Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Peace Plan That Will Work Worldwide

"As my conception of ahimsa went on maturing, I became more vigilant about my thought and speech. The lines in the Anthem:
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks
particularly jarred upon my sentiments of Ahimsa."
Mohandas K. ("The Mahatma") Gandhi; The Story of My Experiments With Truth; 1927

Ahimsa more than anything else is a philosophy of non-violence. Some Hindus and Buddhists and especially Jainists (or Jains) subscribe to ahimsa as a way of life.

It means more than simply not killing others. It's the guide for ordinary people that is the equivalent of the medical dictum "Do no harm."

That means doing no harm to anyone or anything. It includes emotional harm as well as physical. In ahimsa, emotional harm is as bad as physical harm, maybe worse.

To Christians it would be the equivalent of turning the other cheek, what Jesus did when insulted and assaulted. This aspect of Christianity, however, finds little support in action within Christian countries.

Ahimsa means not arguing with others, instead using dialog to find compromises. In ahimsa, peace is greater than any other force.

Most people who subscribe to ahimsa are vegetarians or vegans because they don't want to make animals suffer either through penning them in life or by killing them. Killing living plants is done to survive.

Can ahimsa really be practical in today's real world or is it a pie in the sky philosophy that few could or should take seriously? Gandhi made it work.

The Mahatma (Great Soul) was the most successful and magnificent icon in history who was non-violent yet achieved great goals. More than for any other reason, the British left India because Gandhi urged people to protest peacefully against their inhumane rulers. It simply cost too much to provide security services for so many people who wanted to protest.

To the British, India was "The Jewel In The Crown," the colony that brought wealth and power to the UK that nothing else could. India made the British Empire. But it was brought to its knees by the little man who would not harm anyone.

Before departing India for good, the British were faced with possible riots in the Punjab and Calcutta (now Kolkata). The army believed it might be able to contain an uprising in Punjab, but it had no idea how to contain the (mostly Muslim) mobs of Calcutta. It didn't have the manpower to control an angry mob that large.

The British decided to send their 55,000 available troops all to Punjab. To Gandhi they said "If you can control Calcutta (Bengal), then go to it."

Gandhi went to Bengal and spoke to the tribal and religious leaders there. There was no riot, no one died, no one was hurt. The British army in Punjab mowed down hundreds of Punjabis at a time as they rioted.

One man prevented a bloodbath that a whole army could not. He was a man of peace. He spoke of peace. He taught peace. 450 million Indians believed him. Most of the time.

At the time of independence, Pakistan threatened to invade Kashmir until India came to its aid (absorbing Kashmir in the process). About ten million people died trying to make their way to the new country of their choice. Hindus moved from Pakistan to India while Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. Ten million were slaughtered by others of the different religion.
The Great Soul couldn't be everywhere.

India today is largely a country of peace, despite what fears of nuclear attacks we may read about in the western media. Those fears were mostly in the minds of western new editors rather than in the minds of Indian people.

Gandhi taught peace and lived peace. He died at the hands of a militant Hindu who didn't want peace. But his legacy lives in India today as if he were still alive.

Teaching peace works. Gandhi proved it on a macro scale.

The lesson is there for us to learn.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to implement a peace plan throughout the world, one that will work and will cost very little.
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Saturday, July 28, 2007

How Political Leaders Manage To Swindle So Many People

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should know about and a plan that will help everyone in the world.
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.
- Michael Crichton

This statement applies exceedingly well for politics. It may be less apt for business or family situations. In business a leader may be responsible to a board of directors who should be more responsible than to submit to this kind of thing. In families a matron may well speak for the whole family, giving the explanation that everyone agrees with her whether it's true or not.

In politics, no one can be completely certain of anything until it has been brought to a vote. Even at voting time who voted for or against what is carefully recorded so that it may be used against an elected representative at a later date.

No matter what effect peer pressure may have within a political party, the leader may also have his way if he can make the claim of concensus within a party caucus, then insist on "party solidarity" at voting time. The leader may, in fact, have no knowledge of how many people favoured his initiative, nor would he care.

The leader not only wants to win, he wants to win everything by having votes go the way he chooses. He uses persuasion, coercion or the concensus argument to win the favour (vote support) of his own party members.

While vote rigging is no longer seen on a massive scale in well established democracies in the western world (hanging chads aside), claims of fraudulent voting and vote counting are common in developing countries and poor countries. The media may report such deviances, then, in more than half the countries of the world.

Can fraudulent voting procedures be called part of the concensus argument? It may if many party elected members, officials and members know about it but do nothing. The leader would claim the silence of these people on the basis of concensus and the need to prevent massive upset of the country if the leading party were found to be guilty of criminal activity--they would all lose their main source of legitimate income. Some would lose their feeling of being remotely associate with a source of power, the leader.

In any situation where a vote may change the direction a group will take in future, the concensus argument may sway undecided voters to vote in favour of the measure proposed by the leader. If possible, the group leader may claim concensus because little opposition has been heard to a proposal (maybe because those opposed wanted to wait for the vote to express their opinions without being harrassed by the leader in public before the vote) and he will avoid the vote entirely, thus depriving his silent opposition of their last minute weapon.

There is nothing genteel about politics. We understand that the force of command should be used in the military to ensure that the entire unit is working together. We don't expect it in politics where voting is done openly, supposedly above board.

We would prefer to believe that the power struggles within politics all happen in the back rooms and the final results work out best for the people.

The people of Argentina watched the concensus argument used repeatedly during the years the Perons were in power. The Perons led hallowed public lives while skimming much of the country's wealth for themselves. Once the Perons were gone, the Peronists that followed made a once substantial country into one of the Third World.

The people of the US watched it happen when President George W. Bush took his country into war in Iraq with evidence that was confusing at best, with no real threat against the US and without any consultation with voters. The country, Mr. Bush said, knows that invading Iraq is the right thing to do.

"The country" was Bush's use of the concensus argument whereby he had no need to consult with anyone dependable and without reliable evidence. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, even in his final speech as PM, claimed the invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

As everyone, it may safely be claimed, wants to do the right thing, it follows (according to the concensus argument) that if invading Iraq was the right thing to do then he and Bush made the right decision by doing it.

That's concensus, used in a democratic country without consulting parliament, Congress or the people, used to impoverish a country and kill many of its healthiest young adults. And to make the users of the concensus argument enormously wealthy.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to solve costly community and national problems and make the severity of many personal problems manageable at the same time.
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Friday, July 27, 2007

How Do You Recognize A Functionally Illiterate Person?

Please read the signature line at the end of this article to learn about a book you should know about and a plan you should have for the future.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems
Before speaking, consider the interpretation of your words as well as their intent.
- Andrew Alden

Much of the conflict, discontent and hurt in the world began as a result of misinterpreted words of others.

Of course Adolf Hitler intended to take over the world when he prepared for war in the late 1930s. But British Prime Minister Chamberlain believed that he had "peace in our time" when he returned from Germany in 1938 with an agreement with Hitler that Germany would not wage war. Chamberlain deceived himself, we now believe.

But Hitler misinterpreted the consoling and compromising words of Chamberlain as well. He thought the UK would be an easy target, that it would not resist him. He was very wrong as at one point Britain almost alone stood in opposition to Hitler's juggernaut.

People tend to misinterpret written words more than spoken ones. Some say it's because written words do not come with facial expression and body language as spoken words do. I disagree to a point.

