Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Power Politics Attracts The Corruptible

It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power.
- David Brin, American author (1950- )

This quote struck me with such effect that it was like a bolt of lightning out of a blue sky. It explained for me something that has caused me considerable doubt and pondering for years.
Why do supposedly good politicians go bad? Brin says that it's the corruptibility of those who crave power in the first place that sets up the potential.

That's not to say that all politicians are corrupt or corruptible. But then, not all politicians seek the kind of power that puts them in the position of being able to indulge in corruption.

Politics has a long history of corrupt representatives, ever since the early days of democracy in ancient Greece after the "every man has a vote on every issue" period changed to the first kind of representative democracy and some senators could be bribed to vote as they payers wished.

For much of the last century politics in the great democracies was dominated by lawyers. Knowing the reputation of lawyers today, little more needs to be said to explain the outrageous corruption that prevailed in many places.

Democratic countries today are turning more to top level business people and academics. The advantage of academics is that they know how to think matters through and their original choice of profession would not have been influenced by a basic desire for wealth.

Business people, however, do not necessarily share the same fundamental moral code as academics. Even the lawyers have had to clean up their act a great deal to prevent the reputation of their profession from being further sullied.

While business people in government demonstrate the need for greed and power to some extent, as they have been accustomed to in business, lawyers in the same government are more apt to be in politics because of the recognition they receive, such as in the media. Fame take precedence over power as the driving force of many lawyers in government.

In Canada, national representatives who have served a minimum of six years in office receive a sizable pension for life once they are no longer in office. They don't enjoy great wealth when they are still in parliament, but they enjoy many options once they leave because they can depend on a secure income.

The problem of nominating the best people still exists. In pre-election nomination meetings, influence, prior service to the community and simple popularity tend to carry the day. The major criterion on the minds of most voting members is "Which one can win?"

Only when the main criterion is "Which candidate can best represent the interests of our community and our party?" will we have fewer corruptible representatives in government.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the complex issues of life a little easier to manage.
Learn more at

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Road To Success Leads Through Failure

Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the toughest lessons to learn, especially for those who live in the western world, is that our bodies were designed to work hard, to struggle, to overcome. This does not set well with people who were raised on the belief that the easy life was ahead, that leisure was the way of the future. We were designed to overcome, but it isn't necessary that we overcome difficulties that we could easily have avoided.

Ease and leisure were never the way of the future, except in the minds of those whose intention was to profit from designing and producing products to sell to us using the hook that our lives will be easier. Did dishwashers, computers or televisions make our lives better, considering all of the consequences that resulted from their use?

Technology gives us the opportunity to learn more, to grow, to expand who we are. But it comes at a cost. In some cases, the cost has been obesity, broken marriages, families with two working parents who still can't make ends meet and kids who play video games at home because their parents feel it's too dangerous for them to be alone on the streets. True, those are not immediate consequences, but downstream results of life changes that resulted from using these "essential" technologies.

Emerson's point is that it's all right to make mistakes, to experiment and fail, because life is about experimenting. That means that more learning comes from failure than from success. We can accept one change without buying into a series of life changes that sometimes result from it.
Success brings an end to growth for many people, whereas each failure gives an opportunity to rebuild ourselves better than ever before. Setbacks are opportunities for those who know how to rebuild themselves. These are not skills that are widely taught in schools.

What we must be cautious about is experimenting with things that could have tragic consequences. Usually that requires us to investigate the consequences that have resulted from other people doing something we anticipate doing ourselves. If they have caused too much grief, the risk must be assessed before launching into the new venture.

An example would be people who experiment with taking drugs. In most cases, people who begin taking illegal drugs have been encouraged to do so by others who want company (or sales). Often the first experiments are free offerings. Tobacco companies have done this outside of schoolyards--mostly recently in some African countries--giving free cigarettes to children as young as six years. Kids only a couple of years older than that have been offered free street drugs. Kids don't know the downside of taking street drugs.

These children and even adolescents and adults who try street drugs have usually not been advised about how using them has destroyed the lives and the futures of many people who used the same drugs before them. Very few people will experiment with a drug if they have met someone whose life and family have been destroyed by drug use.

Many people would say that "Common sense should prevail." It should. However, common sense is not innate to us at birth. All common sense (if there be any such thing) is taught commonly, to all people, usually in childhood. People don't use common sense if they have not been taught how to apply themselves to a decision about experimenting with something new.

At the rate we can see from newspapers and lists such as the Darwin Awards that people have not used common sense, we must conclude that it has not been taught to every child. Walk through supermarket aisles and you might believe that almost none of the people you see have been taught the common sense rules of sharing space with others.

Common sense is a series of life skills that should be included in the curriculum of every school district. Every one of those skills is more important and more useful than any given bit of learning in chemistry, mathematics or language. Every one is usable by every person who knows it.

Experiment with life, yes, but do so with some degree of caution and research so that tragedy is not a certainty for the future.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make human needs a necessary part of learning for every child.
Learn more at

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Has Lawbreaking Become A Social Norm?

Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.
- Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)

Most of us who are Baby Boomers or older grew up in a time when laws were to be obeyed. We knew what the laws were and it was our social (and family) responsibility to uphold them.

We didn't know much about those who freely and frequently broke laws because we didn't come in contact with them much. Recent studies in the US have shown that 90 percent of people today break laws frequently and without twinges of conscience. Most violations are minor, but they make laws in general seem like a social evil.

What changed? Why do we have so little respect for laws today compared to a couple of generations ago?

There are no simple answers to these questions, but I will try to simplify the complex answers and give you the opportunmity to think them through yourself.

Prior to the 1960s children were drilled formally and taught incidentally the range and scope of laws they were expected to obey, by parents, teachers and leaders of their respective church groups. In the interim, regular attendance at religious services dropped off dramatically, school curricula have been loaded to overflowing with "basic learning" information and skills and two parents working in most families have left little time for parental role modelling and direct teaching of the laws of their community and their nation.

As more children grew to be young adults who lacked knowledge about laws that affected them, more also became adults who were not clear about the moral obligations each person has to the social structure of their family and their community. In other words, they broke laws because they weren't certain the laws were all that important anyway or because they didn't know what the laws were.

Governments, reacting with shock to the increase in law breaking, passed more laws and bylaws. These became filled with details of specific examples of lawbreaking so that judges, magistrates and justices of the peace were left with fewer doubts as to what behaviours were illegal and what penalties should apply to each.

The plethora of laws to which each citizen must subscribe today is so complex that almost nobody knows what they all are. In their rush to create more laws and put more power into the hands of more police officers to catch more lawbreakers, the law makers neglected to provide clear and pervasive methods by which each child or adolescent would be able to learn the many laws he should abide by.

