Saturday, June 30, 2007

The One And Only Way To Achieve Peace

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and co-operation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969)

Is eternal peace even possible? Given the present set of circumstances under which we live and have developed in terms of civilization, not likely.

When most of us think of justice, we think first of our courts of law. There, surely, justice must prevail above all.

If justice is the quality of being fair or just, then it must be based on truth. In most countries, truth may be buried or denied for a variety of reasons in court while the skill of the barristers in arguing a case based on limited facts is what determines the outcome.

One would think that fairness should best be meted out by governments elected by the people whose best interests they trust their elected representatives to uphold. I know few people who believe that their governments are fair, at least to the extent they they have confidence in their elected governments.

For consideration and cooperation one would best look to one's mother because these are hard to find elsewhere. They exist, these treasured qualities, but they grow in acidic soil.

Who can we look to for peace, someone who can use justice and fairness in their truest senses and from whom we can expect consideration and cooperation as Eisenhower predicted? That sentence contains the reason for its own failure.

Peace, be it individual or at a community, national or global level, must begin with ourselves. Peace is individual. Global peace requires that a large majority of people in the world want peace, are prepared to act to secure peace and enjoy and appreciate peace wtihin themselves.
Doesn't that sound almost impossible? Well, if you think so then perhaps you are part of the problem.

When Toyota wants to sell cars, it advertises heavily. Using industry standards regarding market penetration with television commercials, Toyota will put its ads on several times on each station or network it uses, often ten to 12 times in an evening. Proctor and Gamble does the same with their soaps and other personal products. They hit the consumer again and again, mercilessly, with the same message. Repetition sells.

What have you done in the past year to promote peace, either within yourself or in the world? If you want personal peace, don't look for it from Toyota, Practor and Gamble, political leaders, religious leaders or news sources. They thrive in a troubled world that seeks comfort from their messages.

Wars are fought to achieve peace, if we believe what our leaders have told us in the past. It hasn't worked, of course. People flock to places of worship in troubled times, then find other things to do when life is calm because they understand that their religion did not bring peace.

If you truly believe that peace is a worthy objective, then make peace within yourself. Start talking about peace with other people. Include it in a conversation, but don't try to start a discussion about peace or people will likely head away from you.

Others will only want to listen to you about peace if you honestly believe that peace is possible yourself. And if you and everyone else who believes in it keeps talking about it to as many people as we can find who want to know how it can happen.

We can be quiet on the subject, as most of us are. When those who want peace remain quiet, those who thrive in times of war and chaos advertise their message loud, clear and often. War-lovers, though they comprise only a small minority of people in any country, are persistent and tireless. They never quit because their lives revolve around what they preach.

So long as those who want peace remain quiet about it, there will be war and troubled times. Some people will prosper and those people will not be the ones who want peace.

Do you want peace? Then show it. Talk about it. When someone asks how peace can happen, direct them to the source of this article. Explain the reasoning I have used here.

Peace lovers can only be more powerful than advertising agencies when they spread their message to others. Word of mouth is the most effective and powerful form of advertising.
You have that effectiveness and power within you. Talk.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring peace to the world by word of mouth. Pass it on.
Learn more at

Friday, June 29, 2007

Someone Is Doing You A Favour

One can never pay in gratitude; one can pay "in kind" somewhere else in life.
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This quote may seem out of place to some people. Their lives have not been graced by good deeds or favours done for them by others and they have little time or interest in doing something for another person that does not benefit themselves.

In past generations people had to support and do favours for their friends and neighbours because they knew the time would come when they would need help from others when they couldn't make it on their own.

A farmer whose crop was destroyed by hail would receive seed donations from neighbours whose crops had been bypassed. When a new barn had to go up, the rural community had a "barn raising" where the whole building usually went up in a day.

When a family had a death, especially of the wife/mother, the rest of the community would pitch in with meal donations for the next while until the family could function again on its own. Shelter was always available for anyone who needed it.

In suburban areas today neighbours feel successful if they manage to reach an agreement over a questionable move that could affect both without going to court. In cities many apartment neighbours don't even know each other. And they won't meet because, by convention, no one speak to others in an elevator.

When someone does something nice for another, the good deed doer might not even receive a "Thank you." Some don't want favours done for them because they believe it creates an obligation for them to return the favour.

What will happen when a real community tragedy strikes this sort of place? For example, a country-wide food shortage resulting from crop failure due to climate change. No country can afford to buy enough food from other countries to feed its people for long.

In New Orleans, people starved and died from lack of fresh water, food and medications because help didn't reach them for many days after the hurricane struck. Imagine the shock and confusion if two or more large cities suffered such tragedies at the same time.

It's a great tribute to the people of New Orleans who survived but were not properly rescued for days that they didn't fight each other for food or riot and loot to steal supplies from boarded up stores. History teaches us that people have rioted and looted under far less stressful circumstances than impending death from disease or starvation.

When people help each other today we call it charity. However, the word charity either must be redefined or a new word must be found for a new kind of helping that is spreading around the world.

We see people jump to the aid of the citizens of Afghanistan so they can recover from the destruction of their war. Or of Iranians after an earthquack that flattened a small city. Or of Indonesians, Sri Lankanas and Indians when a tsunami killed a quarter of a million people.

Today it matters to some people that a few in their own community cannot read and write, so they create literacy courses. It matters that some people suffer from emotional trauma because they can't cope with the downturns in their lives, so turn to drugs or even suicide. They create helplines and subsidize psychological services and retraining.

It matters when some die needlessly because an industry has polluted a water supply or tobacco companies have inserted poisonous substances into tobacco products or an auto manufacturer has put a defective and potentially dangerous car on the road.

It's not the insult that matters now but the fact that their fellow citizens of the world are into trouble they can't manage.

The change can be seen all over the world, often in situations that don't warrant a place in the news. A culture of helping others, of an obligation to help our fellow humans who are in trouble, is growing.

As Anne Lindbergh said, we can't repay someone who has done us that kind of favour. We can, however, pay it forward. We can do a good deed for someone else who needs one desperately. We can help those who want it. We can stop making it seem shameful to need help from others.

We can even do favours for those who need it even if we haven't received any ourselves. As many are learning, it's the right thing to do.

Someone has just done you a favour of passing along some good news. Maybe it's not much to you. But you could pass along some good news about the future we all hope to see to someone else.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring good news to a needy world.
Find more good news--lots of it-- at

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shut Up and Listen

It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 - 1894)

To have knowledge one must have learned. To have wisdom one must have learned. So where do speaking and listening come into it?

An expert auto mechanc usually has at least one large metal bureau of tools at his disposal when he begins to repair a car. To complete the job he will likely only use a tiny fraction of those tools. Yet without the complete set he might well not have the tool he most needs when the time comes.

So it is with wisdom. A wise man or woman must have vastly more knowledge at his or her fingertips in order to give the best possible advice in a particular situation than is needed for that one situation. However, without that library of knowledge the best possible advice might not be at hand when needed.

The old saying that we learn more with our mouths closed than with them open came about for good reason. We may be able to think and talk at the same time, but we can't learn and talk together.