In conversation we tend to lay out our thoughts in a fairly orderly fashion. If necessary we repeat them so that our listeners will fix our ideas in their minds. With the written word, the reader is alone. Too alone sometimes to grasp the intent of the writer even if the writer has expressed himself or herself well.

Each word has a meaning, usually more than one. Its position in a sentence determines which of its multiple meanings is intended so that a reader can understand a whole sentence. A paragraph combines several concepts or thoughts into a flow.

Often written language is more elevated than spoken language. That is, an adult speaking to another might be understood easily by an eight-year-old but the same adult might use words that are above the reading level of the child when writing a message. This often happens without thinking about it as almost everyone has written essays or papers for high school, college or university.

In addition to complexities of language and sequence of thought, we have a series of paragraphs in a written work that may lead to conclusions that must stand independently of each paragraph. Misinterpretation begins the first time a reader loses track of the overall intent or purpose of the written work and becomes fixed on one idea expressed in it.

An example of this happened not long ago in Turkey when the Pope quoted a passage in a document a church official had written over 600 years ago to show how the Church of Rome at that time hated Muslims. While the entire context of the Pope's message was about reconciliation between the world's two largest religious belief sets, some Muslims took the 600 year old quote out of context and repeated it to others as if today's Pope had written them himself.

There is little doubt that militant Muslims spread the word quickly about how the Roman Catholic Pope had expressed his hatred of Muslims. But the original misinterpretation likely happened innocently enough, by someone who latched onto one thought (a 600 year old one) and neglected the whole concept of what the Pope was trying to say.

Some people, especially those who are functionally illiterate, may have trouble grasping the full meaning of written words. Statistics Canada, the agency that compiles statistics for the Canadian government, in 2002 published a document that said that two-thirds of retired Canadians were functionally illiterate and about 45 percent of pre-retirement Canadian adults were as well. Those Canadian statistics likely can be used for other G7 countries as well.

We have people who can't read so well, even though they believe they can. They may read the newspaper, but never a book. They read the weather report on the Weather Channel, but they never read online news articles on web sites. If they read online news reports, they may not grasp the significance of how that item fits with others on the same topic so recent history has a fuller meaning for htem.

For these people (the Canadian report said that 94 percent of Canadian adults read fewer than three books in a year, many none at all), the spoken word is best. It allows for repeats, facial expression, body language and evaluation by the speaker about whether or not the listener has heard and understood.

Most of the comments made by readers following one of these articles shows that they have understood what I have intended for them. Some just don't get it. They believe they are good readers because they have "read" all the words to the end of the article. When they latch onto one thing mentioned in an article and dwell on it to the exclusion of the main point of the article or the context in which it was placed, they are usually functionally illiterate.

It would serve us all well to understand that some people will misinterpret what we have written, so we should be prepared to back up what we write with spoken communication. It may be a choice of either explain better or fight.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how ordinary people can make a difference in the world to make it a more peaceful and safe place to live. That plan is there and it's cheap to implement.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Isn't Lying To Yourself Fun?

Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the world and our own lives easier to understand and manage. Find out more about this book at the end of the article.
It does not require many words to speak the truth.
- Chief Joseph, native American leader (1840-1904)

Some people use the excuse that "they" don't really want the truth, that "they" want a fantasy "they" can nurture, one that doesn't involve "them" in responsibility for the way things are or in doing anything to improve the situation. Most times that's a lie.

It's no exaggeration to say that truth is one of the most difficult human concepts to find in practice in today's world. We find the media twisting news to make the platform and policies of the political party their owners favour look especially good.

We have politicians putting such "spin" on information they are required to reveal in news stories that they always appear innocent of sordid charges and even supportive of the side that appears to be "right" at the time.

We have clergy telling lies and committing illegal personal violations against others of their followers. Some teach their children in religious schools (the only schools that can usually be attended by children without charge or fee in those countries) the background they need to become the terrorists of tomorrow.

We have spouses lying to teach other about where they spent "missing" time and lied-to spouses lying to themselves by accepting a lie they know to be false.

We have children getting involved with drugs, breaking all sorts of laws to pay for their addiction, then lying to their parents about what they do with their free time and who they were with. Their parents believe the lie because they want to.

What would our world be like if everyone told the truth? This hypothetical question has been proposed before. This time I would like you to return to the first paragraph after the quote and consider how those situations would be different if the people who make excuses didn't make false alibis because they had to tell the truth.

Then move to the next paragraph and consider what our world would be like if the media told the truth, the facts rather than doctored and editorialized Pablum.

Continue, one by one, to the end of those paragraphs that discuss situations where we daily experience people telling lies and half-truths that confuse and complicate our lives in a real world.

You live in a real world, unless you want to live within your own fantasy. Your own fantasy shouldn't extend past advertising of products you would like to buy or services you would like to have. But your life is made so complex by untruths that it's hard to understand sometimes because so many people tell something other than the truth. And the stories seldom all match.

It could happen that people begin to tell the truth. We could teach children to tell the truth, provided that we don't lie to them while we do it. We could also teach them how to convey the truth in such a way that it doesn't hurt the receivers. I used to have a reputation as an employer who could fire an employee and make that person feel lucky that he or she had the opportunity to begin a new work life elsewhere, so I know it can be done.

Nothing is improved with a lie. No situation has ever improved because of a lie. No life was ever made more secure or better because of a lie. People who allow themselves to be deluded by lies eventually experience a day of reckoning when the truth becomes obvious. By then the lie-teller is usually nowhere to be found.

Until we start teaching the value of truth to every child, we will continue to live in a complicated fantasy world where very few things turn out to be the way we were told they should be.

That's not pretty. There is no need for us to lie to ourselves about that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make the world, our communities and our personal lives much better without spending a fortune. It's all real. And true.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You Too Can Be A Spin Doctor

Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring power to the people who care. Learn more at the end of this article.

When we have the courage to speak out -- to break our silence -- we inspirethe rest of the "moderates" in our communities to speak up and voice theirviews.
- Sharon Schuster

"Moderates" is what Schuster calls people who have thoughts, ideas, opinions and criticisms about what happens in their communities, but aren't prepared to speak up to do anything about it.

Why would that be? In the past (my past at least) I heard the old saying that "you can't fight city hall," meaning that established governments have resources that can support or oppose anything that the powers behind them want. That includes challenges in court as they use tax money to pay teams of lawyers, as necessary.

That situation hasn't changed. No doubt it is very hard to oppose the direction any level of government is taking, especially if it involves a courtroom. However, more and more class action suits are not only being accepted by the courts, but winning against governments and big industry.

Suits against Big Tobacco are prime examples of how ordinary folks who have been hurt by an industry who purposely put poisons and addictive substances into tobacco products in order to sell more product were able to gain substantial retribution and compensation from those industries.

However, the landscape has changed somewhat over the past few decades. Now it's not the governments themselves that hold the power over what they do--that is the representatives of the people who elected them--but the power behind the elected representatives. When it counts, the vote goes to the money.

No doubt our elected representative influence the way a vote goes in a legislative body for much of its day-to-day business. But on important matters, questions about which the moneyed backers of elected representatives want to have a vote go one way or another, the power of the backroom--and the boardrooms behind them--matters more than the consciences of the representatives themselves.

The best examples of these are the U.S. Senate whose activities play out in the media daily. Others include the past two U.S. presidential elections where the president of the most powerful country in the world was decided less by voters and more by the powers behind the scenes who influenced everyone from the Supreme Court to the people who counted ballots (but not those with hanging chads).