A teenager today may be able to do physics his parents don't understand, speak languages his parents have seldom heard and know a huge amount of information his parents were never exposed to, but he may not know the laws of his community and his country because most of them never made it onto the curriculum of his school.

Moreover, he may read the pages of any newspaper to find many examples of where people have broken laws. He will know many schoolmates and acquaintances in his community who break laws freely without being caught. Even television programs deal mostly with the most violent laws, seldom with those that affect most people on a daily basis.

A young person may even see a police officer speeding down a city street or highway on their way to a coffee break or to signout for their shift. He knows that the same police officer may catch and charge him the following day for speeding on the same street.

There are many laws that are never enforced by the police because they will not be supported in court or because the courts have many more important cases to attend to than minor cases that will "waste" precious time.

Like anything else in life, if we want people to obey laws, we need to teach those laws to children before they get old enough to find out that breaking them might just work. They need to be taught the gritty details about what is wrong, about the consequences that result when people break laws. They need to know the harm that lawbreaking does and that the harm is wrong.

Not teaching about drug laws because we fear that kids will find out about drugs and become addicts, for example, has no evidence to support it. Kids who know the truth about drugs before they are exposed to drugs on the street (often by the age of six years) tend to avoid the drugs.

By the same token, kids who know the details about sex and the responsibilities and consequences of pregnancies have a much lower incidence of teenage pregnancies and often do not have close relationships with members of the opposite sex until later than their more ignorant peers. Where do laws and sex come together? Ask a 16 year old father or mother who has life-altering responsibilities for a child they didn't want but will have to look after and be fully responsible for during the next 20+ years.

Making laws is one thing. Teaching them to everyone who must obey them is quite another.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the complexities of life clear and concise.
Learn more at

Stuff You Didn't Know About Your Skin

And You Thought You Knew About Skin

The largest by far of our body organs, skin ranks among the least understood by most people. Most of us know about UVB radiation causing skin cancer, but not so many know that that is only when an excessive amount of sunlight strikes the skin over a long period of time. At that, only after many years does the cancer appear, often as much as two decades or more.

Skin cancer mostly appears at the former sites of bad sunburns. Our skin needs sunlight—about 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight per day—in order that our bodies can make vitamin D, which we can't do on our own.

Vitamin D, among its many purposes, keeps us from suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a condition we might call depression or the winter blahs because those of us in cold climates tend to stay inside more when the outside is cold.

SAD is a real threat for almost everyone in areas that get very cold in winter. Even in the middle of the day, when sunlight is brightest, we can't get enough ultraviolet radiation to help us make the vitamin D we require for good physical and emotional health because of the sun's low angle.

We must either supplement with OTC (over the counter) tablets of vitamin D or use a lamp that mimics the sun by giving off UV rays directly onto our skin.The amount of vitamin D supplement varies considerably from one person to another.

Not enough has been studied of the effects of low levels of vitamin D in our systems to know how many of the eccentric, obsessive or just excessive behaviours we see during winter in people who live in cold climates may be attributed directly to vitamin D deficiency.

Nor do we know for certain how the deficiency may affect our personal relationships with spouse, family, friends or workmates. However, when something seems to be wrong about the behaviour of someone close to us during the wintertime, a suggestion to consult a doctor or pharmacist about taking a vitamin D supplement might be in order.

Every time we look into a mirror we see this large body organ, our skin, but we tend to think of what we see as "me" rather than as one part of us that may require attention other than by using cosmetics. For example, dry skin indicates insufficient water is reaching skin cells. Drinking more water is a more efficient and cheaper method of rehydrating skin than covering it repeatedly with topical lotions.

Here are several more facts about skin that few people know.

The skin of an average adult weighs in at nine pounds and contains more than 11 miles of blood vessels. Its mass alone makes it worth taking seriously.

In hot weather, the skin releases as much as three gallons (over 10 litres) of water each day in the form of sweat. (Okay, perspiration, for those more sensitive readers, but it still comes from sweat glands.) As water is the major component of every part of the body, not replacing lost water sufficiently will impact health.

Body odour begins with the release of a different kind of sweat, a fatty liquid secreted by the apocrine glands which are found mostly around the armpits, genitals and anus. Bacteria on the skin eat the fatty stuff and leave behind a smell that is considered unpleasant in western cultures(but not in all cultures).

Human breasts mostly consist of fat, as they are a modified form of the apocrine gland. Yes, they are mostly bags of fat.

Some people are born without skin ridges we call fingerprints. They have rare genetic defects known as Naegali syndrome or dermatopathia pigmentosa reticularis.

Our atmosphere at any given moment contains about one billion tons of dead skin and other organic matter (such as hair). The skin of each person shucks off about 50,000 cells every minute. House dust mostly consists of dead skin cells.

The skin contains about five different kinds of receptors that account for our sense of touch. Which are the most sensitive parts of the human body?

The lips (the most sensitive), fingertips, palms, lips, tongue, nipples, penis and clitoris have a kind of receptor known as Meissner corpuscles. They respond to pressure as light as the weight of a fly--that's the insect variety--about 20 milligrams.

Do blind people really develop greater sensitivity to touch and hearing? The visual cortex of blind people rewires itself in the brain to respond to sounds and touch stimuli. Blind people "see" (process information coming into the brain) the world through touch and sound.

The term "in the buff" to refer to being naked began in the 17th century in England where soldiers wore leather tunics known as buffs. Their light brown colour supposedly looked to some like the colour of English buttocks.

White skin developed between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago when darker-skinned peoples moved to colder climates in Europe and Asia. The lighter skin colour (less of the colouring agent melanin) allowed northerners to absorb more of the sun's then-precious ultraviolet, making them healthier.

Finally, a 16th century anatomy book by Andreas Vesalius, called DeHumani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body), had a cover topped with human skin. Harvard Law School, Brown University and the Cleveland Public Library all have books with covers topped with human skin stripped from executed prisoners or the poor.

Don't even ask about reprints.

(Primary data source: Discover magazine, February, 2007)

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about real and inexpensive solutions to communityproblems most people think are inevitable evils of modern society. Theyaren't. We just have to look in the right place.
Learn more at
Contact author Bill Allin at

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Better Life Is One Decision Away

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.
- William James

This statement will mean little or nothing to most people who have not experienced the effect of exercising this discovery. It is as life-altering as James suggests.

We all understand that our life can change in a flash if we are suddenly struck with a disease, if our spouse become disabled or if our business goes bankrupt. Those are all outside of our control to a great extent.