Occasionally we will meet someone who seems full of knowledge and quite willing to share it. In abundance. Only after several minutes have passed might we realize that this person has done almost all the talking without giving us much chance to respond.

If our reply is on the same topic as the wonderful speaker, we may be acknowledged for having continued with the thread of his monologue. If we attempt to change the subject, we may find the subject quickly changed back as soon as the talker begins to speak again.

Our natural conclusion might be that the talker has something he feels he must get out before leaving us, something he needs to get off his chest. However, it's far more likely that the talker wants to stay on his favourite topic because he fears having the conversation stray to another topic in case he knows nothing about that topic.

The talker wants to be valued as someone with knowledge, thus he continues to speak on his favourite subjects, with no hesitation about repeating himself in future conversations. Because the depth of his knowledge is thin on most other subjects, he doesn't want to be revealed as a know-nothing when he has so carefully cultivated a reputation as someone knowledgeable.
It's only possible for a young person to be knowledgeable on a limited number of topics.

Accumulating an encyclopediac base of knowledge requires several decades of life experience. That, in turn means listening to others a great deal.

The internet, books and television can be useful sources of information, but only by listening to others can we gain an insider's knowledge of nuances and tweaks that show real expertise. That often means asking questions and then listening as someone who may even know far less than us about most things expounds on his knowledge and expertise on subjects he knows well.

The other method of gaining wisdom is by making mistakes and learning from them. Those with this kind of wisdom may be annoying to listen to, but they can save us a great deal of grief by following their advice.

There is no easy path to wisdom. It requires a commitment to a lifetime of learning. That's not easy. But then, neither is expertise in anything.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to clarify the tough lessons of life.
Learn more at

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You Don't Know Diddly! I Know Diddly

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
- Erin Majors

The ignorant work for their own profit; the wise work for the welfare of the world.
- Bhagavad-Gita, Hindu Song of God, about 200 BCE

These two quotes go well together because they demonstrate that the same kind of people-helping-people concept of the right way of conducting our lives has existed for thousands of years and all over the planet.

In the earliest days of our species--characterized by clans of between a handful and 20 members--our ancestors depended on the best that each member of the clan could give for their very survival. The loss of one member--a specialist tool-maker, a woman of child-bearing age, a warrior--could spell the end of the clan because that person's abilities could not be replaced.

Today in the western world we teach children to be islands, especially islands of strength that have command of everything they need, with the ability to do whatever they must do in their jobs and their personal lives. More important even than having these skills is giving the appearance of having them without needing to use them.

Yet as the total amount of information rises at a staggering rate--too great for anyone to keep up with--we are all as ignorant as a grade school dropout on many topics, lacking both knowledge and skills in many areas that affect our lives.

Many people have little idea what a healthy diet is, what exercise their bodies need, what supplements they may need to take to their food intake to keep their immune systems in good health, even how much sleep they need to be alert and at their best throughout the day.

The "throw-away society" did not come about because we wanted to be wasteful but because we wanted things cheap enough that we could throw them away when they broke because we no longer had the skills to repair what we broke. Throw-away tools and appliances, in turn, put enough skilled repair people out of work that few wanted to enter the field.

In general, we don't buy much that is not mass produced. Most of what is mass produced cannot be repaired. Indeed we have become so ignorant about most of what is around us, essential information that we need, that seemingly absurd warning labels must be attached to appliances. Don't use your hair dryer when you are asleep. Don't take electric appliances into the bathtub. Don't drive your car without fuel or oil.

(Don't these warnings defy natural selection?)

People of marriageable age should carry their own warning labels: Don't marry me if you have no idea what it takes to make a good marriage. Most people don't. At least more than half of those who get married don't. The marriage failure rate is dropping slightly, but only because fewer people are getting married, preferring to avoid some of the costs associated with divorce when they split. At least some people know they won't be together for long, forever.

All of this, at a fundamental level, results from the fact that we do not want help from others. That would mean that we must learn from others, which puts us in an inferior position in business terms. We pretend to know, then take the bricks when we fail. Unless we can find someone else to blame our failures on.

The only way around this problem is for mothers and fathers of young children to teach them that learning must be a lifelong pursuit and they will need to constantly learn from others--ask others for help when they need it--or they will eventually find themselves in trouble because they won't know enough.

Today nobody knows enough. We all need to learn from each other or we will fall behind. We all know people older than ourselves that we call dinosaurs because they haven't kept up with new knowledge and skills, though they may act as if they have.

If we all must learn, then that means we all must teach others when the opportunity arises. It's what we owe to our society as a member of it.

The alternative is a progression into a deeper well of ignorance. There is nothing good about ignorance, unless you are a power seeker who needs ignorant people among your supporters so that you can gain more power. We have all seen that too, whether we realize it or not.

For a society to succeed and thrive, every adult member must be a teacher. Those who know must be prepared to teach those who don't know but want to know.

Those who don't know have an obligation to learn, to ask those who know.

It's not hard, just different from the way we have been doing things.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us through the tougher problems of life.
Learn more at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Islands In A Common Sea

"I feel we are all islands - in a common sea."
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The older I get and the more I learn about life and existence, the more apt this quote seems.
Each of us is an island, remote and distinct from all others because no one knows us nearly as well as we know ourselves. Nor is it possible to know anyone else that well. It's difficult enough to know what is on the mind of another person even in the most intimate of situations, and then we may be mistaken.

We don't even know ourselves well. Most of us can look back ten or twenty years and find how we have developed to be remarkable, unexpected, with growth in ways we had no ability back then to anticipate.

The most obvious way to find out how difficult it is for others to learn about us is to apply for a job. On a few sheets of paper and in a few minutes of interview time an applicant must convey who he is and what he represents as a person as well as how suitable he is for the job. No one I have ever met has left an interview feeling confident that he or she has summed themselves up satisfactorily under those circumstances.

We are so different that we often have trouble conducting a conversation with others because we think so differently, our experiences are so different, our interests so different, our world view so unique that we must turn to small talk to get through brief periods that might otherwise be awkward.

Yet we hold much in common other than our genetic material, our language and our culture. Over six billion of us believe that something supernatural exists, that we should not kill each other, that we should work together where possible to achieve greater goals and that we should help others with needs greater than our own.

As a social species, we each feel the need to communicate with each other and we have a need to be touched by others we care about. In general, we believe that life should continue and that humankind should not destroy either itself or other forms of life on our planet. We believe that neither we nor others should foul our environment, the place where we and so many other living things carry out our lives.

With today's technology we can communicate with others on the far side of our planet, in realtime. As we do, we learn that the "foreigners" that we know so little about have much in common with us. Some of us, in such situations, seem reluctant to point out our differences, believing that what we have in common is more important and our differences of lesser significance.

No matter who we are or where we live, we each strive for something in our lives. Among other life forms we call it survival and reproduction. Yet among ourselves the striving seems greater, to establish that we are, that we exist, that we mean more than a simple organism for reproduction.

The confusion that many of us experience in our "common sea" causes some of us to behave in ways that cannot make us proud of ourselves as a species. Yet all around us, on every day, in every part of the world, many of us--largely unhearalded--show ourselves to be magnificent and special representatives of what we know as human life.