However, there is one place where ordinary people can express themselves and find others who think like them. That place is the small newspaper that may publish daily, twice a week, weekly or even twice a month. These editors and publishers want local opinion and those who are prepared to speak out (and speak up) can find an outlet for their views in the editorial pages.

When we think of newspapers, we tend to think of the biggest of them. But their editorial policies may prohibit those with viewpoints that differ from that of the publisher/owner from finding daylight. The small papers like to support local opinion and are happy when they can get behind a worthy project and support those who want to make it happen.

They want readers and don't mind a bit of controversy because they know that controversy brings more readers.

Those who believe they can't reach a larger audience with their opinions may find willing support for their ideas if they can write in publishable form. Small newspaper always need news and editorial material.

The only power that supercedes that of the backroom boys in legislative votes is the power of the public as demonstrated by the popularity of their opinions in the media. Small newspapers offer that potential to those who want to spread the word about something in ways that no other medium could.

Today's ordinary citizen may not have any more power than a citizen of the past. But the ones who learn how to work the small newspapers to their advantage can make a difference without having the big money that backs most elected representatives.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book that gives the background needed by every citizen about how to make their community, their families and their personal lives better and safer.
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Is God Worth Believing In?

If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to savepeople on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern oftheir words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to aTV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed isfoul, foul, foul.
- Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

I believe that Asimov, like many atheists, claimed to be an atheist not because there is no evidence for the existence of a supreme deity but because he saw the many flaws and hypocrisies of the organized religions around him. In other words, it was not God that Asimov didn't believe in but the various forms of God touted by organized religions. The former may be true also, but that was not his point.

Pope Benedict, like many predecessors, urges the world to make peace. Yet his words indicate that he believes that Christianity is the only true religion, that Roman Catholics belong to the only true church and that Jews do not subscribe to anything that may be called a religion at all. Some of those Jews live in Benedict's home country, the one that was responsible for killing millions of Jews during the Second World War. Benedict, in effect, excluded Jews from the Catholic heaven.

There isn't a religion in the world whose clerics profess chastity that is not under attack in the courts today for cases of sexually violating women in their congregations and children in their personal care.

One of the first things that children learn about the God of their religion is that He is mysterious, unknowable, supremely powerful and all-knowing. Then most of them proceed to dictate to their parishioners and followers how they should behave and what they should not do, based on information they have received directly from God. That's the same "unknowable" God.

Every religion claims that their God is better than the Gods of other religions., even if the Gods are really one entity. Every religion claims that their devout followers will receive an escort into heaven before any non-believers, some even claiming that non-believers in that particular faith cannot possibly go to heaven anyway.

Every religion claims to believe in peace, yet almost every war since the end of the Roman Empire has been either started or supported by religions. In the Second World War, both the Allied countries and the Axis powers claimed to have the support of God--both of the same God.

Asimov, I believe, was soured by the claims about God made by the religions he knew. He knew many religions. By their standards, he was an atheist.

By his own standards, maybe not. He was a public atheist. He said he "would believe in a God who would choose to save people" yet the Gods of most religions have not chosen to or been able to prevent most of the atrocities of history, such as the genocides of Holocaust, Rwanda or Kosovo/Albania.

Perhaps what atheists are saying is that they want a God they can believe in, not one supported by fantasy and fiction invented by power hungry religious leaders. Maybe they want a God they can trust, as opposed to the Gods proposed by religious leaders who can't back up their claims and put spin on any apparent failures or deficiencies of their deities.

Organized religions constitute the largest unelected human power structures in the world. They hold power equivalent to that of elected governments, but are not accountable to anyone (except in recent violations of laws).

No one expects a religion to be able to prove the existence of God. That would be a violation of their own beliefs, given that God is unknowable by definition. But people seeking answers to their most important questions about life and afterlife deserve to be served by people who can be trusted and who will not distort the truth, whatever that may be.

Religious leaders and their devout followers who want to persuade others to join them should be prepared to follow their own life guidelines, but publicly and privately.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the though questions about life a bit easier to understand.
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Sunday, July 22, 2007

We Can't Kill Them All

The recognition of the sanctity of the life of every man is the first and only basis of all morality.
- Leo Tolstoy

Christians call it The Golden Rule. Confucianism has a similar dictum. Virtually all religions have some version of The Golden Rule.

But Tolstoy's statement goes beyond those moral guides of religion. His statement includes respect for ourselves. As the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher
Pythagoras (circa 580-500 BC) once wrote, "Above all things, reverence yourself."

Those who have little or no respect for themselves cannot have the ability and depth of character to offer respect to and for others. Respecting ourselves must be the place where we begin to teach children.

We must respect the children we teach and in turn teach them how to respect themselves. Sometimes, in our times of greatest need, the respect we have for ourselves and our loved ones is all that holds us together, separating us from those who resort to suicide, depression or insanity.

I would take this concept of respect a major step forward. We need to respect the multitude of other life forms on our planet and the non-biological part of it as well.

Respecting ourselves already has us respecting some other forms of life. Modern biological science estimates that we may harbour as many as nine times as many microbes on our skin and within our bodies as we have cells of our own body. In fact, we are already what the first Star Trek television series called symbionts. Not only do our bodies host other life forms, we depend on them to fight off still other microbes that would harm us with disease and other infections.

We are not individual life entities, islands in an ocean of other life forms. We are communities of life ourselves. Respecting our own health means providing support for the uncountable bacteria and viruses within us that help to maintain our health as they live their own lives.

We need to respect life forms beyond ourselves and beyond other humans. We have vegetarians and vegans disavowing the eating meat because the animal slaughter they believe is inhumane and unnecessary. Yet everything that every one of us eats--plant or animal--was at one time a living being with a life cycle and a desire to survive and reproduce just like ourselves.

We consume components of the mineral kingdom as if their sources will go on forever, which of course they won't. We build unrepairable appliances, for example, then throw them away when they no longer work, which is sooner rather than later because we build them as cheaply as possible. But minerals can't be destroyed any more than biological life can be destroyed. It collects in waste dumps waiting to be rediscovered as new sources of precious raw materials for manufacturing in the future.

Our waste dumps collect minerals in random willy-nilly fashion. Instead of separating our mineral waste so it can be recycled and remanufactured later, we cast it into huge piles where our descendents will have to pay heavily to dig it up and separate it. That includes separating off the poisons that have developed in the decomposing waste soup.

Biological life can't be destroyed? Of course any given entity of biological life can end its lifespan, but the now-dead cells become food for other life forms so that the food chain of life keeps revolving incessantly. Biological life never disappears, it only changes shape and position with respect to other life forms.

When we look after ourselves, we extend our own lives and the lives of many other microbes (in succeeding generations) within us. When we look after other forms of life outside of ourselves, we ensure that the food chain will continue unimpeded around the world. When we look after (respect) non-biological materials, we provide for the generations that will follow us.

As Tolstoy said, morality is all about respect. That respect begins with ourselves.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough questions of life a bit easier to understand.
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Unlock The Power Of Your Mind

Always remember, there is more strength in you than you ever realized or even imagined. Certainly nothing can keep you down if you are determined to get on top of things and stay there.
- Norman Vincent Peale

The strength Peale spoke of is the strength of mind. Some have it, some don't.

Those who don't believe they have such great strength of mind likely don't, because they have not discovered it or used it. Like many things in life, the mind atrophies in an intellectual sense with lack of use. Potential will never be realized so long as its existence is never known.