We also understand that our life can change instantly if we make a bad choice or decision, such as to take an addictive drug, to rob a store or to kill someone. Those are all choices that bring about negative consequences. We can also make positive decisions that will improve our life ever after.

We each grew up in a family and community environment that shaped our life from its earliest days. We made friends or enemies, faced dilimmas about religion and God, worked to make a living and develop a life based on that combination of environmental influences and principles. However, as adults we have choices that do not apply to children. They can change our life as quickly as a tragedy.

We all understand that we must build a new life for ourselves if we divorce, if we get fired from a job, if our spouse dies or if we experience some other personal tragedy. While those are forced on us, we also have the power to make decisions that will help us build a new and better life for ourselves if we can't stand our present one.

We can be whoever we want to be by recreating ourselves. That doesn't mean we can be rich or have the talent of an artist or date a movie star necessarily. It means that we can make decisions that can improve the quality of our lives. The quality, not the quantity.

We can find a new mate, have different friends, prepare for an occupation different from what we have or even be a different person than we are today. All it requires is a decision and the perseverance to follow through with it.

The first step is to understand that we have the power within us to make those decisions and have those kinds of changes in our lives. The second step is to live the role of the new person we want to be.

That may mean avoiding some people who have been friends, eating differently, forming new habits, learning how to find, meet and make new friends. It means change. Without the commitment to change our life and all the consequences that go with that decision, the change will not take place.

The third step is to understand that we can't do it alone. Most major life changes depend on others to help guide us to a life that is not familiar to us. We can ask. Many people are only too glad to help someone who sincerely wants to improve their lfie. But they must ask. It's surprising how people will help us if we only dare to ask.

No time is too late for change. People in their 80s are writing their first book or dabbing paint onto canvas for the first time. People in their 60s and even 70s are attending college. People who had trouble getting along with others during their working years have found ways to make many new friends.

It's never too late to be happy. It's never too late to make a decision for a better life. It's never too late to live a more fulfilling life.

All it takes is a decision and the determination to see it through. And the gumption to ask questions of the people who can help us most.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make great things possible for those who want them.
Learn more at

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Boring Meetings Aren't Really Wasted Time

"A meeting moves at the speed of the slowest mind in the room. In other words, all but one participant will be bored, all but one mind underused."
- Dale Dauten

As common as meetings are in business, they tend to accomplish very little. The reason is as Dauten stated.

The tone of meetings tends to be pitched at the lowest common denominator, the one or ones who will understand everything that is happening at the slowest rate. The others usually become distracted.

I doubt that all minds but one are underused. Wandering minds tend to focus on other matters than those that are the focus of the meeting. Or they rest, which is beneficial over the long term because they are ready to do more work once the regular schedule begins again.

Tangents and distractions in meetings can be useful as well. They give people time to think about matters they would not have enough time to consider carefully during their regular work hours. A mind that is underused on the main topic of the meeting may not necessarily be wasting time.

The question that many meeting leaders have is whether ot move forward faster, thus leaving the slower thinkers behind. As with grade school classes that tend to wait for the slowest student, thus leaving the faster thinkers to become distracted and create discipline problems, most meetings move along at a pace that the slowest people can stay up with.

The solution would be to move the meeting faster, then have review meetings with the people who might have missed some of the goings on because they got lost. That kind of personal attention can itself be beneficial to an employee who has trouble keeping up with the faster thinkers but is otherwise a good worker. It boosts self esteem that the leader takes time to give personal attention. Classrooms work well that way too.

What is important is whether the objective(s) of the meeting is accomplished once everyone has had an opportunity to go over the material presented, either in the meeting or privately afterward. The goal is more important than the route each person gets there.

People who think quickly can become mentally tired faster than others. Thus they need a mental rest more often. Mettings can provide that rest because they don't have to maintain a frantic pace they may set for themselves during their regular work hours.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective.
Learn more at

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Small Childhood Experiences Can Become Fears Later

"Too many folks go through life running from something that isn't after them."
- Anonymous

All phobias, almost all fears (except bullying and abuse) and almost all worrying fit within this statement.

The reality is that most of us have almost nothing worth worrying about or warranting our fear. Worry is, at best, non-productive use of our energy and fears are harmful both emotionally and physically. Why do we do these destructive things to ourselves?

We have a natural instinct for fear, which social scientists call apprehension. Recent research suggests that it may even be associated with part of our genetic code. Going back to the days before homo sapiens emerged and for many years after our species began, we had good reason to be apprehensive of animals and situations that could kill us or cause us severe harm.

While that kind of apprehension is less critical today, it still exists for people in some neighbourhoods where violence and personal assaults are more common than in most places. It's also wise for us to avoid such things as hot stove elements, driving while drunk and teasing free-roaming dogs we meet on the street. We have a need for caution, but usually not fear.

Most children today are inadvertently taught fear by their parents and their schools. In the name of safety, children are made aware of dangers that could befall them when they are not supervised by adults. In order to make their point in a fashion that will be remembered for as long as the children live, parents and teachers may exaggerate the harm that could come to the children. That exaggeration is remembered by some and it becomes fear or phobia.

Some children incorporate frightful experiences they have watching movies into their psyches. A movie where is cobra attacks a movie character might develop years later into a fear of snakes. A movie about escape from a prison through a tunnel might develop into a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). A movie about a dog that attacks humans might develop into a fear of dogs.

A parent who fears insects or spiders can easily pass that fear along to her children by role modelling.

When people, especially as children, experience frightening events then do not have an adult they depend on to discuss the situation with them to help them to put their experience into perspective (you don't need to fear cats or tall buildings), these events could easily develop into fear later.

Getting rid of a fear or a phobia as an adult is very difficult. Discussing every possible circumstance in which a child has experienced fear that could develop into real fear later is challenging and a burden for parents and teachers, but the long term benefits to the children are immeasurable. It simply needs to be done.

Sometimes parents need to put themselves into the positions of their children and imagine what their recent experiences could mean to them later in order to understand whether some intervention is necessary at the time to prevent an exaggerated form of fear later on.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to prepare parents for the enormous job and responsibilities they have that many know too little about.
Learn more at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Mediocre Ideas Promoted Well Find Success

"A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one."
- Mary Kay Ash

Look no further than popular politicians.

The cosmetics industry (of which Mary Kay is a master) is a prime example of a mediocre idea behind which is enthusiasm (in the form of relentless advertising) that makes it one of the most popular industries in the western world. So successful has the industry been with its enthusiastic advertising that many have come to believe that cosmetics are critical to their lives.

In fact, most cosmetics are unnecessary if a person bathes properly. A recent study in the UK showed that a majority of men (56 %) preferred women to avoid cosmetics because they make a woman seem too "artificial."