We do demonstrate that there is more to us than our genetics and our experiences. We can each do that if we believe ourselves capable of it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to give each person a chance to be special.
Learn more at

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Sex Is The Issue

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion,enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.
- Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

Strange, I believe, for someone whose sexuality went against the norm to express an opinion about relationships between the sexes with such conviction.

Wilde's opinion certainly went with the flow of society on this subject, though on many others it didn't. He lived during the Victorian period of England, the glory days of the great British Empire.

These days the Victorian period is best known in some circles for its severe restrictions and limitations about what was acceptable and what was not in human relationships, especially between the sexes.

What it preferred to express no opinion about was homosexuality, which made Victorian nobility so aghast that the subject dare not be mentioned in proper company. Not, at least, until Wilde flaunted his homosexuality and was charged by the police. The social darling that so many loved became a social outcast when his homosexuality became public knowledge.

The inhibitions of Victorian England were so strong that people became convinced that nearly everyone was a closet sex maniac waiting to be outed and exposed given the opportunity to have unapproved sex. Similar thinking today forces women in some Muslim countries to wear burqas that cover every possible part of skin that could be exposed.

Not that sexuality wasn't exploited in some parts of England. Paper flyers of the day show drawings of women bare to the waist inviting men to visit entertainment parlours in certain parts of London and other cities to see dancing, acting and supposed other eventualities.

Today's relaxed attitude toward sexuality, relationships and sexual preferences has shown that once sex is removed from the restricted zone of topics able to be discussed between men and women friendship is indeed possible.

In the Netherlands, where prostitution and exposure of bare skin in public is the least restrictive in the western world, not only is friendship between men and women more common and widely accepted, rape is much lower than in most western countries.

The problem or question of friendship between men and women, it seems, was not that it wasn't possible, but that society raised the risk factor to the highest level, thus making unapproved sex between unmarried men and women more exciting and more of a challenge. Sex, it was thought, was on everyone's mind if not on their lips.

Given the opportunity to engage in friend relationships where sex or the "dangerous" potential of it is not a high priotity, men and women can become the best of friends. In many marriages where sexual tension is not a factor husband and wife can be best friends, something which was not considered likely by Victorian Brits.

The attitude promoting sexual inhibition that carried on from Victorian times surely has done far more harm than good. Today sex crimes are more common and often more violent in places where sex is a public issue of morality.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2007

When Money Became God

"I don't know whether my life has been a success or a failure. But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they come along, I've had a lot of extra time to enjoy life."
- Harpo Marx (the "silent" Marx brother, he played the harp beautifully)

I have often wondered if Harpo never spoke because his other brothers talked so much that Harpo couldn't get a word in edgewise. (And if the reversal of letters in his name--Oprah--inspired the mother of the television personality, who named her own company Harpo Productions.)

If I could pick one defining characteristic of western culture it would be that we teach the need for success, particularly success in an occupation that brings considerable income. We teach, by example if not by word, that those who do not make a lot of money are failures of society, people who must be supported by charity because they can't make it through life "successfully" on their own.

We do not widely teach that survival and a minimally acceptable lifestyle has value, despite the fact that these are defining characteristics of the rest of the living world.

We do not generally teach that anything is more important than the acquisition of money, with the possible exception of ways of spending money that bring comfort and recognition.

Money being a man-made concept (gender bias inserted on purpose), people who believe that money is the most important thing in life find themselves progressively less able to accept that anything other than that which has been made by people has value. We conquer and destroy non-renewable natural resources and genetically alter renewable ones to suit the needs of our aggressive industries. And extinguish the rest.

Any concept of a supernatural being--despite lip service being paid by many in business--becomes that which cannot be believed or that which is of little importance because western business has created its own deity. Except for those who derive a very good income from religion, each of which defines its own version of God.

Living a full life means reaching a pinnacle of success before retirement, the pinnacle being defined at least by public recognition if not by actual financial income. Anything that is not within the control of business is given short shrift in terms of having importance to society. Artists are great, for example, only if they are recognized by wealthy patrons.

As Harpo Marx said in the quote, people give so much recognition to the importance of financial success that they spend much of their time thinking about it--how to get money and how to spend it. The burden of that goal, which is unreachable by many people, has caused multitudes of us to suffer anxiety which we relieve with drugs, exercise programs, religious devotion, mental illness, addictions and shopping.

Few will admit that they teach these values to their children. They do it by example, by being role models for that way of life. Most children follow the values of their parents, if not as adolescents then later in life. Even television commercials and magazine advertisements tweak our brains to believe that we must strive to be better than we are now.

The state of affairs in most western cities attests to the fact that something has broken down in the creation of this man-made capitalistic heaven. We have so many social problems, but no solutions because a solution would require that we teach people that something other than money is important. That could not happen because those who control much of the money in our societies ensure that such heresy could never make it into our school curriculum.

Business leaders tell us that our social and community problems are necessary consequences of our success in capitalist enterprise. On more than one occasion I have been faced with this argument while being interviewed on conservative radio stations in the US. FOX News lives it.

Those who believe that there is something more important in life than money, its acquisition, investment and dispersal must teach others, beginning with their own children. They must speak about how so many lives are being ruined by devoting them to being the pawns of business.

They must speak and write to others about what is more important than money. They must live the role model of a non-money-controlled life that is more fulfilling than those who see the Donald Trumps of the world as their role models and life aspirations.

They must teach that you can seek happiness by chasing money, but you will never find it. Money chasers never have enough, thus by definition can never be truly happy.

Does it require a revolution in thought, a massive overturn of the predominant way of life in the western world? No.

It requires only for you to understand that there are more important things in life than money and that the reckless pursuit of it will prevent anyone from finding those better things. Find the better things yourself. Then tell others. Change happens one person at a time. It happens in person, face to face.

For those who believe that there is nothing more important than money, there will be nothing more important. Understand that they will be tirelessly aggressive about teaching their money-chasing values to everyone they can. They already dominate some aspects and activities of schools.

If money were really worth chasing, then rich people should be happy. They aren't. They just like to show off as if they were. They don't even know what happiness is. They tell themselves that having money is what makes them happy. Maybe it does in their minds. But their having money is not likely to make you happy.

Money is not a god. We have no need to worship it. We have many other needs which have greater importance and which are not being met by many people. The money god doesn't care for the failures of life.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the difficult things in life easier to understand.
Learn more at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Will There Be A You After You die?

If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks.
- Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was speaking only to those who believe in prayer, as she had little time for those who did not believe unless they needed her help or they wanted to donate to her causes. But what was she speaking about?

Some would dismiss this quote as meaningless because it speaks of prayer and as they have had no experience with the success of prayer they don't believe in it. Some do not believe in God, thus want nothing to do with entities and concepts they don't understand.

I do not propose to promote either prayer or a concept of God in this article. I would, however, like to make some links that most of us have experienced and encourage you to try to make sense of them without dismissing them as meaningless.

Nothing is meaningless. Nothing happens without a reason. Just because we may not understand the reason or appreciate the concept or the background behind it does not force us to conclude that things happen without reasons.