Those who know they have this powerful strength of mind and who use it do so carefully because it tends to frighten others who don't understand the "phenomenon." Many people unknowingly fear those with powerful minds. Some knowthey fear them but don't know why.

How powerful is the human mind? Let's take the example of someone who is very ill with cancer, who has friends and family praying for him to recover and "beat the devil." This is, perhaps, the best use of prayer.

The suffering person believes that the praying friends and family will bring the power of God to bear upon his cancer. He believes he will conquer his cancer. Sometimes it happens. Not by accident.

Since all cells of the body are controlled by the brain and the mind is a function of the brain, the mind can get the brain to act to heal body cells. Cancerous cells can be persuaded by the brain to commit suicide just as easily as many other cells of our body commit suicide every day in order to make way for newer and healthier cells.

The story of a best friend comes to mind. Late one evening I received a phone call from his wife, saying that he had been taken to hospital after some sort of seizure or attack. This man had led a hard life. His dyslexia had prevented him from progressing far in school but he had prevailed by becoming an excellent baker. Following year after year of bad luck with employers whose businesses failed, casting him out to look for a new job each time, he found a new bakery business that invited him to design his own bakeshop kitchen.

In short, he was in his glory as the new bakery business took off and did very well. He was in every way, including his family, his home life and his job, at the peak of his career, of his life. This man so feared losing what he had worked so many years to find that I am convinced his brain killed him that night so that he could go out of life at his best, a success. Two autopsies failed to find any reason for him to have died.

He died with everyone who knew him being proud of his accomplishments and achievements. He died by his own choice, a choice of mind, as objectionable as this idea may be to some people. What I knew but no one else did was that this man had no idea how to develop the business he created any further. For him there was a wall at the top of the hill he had reached.

The brain can heal and it can kill. More importantly, it can work wonders while it has a body to carry it around. However, this is not the message we are taught as adolescents. Most of us learn as young adults that we are dependant on our employers for our survival and that we have many responsibilities, to our family, to our religion, to our neighbours, to our employer, to the advertisers who need us to buy all their stuff.

These responsibilities and dependancies prevent us from exploring the power of our own mind, usually because we are too busy with our responsibilities to use our brains in such a way as to discover the power it holds. The bit of free time we may have gets eaten up with recreation and relaxation so that we can recover from our work-heavy life.

We don't take time to think. If we do, someone will surely tell us that we are wasting time because we aren't accomplishing anything. To accomplish something--to succeed--we must be constantly at work in some way, usually either spending money or earning it so it may be spent later, according to the prevailing social norms of our society.

To learn how to use the extraordinary power of your mind you must learn to think beyond the events and trials of your everyday life. As with learning any skill to the point of being able to use it exceptionally well, you will require time to develop your mind power. It will take years of practice. Constant practice. With few rewards along the way. Much the way that Olympic athletes commit to a rigid regimen in order to compete with the best in the world.

As Peale said, "nothing can keep you down" once you master the power within your mind.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you the hidden power of mind within you.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

Why We Are Always Running Out Of Time

The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
- Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet, philosopher, Nobel Laureate (1861-1941)

Where does time go? Indeed, what is time? How can we, in an average 80 year lifespan, not have enough time to do the things we should and want to do, yet, as Tagore said, the butterfly who lives but moments has enough.

Time is a man-made construction. No other living thing on the planet keeps track of time other than humans. Does that make us special or self-deluded? Both options have strong support.
Einstein factored space-time into his calculations, but today theoretical physicists claim that he may have been wrong, that time does not exist in reality. Consider that you read this at one instance of something. You remember history and you dream about the future. But what's the difference?

The fact that we may be able to prove the something happened "in the past" does not prove that the event actually happened at a different instance in time. Perhaps we have defined our present in such as way that we claim the event as history. Likewise, we suspect that anyone who is convinced that something he dreams will happen in the future is either a psychic or a madman.

What we remember as history and what we dream as the future are, so far as our brain in concerned, merely different instances in the same event--coincidences that we manufacture in a theoretical sense to explain what we want to believe. The only moment in "time" that you can prove actually exists is this one, the one you are living right now. After now, what happened is history that you may invent just as well as you can invent an apparently realistic future.

Okay, too much heavy physics. Why, then, do we for so much of our lives run short of time when all other life on earth has enough?

The answer: no other living thing pays any attention to what others of its kind tell it to do or expect it to do. We adopt responsibilities for ourselves, usually more of them as we get older. Eventually so much of what we do--that comprises our history later-- is consumed that we don't have enough time in any day to get it all done.

And we put it down to "getting older." As if time somehow magically moves faster simply because we are busier with more responsibilities and don't keep track of the passage of instances until we look back to see how much we didn't get accomplished. If that sounds strange, remember that Einstein said that time slows down as our speed approaches the speed of light. Science has proven that.

Time, most people agree, is our most treasured possession. Yet few of us accomplish the most important things we want to do with our time. Much of our time is spent either spending money to amuse ourselves that we are doing what others tell us to do (via advertising, peer pressure) or we're earning money to amuse ourselves doing these things later.

If that sounds sarcastic or cynical, perhaps you should take some time to consider how much of your day is spent doing things that others tell you to do or expect you to do, things that you would be criticized for not doing by others if you "neglected" them.

Only children and some old people have time to spare. Children have time because they have not yet adopted the responsibilities that the society they will grow into will tell them they must accept. Old people who have given up the heavy burden of responsibilities (such as those in special care homes where they will live until they die) have time to either enjoy the life around them or they slowly close down their brain until whether the cap was put back on the toothpaste tube or the towels are hanging correctly become important events in their day.

The important question should not be "Do I have enough time?" but "Am I spending the time I have in ways that matter?" What really does matter to you?

The first question is irrelevant. If the answer to the second question is yes, then you will have a satisfying experience as you consider events on either side of your present instance. You should have the answer to the third question at hand at all times.

Beware: there will always be people who will try to tell you how you must spend your time. They may ask you or command you. They may co-opt you or enslave you. Whatever they do, the responsibility for whether you accept the responsibility for doing what they want is your choice.

Always your choice.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough questions of life a bit clearer so you can make the right decisions about how to use your time.
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

How Bored People Become Killers

Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.
- Thomas Szasz

Only boring people get bored. If you never get bored, you will understand. If you are the kind of person who gets bored, face the truth. But you are unlikely to be a bored or boring person because you read worthwhile material.

A bored person usually wants someone else to provide the stimulus he needs to get out of his boredom. It's not that he doesn't have initiative or succumb to the same motivations as others. It's simply that the bored person needs someone else to kick-start his interest in anything because he doesn't know enough to be able to interact with others in a good conversation.

The bored person is unhappy with his own company. He needs the company of others so that he doesn't have to think about himself. When he thinks about himself, he doesn't have enough to think about. He is not aware of his own problem, only that he needs someone else to help him not be bored.

Any kind of meaningful conversation requires at least one person to be knowledgeable enough about the subject under discussion to be able to make a contribution to what the others already know. A bored person often knows too little about all subjects to be able to add much of substance to any conversation.

The great difficulty for a bored person is that he doesn't want to make the huge investment in learning a skill that others will admire or to learn sufficient information (knowledge) about a certain subject that he can participate in conversations actively, gaining the respect of others for his contributions.

