I did.

As a teacher I wondered why kids who were such vibrant and interesting little people in grade school a few short years later had so many personal problems, many of which turned into academic, health, psychological and legal problems.

As parent of a teenaged daughter I wondered why my child felt she needed to dress somewhat like a hooker when she reached her mid-teens in order to attract boys.

I wondered why so many adults turned to alcohol, recreational drugs, prescription drugs and many forms of addiction which inevitably ruined their lives and usually the lives of those they loved and who loved them.

I wondered why small crime increased so much that variety stores had to put bars on their windows and gas stations kept their attendants behind bulletproof glass overnight.

I wondered why the courts put so many more people in prison than ever before, but people were more afraid than ever to walk the streets at night, take a subway or bus at night, even to let their children play outside after school.

More police, psychologists, therapists, doctors, prisons and psychiatric facilities obviously wasn't working. A neoconservative broadcaster informed her audience that these social problems were simply the consequence of overwhelming success of western society in the modern world.

Nothing about human behaviour is inevitable. I knew she was preaching crap. Almost everything we do is a result of a series of lessons and circumstances that led us to make the decisions we do. People can be taught to behave differently, as happened when laws regarding seat belt usage for car passengers and drivers was effected.

After a great deal of study of people (we sociologists love to do that), I found the answers. Parents were no only too busy to teach their children the life lessons that parents of the distant past had taught, but many of today's parents had little idea what responsibilities a parent has or how to carry them out.

Parenting, the most important job in any society, was the only one where amateurs were not just admitted, but were encouraged by keeping young adults ignorant of the information they needed to know before they could use it.

We are afraid to teach our children about crime for fear that they will become criminals. Then we cry when they become victims of personal crimes. We are afraid to teach them about sex for fear that they will become sexually active as a result of having information. We are afraid to teach our children about drugs for fear that they will become users. Studies have proven all of these beliefs to be wrong.

We don't have time to teach our children what we have learned about being responsible adults, so we leave it to television, movies and video games to teach our children on our behalf.

... (pause for effect while you think about that)

We don't permit teachers to involve themselves with such matters because we believe they are the responsibility of parents, not schools. But too many parents are not teaching kids what they need to know.

Some parents leave teaching important life lessons to their kids until the kids are old enough to already have formed some twisted and harmful attitudes toward life and have found themselves in trouble. For example, young children should know about illegal drugs because many of them will be offered drugs while they are still in the early years of grade school.

Despite this total disconnect of young people from the information they need and of parents from the knowledge about development streams of children, we continue to believe that both parents and children are better off being kept ignorant.

If we don't believe that, then that is nevertheless the consequence of what we do believe and the way we function as a society.

Ignorance never improved anything. One way or another, we have been misled about the importance of parenthood and how and what children must be taught. So I compiled a huge amount of information and wrote a book designed to inform every parent, no matter whether they are good readers or not. It's an easy read, loaded with valuable information and tips and parenting and about how children develop and what they need to learn.

Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems not only discusses the problems of modern families and communities, but presents a plan to implement change that will form the basis for a reformation of society into one of real knowledge about parenting and child development. It's an easy to understand plan and will be quite straightforward to implement.

Best of all, implementation of the plan is cheap. Any initial investment spent by governments will be recouped within five years as a result of lower costs to service social problems.

Now we need you to read the book and tell others about it. Anyone and everyone with access to a computer can find out a huge amount of information by going to my web site at

I can only do a limited amount without your help. To assist, all you need to do is to read the book and tell others about it. Give your book to them. Or borrow it from your local library.

Solutions are no good unless people know about them. I did my part. Now it's your turn.

I'm here to help.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to get the word to as many people as possible before it's too late.
Learn more at

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Follow The Crowd, But The Right Crowd

"Be honorable yourself if you wish to associate with honorable people." - Welsh Proverb

This kind of a lesson shouldn't be necessary. Of course honorable people will associate with honorable people. Isn't that obvious?

No. It's a lesson in social skills. In general, our society does not teach social skills formally. That means that social skills do not automatically become part of the skill set that children carry into adulthood.

We need to teach all social skills and this is one of the better ones.

Children need to be taught that they should associate with the kind of kids that are the way they would like to be themselves.

Who do kids most want to associate with? The most popular kids in the neighbourhood or classroom. That's natural. Social animals all tend to gather around leaders. The ones with the biggest crowds around them gain more followers.

Any child with any kind of strong message or physical strength or athletic skill can have a following. Bullies often have gangs that follow them around, for example.

The person who could become the leader of your religious group, however, may not have any followers because he or she doesn't yet have a strong message to convey to others.

