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

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