Knowing or having enough of something that makes friendship worthwhile for a bored person requires hard work, usually over a prolonged period of time. By the time a person is old enough to be bored, others have already learned the skills or knowledge they need. Little kids seldom get bored because their imaginations kick in to give them something to do no matter what their circumstances. Bored people lose that power of imagination.

The bored person may like to "hang with friends." He likely enjoys his music loud because that precludes the need to produce any meaningful contribution to conversation. Being with people is important to him, but he wants conditions to be such that he doesn't have to contribute much to what happens.

The bored person is a follower because of his need to be with other people and his lack of leadeship skills. Leaders always must know more than their followers or have something special to add to the group (money, charisma, tickets, music sources) that will make him attractive as a friend and leader.

Bored young people naturally gravitate to gangs where the leader provides the stimulus for whatever is necessary to keep the group alive and active.

While gang participation may sound risky, it provides the environment that a bored person needs and wants. Bored young people who do not join gangs may be the loners we read about in the newspapers, ones who use guns to scare or kill their peers who they may feel unfairly rejected them. That feeling of rejection may be generalized to peers the bored person hasn't met, such as other students of the same education institution.

In general, bored people lack the life skills they need to gain the knowledge or skills that will earn them recognition in social groups and they lack sufficient social skills to be able to attract the kinds of friends they really need.

Unfortunately, the kinds of friends that good people don't need are the easiest to find and acquire. The ones who provide drugs, for example, and encourage an antisocial lifestyle that requires theft to get enough money to buy more drugs. The right kinds of friends are much harder to find and develop relationships with and this may be nearly impossible for people who lack a range of social skills.

Bored young people are not often bullies, unless their gang is led by a bully and they play along with the group. Bullies that act alone are usually well aware of their lack of social skills and their inability to make friends, whereas a bored person may not be aware that he lacks sufficient social skills.

A bored person is bored with life because he doesn't have enough knowledge about it to find it interesting. That, in turn, makes him boring to others.

A bored person is an accident waiting to happen. Without intervention by others who know what to do, it will happen.

If you know a boring person, you know a bored person, or vice versa. Now you also know what that person needs. You may be able to help.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the though things about life a bit easier to understand.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Don't Get No Respect

Respect ... is appreciation of the separateness of the other person, of the ways in which he or she is unique.
- Annie Gottlieb

Many characteristics of human nature are hard to pin down and define, but respect ranks up there with the hardest.

You don't think that respect is part of human nature? Well it's the flip side of self esteem, which most people consider to be a component of human nature.

Some people find it difficult to get respect from others. Some lack a healthy dose of self esteem. The two, in a way, go together. Someone with self esteem often has the ability to earn respect from others.

Generally speaking, adults don't give much consideration to giving respect to children. What they do instead is work to build their self esteem.

Respect comes in two flavours: the kind owed to another by virtue of the position that person holds (such as a senior officer in the military or a headmaster in the schools of old) and the kind that a person must earn. Kids haven't lived enough to have earned the latter kind of respect for themselves, though they all experience the former kind somewhere along the line.

A third kind of respect should be what we have for what already is, for its current state, for just being. We should respect nature rather than destroy it (and perhaps ourselves in the bargain). We should respect what countless generations of humans have accomplished over the millennia since our ancestors emerged from a core line of primates.

We should also respect every person. But some people don't deserve our respect, you may say. The reason they don't deserve our respect today may be because they have no idea how to earn it and they have no past experience of being respected when they most needed it as children and adolescents.

If we deny those who don't deserve our respect the third kind of respect, respect we would give to any person, then we will surely perpetuate the bad behaviour of that person. That person will become more anti-social. We don't need more anti-social people.

The Christian Bible and several similar documents tell us that we should honour (respect) our father and mother. In principle, this is worthy of being one of the Ten Commandments. But not all parents deserve respect based on their behaviour.

An adult who offers little respect to other adults is unlikely to give much to a child, whether the child deserves it based on his performance or behaviour or simply based on basic human respect for others. However, unlike adults who usually develop skills to defend themselves against those who offer them no basic human respect, children seldom have such skills. No one is born with those defence skills.

When the skills of defending yourself against others who do not respect you as a person are learned in childhood, they're internalized, they remain with you for life. They may be learned by adults, but an adult in this position may be like a recovering addict, always on the verge of falling into the pit of low self esteem unless they have support from another person.

In past generations the command kind of respect was taught in schools. Every child learned this kind of respect or received thrashings until he did. In today's schools teachers often don't understand that the command kind of respect no longer exists or is even expected in schools. They must earn the respect of their young charges or they won't receive it.

Some teachers don't know how to earn respect because all they have to work with is the curriculum and respect is seldom found in school curriculum.

Most teachers experienced one or more teachers who earned the respect of their students by virtue of their teaching skills and their manner of educating. But they may not have been taught how to earn that kind of respect for themselves in their own classrooms. Earning respect usually can't be found on the curriculum of any teacher training course.

The way most teachers know about this kind of earned respect is to have experienced enough of it themselves with their own teachers and to have been taught it by them.

If you want to earn the respect of others, know something they want to know or be able to do something they admire. Once you know something or have some special skill, use it to benefit others. Only through actions can we earn respect htat bolsters self esteem.

In the process of earning respect from others, we may experience a clear lack of it from some of our peers. That's normal. That's life. That's something that every one of us needs to learn how to overcome because some people are just mean and insensitive.

Eventually, as we become more knowledgeable in a subject or skilled with something, we can demonstrate this to help others, or to entertain them. Only then will we earn respect from them for our specialness.

However, we also need to teach our children that the better they become at something and the more they use this for the benefit of others, the more naysayers and critics they will face. Everyone who is popular, everyone who has earned the respect of others, will have a few who want to downplay the importance and relevance of our skills or knowledge.

Geeks, once social outcasts in high schools, now have respect for their skills because schools teach that their kind of knowledge and skills will pay off in the working world. In other words, in a money-oriented society, having the skills and potential to earn lots of money as an adult earns respect from other kids.

If you are in a position to teach a child or an adult how to gain the respect they desire from others by having exceptional skill or knowledge, be sure to include a warning that they should expect friction from others who are jealous of them.

It's a characteristic of human nature that if you don't have some enemies or naysayers, you likely don't have enough supporters to earn the respect of a great many people.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Beyond DNA To The Real You

As medicine drags itself out of its dark and dangerous past, we have come to believe that the discovery of DNA and the mapping of the human genome will finally make it clear how to live a healthy life and how to correct any genetic problems we may have adopted at conception. Genetics was to be our new saviour.

Alas, the more we learn about genetics the more confused we become. The genetic map is clear and becoming better defined as more scientists work with it to find exactly what each gene does and how it cooperates with others to produce the beings we are. But it doesn't always tell us where we are going, as a good map should.

It turns out there is more to DNA than two sets of genes clustered on 24 sets of chromosomes. Genes only comprise about half of the mass of a chromosome.

We know that each gene expresses itself by producing a protein. We know that the proteins act as switches to turn on and off bodily functions from the time of conception until we die. We know that, somehow, the genes know when to express themselves (turn their switches on) and when to remain quiet (most of the time the switches are off).

What we didn't know was how the switches get flipped and why, even in sets of identical twins, one switch may be turned on at one time in one of them but not in the other. Identical twins, it turns out, are only identical if the switches of each gene turn on and off at approximately the same time. They usually do, but not always, despite the fact that their genetic makeup is identical.