The fashion industry also depends heavily on its enthusiastic advertising and promotion to make people believe that the new clothing they bought last season simply won't do for today's world. People throw or give away good clothing in order to buy new so that they can be up with the new fashions they see advertised.

To gain popular appeal, any idea must be solidly backed by enthusiasm. If the enthusiasm is unflagging and persistent, the idea will succeed eventually. Think of how often you see the same commercials on television within a short period of time. Repetition pays.

The continued assault of each of us with email spam advertising how we can enlarge our body parts pays testimony to the fact that enthusiasm and persistence pays off. People are buying those products or the spam would not be sent.

The world's most popular print book continues to be the Bible, which is solidly supported not by massive numbers of Christian book buyers but a much smaller number of enthusiastic promoters of Christian ideals, for which the Bible contains the founding principles.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective.
Learn more at

Monday, February 19, 2007

Can Cancer Be cured Without Drugs?

All any drug amounts to is tweaking the incoming data. And you have to be really self-centered or pathetic to be satisfied with simply tweaking the incoming data.
- William Gibson, science fiction writer (1948- )

What is he talking about? Does Gibson mean prescribed drugs or illegal drugs?

He means both. Medical doctors know and everyone else should know that all medical science does is to help the body do what it doesn't do for itself. Furthermore, the brain controls virtually all activity in terms of protecting the body from invaders and ridding the body of invaders that manage to pass its primary defences.

Most drugs that a doctor prescribes tweak some part of the brain to get it to do what it should have done without the drug, but did not. Usually this involves the immune system, but often it involves other organs that have not produced enough of some kind of chemical to defend the body against something that doesn't belong inside of us.

Anyone with enough control over their own brain should be able to coax the brain to do what it should do without taking medication. The catch is that most of us do not have this much control. Some people can control their heart rate and blood pressure, for example, while most of us cannot.

Could we control cancer within our own bodies? Some say yes, but medical science won't admit to anything that almost everyone can't do without much effort. In other words, we may have the power within us to cure our own cancer, but since everyone can't tap into that power (and the power itself does not require any pharmaceuticals) it's unlikely that we will learn much about this power in the near future.

When it comes to illegal drugs, the mind-altering kind, they simply provide an excess of one or more chemicals that the brain provides for naturally. Again, anyone with enough knowledge and control of their own brain could produce the same kinds of effects that mind-altering drugs do. Few do. Pharmaceutical companies will suppress or vigorously oppose any initiative to teach us how to produce our own versions of what they sell for profit.

Runners and those who do strenuous exercises develop a state known as "runner's high" which mimics the effects of marijuana and other feel-good drugs. Nuns deep in prayer to God (a state likened to a trance) have been found to have brain activity in the reward centre, meaning that the brain has provided the kind of relaxation and feeling of well-being that some drugs give. Their communion with God is a natural high.

It is possible to make our own brain work for us to do what it hasn't necessarily been required to do before. That requires considerable study and practice.

This is not to suggest that doctor-prescribed rugs have no value. On the contrary, prescribed medications do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves, given our present circumstances. Most of us don't know how to use our brain effectively to make ourselves healthy.

Gibson wonders if we should be "satisfied with simply tweaking the incoming data," meaning in an artificial way by taking drugs. It might serve us better to learn how to tweak our own brains to get them to provide the full services for which they were designed and are capable.

On the other hand, Gibson, American-born but living in Canada for nearly four decades, best known for his novel Neuromancer , as a science fiction writer might be suggesting that we take our natural brain abilities and enhance them ourselves to become something more than we are now.

Coiner of the term cyberspace and father of the cyberpunk subgenre of scinece fiction, Gibson knows that our brain is the least understood and most underutilized part of our body. He sees its potential but doesn't want that potential destroyed or depreciated by drugs.

"The future is here. It's just not widely distributed yet," he said. The future won't become widely distributed by our increasing dependence on drugs.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the potential of the future a little clearer than it is with drugs.
Learn more at

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Struggle To Be Remembered By History

You can't leave footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt. And who wants to leave buttprints in the sands of time?
- Bob Moawad, Chairman and CEO of Edge Learning Institute

Addressing the charming imagery, it seems that many people would be satisfied to leave their buttprints in the sands of time. Only to have them disappear with the first breeze or wave.

At some point in their lives, almost everyone in every society becomes a follower, one who accepts what the leaders dish out because they believe they have no power or influence to change "what is and must be." For some this happens in the early years of childhood when parents teach them to be quiet and obedient, to follow the rules and to avoid being rude to others. Leaving footprints means insulting someone, usually someone who gets lots of attention. The insult may not be intended or justified, but it happens.

Others learn to stay in line and obey in school, where differences from the norm are discouraged in many cases, unless they are of the intellectual variety. Most of the rest learn to be followers when they reach the workforce, where individuality, independent thinking and acting without approval are strongly discouraged in most places of employment.

A few struggle to have their own small business, to be their own boss. At least 85 percent of these fail within the first five years because the business owners have not learned to think independently, do not have the spirit of an entrepreneur (who was inevitably a rebel in school and a troublemaker before reaching school age).

That leaves a very small percentage of people who have the internal strength to leave their footprints in the sands of time. Most of those suffer social and psychological abuse at the hands of the socially and politically powerful of their time, people who manage to wield their power because they have the ability to keep the noses of most they encounter to the grindstone. To keep them following.

Those few unique individuals who survive the social pressure deserve our recognition because they survived when most others caved. Merely surviving without finding themselves in prison or a psych unit warrants our acknowledgement, at least. Almost all of the anti-establishment leaders of the 1960s, for example, became powerful leaders within the business or academic establishment ten to 20 years later. For which should we remember them?

Within that group of survivors a few find a way to specialize by becoming expert at a skill, such as painting, acting or an athletic endeavour. They work every available hour to rise above the masses of their respective fields, often at the sacrifice of family or social life. When they reach the level where they really can leave their footprints in the sands of time, they have followers and admirers. They still always have enemies and naysayers, but everyone who succeeds at anything and gets public recognition gains a following if they want it.

In a world of nearly seven billion people, how many of us have the ability to leave our footprints in the sands of time?

There is always room for those with the desire and determination. The more of us that make it, the more of us can offer mutual support.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the tiny path out of the forest of conformity.
Learn more at

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prejudice: Its Deep and Early Causes

"I'm interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice."
- Clint Eastwood

What right does a Hollywood type have to an opinion on such an important subject? As much right as anyone else. Being a man involved with the public in many ways for so many years, Eastwood likely has a better perspective about how people act than most of us because he has been exposed to so many insecure people in filmland. Hollywood is a Mecca for insecure people.