This is the pivotal point that has caused such grief and confusion in the past, as it does today. When people don't understand important concepts or reasons, those who have something to gain by satisfying that need to know jump in to provide answers. Those answers may be absurd, without reason or justification, but if they are stated with confidence some people will believe them.

Many of our predecessors have devised elaborate concepts and called them God. They even have extensive books or miracles to back them up. They invite people to pray and do so collectively with such enthusiasm that listeners are bound to believe that such exuberance must be divinely inspired. They are excellent actors and role players. Their audience is attentive.

Some say that you can ask God for anything in prayer and that He will respond. If He doesn't respond the way they wanted, they conclude that God must have other plans that they don't know about.

I will ask you to think about whether God would consider what we want of Him more important than what He wants of us. Which does prayer do?

How many of the believers in God have committed their lives to fulfilling what God wants them to do? I don't mean going to war or proselytizing to convert people with another believe set to their own, but actually doing what God has asked them to do.

How do we know what God (if such an entity really exists) wants us to do? For those who pray for the recovery to health of a dying person, do they really believe that God hears their prayers and heals a person that he would not otherwise have wanted to return to good health?

For individuals to believe that they could influence the mind and purpose of God is the kind of thinking that turns many people away from organized religion. It doesn't make sense that one individual human (or many) could sway the mind of an omnicient and omnipotent being.

The human mind has great power and collectively the combined power may be able to influence the immune systems of people with diseases, but it seems conceptually unlikely that these people could change the mind of God to act in such a way as to do their will instead of His own.

Mother Teresa suggests in this quote that prayer is not about asking something of God, but about allowing God to speak to us, to ask of us, to act through us. Prayer is our way of opening a channel to God so that He can tell us what He wants of us.

There are many who don't want to do what anyone tells them to do, on general principle. That's fine. God doesn't force anyone, nor does He likely punish those who do not believe in Him.

When the time comes for those people, God may decide to recycle them. As ninety percent of our body is made up of microbes that are not part of our own collection of body cells (see Discover magazine, July 2007), recycling the corpuscular parts of us is easily accomplished. If we have not made something of ourselves in our lifetime beyond what would be expected of any other animal (beyond what is our body), we are easily converted into fodder for bacteria.

God has no reason to extend the spiritual life of those who have been spiritual dead-ends in their time on earth. Nor does He have any reason to want to keep around anything that remains of a non-spiritual person who didn't listen or who didn't fulfill his or her purpose in life.

As Mother Teresa said, the message is within us. The source is within us. If we don't take the time or the trouble to listen or if we deny the importance everything that doesn't earn us income, we won't hear. Those people are recyclables that have not yet been collected.

Only those who listen quietly will be able to hear.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ignore The Media, You Can Change The World

If we can recognize that change and uncertainty are basic principles, we can greet the future and the transformation we are undergoing with the understanding that we do not know enough to be pessimistic.
- Hazel Henderson, economist, writer

While this quote might be greeted with "Huh?" or "Another example of bullshit baffling brains," it bears consideration for more than one reason.

The first is "that change and uncertainty are basic principles." While the truth of this can't be disputed effectively, it's not what we teach our young in most cases.

As parents, most of us want our kids to grow up and "settle down." Settling down implies reaching a plateau, a levelling off, a desire to keep from changing, an effort to repeat what has been done in the past. In a world of change and uncertainty, such a settling down state would be impossible.

In fact, it could be a falling backward as the rest of the world surges ahead with creating a new planet and a new set of living conditions.

Earlier generations could never imagine people living in space (holidaying in space!), speaking by telephone with someone on the other side of the world while walking to lunch or recording an event live with video on a cell phone then posting it to YouTube for the world to see mere seconds later. Nor could it imagine living in fear of another 9/11, world war or acts of genocide in several locations.

The most peaceful people don't exist on a planet of their own, content in an isolated apartment away from the realities around them. They live in today's world and interact with it in ways that may not have been possible in earlier generations.

Moreover, the future is by no means certain. The media and public speakers carry on endlessly earning their good living by telling people that we are destroying our planet, that world war or Armageddon is near, that all kinds of nasty people are out to get us on our streets and in our homes. Almost none of it ever comes true for most people.

Some people would call it an act of faith to believe that the future will be safe because humankind is basically good and will never do anything to permanently foul its own nest or to harm its own people. Act of faith or not, more people are living longer and healthier lives today than ever before in human history.

Fewer wars are ongoing today than at any previous time in history. More people work to help others less fortunate or who have experienced misfortune through natural disaster or war than ever before. International NGOs and world bodies like the United Nations work to erase inhumane practices and laws and correct lawlessness more today than ever before.

True, tonight's newscast and the first page of today's daily newspaper may report tragedies both abroad and right around the corner from us. But they don't get readers and viewers by telling us good news. They know they get more attention with bad news than good news. Attention means advertising cash.

Often we must seek out good news just to know it exists. In many cases we can find it right around the corner as well. In some cases, we are the good news because we do the good stuff.
Believe the media and you believe people who make their living by being negative and pessimistic. On balance, that seems like a bad idea.

If good news fails to reach you in your life, make some yourself. Be the positive role model for others to follow. Once you get involved with such projects, the future will look much brighter because you will find more people doing the same things as you than you ever knew existed.
Nobody will help you if you don't want to help others. Many people eagerly try to help someone who has tried to help others themselves.

Figure it out. Then make history more positive yourself.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make our future look more positive and realistic.
Learn more at

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bad Guys Win Because They Care More

"Oh, she thinks I'm too critical. That's another fault of hers."
- Lucille, the mother in TV show Arrested Development

The hands-down winner in any face-off of down-putters, Lucille is not a role model but a reflection of many real people. She is an in-your-face version of the kind of people many of us work with or associate with in some other capacity.

But is she (are they) all bad, all wrong? Offensive maybe, hard to get along with, but at least they care about something enough to speak up.

At the other end of the scale we have the apathetes (a noun I invented to portray those who pursue apathy with the vigour that athletes apply to their endeavours). They don't criticize others much simply because they don't care about anything or anybody that does not immediately affect their lives.

They claim they prefer to avoid trouble by staying out of other people's business. As it happens, the business that the other people have often should be interfered with because it's morally wrong, unethical and may even be illegal. Neighbours of marijuana grow-op houses, for example, often say they suspected that something was wrong but didn't say anything until the police came to shut it down.

It's not trouble the apathetes want to stay out of but commitment. By excusing themselves from getting involved with interference with wrong-doing, they ignore the fundamental principle of society that each person has a duty and responsibility to contribute back to society as much as he or she takes out as a member of a community or a nation.

Only a certain amount can be taken out of the societal community pot before it's empty. Many believe that taxes can pay for anything and everything that their community needs. Taxes are money and money can't satisfy all human needs. Some needs require human involvement and participation.

Without sufficient involvement by members of a community in community affairs, its residents come to believe that everything that is needed by the community can be bought.

That's when those well educated in the techniques of manipulation of community thinking come in. They don't just work in dingy offices with government census statistics or television viewership numbers. They form the machinery of advertising agencies. They run the campaigns of top political candidates. They spin the facts when a leader wants to go to war.