Kids need to be taught to follow those who set the best examples. And why they should not follow those who set bad examples, even if the latter are more popular.

The ones who set good examples will be more popular when we teach more children to associate themselves with those who set good examples. It's the same reason why we tend to saee the movie we have heard most about.

No child wants to be known as a brown-noser or a teacher's pet. Yet those same children may have admirable qualities that other kids would follow if they knew they should. Most children will choose peers as friends, given the opportunity. They may focus on a teacher rather than other children if they believe that others kids will not join them.

Honorable people associate with honorable people. They don't consider dishonest people, bullies, egotistical sports heroes or movie stars as heroes if they have been taught that these people set bad examples and they will eventually all find themselves in trouble as social misfits.

It's a simple lesson. Simple lessons are easy to teach provided that they are taught before children find themselves going down the wrong path of life.

Don't wait for your child or grandchild to make a grave mistake before pointing him or her toward the right path. Do it early. Kids learn easily when they are very young.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the difference at the right time.
Learn more at

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why We Can't Handle The Truth

The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people think. - Aristotle, philosopher (384-322 BCE)

It is said that truth is the first victim of war. It should also be common knowledge that truth is the last thing that many people want to convey to others.

Truth implies accuracy and verifiability. Very little in today's world can meet those criteria dependably.

We come to expect that others will not tell us the truth. When a man or a woman asks another "How do I look?" they expect an answer that falls within a given range, all of which are positive. They don't really want the opinion of the other person, but a compliment from them. Even their question is not truthful.

No one expects or should expect truth in advertising of any kind. Advertising is deceptive from the beginning. The first rule of advertising is to appeal to the need of the customer and if you can't think of any need the customer may have, invent one. So we have cosmetics industries, for example, that sell products that no one really needs, some of which may even be harmful, but customers believe they need to look "really good" to others.

The need to look good is the easiest target for an advertiser to appeal to. Vanity lives in almost every one of us, to some degree. Advertisers simply have to lie to us to have us believe that we will look better by using their products.

Feeling good is another popular hook for selling products. People will consume all manner of harmful and dangerous products if they believe they will feel good, even for a short time. When it comes to most kinds of illegal drugs, that "feel-good" period may be only minutes, while the horrible consequences of taking them might last for hours or even days. But that "sweet release" from worry and care attracts people today in unprecedented numbers.

It's almost as if we want to be lied to, as if we find the truth too harsh to bear. That's not really the case. The need to feel that life is good among adults begins in childhood. Many parents believe that childhood should be filled with nothing but wonderful experiences. They tell their children that life will be even better for them when they become adults. It isn't. It never is, of course.

Childhood is meant as the training ground for adulthood, as we see in every part of nature. In many families, childhood is treated as a period of life quite apart from the reailties of adulthood, instead of the training period during which mistakes may be made without deadly repercussions.
We also, in general, do not prepare our children for the harsh realities of adulthood. I don't mean that kids should be abused the way adults are abused--emotionally in many cases. I mean that we should teach children about the harsh realities of adulthood, without having them experience these. Words work for descriptions, as we teach many kinds of lessons in the form of stories that are read aloud.

We should also teach them coping skills so that they know what to do when they face a crisis in their lives. We can also teach them how to act in order to avoid having the kinds of problems that adults have today in abundance. When adults can't cope with the lives they lead, tragic scenarios develop.

We use schools to teach children how to hold jobs. Few teachers teach (or are allowed to teach) social skills which would allow their charges to function in a healthy manner in the other half of their waking hours as adults. Even on jobs social skills would help many people greatly. But they are not considered important enough to be taught.

Almost everyone in prison has a deficit in social skills. Many in psychiatric hospitals also have a problem with social skills. Among prescription drugs, by far the most popular are those that help people to function and cope in the hurly-burly rat-race world.

Something is dreadfully wrong when we don't teach people how to handle truth about themselves. That's real truth, not cruelty. Without the truth, people don't know what about themselves they can build on to become better people, more fulfilled, more confident, healthier and safer.

There is nothing wrong with teaching the 3Rs and job skills in school. We also need to teach the skills that will help people build lives, not just hold jobs.

That change will not happen by itself. It needs your help. And mine.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to uncover the truth in a confusing world.
Learn more at

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What Should We Do With Nonconformists?

In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service.
- John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (1806-1873)

This is an extremely complicated issue.

We need to have a certain amount of conformity in order to have a cohesive society with rules and laws that are followed by most people. Yet total conformity creates the situation where people can be led into tragic circumstances, such as happened in Germany in the 1930s or Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s.