Short parents can produce tall children (well, they begin small). Two brown-eyed parents can produce blue-eyed children, even though the gene for brown eyes is supposedly dominant. Two parents with a gene that has caused both to suffer from a genetically inherited disease may produce a perfectly healthy child.

Male pattern baldness sometimes skips a generation, sometimes two generations. Yet the same genes carry the same factors through all generations of males in the family, even the ones that don't go bald. In other words, even though a person carries a gene that determines he will go bald as an adult, he may not lose his hair.

What we tend to call genetic defects (sources for disease) can be carried through several generations of the same family, though not everyone with the "defect" will suffer from whatever the others get. Then the defect may disappear from the family, apparently spontaneously. Yet in disappearing, the makeup of the genes of the offspring without the defect may be exactly the same as the makeup of the genes of the parents.

Enter the relatively new science of epigenetics. Our genes not only produce proteins, they also carry their protein on their outsides. We wouldn't expect that any outside influence could affect the genes themselves, but it might affect the protein switches on the outsides of the genes.
Epigenetics shows how that happens. Or it plans to in the coming years.

The viability of proteins on the outside of genes determines whether those genes impact our lives positively, negatively or not at all. Those proteins are influenced by how we lead our lives. Whether we smoke, endure stress, eat a healthy diet and exercise can affect those exterior proteins.

Wait, it gets worse. Not only can what we do and how we live affect the expression of our proteins, what our parents did, and their parents before them, even a generation or two before that can affect the expression of our genes through their proteins in our bodies.

In turn, if we do something that affects the proteins of our genes--such as living next to a factory that puffed out lead with its smoke--that changes the proteins on the exterior of our genes and a mother can pass that on to a child she gives birth to years later. Once changed, the proteins can remain in the changed state for several generations.

Unlike genetics, however, which offers little hope--people with certain gene-related diseases give birth to children with the same disease or criminal behaviour tends to follow through generations maybe due to genetic makeup--epigenetics holds out the promise that we can not only change our own lives but the lives of generations that follow us.

If we know that the protein on the exterior of a particular gene in our bodies won't turn on when it's supposed to turn on, we will eventually know enough to be able to change that situation so that it will switch on when it's supposed to. In theory, if we know ahead of time that our genetic makeup says it's likely we will develop some form of cancer, we can take measures to prevent that from happening by manipulating which genetic proteins are allowed to prevail and which are turned off.

The epigenome project--proposed by many scientists in several parts of the world but far from a fact--will make the mapping of the genome seem like child's play. Unlike genetics that tells the makeup of each of our three billion pairs of nucleotide bases in our DNA, each of us has not one but a multitude of epigenomes as the switch of one gene may be on or off in various combinations with others in the body.

Epigenetics holds out real promise for fighting disease and malformations of the body. But once the solutions to our health problems are developed, only following a strict regimen of diet, exercise, lifestyle and prescribed supplements will change what will happen to us. Few potential problems will be thwarted by popping pills alone.

Epigenetics may explain why we have generations of overweight and obese people today because so many of our ancestors did something that changed the expression of certain genes in the past, then we inherited that changed expression. The rise in cases of asthma, autism and Alzheimer's may also be explained when epigeneticists learn more.

The curtain is about to go up on some of health's greatest mysteries.

For further reading on the subject of epigenetics I recommend the following as possibilities:
"DNA Is Not Destiny," Discover magazine, November 2006
"Epigenetics," Wikipedia,
Landes Bioscience,
Epigenetics News,

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

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Don't Care What You think

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.
- Joseph Chilton Pearce

Only a sociopath has no fear about being wrong. For the rest of us a healthy dose of caution keeps us from making frequent mistakes which could harm ourselves and others. And prevent our employers from dismissing us.

As children we learn to avoid touching hot elements of a stove. While a few of us learn this lesson the hard and painful way, most learn it from our mothers who teach us to not touch anything on the stove. They also taught us to avoid touching many other things, like glass objects on tables and unpurchased items in stores.

In fact many of us become brainwashed to the point of obsession with not involving ourselves with anything that could result in trouble or damage because as children we were taught to not take risks. As adults we may not be aware of why we fear taking those risky moves that some people call opportunities that come so seldom in a lifetime.

Even shyness may be nothing more than a fear of doing something wrong and making fools of ourselves in front of others, especially strangers. This may be traced back to childhood training we received from our mothers and grandmothers. Remember "Always wear clean underwear when you go out in case you're in an accident"? Parents taught us to avoid shaming ourselves because it would also bring shame on the family.

A fear of taking a small risk when meeting someone we don't know in case we make a faux pas, thus embarrassing or shaming ourselves and our families as a result, is what we call shyness. It's easier to remain aloof than to get involved and publicly embarrass ourselves.

The creativity that Pearce speaks of that requires us to shed our inhibitions and fear of being wrong means putting ourselves at risk of not just being wrong, but of being teased or publicly criticized for what we did.

We accept that in the art world few masters dominate the field while many others labour in well-deserved obscurity. What we may not realize is that every artist from greatest to most humble displays an act of great courage each time he puts his work on display, risking the displeasure and criticism of others.

What makes them special--the artists, the entrepreneurs, the social leaders--gives them the courage to take the risks? They accept that both praise and rejection are fleeting, that the same people who give both cared nothing for them a few minutes before experiencing their work and will care nothing for them a few minutes after expressing their opinions.

If your mother thinks you're a jerk, that's one thing. But if someone you don't know, just met and have the choice of never seeing again shortly thereafter doesn't like you or your work, there is no point in taking unwarranted criticism from them seriously.

A stranger will forget you and your work immediately after meeting you. Holding the hurt of his criticism for ages afterward serves only to harm you. Not attempting a project out of sheer fear of criticism is worse because you unconsciously imprison yourself in a restricted life.

Since we can never please everyone, it follows that no matter what we do some people will dislike it and criticize it. Others will like it if we give enough of them a chance. Why should we care about the opinions of people we will likely never meet again?

More importantly, why allow the opinions of people who care nothing about you to affect your life and how you approach opportunities that present themselves?

When it comes to taking risking and possibly being wrong, only your opinion and the opinions of those who care about you should matter.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2007

First, You're Guilty, Now Let's Talk

The imagination equips us to perceive reality when it is not fully materialized.
- Mary Caroline Richards

Richards uses charming and gentle words to tell us that we have the ability to detect clues and symptoms, then put flesh to their bones to develop a likely reality that exists or might potentially exist as a result of those conditions.

Whether most of us pay attention to those clues is another matter. How many deserted wives have chastised themselves for not paying attention to the evidence that their husbands were cheating or were about to leave?

Still others have accepted the evidence but denied that the most likely conclusion resulting from it is the reality. For example, many people thought it highly unlikely that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction hidden in Iraq before the invasion because he had used the ones provided to him on others previously and did not have the technology to develop new ones. The "evidence" should have been seen as fraudulent.

Our imagination also allows us to concoct highly unlikely scenarios based on flimsy evidence. For example, the family member who is hours overdue returning home from some event is far more likely to have encountered a time-consuming problem such as a car that won’t start or a flat tire than involvement in a fatal accident, yet the one at home worries about receiving that terrible call from the police.

Perhaps most common of all is the misreading of written material or the intent of a person who has done something not understood by others who are not familiar with the circumstances.