In short, when ordinary people in a society don't get involved with what is best for their community, by default they turn control of that community over to those who have much to gain by controlling it.

The apathetes claim that they have too many of their own problems to worry about without taking on community problems that don't affect them directly. Ironically, those who involve themselves with community problems tend to think of their own problems as minor compared to those of others they meet. They see their contributions to community problems as much more important than their own "minor" ones.

In other words, those who don't get involved with the operation of their community find themselves with more worry over their own problems than should be necessary.

True enough, every community has many problems and no one person can hope to solve them all. But each problem only requires a few people who care. Those people must contribute to the problem they are involved with from the heart, not the wallet. Every community already has employees who try to address the same problems every day--they work for the money--and the problems get worse.

How long would you expect a marriage to last if it were based only on money? That kind of marriage will end, but community problems that are addressed only by those who get paid to "solve" them can't be dismissed by divorce.

Every community needs many people who care and who are prepared to get involved to see that their community runs well. It's part of the social obligation that most of us should have accepted when we reached adulthood. It's what is called the social fabric of a community, what holds it together, what gives it its nature, what makes it home.

Some problems simply can't be solved with money. You only need to read a daily newspaper or watch the evening news to find out which problems they are.

If enough people in a community don't care enough to contribute their time and efforts to make it run well, there will be problems that tax money will never solve. The community will be run by those who have a personal stake in how the community develops (or declines).

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

Monday, June 18, 2007

You Have To Be Ready If You Want To Be Loved

The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are for loving in the present.
- Barbara de Angelis

Love, it is widely believed among those who do not place money before everything, is the most important achievement, state and emotion we can have in life. Yet as much as we treasure it, true love remains elusive for many people. Some live their whole lives without really experiencing true love.

Most of those who live their whole lives without knowing true love develop a concept of what love is. But in the end it remains mostly like a business arrangement, give and take, needs must be met on both sides, some can't give enough and others don't know how. Relationship splits are common.

The easiest way to understand true love is to have received it as a child. Though the love of parents is seldom appreciated for its worth at the time (little is because it's all within the concept of what life is), the experience may be carried forward into adulthood. We can only share with others emotions we have experienced and childhood is the best place to experience love for the first time.

However, as de Angelis said, even those who have the ability to experience and to give true love may not be able to do either if they hold anger, grudges or hurt in their hearts.

Let's put this as simply as possible: all negative emotions are self imposed and are always self destructive if they last more than a few minutes.

If we don't believe in masochism as a value in others, then we should have the strength to declare it unnecessary in ourselves.

Hurting ourselves, by whatever means, is self destructive. Worse, it disables us from being able to experience and appreciate most positive things in life. It certainly makes us unable to experience and to share love.

Those who hold onto hurt, grudges and anger are strong of will. They refuse to give up that which hurts themselves, even if they know they are doing it to themselves. It's a kind of addiction and like all addictions it's all in the mind. It can all be controlled by the mind.
The mind can imprison itself, as I suggested above. It can also free itself and open itself to a world of experiences.

An open mind is perceived by many to be at risk, whereas a closed mind is less so, even though the closed mind is self destructive. However, like any other new lifestyle, learning to live with an open mind can be accomplished.

For a final comment I will call this an opinion, even though I know it to be fact, so that I don't have to quote scientific studies. Virtually all exceptionally old people I have met--in person or through the media--have had open minds. That can't be genetically linked as that wouldn't make sense. It must be a life choice. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the complicated things in life a little easier to understand.
Learn more at

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Road To Wisdom Goes Through Love

Men are wise in proportion, not to their experience, but to their capacity for experience.
- James Boswell, Scottish author (1740-1795)

It has often been said that wisdom is gained by making mistakes, that the wisest among us have made the most mistakes.

Recovering from mistakes and learning from them are critical to building wisdom. People who don't recover and learn from their mistakes or who continue to make similar mistakes hamper themselves by, in effect, adopting a mental disability.

Wise people teach others who indicate an interest in learning from those who know the skills, the knowledge, the best ways of doing things. People with experience who keep their hard-won knowledge to themselves are not wise, just full of...knowledge they will likely never use again. Teaching others and the willingness--even eagerness--to teach others is a hallmark of a wise person.

Boswell says that a person on the way to gaining wisdom must not only accumulate experience, but must have the capacity for experience. That implies not just a willingness to learn but the courage to take risks in order to gain experience.

Taking risks and the courage to take them varies by degrees. Some risks are dangerous in the sense that the chance of failure or of death cannot be overcome by hard work or preparation. Some risks are just plain stupid. People who take stupid risks hardly rank among those who should qualify as worthy of attention for their wisdom later.

Business risks can often be overcome by hard work, preparation and developing the right employees and contact network. Business success seldom arrives banging on the door of those who refuse to work hard.

Personal experience in terms of relationships stands as the most courageous (or the most foolhardy) of all kinds of experience.

No matter what kind of relationship we think of, trust, commitment and some version of love must be involved for it to work. Yet anyone who has been through several relationships (friends, lovers, spouses, business) knows that the vast majority will not turn out well. They may be useless, but they may also be harmful, both financially and emotionally.

Love relationships seem the most damaging (yet also the most rewarding) to people. Many of these fail because one or both partners really have very little knowledge of what makes a relationship succeed, even of what true love is. Given how little we teach children about love and relationships, indeed how bad are the role models that many parents demonstrate for their children, it's no wonder that many love relationships and marriage fail for the offspring.

A person who has grown up without a good example of loving relationship in their lives--especially when the love directly involves themselves--begins adult life in search of a kind of human experience of which he has little or no knowledge.

When the majority of experience a person has with love comes from television, movies or parents whose relationship is more business than love, that person lacks the capacity for love because he has not grown up with it. You can't give what you never had.

Can a person who has grown up in the absence of love gain that capacity as an adult? Let's say that the odds are against it, given the people we see around us.

Skills and knowledge of love and commitment may be learned from knowledgeable sources--those with wisdom on the subject-- but the wise must be prepared to teach and the person in need of knowledge must be prepared to learn.

In the final analysis, a person who has grown up in the absence of love will always have difficulty learning and assimilating the knowledge and putting it into practice on a continuing basis, no matter how much they learn along the way.

Wise people usually want to share their experience and their wisdom. However, they often give up trying to find people who want to learn. Therefore, those who want to learn must ask those they believe have the knowledge and the wisdom.

It's not an elegant system, but it's what we have. Knowing how it works will help any person to improve their life.

Yes, it did work for me.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to encourage people to be more willing to gain experience by expanding their capacity for it.
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

God's "Favorites" Are Dangerous People

Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God holds others in contempt.
- Robert Green Ingersoll, lawyer and orator (1833-1899)

The conclusion does not necessarily follow, logically, from the single premise, but it happens as a function of human nature.

When such a person happens (no coincidence) to be the leader of a military, that usually results in war. Almost every war fought since the end of the Roman Empire had at least one leader (often both) who believed that he was a favorite of God, thus that God was on the side of him, his military and his country if he was also a political leader.