Assume his observation is correct for the purpose of this discussion. What we have are two important parts to his statement: insecure people and those with extreme prejudice.

Why would anyone be insecure? A genetic defect? A nasty mother? Abuse as a child? The number of people who suffer from feelings of insecurity suggests that the cause is more pervasive than any of these. Almost everyone feels insecure about some things, or they should because they cannot know enough about every problem or situation they face to be able to cope with it effectively and efficiently.

The kind of insecurity that Eastwood was speaking about is basic, far deeper than not knowing enough about the kind of flat screen TV to buy. This kind goes back to childhood, specifically to unfulfilled needs.

A baby spends nearly a year in the womb before birth, 40 weeks in constant touch with its mother. After birth, the need for constant touch continues, but the amount of touch time between mother and child decreases dramatically. As the child gets older, the need continues, though not to as great an extent as before birth. The child can look after itself in childhood passtimes. A fair amount of touching is still needed. It continues throughout our lives.

That need for touch in adults is vastly underrated by most people. How it affects single people (unattached to a cohabiting other of any kind), married people who become separated or married people whose spouse dies or becomes alienated in another way is seldom addressed to the extent it deserves. A man whose wife leaves him may be a bomb waiting to explode because he doesn't know how to cope with the loss of touch as well as the loss of a way of life.

Studies have shown that we each need the equivalent of 12 hugs per day to be satisfied with our lives. The ideal would be 18 hugs. But who has time for that?

Most of us do, if we make time because we know how important touch is to our welfare--both emotional and physical health. It doesn't always have to be a hug. It could be a touch while passing in the hall, holding hands while having coffee or walking together and sleeping next to each other. A kiss and huge when leaving each other and when meeting again counts as two each.

An insufficient amount of touch will make anyone insecure to some extent. The degree will vary and it's hard to measure. In general, all unhappy people lack sufficient touch from a loved one to satisfy them. Those who have extreme prejudice have accommodated themselves to insufficient touch for many years. They may even deny their need for touch.

A prejudiced person needs someone to hurt, just as bullies do. The unfulfilled need for touch for far too long has caused them to want to hurt someone else the way they have suffered themselves. They seldom want to talk about how they hurt or about their need.

Prejudice and bullying function at an emotional level, which is where our need for touch comes in. Lack of sufficient touch shows itself in emotional hurt, which may demonstrate itself in inappropriate behaviours. Sometimes the inappropriate behaviours involve touching the other person.

Now you know something about human needs that most people do not. Use your knowledge wisely and productively.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring important human needs out of the closet.
Learn more at

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Life IS Overcoming Problems

"The problem is not that there are problems. The problem is expecting otherwise and thinking that having problems is a problem."
- Theodore Rubin

So, here's the problem (so to speak). Most of us tend to believe that having problems causes us to remain removed from a better life, one without problems. The problem is not our problems, but what we believe is a better life.

A life without problems is either death or the slippery slope on the way to it. Our bodies and our brains are both built to tackle problems, to face down challenges, to overcome difficulties on the road of life. We are built to struggle.

If we do not struggle with problems or some form of challenges, both physical and mental, on a regular basis, our abilities and our faculties atrophy and degrade until there isn't enough left of us to maintain our health.

Those who do not work all parts of their bodies regularly become achy, lame and weak in their old age or before. Those who do not exericse their brain regularly fall into senility. These are proven facts. For most of us, these failures of our physical and mental abilities in middle and old ages are preventable.

Our immune systems need a good workout, especially when we are young, to develop immunities against various diseases. Our immune systems are built t0 withstand many kinds of illness in childhood and early adulthood so that they will be strong as we get older. In other words, we are designed to get sick as children and adolescents. And to recover, building our immune system's defences as we do so.

Our emotional development is likewise designed for hurt as well as for joy. Those who do not experience much in the way of emotional hurt during their lives do not develop an equal scope for joy and happiness when it presents itself. Emotions are like a pendulum, they swing as far one way as the other. If development of emotions is hampered in one direction, it fails to develop much in the other. People who experience great tragedy and hurt also have the ability to experience joy far greater than those who have "sailed through life."

Don't curse your problems. They give you the opportunity to live life to the fullest, to experience happiness and fulfillment. Without them, your life would be relatively dull.

No one says you should enjoy your problems. That would be a psychological problem in itself. But you can face them with some degree of equanimity knowing that they will pass and happiness will be available to you in the future.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective.
Learn more at

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Why You Won't Likely Become Senile

"It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides."
- George Sand

We come to believe that most people who live long enough will become forgetful, absent minded, even confused about many things. We call it senility.

Isn't senility an inevitable disease for most people? No. It's the most preventable disease we know about. Senility is the direct result of mental inactivity for too long.

Most of us know that our muscles atrophy if they are not used. A person with a broken leg, for example, might find the muscle mass in the healed leg much reduced when the cast (or other device) comes off from what it was before the break. Senility is nothing more than atrophy of the brain.

The brain atrophys when it isn't used enough for problem solving and heavy thinking. Our brains, like the rest of our bodies, are built for heavy work. If they don't get enough work regularly, they lose the potential and strength they once had.

"Use it or lose it" applies as much to the brain as it does to the rest of our bodies.

Heavy brainwork even uses up a fair amount of energy, about 31 percent as much as heavy lifting. But we can think for longer than we can lift heavy weights, so thinking is good exercise.
Watching television is not brain exercise. The brain gets less exercise when we watch TV than it does when we dream.

A working brain solves problems, creates new work or considers the various factors that influence a given situation. Television does that work for us, which is why some programs for adults aim at a mental age of early adolescence. Our brain gets almost no work when we watch television.

Senility can be turned around if caught in time and if the person wants to change. However, it requires considerable dedication and determination for a person who is not used to using his brain to work it heavily for an extended period of time every day. Reading a newspaper is good if the person thinks about each item he reads. Reading books is another excellent form of exercise for the brain.

Nature provides that we can become something more than we ever were before as we age. When our bodies stop performing the way they used to when we were younger, our brain should be able to take over and turn us into a new and magnificent person.

Those who have accomplished this change know how dramatic it is and how much better they feel about themselves while their bodies get achy and creeky.

The biggest hurdle is to persuade a lazy brain to exercise when it has been so comfortably ensconced in lassitude for so long.

But it's worth the mental exercise to avoid becoming a breathing vegetable in a nursing home for the last years of our lives.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make our senior years interesting and fulfilling.
Learn more at

Monday, February 12, 2007

What Did Thoreau Know About Happiness?