Social pressure (aka peer pressure) is what holds together a culture, a people, a tribe or a nation. Yet social pressure in the form of peer influence can be taken to excess, leading to prejudice and extreme political idealism.

Not enough will cause a group to fall apart. Too much will result in oppression.

A balance is needed. But who decides what the balance should be? There must be nonformists in order for the boundaries of what is acceptable to the group to take form and substance. Too many nonconformists and you have anarchy.

Or at least that is what we have been led to believe by those who want to increase conformity by tightening rules and laws to make people more "the same," often supposedly for their own protection. What if a cultural group had too many nonconformists? Would it fly apart and disappear?

Social groups have predictable "laws" of nature, just like other kinds of natural laws. People need to be together in groups for their own protection and mutual benefit. We established that 12,000 years ago when agriculture first began in the Middle East. Being together means requiring a certain amount fo conformity. People will create their own structures of conformity, no matter what the circumstances.

Conformity requires consensus, though not necessarily unanimity. A majority must agree on how its members will act and what behaviours are wrong.

What if there were total unanimity? First of all, every society has total unanimity in the form of laws that its members may not kill each other, as well as other laws without which the numbers of the group would reduce markedly.

Outside of those cases, total unanimity never happens. If it did, social and economic stagnation would occur. The group would become, in effect, inbred and eventually be overcome by another group.

We need nonconformists, as Mill said. However, he also suggested that being a nonconformist in a society where personal freedoms are severely restricted is a service to the group. One may even venture to say that a nonconformist is a hero, of sorts. The group could not exist in a healthy manner without those who oppose total conformity.

We need the "others." We don't have to put them in prison for treason. However, we do need to listen to what they have to say in order for us to strike a balance in the way we conduct our social lives.

Without the "others," we would have no clear way to define ourselves.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light in the dark corners of life so we can all see what should be there.
Learn more at

Monday, January 08, 2007

Quote: Our Greatest Fear Is Our Own Power

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
- Marianne Williamson, co-leader of the United States Department of Peace movement (quote often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela). A Marianne Williamson was also executive producer of the long running television series Touched By An Angel, but I am not certain if the two are the same person.

The fear, if that be what we call it, applies as well to individuals as it does to peoples (societies).

At an international level, let's consider possibilities. If you are a US citizen, imagine what it must be like to be from any other country, thinking that the president of the USA believes that he is powerful beyond all measure, that the US is the greatest country in the world and that people of other countries are lesser forms of humanity? Whether or not any of these is true is immaterial, as they are perceptions held by many non-Americans.

What might you want to do if those arrogant people with their world-shattering weaponry and earth-shaking economic power threatened your way of life? It might explain some behaviours of non-American "terrorists" who want to frighten US citizens and cause them to spend extraordinary amounts of money to counteract perceived threats from "foreigners" they don't know or understand and whom they fear because of their skin colour or their form of dress.

Most of us likely know people who undervalue themselves, who could have done more with their lives but they were afraid to try. We also know of those who believe that they have superhuman powers to alter the way people conduct their lives. The latter are not afraid to act powerfully. They are not timid and they often succeed because no one wants to stand up to them.

Williamson's quote was not intended to apply to everyone. It was intended to speak to those who underestimate their abilities, who are afraid to be successful because they are not sure what they would do differently than those celebrities they read about in tabloids, and those who who simply do not understand what would be available to them and within their grasp if they knew how to proceed and how to apply themselves to the task of growing into what they aspire to be.

Perhaps the most important sentence is the final one where she says that those among us who manage to liberate themselves from fear provide role models for others who would dearly love to try. Oftentimes, all they need is to know that someone else has done it, especially if that someone is prepared to act as support for their own attempt to free themselves from fear, to live as they can be.

Those of us who have liberated ourselves from fear should adopt a responsibility for helping others to do the same. Too many among us lurk in the shadows in fear that we will be noticed, that a light will be shone upon us and we will be found wanting. We don't need more lurkers, we need them to become more effective people.

We can help them. That can be our way of making the world a better place.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show a better way.
Learn more at

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Doing Wrong For the Right Reasons Is Still Wrong

What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.
- Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator, writer (106-43 BCE)

"This may be wrong, but look at the benefits that will come from it! We'll be safe. (We'll be rich. We can retire. We can take a trip around the world. I can tell my boss to go to hell. We'll be the best again.)

As Cicero said and as my imagined rationales suggest, all reasons for doing something morally wrong in order to achieve a benefit are personal, not public. They may be stated as public benefits, such as "our people will be safe," but the deeper reason is always personal.