The most famous example in modern times was the Second World War. People who lived through it in and fought for Allied countries knew well that their soldiers were fighting with the grace of God on their side. Those who fought on the side of the Germans were confident that God was on their side and was constantly supporting their troops. Hitler told them. The Japanese military fought directly under their God, the Emperor.

The very fact that someone would consider themselves a favorite with God makes him believe that he is superior to the rest of humanity. Those who believe they are naturally superior to others of their kind always treat the others with contempt, though that contempt may show itself in many different ways.

Nothing in any monotheistic religion should lead anyone to believe that one human being is superior to another or that one is or even could be a favorite of God, thus superior to others. Those who hold this belief choose it and build their lives around it.

Other than a propensity to engage in war, those who consider themselves to be superior to others may act in an arrogant manner, with hubris, and will likely bully those under their control. This is not to say that all bullies believe they are favorites of God, only that the reverse is true. In general, bullies are insecure people, whereas those who believe themselves superior are not insecure, except perhaps in a deep psychological sense.

Watch for these characteristics in the people you read about in the news. It will tell you something about them and may help you to understand what plans they may devise for the future. For your future.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put a complex world into perspective so that it's easier to understand.
Learn more at

Saturday, June 09, 2007

We Were So Defrauded

America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.
- Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and wit (1854-1900)

History is indeed a strange bird, as evidenced by this quote. Remember, Wilde lived more than a century ago.

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was quite correct about the existence of the Americas being known long before Columbus. But it was not well known to the elite of western Europe who controlled the printing and expression of history over most of the period since Columbus set sail.

It was even taught to students in western Europe and North America that Columbus discovered America in 1492. Many countries in the Americas celebrate Columbus Day or some variation thereof.

In fact, the Chinese were in Canada at least one century before Columbus. The "god" Glooscap (likely a Chinese ship captain) is well known in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia from that period. The foundations for elaborate stone structures remain, but the Chinese left by 1425, long before Columbus persuaded the merciless Isabella and Ferdinand to sponsor his voyages to the New World to find treasure in "India."

Columbus, a mapmaker by trade, even located an island (now known as Cape Breton, known to Columbus and his contemporaries as the Isle of Seven Cities) on a world map he made in 1490. He couldn't have "discovered" what he already knew existed two years before he set sail.

Besides, Columbus never did set foot on the mainland of the Americas, though he spent time on several islands of the Caribbean and was governor of one until his "subjects" had him removed for being such a horrible leader. He was not an explorer, but an advance man for future trading expeditions on behalf of Spain.

Before the Chinese, the Vikings (Norse) established a settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland somewhere around the turn of the First Millennium, at least 500 years before Columbus.

The Grand Banks were no doubt fished by sailors from Norse countries and Iceland for centuries before the Chinese or the Norse created a settlement with foundations that didn't rot because they were made of wood. Both what today we know as the Grand Banks and the shoreline of northern Canada appeared on Norse and Portuguese maps long before the Newfoundland settlement.

Sailors, scholars and mapmakers never believed that the world was flat. Though a Flat Earth Society still exists today, the concept was an invention of the Church of Rome (for reasons that remain obscure). It's first flat earth was a square. Later the flat earth was changed to a circle because sailors couldn't find the corners of the square no matter how far they sailed. Nor could they find the edge of the flat, but that was another story the church hushed up.

A map of the Antarctic was made within a few decades of the first Columbus voyage, even though no Europeans that sailed for their monarchs visited that coldest of all lands until centuries later. That map shows the actual land of Antarctica, the part under the ice. What we know today by satellite photos is an Antarctica that is much larger than the land itself because it includes the ice around the continent. Most of the actual land can't be seen under the ice.

That particular map is not commonly discussed in public or classrooms because no one seems to know how the land could be mapped if it was covered by ice one to two kilometres thick. If there were no ice there at the time (Europe was in its Little Ice Age), then how does that speak to the predictions by global warming advocates who say that all coastal cities will be inundated when the Antarctic ice melts in our future?

For the land to have been mapped, it must not have been covered by ice. As little snow falls in Antarctica, it must have taken ages for that much ice to accumulate. Why were coastal cities not under water in those times?

History, as students who study it thoroughly discover, is a managed form of propaganda. Those who pay to have the history books printed hold the power to manipulate what is written.

When I was in high school, almost everything we studied in history class was about wars and events that surrounded them. We were led to believe that the world was constantly at war and that what was important for us as students to learn was the dates and places where the most important battles took place.

No one studied the people, the cultures and the lifestyles that existed in the places of history between wars. In those days, the history that was not managed by the nobility of Europe was concocted by the Church of Rome.

Today we know that people do have lives between and during wars. Most of us are living such lives.

It would pay us to remember that people make history, not wars. Some want us to believe that wars still dominate the world and that those who do not believe in war or who want to focus on peace should not have a say.

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

Friday, June 08, 2007

Pity The Miserable Suckers

When you run into someone who is disagreeable to others, you may be sure he is uncomfortable with himself; the amount of pain we inflict upon others is directly proportional to the amount we feel within us.
- Sidney J. Harris

Few life lessons warrant as much attention as this. People who are miserable with others are miserable about themselves.

Being the well-balanced happy individual you are, you likely just ignore grumpy, miserable or anger-filled people, believing—correctly—that they should hold no place of importance in your life.

Try to put yourself into the position of the many people who feel hurt when someone snubs them, insults them, steals from them, commits a personal offence such as assault or rape against them or acts just plain mean toward them. These people really care that someone has taken the trouble to be so hurtful.

What they may not understand is why. People who are miserable with others act that way because they are miserable within themselves. They don’t like themselves. They don’t like their own lives and they see no reason why others should like theirs. Of course they won’t admit it to you or anyone. They’re not stupid.

True, there are professional curmudgeons. Many get paid to be outrageously insulting and offensive on radio or television. Actors and book writers who write about controversial subjects have an obligation to be miserable sometimes because the public expects it of them. Some act the role, but many really are miserable within themselves.

Why should we care about them?

For many of us, we learned from our mothers that it is important that others like us. When someone doesn’t, we feel that we failed somehow. When my grandmother taught me that lesson, she neglected to mention that some people are not worth the effort it takes to be on their good side.

Some don’t even have a good side. Unless they are drunk or on marijuana. It seems as if most of the miserable people mellow out when they drink alcohol.

It would be important for me to impart to you a few tips as to what you could do to make these miserable people happy or at least less volatile, insulting or offensive. However, that would be impossible. Those who become entrenched in their misery will only come out of it after a life-altering experience (such as near-death), and most don’t even then.

A few psychologists know the methods for conducting intensive reprogramming sessions with such people, but this is expensive and miserable people rarely want to cooperate anyway.

For many of them, the longer they are miserable with the world, the more comfortable they become with it. They get used to it, they depend on it. It’s what they know. In a sense, expressing their misery to others in vituperative ways is their way of retreating to a corner to lick their wounds the life has inflicted on them.

It’s a call for help, but only by a few. Most will actively refuse help, even decline overt acts of friendship. Misery becomes their opiate, no matter how counterintuitive that may seem. Call it a sign that help is needed but mostly not wanted.

When these people appear on your horizon, you would be best advised to change course to avoid them. If you can’t avoid them, be cool to them because warmth means that you are open to attack, that you are vulnerable, an easy target.