As the one-time owner of a small business that operated 24/7 I often needed to pass messages to employees who would not be at work when I was there. As phone calls to working employees were not appreciated because they required an employee to abandon a waiting customer to attend to the phone, I often left notes for them. Sometimes suggestions or references to regulations under which the business legally operated were interpreted as insults, though the notes were not worded that way. A few quit because of them.

The farther we get away from the now-ancient habit of letter writing—letters usually included news and descriptions of interesting events, thus were seldom perceived as threatening—the greater the frequency of misinterpreting the contents of written messages. Rarely do misinterpretations make the messages seem more positive, often they are perceived as insulting or offensive.

The human imagination is a wonderful tool of life. However, as with all tools, we need to learn how to use it with due care and caution. This usually requires a young person to be taught certain rules about using their imagination. For example, a student who is inundated with news about terrorism then writes a story about an imaginary terrorist event for a school assignment may find himself thoroughly investigated by police and under watch by the school administration. Charges may even be laid.

Young people also need to be taught to look for more than one conclusion that could follow from sparse evidence they have. The phrase "jumping to conclusions" usually refers to a situation where someone reached the wrong conclusion from some facts without considering other possibilities. That conclusion usually hurt someone needlessly.

When the worst possible scenario is the only one considered as a possibility based on a limited set of facts, that scenario is often tragic or it could result in tragic consequences following something good, decent or harmless that the other person has done.

This means teaching thinking skills. Teachers call it problem solving. But it’s more than that because real life situations require us to consider as many possible results as we can before we reach one that may be harmful to another person. Or another country.

Problem solving in real life situations doesn’t just mean reaching the right answer. It means considering all possible answers or solutions based on the evidence, then finding still more facts if necessary before deciding on a course of action or reaching a consensus conclusion.

If this kind of problem solving is not a component of school curriculum many children will miss learning these skills.

It’s not real problem solving if the only acceptable solution is the one the teacher wants either. Sometimes there is more than one right answer to a life problem.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life’s hardest problems into perspective so that we can be taught how to cope with them without grief.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

What To Do With Bullies And Abusers

Guilt is always a self-imposed burden, but it is not always rightly imposed.
- R. A. Salvatore

As a Canadian I am reminded about a reputation Canadians have. We are the only culture in the world that apologizes when we haven't done anything wrong. For example, if two people accidentally bump into each other in a crowded supermarket aisle, each will apologize to the other.

This may not be guilt, but it comes from being a people who live in the shadow of a world giant. Better to apologize than to have the giant take offence and crush you because of a misunderstanding.

Guilt, to a social scientist or medical practitioner, is a great problem for many people. It has its worst effect on insecure, shy and quiet people, especially those who have been emotionally abused by another person in their past.

Abused people have trouble understanding what motivates an abuser because often they have not done anything that would seem to warrant the abuse. As a result they often blame themselves for offences, characteristics or natures which they imagine.

Self imposed guilt is difficult to shake, once it is revealed as wrong and misplaced to the abused, because it usually has become ingrained in the personality of the person who feels the guilt. Guilt becomes so embedded in their psyches that they feel they must have been "born wrong."

What most abused people fail to understand is that abusers are insecure themselves. However, they take a different route to dealing with their insecurity. Rather than be defensive, they take the offence.

As relatively few occasions arise in our daily adult lives when we do something wrong enough that warrants punishment, abusers will manufacture faults, mistakes and errors to blame their victims for. Since this doesn't make sense to the abused person, they assume that they must be defective or fundamentally wrong in some way. Thus they feel guilt.

Insecure people tend to find each other in remarkably little understood ways. The offensive insecure person can't get along with anyone for long, at least in an intimate relationship. Two defensive insecure people can find ways to form a lasting relationship. When a defensive insecure person links up with an offensive one, abuse or bullying are waiting to happen.

Very little makes a bully or an abuser shrink into a corner. They rarely exhibit their tactics other than to a defensive kind of insecure person. Then they may act contrite and apologetic, so much so that the abused peson may forgive the abuser (and usually not report the abuse to the police).

In my experience, the only strategy that makes an abuser back away from a victim is for the victim to tell the abuser or bully that he knows that the abuser is insecure, can't manage their problems and feels that he must take his frustrations and anxieties out on another (innocent) person. The shock of being revelaed as insecure usually makes the bully back away.

To a bully, being revealed publicly as being insecure marks them as social rejects. Though they want attention, public attention for their personality defects is not the kind they seek. They want to quietly show their power over another insecure person.

Bullies and abusers use their bullying as a way to feed the monster that their insecurites have become. They will not and cannot change until the monster dies. The monster dies only when the bully is revealed publicly as an insecure person, someone who can't cope with their personal problems.

The bully or abuser may accept remediation and help only after the monster within has been killed. Until then, the monster hides until the next good occasion arises.

Our society treats abused people and punishes bullies and abusers. We would do better to teach everyone, in childhood, that bullies and abusers are insecure and that they should tell this to a bully if they are bullied or abused. Then we need to treat the bullies so they have no need to exhibit their anxieties as abuse against others.

No one wants to be a bully, any more than anyone wants to be bullied or abused. If we want to end bullying and abuse, we must address the needs of potential bullies and those who have already offended. The unaddressed needs of bullies are known to psychologists, even though they are not well known to the general public.

Punishing bullies and abusers does no good. It merely postpones the problem, even though it may temporarily satisfy the general public that an abuser has been dealt "the punishment he deserves."

Prisons and detention chairs in principals' offices are, at the end of the day, nothing but places where we display our failures to satisfy the basic social and emotional needs of some people.
We say these people have fallen through the cracks. The cracks are widening, but we still do nothing about them. Except to build prisons underneath them.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put the difficult problems of life into perspective so they can be solved by every community.
Learn more at

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Read This

It is one of the maladies of our age to profess a frenzied allegiance to truth in unimportant matters, to refuse consistently to face her where graver issues are at stake.
- Janos Arany, poet (1817-1882)

Here's the truth. Children learn from their parents. Pretty well everyone accepts that. Many even insist that schools and other sources of information from which children could learn, such as religious schools, should not be usurping the responsibilities of parents, that parents should be the primary givers of lessons to their own children.

That's like insisting that motherhood is good.

What we don't insist upon is that parents who are teaching their children have a good idea of what they should be teaching, how it should be taught, when it should be taught and how important consistency and repetitiveness are to the learning process.

Parents don't have to know a thing about parenting in order to be "good" parents by society's standards--good meaning having children that don't violate laws. Good parents, by the standards of many people, are those who raise children who don't get into trouble.

This kind of thinking is totally stupid and the people who believe it are ingorant of how society--any society--functions effectively.

Many parents don't even appreciate that they are role models for their children to follow. Most kids, by the age of 40, adhere to the same standards of behaviour and administer the same kinds of corrective measures to their own children as their parents. A small minority, having endured extreme emotional pain as children, act differently toward their own children because they vow to be different from their parents.

Here's the part about "graver issues" referred to in the quote. Parents who know little about parenting raise children who also become parents who know little about parenting. Over the generations, the parenting knowledge pool of these families decreases, so that succeeding generations actually know progressively less than previous ones.

Parents who are, effectively, emotional abusers raise children who abuse their own offspring because they don't know any other way of parenting. They practise what they have learned from their own parents, right or not. The lessons were taught by example, not by lesson plans.
These ugly "graver issues" we consistently refuse to accept or to face, all on a matter of principle (that parents hold supreme influence over their children, even if they know nothing or are emotionally abusive).