"The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run."
- Henry David Thoreau, American philosopher (1817–1862)

Thoreau was never a rich man. Rich people and those who aspire to be rich believe that any amount of sacrifice of life is worth the investment to gain wealth. That includes their time, their work, their families, their values, their relaxation.

As western society ages, more and more people believe that wealth is the measure of a person, worth any exchange of what Thoreau called life. Not wealth itself, exactly, but what wealth can buy so that the wealthy person can show it off to others and what influence wealth can exercise over others who admire it greatly.

Not everyone in the world subscribes to that way of thinking. As much as Americans want to believe that the people the US calls terrorists only envy the wealth that US citizens have, very few (if any) of them do. They and many of their people consider western obsession with wealth to be a perversion of the purpose of why we are on this planet.

We in the west live our lives to earn enough money to buy the products that advertisers brainwash us into believing that we need so that we can be satisfied and happy.

Look how happy we are. The manufacturers, our politicians and our social leaders tell us that we must be happy, that everyone who does not live in a rich country must be unhappy.

If those important people tell us that we are happy, then we must be happy. After all, we reward them well for telling us the purpose of life. If we pay them so much to tell us what life is all about, then we might as well believe them.

Thoreau was poor, what would he know about happiness?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective.
Learn more at

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What Those Miserable People Don't Know

"You can be pleased with nothing when you are not pleased with yourself."
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Most of us have wondered from time to time about people who never seem to be pleased with anything. To them, no one does a good job because "it's what you get paid for."

No one reaches high in their list of favourite or favoured people because everyone has too many faults or makes too many mistakes.
Sometimes these people can be happy only when they are drunk. But then, the ones who are "bad drunks" become abusers of others such as their own spouses.

Many will turn to various forms of addiction, be it drugs, gambling, prostitution, or even depression where they must be treated with legally prescribed drugs. Many of them remain smokers despite the dire health warnings. For them the world is simply not a happy place.

Some never watch the news on television because "it's all bad anyway." Others become news addicts, believing that by knowing more about the biased reporting of events put out by their favourite news sources, they are ahead of others at gatherings around the water cooler or the bar.

Lady Montagu said that they are simply not pleased with themselves, so they can't be pleased with others. That doesn't go far enough. It would be more accurate to say that they don't respect themselves and likely don't really like themselves. After all, who can like anyone who is always negative and that includes themselves?

Pessimists, if we want to call them that, seldom make it out of their depressive state as they age. A few manage through a religious epiphany. Others may be fortunate enough to find someone who cares enough about them to implement intervention strategies.

There's the answer. They need to believe that someone cares about them more than for what they can give to the others. Many times they have not found such people through the first few decades of their lives. The deficit likely began with their parents who thought that their parenting responsibilities were fulfilled when they provided food, clothing and shelter for their offspring.

You can make someone's life meaningful by caring. But be warned: it's not an easy project or one quickly accomplished. Remember, it took them many years to sink into the state they are in. No one can accomplish an attitude adjustment overnight.

But if you are successful, the rewards will be far greater than you could imagine unless you have experienced them.

Begin by listening to them. Give them your time and your attention. They will begin to like you for that reason alone. Then you can show you care in other ways because they will tell you about things that matter to them. You can change their lives.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help you make the world a better place for at least one more person.
Learn more at

Saturday, February 10, 2007

We're Living Longer, But Not Better

You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.
- H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Since Mencken's time medical science has learned how to extend even the length of a person's life. Yet despite all these possibilities to expand and enhance their lives, not many people go out of their way to do it. The ones who do tend to believe that everyone does. However, the evidence does not support this conclusion.

While we tend to live longer than the generations before us, that is more often because medical science has found ways to keep us from dying than because we as individuals have taken the proper measures to live longer.

The depth and width of life of many people aren't receiving much attention either. With television and the internet serving as forms of entertainment now, more and more people use them for that purpose rather than to make their lives better, richer, fuller. While many people use TV and the internet as rich resources of knowledge, they become time wasters for those who simply want to waste theirs.

Other people believe that their lives will be better if they spend money--on furniture, home, vehicle, addictive or illegal passtimes, entertainment, whatever money can be spent on that they have seen advertised or that they have heard about.

Expanding the depth and width of our lives is not about spending money, but about investing time and energy. We grow by doing, not be watching, by making not be being made.

Our brains and bodies are constructed to work, to exercise, to stretch and work their way around problems and projects that we have not overcome before. They atrophy when they are not exercised regularly.

Growing old to a more advanced age than our ancestors is not such a great thing when living longer means suffering from senility and a creaking body for more years than they did. Joining fellow patients lining the walls of nursing homes for years at a time just to catch a glimpse of someone doing something different is not an enhanced old age.

We need to teach these lessons to children and adolescents before they lose their desire to stretch their minds and bodies to continually become more than they are.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make our older generations into wiser and healthier seniors.
Learn more at

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How To Make Big Problems Seem Small

"The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt."
- Thomas Merton, American Trappist monk (1915–1968)

Everyone has problems they consider to be severe. They may or may not be constant stressors, but when they come along they are as severe for one person as for another.

It doesn't really matter how important or significant a problem is. If a small problem exists in isolation of others problems, it becomes the most important problem and has the same effect on one person as a critical problem has on another person.

Everyone suffers from problems. Whether the problem would be forgotten within a month or would continue (even in memory) indefinitely, the bearer of the problem sees it as severe. Future resolutions of problems seem unimportant to a person who is suffering from and worrying about today's problems.

Those who try to hide from problems close themselves off from situations that might aggravate their emotions. Emotions are the part of us where we suffer, so shielding the emotions is thought by some to prevent suffering. But by shutting themselves off from the potential consequences of problems, people also shut themselves off from the realities around them. They lose their grasp of realities of life.

They come to believe that the tiny world they live in is the same as (or should be the same as) the one others live in. They want others ourside of their tiny protected world to live by the same set of rules and understandings as they live by.

Rather than hiding from problems, we need to face them down and feel the accomplishment of conquering them. We can keep in mind that every problem we have will be solved eventually. Every one. Persistent problems such as physical disabilities we can work around so that they no longer become disabilities but instead become opportunities to better ourselves in other ways.
How can we lessen the effects of our problems? By helping others with theirs. Most of us don't have to go far from our own homes to find others with problems far more severe than our own.

First of all, finding others with problems far worse than our own makes ours seem less severe to us. Second, helping others with their problems causes us to neglect the emotional stress that our own problems cause us.

That one-two combination may be found in most or all of the people you know who never seem to suffer from their problems the way others do. They have problems, like everyone, but all they have time for is solving them, not worrying about them. They are too busy offering help to others with more important problems to worry about themselves.