Yet these kinds of reasonings are given to people all the time, both personally and publicly. They come most notably from politicians, whose personal objectives are to gain popularity or stay in power. Or to justify some measure that would otherwise clearly be classed as corruption.

As Cicero said, merely believing that doing something wrong can somehow be justified as right is exceedingly harmful. When a politician thinks this way, you can be certain that something that will harm his people will follow.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light on some hidden truths.
Learn more at

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Success Means Surviving Failure and Learning From It

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
- Theodore Roosevelt

Are they afraid of life, those poor spirits? Afraid of failure? Afraid of success?

Of this we may be certain, they are each afraid of something.

Perhaps they do not trust others because they have been burned too many times in the past when they trusted those they believed they could depend on. Glorious triumphs always depend on the cooperation or support of others. Those who do not trust cannot build toward triumph because they dare not.

Western society makes failure seem the worst thing that could happen to anyone. Parents, eager that their children not be among the pack in the middle of society, enroll their children in classes and engage them in lessons to improve their intellect before they have passed the babyhood stage. To them, having their child be "average" would be a clear declaration that the parents were failures.

Parents oriented toward sports have their children in team activities or competitive events before the kids even know what competition is. One way or another, those kids must be stars.

Many of the children of aggressive parents end up living unexciting lives because they couldn't stand the pressure of competition from peers and stress from parents while they were still kids. Others make the grade to success, then fall apart in different ways, such as emotionally or socially, when they can't hold their own in the many ways that are necessary beyond those of their area of expertise and skill.

Perhaps the greatest impediments to glorious triumph are not having the right goals in the first place or not having the dedication to reaching that exalted level because of the necessity of having to give up too much of the rest of life to reach it.

The potential of a child today having a sour or bitter life as an adult is enormous. What do parents want for their children? And what are they prepared to sacrifice for them to achieve it?

What do the children want? And what would they have to sacrifice of a full and balanced life in order to achieve what their parents want for them? Can the two objectives ever meet?

It's all very well for parents to say "I just want my daughter to be happy." Most parents, I believe, would be satisfied with that. However, there is little evidence that those parents have the skills to teach their children what they need to know to be happy. Happiness, though sought by everyone, eludes many people because they don't know what it is beyond what they are told by television commercials, that happiness can be bought.

Happiness is an unreachable goal if you don't know where it is or wouldn't recognize it if you saw it. Many happy people are "failures" by the general standards of society. They ketp trying to find it until they did.

Dare, fail, then try again until you find what you want from life.

Mostly importantly, seek your own goal instead of one set for you by someone else. Chances are good that you will never reach a point where that other person (the goal-setter) will be totally satisfied. You need to do your own looking, your own daring, your own venturing out.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light on dark paths with bright goals.
Learn more at

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Give It Away And Get Even More

The miracle is this
the more we share,
the more we have.
- Leonard Nimoy, best known as Spock on the original Star Trek (1931- )

Why is that a miracle? Because most people don't believe it, think it's impossible.

The reason is that most people in the western world think that the only thing they have to share is money. Sharing money doesn't get you more.

Money isn't what this quote is about. It's about sharing ourselves. Sharing our time, our emotional energy, our caring, our compassion, our spiritual energy. Even sharing that part of us that makes us wh0 we are as individuals.

The more we give these things away to others, the more our cup of each is not just refilled, but it expands.

For those who believe that they are the most important person in their lives, they will never understand this quote and never accumulate the benefits it discusses.

I know what the transition from self-centred and self- absorbed is like. I made that transition. As a child, I looked after myself because no one else did. Only when I became a teacher in elementary grades did I come to experience what it's like to share of myself.

Now I give more than I feel I have to give and my cup refills each day.

There are those who think I am simple, a fool, for being the way I am. I ignore them as much as possible.

They can't understand. They are not competition for me because I offer them no opposition.

It's as if we function in different dimensions. Some day we will, for real.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, strivng to show that it can be done when you know how.
Learn more at

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Can We Conquer Or Prevent Fear?

"Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear."
- Mark Twain

Life does not exist without fear. Fear is a component of life.

A less intense version of fear, known as apprehension, prevents us from taking risks which could cost us our lives, our security or our food supply.

Fear could be described as avoidance of that which could cost us our lives, our future. However, much of what people fear does not deserve that amount of attention or emotional energy. The risk is more perceivd than real in many cases.

Some people fear terrorist attacks, which in most countries kill fewer people than lightning (which the same people often don't fear). Some people will not travel in an airplane because they fear a crash, but they will travel by car which, mile for mile, carries a much greater risk of death from a crash than air travel.