It’s said that misery loves company. It’s a strange kind of relationship and it shouldn’t be called true friendship, but it happens.

Miserable people are often socially immature or maldeveloped. Long ago they found that making friends was difficult, even impossible. Experiencing examples where their trust of someone was betrayed deepened their distrust of others. They never learned how to make a friend because they were never taught the skills.

Maybe all they have left that comforts them is their misery, toward themselves and others.


Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make sense of a complex world.
Learn more at

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Am A Rock

What the superior man seeks is in himself. What the mean man seeks is in others.
- Confucius (551 BCE - 479 BCE)

Not so popular during his lifetime, Confucius's saying were collected after his death and became the basis for Confucianism. They emphasize love for humanity, with special attention given to learning, devotion to family (including ancestors), peace and justice. They greatly influenced the traditional culture of China and continue today as guidelines for life in the Far East and elsewhere.

Confucius provided markers for the superior man because he believed that the purpose for life on this earth was to strive for a higher level of being. His words can be seen mingled into the works of other Asian religions. What Christians call The Golden Rule and several of the Ten Commandments were among the sayings of Confucius five centuries before Jesus was born. He may have been a contemporary of Moses.

Always one to be concise, Confucius said in this quote that the mean man (what we might call a low-life or person of few qualities today) looks for satisfaction, gratification or someone to blame for the state of his life in others. He measures himself by how others treat him and judges the world by the quality of life that fate has cast upon him.

The superior man, on the other hand, looks to himself as the primary means to become what he wants to be. He also judges himself by his own standards, caring little for the corrupt and perverse standards of those around him.

In one sense, the superior man is a role model for others who know him. In another sense, he is a role model for himself because he compares himself only to the standards he has set for hismelf.

While the superior man works to help others who want to be helped, teaching the secrets of life to those who want to learn them and adopt them, he sees himself as an example and as a teacher. He will teach all those who want to learn, but force no one because that would be a mark of a mean man.

It would be easy for us to look around us today and see many that Confucius would deem mean men. However, that would be wrong too. That would be comparing others to himself, giving value to the standards of others, in which he has no interest.

Confucius sees a worthy man as one from whom the qualities and values of life flow outward, as a stream of knowledge. In today's terms, he is a giver, not a taker. He gives and offers to give to those who seek to improve themselves, without judging those who have no interest in his advice or his way of life.

He won't judge others because that would require him to accept input he does not value. Life is enhanced by giving to others that which they need, not by taking anything from them. An exception would be learning from others, a marker for a wose person.

Without using the word happiness (a nebulous concept to a philosopher anyway), he gives us the means to reach our own goals today by setting standards for ourselves and working toward them conscientiously. We are responsible for our own goals and our own behaviours, thus we are responsible for whether we achieve happiness or not.

We can all be superior if we look up and strive to better ourselves by living toward our goals.

The superior man does not look down to see if the streets are paved with gold or rubble.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to establish a sound life foundation so that you can set and work toward your superior goals.
Learn more at

Monday, June 04, 2007

Writing Messages Brings Hidden Risks

If you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it.
- Earl Wilson, columnist (1907-1987)

Wilson was saying that by writing and signing something it would be "cast in stone" to be available for scrutiny by anyone at any time. It could be used, if necessary, as evidence in court.

His advice, therefore, could be taken to mean that you shouldn't say anything that you might regret later because you might find yourself in court or that could be held against you in some other way. Speak with the same level of caution that you would use if you wrote your message.

While the advice is valid, people write all kinds of thing today without signing them. Most of this is done via the internet where people leave comments on blogs without identifying themselves or they use pseudonyms in chatrooms or in internet communities. Those who write their messages and mail them by surface mail (sometimes by email) without any identification most often intend its content to be considered a threat.

What Wilson did not address in his quote, something I believe that everyone should know about personal messages, is the difference in effect that a written message has on people as opposed to a spoken message.

There are those who argue that written messages do not convey the tone of voice, facial language, body language or speech inflections that people use in spoken messages. Spoken messages, they claim, convey a fuller version of what is intended as compared to a written message.

We could conclude that phone messages fall somewhere in between because they can include voice clues, including emotions. Cell phones today can even include face to face chat using video, so phone messages today could be moving in the direction of face to face personal messages in the sense of conveying a full version of what is intended.

However, people in western countries are so unaccustomed to receiving personal messages on paper today (other than those mass produced on a printer) that many tend to view a written message as bad news or a personal criticism. If the message on paper was written by hand, using a pen, then it is automatically viewed with great suspicion.

If many people get a written message from their boss, for example, they look for something bad, some criticism or bad news. If they can't find the negative message within, they will often invent something that was not intended by the writer. Whatever a reader invents is almost always negative, rarely positive.

Consequently, training courses in the writing of personal written messages today emphasize that the writer must make positive points--particularly at the beginning and the end of the message--in order to start the reader in a good frame of mind and have him finish reading on a positive note. In a longer note, a positive point or two in the middle is advised as well.

In earlier years of the internet, smileys were invented to account for the lack of facial expression of the writer. These were followed by graphic emoticons we see today. As these are not available as tools in a message written on paper, the writer must take particular care to surround anything negative about the message with positive points or observations.

Failure to overemphasize the positive in a paper message that includes anything negative might result in the reader quitting his job, ending a friendship or spreading some pretty nasty stuff around listener-friendly circles about the writer.

The easiest advice to follow is to keep everything on paper positive and reserve negative messages for face to face encounters. This may seem artificial, but it's the best way to ensure that the reader will not misinterpret a message, with sometimes unhappy consequences.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Cause and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put a positive tip on the end of every pen.
Learn more at

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Science Proves We Like Helping Others

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
- Helen Keller

By rights, Helen Keller cannot be considered an expert on happiness any more than you or I. However, as the blind and deaf woman who went from total lack of communication skills at age 10 to a gifted and inspirational speaker and writer as an adult, she has a right to be heard because she may have found true happiness.

Let's look at the "fidelity to a worthy purpose" part. Altruism (helping another person with no thought of benefit to ourself) has mystified philosophers, psychologists (and recently neuroscientists) for hundreds of years. Does altruism have a biological source built into us or do some of us learn to help others without thinking of how we would benefit?

The suspicion among doubters has always been that some people receive a benefit from doing good, from helping others. They reward themselves, the doubters believed. Now science has weighed in on the subject.

Researchers in Delaware (USA) studied how the brain deals with our built in reward system. Using MRI scanners and virtual computer programming, they examined how the brain of testees reacted when presented with various situations that most people would consider to be happy situations. Being given a favourite kind of candy or sweet would be one example.

In some cases, they were given money for doing a task. In others they were given money for doing nothing, no strings attached. As evidence that the participants submersed themselves into the virtual world, the parts of their brain that react positively to rewards (we can call it the "reward centre") lit up every time something good happened to them.

The reward centre is a fundamental component of the human brain. It is located partly in the brain stem, which harkens about as far back in evolution as primates go, maybe earlier. In other words, "sweet" brought a reward in the brain to our pre-human ancestors as much as it does to us.