Unless a problem persists because another person with emotional instability or a legal or phsysical disability themselves, most of us forget our most severe problems a few months after they cease to be stressors for us. Can you remember the problems you worried about a year ago?

Little problems seem big if we have no big problems to worry us. Big problems seem insignificant if we busy ourselves helping those with problems more severe than our own.

That leaves helping others as the solution to finding relief to our problems. That may not be intuitive, but it's true. It's one of the mysteries of human nature. It's works.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make our little problems that seem big into little problems that we don't worry about.
Learn more at

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Busywork Might Bankrupt Your Employer

"Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing."
- Thomas Edison

Te term busywork likely came along after Edison's time. However the concept would not have fully developed until a little before his lifetime. Before Edison's time, people had to produce or they would starve or be fired from their work because production could be measured by product produced or mission completed.

The concept of busywork reached its peak in Soviet bloc countries and their allies, where the saying became popular "We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us." What workers perceived as being significant was that they appeared to be doing something when the boss came along. The fact that little was accomplished mattered not because the boss likely didn't do much either except to obstruct the process so that nothing could be done efficiently.

People tend to care less about the quality of their work and the financial success of their employer when the product of their work brings them no reward other than a pay cheque. In larger companies, the work ethic sometimes develops where employees work for their cheque.

This situation reached it peak in western countries during the 1970s when workers in automobile manufacturing plants demanded huge raises, to which the companies agreed, but their production couldn't increase to meet the added cost. In that case, even conscientious workers who were more interested in their pay cheque than in the benefits their employer received from their production cost their employers dearly. (Today US auto makers can't afford the cost of pensions that resulted from those high wages.)

"Seeming to do," as Edison put it, is the best way to put yourself out of work because the employer always suffers financially. The demise of the Soviet empire is the world's greatest example.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put the important things in life into perspective.
Learn more at

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Harm Does Not Interest Them

"Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them."
- TS Eliot, American-born British critic and poet (1888-1965)

This is a different take on the motivation of people who seek power. Eliot implies that power seekers are fundamentally insecure, thus seek ways to make themselves feel important.

I would put it slightly differently. I would say that these insecure people seek power to make themselves feel important in the eyes of others, so that others will see them as important. If they can't feel important within themselves, then receiving the respect that power accords will satisfy them.

This is a stretch when we think of people such as presidents of the USA or CEOs of powerful corporations. But then, those people are consumate professionals who have the skills to disguise what they don't want others to know and display what they do want them to see.

Let's move away from power and focus on ostentacious purchases. Why must Hollywood movie stars live in homes that are many times larger than our own? Do they require more space to run around before bed? They might say it's for entertaining, but that can be done easier (and porbably cheaper) when the star uses the facilities of a major hotel that is set up to handle such events. No, they just feel they want something grandiose to show off. The adulation of others makes them feel more secure.

Does an expensive Mercedes Benz drive or ride or park any better than a much less expensive Italian or American car? Maybe not, but their owners believe they are better because they get more notice from others by owning them.

Everyone who reaches a postion of power and many who own expensive possessions have caused some harm to others along the way. They don't care about the others because they consider their defeat or their subsequent poverty to be the consequence of the way that business is operated. Only the winners count.

When everyone in parliament or Congress is healthy and most are fairly wealthy, health care suffers more than any other part of government because sick people are losers to the politicians. President Bush plans to balance the US budget within five years by cutting back on health care funding. The poor health of his own people doesn't matter so long as his military has the money to kill or maim as many of "the enemy" as possible.

As Eliot said, the harm they do does not interest them. Feeling important is what matters.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make sense of the rat race so we can fix what is broken before it is destroyed totally.
Learn more at

Monday, February 05, 2007

Should We Hang For Our thoughts?

There is no man so good, who, were he to submit all his thoughts and actions to the laws, would not deserve hanging ten times in his life.
- Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

For most of us, the thoughts would convict us.

For some of us, the thoughts would be of retribution for hurts or perceived hurts committed by others against us. We suffer, they should pay. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), many of the hurts we perceive against us were not intended by the perpetrators. Maybe they were thoughtless gestures or senseless words spoken in haste or anger. Maybe they were selfish thoughts that became words that were regretted later.

For some of us, the thoughts would be of committing crimes. The crimes may be regarding vengeance, but they may also be of doing things which would benefit us financially, personally, sexually or socially.

Most of us don't follow through on those thoughts. However, an increasingly large number of people do. They break laws about drugs or prostitution, for example. Others, driven by financial need--often it's to get money to buy drugs-- commit robbery, which sometimes develops into murder or other forms of violence.

More than one in ten US citizens is in prison today. Remember your grade school classes? An average of three of the people you went to school with in any given year are behind bars. The percentage is lower in other western countries.

We should ask ourselves not how we can deter people from committing so many crimes, but how to give them what they require so they do not feel the need to resort to criminal activity to solve their problems.

Or to drugs, alcohol, gambling, prostitution or other forms of addiction. Or to securing feel-good drugs through their doctor so that they can cope with their problems and stressors. Or to abusing their spouses or children (psychologically, emotionally as well as physically) just to work off their frustrations with life.

We have psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists galore who have the professional knowledge and skills to fix the broken people among us. What we don't have is enough money to pay them to fix all the people who are broken.

Here's a novel idea. Why not provide children and adolescents that same knowledge and the same skills so that they know what to do when they run into problems in their future lives? No one breaks if they know how to avoid breaking.

No child grows up wanting to be divorced, a drug addict, a convict, an emotional minefield, a single parent, an alcoholic, a patient of a psychiatric facility. Or just plain lonely. People become that way when they can't cope with their lives.

So let's give people the knowledge and skills they need before they need it. We know where the expertise is. The experts can teach the teachers, who in turn will teach the young people.
We spend fortunes trying to fix broken people, and more fortunes trying to correct through war the behaviour of others we perceive as threats to us. Let's use the expertise we have today in the place it's needed most. Let's protect people from breaking. Let's make friends, not enemies.

The cost? A trifling sum compared to what we spend today on police, courts, prisons, psychiatric hospitals, health care and war. What the "new" cost would be would be returned in lower costs for the other "services" within a matter of years.

And we could have much happier and healthier people. It's not as impossible as it sounds. A whole solution, including implementation program is provided in the book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems.

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

Saturday, February 03, 2007

We Need To Teach

"Everybody has talent, it's just a matter of moving around until you've discovered what it is."
- George Lucas, movie producer and animation innovator

Doesn't that make sense? Lucas, an inventor and producer of dreams in reality, learned that as an adult. In general, that is not a lesson that children are taught.

Innovation--just being different--is a risky business. Society mediates against those who are different. They don't have ladders to climb. They must create their own mountains, then scale the precipices themselves. When they reach the top, they need to market themselves so that others will know what they have accomplished.