Many people are afraid of spiders, though they couldn't name one spider that could kill them, couldn't recognize a dangerous spider from a benign one (which most are) and don't even know if any spiders whose venom could kill live in their country.

Fear of poverty is one of the most common fears. So-called workaholics and other work-obsessed people reach that stage because they have a deep-seated fear of being poor. These people may have no idea what life is like for poor people in their country. They only know that they want no part of it. To them, fear equals failure and failure (or the perception of it) must be avoided at all costs.

An excess of fear is obsession or compulsion, which are recognized as psychological disorders. However, most fear itself is irrational because it is unnecessary, thus could be considered a psychological problem of its own.

Fear is only a problem when it is out of our control. Yet fear is within our control in most cases. Only our brain convinces us that we should fear or that we should not fear something. The brain can convince itself that something it previously feared should no longer be feared. This requires effort, concentration and determination on the part of the person who wants to get rid of the fear. But it is do-able and has been done by many people.

We understand what Mark Twain meant when he said that courage is the resistance or mastery of fear. What many of us don't understand is how within our reach such mastery is.

Resisting fear is a matter of making a decision to not fear something, then sticking with that decision no matter what the circumstances we find ourselves in. Use the natural apprehension we were born with and that we have learned. But don't fear that which doesn't deserve the sacrifice of that much life energy.

Give up your fears. Go ahead and try it. Don't be afraid. Your brain won't hurt you.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put fear in its place.
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Monday, January 01, 2007

Perseverance Wins Only If We Know The Goals

"Nothing in this world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of education derelicts. Perseverance and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
- Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth President of the United States (1923-1929).

While I agree with President Coolidge that perseverance is critical to getting past the rigors of life and achieving success at whatever we attempt, I question his conclusion.

Perseverance and determination keep us on the path that will get us to our goals, but only if we are on the right path.

They will not, on their own, solve the problems of the human race. For them to be effective, we must be on the right track to solve our problems. We need to have a plan that states clearly what the goals are and how we intend to reach them.

In many cases, we are not on the right track.

If we were, our prisons would not be filled with people with maldeveloped and underdeveloped social skills (as well as with emotional problems in many cases) and our psychiatric hospitals and doctors' offices would not be filled with those with maldeveloped and underdeveloped emotional skills (often with social problems as well). To solve the problems that have these results, we train more police, build more courts and prisons and train more doctors, psychologists and therapists. It's not working.

We expect adults to be able to cope with problems that play on their emotions or test their social skills. Yet these are actually taught to children and young adults very rarely. What most of us learn through our development of social and emotional skills is learned by accident, as a result of circumstances through which we must work ourselves.

Parents are best positioned to help with the emotional and social development of their children. Yet parenting is the only important job in society where amateurs, those who know very little other than what they were taught by their own parents, are allowed to supervise and conduct critical learning paths (of children).

Many parents freely admit that became parents without know much about what they were supposed to do. They try hard, but when they fail (their children have problems) they don't know what went wrong because they didn't know what they were supposed to do in the first place.

Some schools are forced to teach social and emotional skills out of desperation because that is the only way they can help their students survive to learn the intellectual skills and information that are on the curriculum. Most schools use disciplinary measures to deal with children with emotional or social problems.

Discipline never taught a child anything, except to avoid bad behaviour or to never get caught. Discipline never taught a child anything about social or emotional skills.

If you are asking yourself, as you read this, what social or emotional skills I could be talking about, you are the evidence to prove my point. You learned most of what you know about these by accident of circumstance, not through lessons consciously prepared and properly implemented.

Coolidge was right about determination and perseverance, but only if we have the knowledge and skills to know where we must go, both individually and as a society, and if we have the ability to stay on track without veering off on a tangent because someone with a bright idea and lots of propaganda behind him has the skills to take us away from our goals.

If all adults need social and emotional skills that many seem to lack, then these must be taught to all children, in school. To do that, these must be on the curriculum.

To get them on the curriculum, more people need to know why we need them taught and come together to get the necessary changes made.

If the world around you seems to be getting less caring and more dangerous, now you know why. If you want anything to improve, you need more than just determination and perseverance. You need a plan. And you need to be prepared to work together with others to implement that plan and set your people on the right track to achieve the goals you all want.

Addendum: If we have the expertise to fix broken people, we could use that expertise to teach young people what they need to know to avoid breaking. The knowledge is there, it's just used in the wrong places.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to give everyone the plan they need to make their world a better place.
Learn more at