In ancient tribal times, children learned about parenting from the whole community. This continued through the era where the economy was based on agriculture. By the Industrial Age parents were too busy for parenting, having enough to do with their time to keep their families alive. Families began to fall apart.

Today we are so removed from the traditions of the past that many parents have no clear idea of what is required of them in terms of their responsibilities toward their children and their community. As a result we have children who treat the law, private property and people's rights as children of old used to treat outhouses on Halloween--something to be pushed over and forgotten.

This is simple. If we wants parents to teach the values of our culture and our society to their children--to all children, not just to the kids of parents who know what they are doing--we need to have parents who know the skills and knowledge necessary for good parenting.

As we have no good and widespread method for teaching parenting skills and knowledge now, we need to devise some way to teach adolescents before they become parents. Learning the hard way as our children grow is wrong. In itself it's a form of abuse against our children.

Take murder and drug use, for examples. Many parents actively and repeatedly teach even their young children that killing others is wrong as a way to solve problems and that using drugs as a way to alleviate their emotional pain solves nothing. So most adults, having learned their lessons, don't kill others in their family or their community and don't take drugs. However, some do. Those lessons were never taught, believe it or not.

The people (now even children) who kill their own family members and take drugs as temporary ways to manage their problems were not taught the lessons well. We may assume that every children was tuaght the lessons, but that would be a wrong assumption. Some just don't get the message.

This is not rocket science. It's easy. Teach and they will learn. Don't teach and problems will develop over which we have no control. We have lots of them today.

If we want a program that will be easy to implement and relatively cheap to mount to accomplish this objective of teaching adolescents before they become parents, there is one in a book. You can read some of the book and other material about this subject at
The book is called Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems.

Buy it or borrow it. Read it so that we can get started at correcting our escalating community and family problems before life gets worse, even dangerous and life-threatening for some people. Then pass the book to others to read and tell still others about it.

The solutions are there. They're available. Our community, family and personal problems of such intensity that many people fear for their lives and their future are solvable.

Claiming that they are inevitable consequences of modern society is just plain wrong. It's that consistent refusal to face graver issues spoken about in the quote. It's wrong and it's a plain lie. The reason these problems seem so unsolvable is that too many people keep telling us that they can't be solved. But they're wrong.

Please help to spread the word. The future is ours to make or to screw up.
Tell others what you know. Start today.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, the only way to address and solve today's tragic and escalating problems without bankrupting ourselves.
Learn more at

Monday, July 02, 2007

You Need Your Mistakes And Failures

There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they're necessary to reach the places we've chosen to go.
- Richard Bach

No mistakes? Does that mean there are no failures? No rough patches, divorces or threats against our personal security?

Bach does make the point that he refers to "events we bring upon ourselves," so he accepts that some events in our lives we have no control over. We learn from the results and consequences of our choices.

We are each a work in progress, unfinished, blemished with warts and dents from past encounters with life.

We decide when the work is finished. We complete the construction of ourselves when we stop trying to build more and choose to enjoy the plateau we have reached. But it's not that simple.

Nothing in nature is complete, Nothing is finished in its final form. A plateau was once the bottom of an ancient sea and may become part of a future mountain as the tectonic plates that comprise earth's surface move about and crash into each other.

Nothing about life can be stagnant. No secure place exists where we can just be who we have become over the years. In nature both organic and inorganic stuff grow, change, decay or get renovated.

We do have people who are happy with their lives, satisfied that they have learned everything they want to know and wanting to maintain the status quo so they can enjoy the rest of their earthly existence. Though they may wish it were not so, they are in the process of decay. Eventually they find that "modern life" is too fast for them, that the world of today has passed them by. It's too late to change for most. You likely know people like that.

However, science has shown us today that we can reactivate our brain, even to the point of growing new neurons. Even those who have begun a mental decay as their bodies get weaker with age can rejuvenate their brains. In the process they can ward off senility and even Alzherimer's, if recent research can be believed.

Senility has always been the consequence of an underused brain. It's entirely preventable. Alzheimer's disease, it seems, may find it much easier to progress in a brain that has very little activity, while having difficulty growing in a very active brain.

Think of a battery left in a flashlight (torch) or camera for a long period of time. If left totally unused, it may not only decay and lose its own life, but destroy the light or camera with the acid it gives off when it splits. But use the flashlight or camera regularly and the battery will retain most of its potential energy and not harm the device at all.

Biological organisms, including us humans, are designed to struggle or die. If we don't attempt new things, learn new stuff, challenge our courage, we will decay. That applies as much at age 80 as it does at age eight.

We learn and grow as a result of experiencing bad times and failures. Thus they are not really bad or mistakes, but learning experiences. They are growth opportunities.

Our design gives us the chance to become greater mentally as we lose functions physically with age. Only struggling against the odds and against trouble allows us to grow mentally.

As a final thought, consider this. As children we have great potential both physically and mentally. However, we aren't really that good at either. We mature physically early in life, then slow down, while mental growth can occur right to our final days. We know that our physical bodies decay when we die. Why would our design allow us to create a magnificent intellectual edifice for our whole lives, only to have it also disappear when we die?

Just a thought.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the complicated things about life a bit easier to understand.
Learn more at Especially if you want to keep growing mentally.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How To Manage A Bully

True self-respect, being very different from false pride, leads inevitably to respecting others.
- Virginia Moore

Though the concept of self respect would seem like an easy one to understand, people interpret the term differently. The meanings run from quiet self confidence to self defence against attacks from others.

Virginia Moore seems to prefer the former interpretation. The person who has both self respect and self confidence may not only be able to easily fend off personal attacks by others, he or she may act in such a way as to have others prefer to avoid attacking them.

In general, bullies (if we can use that term to describe anyone who commits an oral or written attack on another--a psychological attack--as well as a physical attack) prefer to attack someone they perceive is weaker than themselves. Lacking self confidence and self respect, they want to bring down someone who will not present much of a fight or who will not be able to return the aggression.

A person with self respect and self confidence will understand that some people are not worth their time fussing over. These people are, in a sense, lesser forms of human beings who should not have the ability or right to attack anyone.

It becomes a challenge for someone with this kind of confidence to also believe in equality of all people. How can everyone be equal, but some be lesser beings?

Equality has to do with rights, not abilities. Everyone can have the same rights even if their skills and abilities differ greatly from one to another.

Ironically, bullies take advantage of what they believe are their rights to remove the rights of others.

People with true self respect usually also have self confidence. This combination gives them not just a psychological advantage against attack, but an emotional one as well. That is, they may not become as emotionally upset by an attack from someone they believe to be a lesser person because they understand that the person may not know any better.

While this may seem to contain undertones of racism, nothing of this kind is intended. Those with self confidence and self respect understand that some people don't have these advantages, are emotionally and/or socially underdeveloped and may simply be lashing out at the world because they can't cope with their lives.

We can justifiably grant bullies the same rights as everyone else while limiting their effect on us by drawing on our own emotional security. We may not be able to help the bully, but we don't have to allow him to hurt us because he has problems he can't cope with.

Having self confidence means understanding that you are not a lesser person because you have been attacked or might be attacked by someone who has problems. The term means more than that, of course, but immunizing yourself from the effects of unreasonable attack by others (or any attacks by others) comprises a good part of self confidence and self respect.

We respect others when we grant them the status they deserve by their actions, their behaviour. When we treat them better than their behaviour warrants, we are trying to raise them up to be better people than they are now.

That kind of noble gesture can only be granted by someone with self confidence and self respect.

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