Our society is designed to produce followers. Which suits business fine because they treasure employees who will follow the role model they have described. In a society whose work habits, clothing styles, cosmetic usage, hair styles and even morals and ethics are dictated by business, the economy revolves around followers.

Young people who move around to discover their strengths receive little support or encouragement in a broad sense. Business does not like movers, unless they are winners from another company that choose to move to their own business. Moving out is not encouraged, nor is moving up (again in a general sense).

Our education systems prescribe a set curriculum and schools test to ensure that students have attained comptence in the skills and memory of the knowledge to be tested. The objective, we are told, is to ensure that each child receives the same minimum level of skills and knowledge within the public school system.

This objective is worthy to an extent. Yet we still have many young people leaving school without knowing how to read or write at a functionally acceptable level. And we have persistant discipline problems and troublemakers in school who become owners of business empires or great artists by middle age.

In a time when moving around to find your strengths is difficult in most communities and the base of general knowledge grows much faster than it can possibly be taught in schools, we need different ways of doing things.

First we need to teach life skills so that students know how to cope with rapidly changing work and even personal environments. We need to teach children where and how to find the knowledge they require, rather than simply acquiring a little of it for particular classroom projects.

We need to teach social skills to every child so that the "equality of opportunity" to which we pay homage can become a reality where each adult knows how the systems of life work. Opportunities in life mean more than laws and competence with curriculum.

We need to teach emotional (psychological) skills so that each person understands the needs that we all have and knows how to manage their own. They will also know how to recognize problems in others and take steps to intervene to help where advisable.

We need to learn how to help each other and that asking for help is perfectly acceptable. We need to learn that it's in our community's best interests for everyone to be socially and emotionally stable so that we have no hesitation about helping others because we know that the whole community will benefit. And that helping others in need is socially correct.

We need to put into place values where everyone understands that they do not have to be self-sustaining islands of independence, but instead should be part of the community in which they live. A community improves where everyone contributes to it and this will not happen so long as everyone believes that they must look out for their own best interests because no one else will.
We need to learn trust and honesty before we buy our way into chaos and perpetual war. Trust and honesty will be learned if and when they are taught as values and norms of society.

If most people cannot move around freely to discover their strengths, as George Lucas did, then we must provide similar opportunities within school and home environments. This can happen, but only if we teach the necessary skills and knowledge to everyone.

Right now we have the skills and knowledge, but it's wrapped up in psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists who make their living by trying to patch up people who are emotionally and socially broken. The skills and knowledge are in the wrong hands. They need to be in the hands of teachers who can convey them to every child.

Let's stop forever trying to fix broken people. Let's give them what they need to prevent them from breaking in the first place.

The place to begin is within the education systems. Then it will move into homes.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light forward in an increasingly dark tunnel that is our future.
Learn more at

Friday, February 02, 2007

Squeeze Out The Thinkers: It's Our Way

New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.
- John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

This observation is similar to saying that we all dislike change. All things considered, new ideas and opinions often represent the leading edge of change.

What reason do we have to fear change? Human nature tells us that the status quo equals security. What is may not be perfect, but it's what we know. More importantly, what we have been told by our leaders must be true because we depend on our leaders to steer us along the right path as cultural communities.

In the final analysis, we are groups of followers, not self-sustaining islands of independence. Most of us don't produce our own food, build our own homes, make our own clothing or in more than minimal ways contribute directly to our own welfare. We depend on others to assist with these.

When our prehistoric ancestors gave up their independence in order to gather together into social groups, we also gave up some of our rights to freedom of thought and action. Those who thought differently from the group were forced to conform to the rules of the group, thus refraining from speaking things which went against the perceived welfare of the group and especially from acting on them.

Conformity meant security. Peer pressure ensured that conformity was the rule. Thus our leaders kept cohesion within the group and maintained their own status as leaders by making conformity a way of life, not just a rule designed for mutual security and prosperity.

We became the sheep that are referred to in the Bible stories, with our leaders the shepherds.

When the Church of Rome declared that the world was flat and the flat plane a square in medieval times, people believed that the world was flat and square. When the church changed its tune and later described the perimeter of the plane as round, people believed in a flat earth with a round exterior (an explanation which satisfied those who observed the arc of the horizon when they sailed the oceans).

Proving that earth was not the centre of the solar system and our solar system not the centre of the universe came at great personal cost. Proving that the planet was not flat--in those parts of the world that believed that dictum, as most of the world never subscribed to it--also came at great expense to those who put forward the proof.

History conformed around the myth so that even into the 20th century people believed that Christopher Columbus "discovered" the Americas, thus proving that the world was a sphere. In fact, Columbus (a mapmaker) placed what today we know as Cape Breton Island, on the east coast of Canada, on a map he made in 1490, two years before his 1492 first trip to the Caribbean. Other maps of the period included Antartica and parts of the Americas, geographical realities that supposedly were not "discovered" until decades or even centuries later.

As many factors as possible are brought to bear for the purpose of ensuring that the status quo is maintained as much as possible. New ideas and opinions are treated as heresy.

But they grow anyway. The good ones often take until well after the original thinker has died before they are generally accepted. Original thinkers may be islands in a sea of conformity and mediocrity, but they are not secure islands.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put it all into perspective, especially human nature.
Learn more at

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Frankenstein and Dracula Tell Us About Dreams

A quiet conscience sleeps in thunder.
- English proverb

I have wrestled with this quote for weeks and am still not certain what it means. It seems to mean what the reader wants it to mean.

However, it may refer to something I have researched informally over several years. It's the relationship between the levels of emotion of a person's daytime life and that in their dreams.

People who lead relatively calm and untroubled lives seem to have very active, even dangerous, dreams. Like adventure movies. Their dreams have risk, danger, loved ones or themselves in precarious situations. Blood racing, adrenaline charging through the system.

Those who lead very active daytime lives where their brains are always in at least second gear or higher tend to have more boring and untroubled dreams. Exceptions must be made here for those who have panic attacks at night.

The trouble I have had with this theory is not finding evidence, but of persuading people that their minds are either relatively at peace during the daytime or highly active during that period of the day. Few people want to categorize themselves. They seem to believe that they will be somehow transformed by a label.

I wonder if Bram Stoker (creator of Dracula) led a peaceful daytime life. Or Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, creator of Frankenstein. It is well known that Bram Stoker awoke from a dream (nightmare?) with a Dracula scenario already in progress.

The active brain needs peace at night, so has unremarkable dreams, while the brain that is relatively during the day needs more exercise at night.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make sense of nighttime neural exercises.
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