What surprised the researchers was that the participants, when given a large sum of money then offered the option to give some of it away to a worthy charity that was entirely fictitious and had no background provided to the participants, most of them chose to give away some of their money to the charities.

The reward centres of their brains reacted either to the same degree when they gave away money to a charity as when they received it with no investment (like winning a lottery), or they reacted even stronger in some cases. That is, for some people giving away money to a charity (the closest the researchers could come to virtual altruism) was more rewarding than receiving money without a prior investment.

At the least, the charitable donation provided as much reward as receiving the money in the first place. Not everyone chose to give some money to charity, but almost all did.

Because the reward centre is partly in the ancient brain stem, the researchers believe that altruism must have a biological component that has existed for a very long time into our history. The lower part of the frontal lobes, another ancient brain component, also lit up in those "sweet" situations.

Science proved that people enjoy helping others. It given us pleasure to do it.

Does this prove that people do things like giving to charities or helping others just because it makes them feel good? The cynical would say yes.

However, the science proved that helping others has a genetic component. Helping others is part of who we are as a species.

If it's part of who we are, genetically speaking, perhaps it's also part of our purpose for being here.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us understand what we really are all about.
Learn more at

It's All Dale Carnegie's Fault

There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.
- Dale Carnegie, author and educator (1888-1955)

Dale Carnegie, best known for his extremely popular book How To Win Friends And Influence People, spent his professional career teaching people how to work their way into a society they found threatening, fearsome or unknowable.

I question whether these four are the only ways in which we have contact with the world. They are, however, the ways in which others evaluate us, thus determine whether or not we are worth associating with. To most of us, this is extremely important.

As Carnegie said in his work, these four ways involve learnable skills. In times past there were colleges called finishing schools whose main purpose was to teach preadolescent and adolescent children of wealthy families how to act, speak, use body language and so on to gain the attention of others of similar or higher status on the socio-economic scale.

Those colleges still exist, though their focus has changed with the times toward something more of an academic nature in keeping with the need for today's young women to be something more than ideal mates for wealthy young men. Private colleges have picked up the slack and teach shorter courses with practical information for those who want to be noticed and to fit into a particular environment.

Though Carnegie's four points explained how others evaluate us, they don't explain how we interact with the rest of the world or even how we perceive the rest of the world.

Carnegie may have been a great influence on the society of big cities today where many people tend to believe that the only things of importance in the world are those that somehow involve people.

I live in an area that is mostly forest and lakes, except in the summer and on weekends when city people who own cottages on lakefront property spend much of their time trying to tame or conquer nature to make their wilderness property into a suburban mansion property (a.k.a. cottage or summer home).

One of the first things they do once they have purchased their property (unless they tear down the existing cottage and build one several times larger) is to cut down most of the trees (rememeber, it's a forest) and plant grass.

They ensure a weed-free yard by putting fertilizer and weed killers on the grass and pesticides on their gardens, all within the drainage area of bedrock that filters these during rainfalls down into our lake.

In turn, the lake empties into a stream and subsequently into other lakes and rivers until the heavily polluted water joins Lake Ontario, the lowest of the Great Lakes system of North America.

None of the property owners drinks lake or river water any more because it is poisonous, though they happily play, swim and water ski in it. They never get caught breaking the law by applying poisons near the water--as they fully expect to be safeguarded from such unpleasantness--because police and conservation officers don't have time to catch more than the odd one who is overly foolish. Court cases cost tax money, so few people are charged.

They lament that the animals disappear from the property they bought in a "natural wilderness" though they would prefer to see animals only from a distance because they are afraid of them for the most part. Bears, foxes and coyotes (technically coydogs--domestic dogs that have gone wild and mates with coyotes) fascinate them at the dump.

City people have largely lost their connection with nature. Coincidentally, more and more of them question that anything of value was ever created by anyone other than men. They have largely lost their sense of wonder at nature as a creation of a deity because they believe that they are the masters of nature and they can change nature at will. Now that we can genetically alter just about anything, who cares about God?

They no longer fear God, though they may fear their neighbour or strangers who break into their property to find money and goods they can sell to buy drugs. Now these can be "home invasions," breakins that occur while the owners are asleep in their own dwellings. Usually the breakins are into empty cottages.

In short, a large number of big city dwellers have become excellent graduates of the school of relationships taught by Dale Carnegie.

I didn't use to lock my home or car doors because there was no one around to bother breaking in. Now I lock both to keep out the city folks who might do anything while enjoying their recreational drugs at their cottages on the weekends.

Dale Carnegie would surely be proud. His graduates know how to get what they want.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to provide some context for what we see around us.
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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Don't Let The Bastards Get To You

Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge.
- Isaac Friedmann

It seems strange to put the words forgiveness and revenge into the same sentence, especially to relate them to each other.

The kind of quiet forgiveness that most of us would think of would not apply in this situation, I believe. That is, carrying around a grudge instead of letting a hurt drop and forgetting about it won't cause anyone any revenge.

Letting go of hurts by others will be a great release and relief for you, however. Carrying a grudge has a negative impact on the immune system. The immune system is very sensitive, so that when the brain senses a hurt of some kind that is an emotional hurt instead of a physical one it will send energy to the source of the hurt, taking it away from the immune system.

Forgetting the grudge allows the immune system to rebalance, setting you up once again to be ready for an attack by microbes.

Simply forgiving someone for a hurt you perceive might do nothing for the other person because the other may not even know he has hurt you. Or he may not care if he was that kind of person to hurt in the first place.

To achieve the kind of revenge Friedmann talked about would require you to obviously tell the offending party that he had hurt you and that you forgive him for his hurt. That will make him realize that he has done some harm that he likely didn't intend.

However, will making the offending person feel guilty make you feel any better? As much as we would all like to believe it would, it doesn't work that way for most of us. If we didn't like being hurt, we won't think well of ourselves for causing guilt (a form of hurt) in the other person.
So is there no way out of hurt when someone else has done something against you? There is a way, but it's not easy and it takes considerable practise to master the skill.

While we would all like to believe that others are as sensitive and caring as we are, the fact is they are not. Few people are sensitive to the hurts of others. After a suicide, murder-suicide or mass suicide, those close to the perpetrator almost always can think of ways that they should have noted that would show that the person was not mentally stable. But these clues were not noticed or not registered as important at the time. They weren't sensitive to the most obvious kinds of problems a troubled person had.

With so many insensitive people around, we would have to have all of them feeling guilty about their misdeeds if revenge were to be taken in full. That can't happen or the world would be a sadder and likely more dangerous place as a result.

Some people are just plain stupid. Stupid people do stupid things. Some of those stupid things hurt others. If one of those stupid things hurts you, realize that it came from a stupid person and forget it.

Otherwise it's like bumping your head on something at home then putting your fist through the wall to make the building pay for hurting you. The building seldom feels guilty and the perpetrator of your hurt won't either.

Stupid people do stupid things. Get over it. You don't have to like them or have anything to do with them if they are that way. Surely you have more productive ways to invest your life than to try to make stupid people hurt for being stupid.

They won't get better. You can by learning this technique.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help you indentify the stupid people and stay away from them.
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