Thursday, August 30, 2007
- Nikos Kazantzakis, writer (1883-1957)
When I was a child there were sane people, of which I and everyone I was allowed to meet were a part, insane people who remained in institutions (insane asylums) so that they didn't do anything that others might object to, and a nebulous category of people who spent time in "mental hospitals" but were allowed to visit their relatives for short periods at home.
No one explained how that last category worked or why only the odd person we knew was in that group.
Almost everyone I knew was "sane." We carried on our lives as if everyone was sane. We pretended that the "others" didn't exist, except when they came to visit.
The discrepancy in my mind arose when I could understand the insane people who came to visit better than I could the supposedly sane people I knew. The fact that no one subsequently found the need to have me locked up is my sole concrete evidence that I belong in the world of the sane.
What and who can we deem truly sane any more? I don't mean to seem ungrateful for my freedom. I am less than grateful for the freedom of many people I have had the misfortune to meet, as well as many I have only had the pleasure of seeing in action from a distance.
The Ontario Provincial Police estimate that at any time of any day there will be between one and three people driving while legally drunk on the 40 km stretch of highway that passes near our home. Considering that it's a lonely chunk of road on which maybe only 50 cars at most would be driving at the busiest time (usually fewer than 20), that's a big number of accidents waiting to happen. That's all day, every day.
In our rural municipality we have no trash pickup. Spend ten minutes at our dump and you are bound to see at least one person who throws trash in the recycling or recyclable materials in with the trash. Within 15 minutes you will hear someone ask the attendant whether magazines go in with the paper and whether cardboard can be recycled (everyone can see four huge bins labelled CARDBOARD on entering the yard). The same people ask the same inane questions almost every time they visit the dump. That's inane, we haven't reached the stage of adding the "s" yet.
The absolute silliest people to visit the dump are those who come in $50,000 (and up) SUVs. They have important jobs in the city (Toronto) but they can't figure out on their own that metal stuff goes with metal stuff, paper with paper and trash where the bears have gathered.
Once a week we buy groceries and other supplies. Apparently Tuesday, our normal shopping day, is "stupid day." The college and university students are a joy to behold. You can see them learning the ropes of healthy shopping as they trip around the store. They, however, are the exceptions.
Older adults act as if there is no one else in the store. They stop their carts in the middle of the aisle, sometimes even turning them so no one else could possibly pass them, then traipse off to gaze at a shelf for some item they have been considering buying for the past several weeks. Being polite Canadians, we seldom ask the offending twit to move her cart, preferring instead to stand and wait until she moves on without prompting.
We can always see people buying lottery tickets. It thrills them to pieces when they win $2 or (heavens!) $10,000. It never occurs to them that they spent $20,000 to win that $10,000. Few, it seems, keep count of what they spend to win.
These examples may be seen by anyone in any community in the world, I would guess. Stupidity is a characteristic unique to humans. In other species, the stupid ones become lunch.
I am convinced that we use the word stupid to describe those whose behaviour outside of psychiatric hospitals strongly resembles that of the hospital inmates who aren't allowed out on their own. What does sanity mean after all?
One school of thought in psychiatry holds that no one is truly insane, that those we call insane have simply chosen to create fantasy lives for themselves that are distinctly different from the fantasy lives that those of us on the outside find too "different." Different from the norms that have been established for us by the industries of our culture.
Insane people don't usually wear makeup. Insane people don't dress fashionably. Insane people don't believe that money is the most important thing in their lives. They love to be touched and to have conversations, but they aren't tolerant of others who talk about themselves and won't let them tell their own stories. The rest of us accept that sane people talking about themselves without giving others a chance to have their share of air time is just a fact of life we have to put up with.
Insane people don't worry about the things that sane people do. They have different priorities about what's important. Their fears may be stronger than those of "normal people." That may be a sham because sane people seldom admit their fears.
Insane people, when they get frustrated, retreat into a fantasy world that others can't understand. Sane people simply blame others around them for what's wrong and focus on dishing out the guilt, either silently or aloud. Sane people seldom blame themselves for anything. Divorce, for example, is a legal separation of two people who are innocent while the other is "guilty as hell."
We in the "sane" world accept that people who do totally foolish things, who treat others in almost inhumane fashion, who would steal from their own mothers and sell their grandmothers if they could, who believe in the most outrageous things that they couldn't support with evidence, are sane.
Insane people won't do that. If something is wrong, they insist on telling others that it's wrong. For heaven's sake! Sane people don't do that. We leave the responsibility for dealing with such things to our governments.
After all, governments don't really represent anybody, so they should certainly be in charge of managing problems we can't deal with ourselves.
It's the only sane thing to do.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how sane people can easily and cheaply manage personal and community problems that governments have no idea or ability with.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
- Joanna Macy, writer and teacher (1929- )
When I first read that quote I thought "Oh, No, another of those namby-pamby, wishy-washy, 'the world's a beautiful place' kind of fluff stuff."
Then I thought about people with broken hearts. That led inevitably to thinking about people whose hearts apparently had never broken.
That moved me to the startling conclusion that I have never met a person who has not suffered from a broken heart who I have liked. They're cold, unfeeling. They care little for anyone else, unless the other person can do something to help them or because it's their duty and it will make them look good.
As co-workers they aren't much fun, unless you want to retire to a pub after work. They usually have a ready supply of jokes or insults to sling around about people who are having problems. You can't learn much from them because they don't care enough to teach anyone else.
While they pride themselves on their parenting skills, it's not much fun to be their child because they have no idea what a child needs. They do know how to structure family life so they visit the theme parks and drive SUVs and the kids know how to behave because they're painful to be around when they bitch about the kid not being well mannered.
People whose hearts have been broken open--usually more than once--so they're never sure they will be able to piece their lives back together again, they care about others. They're sometimes painful to be around too because they want others to avoid having their hearts broken (little knowing how counter-productive that is to building stability and sensitivity in young people). But they care and they show it.
They're usually much loved as parents because they know--perhaps their most important and endearing characteristic--how much those they love need to be touched. Touch is a basic human need, though not one well publicized. Those whose hearts have been broken want to hold their loved ones near, which while being awkward sometimes lets their loved ones know how much they are loved.
People whose hearts have been broken are better listeners, especially to others who have problems. They have been there and know that often just listening is the best form of comforting for someone in great need.
They need to be learners more than those whose hearts have never been broken. Rock-hearted people believe they already know as much as they need to know, find learning from someone else humiliating, believe that nothing is true unless it conforms to their personal life experience.
Those whose hearts have been broken know they will never know enough. They know they didn't know enough to prevent their heart from being broken, so they had better learn more. They never learn the secret (and they shouldn't) but they learn a great deal more along the way.
Broken hearted people know how to trust, even if it hurts them. Rock hearts never trust anyone fully, which makes them shallow people.
Heart-healed people know how to smile in such a way that they convey both that they feel good and that they want others to share what they feel. They appreciate being happy because they know it never lasts. They also eventually learn that unhappiness never lasts. Life is a cycle of ups and downs and the survivors live it more fully.
The survivors share more of themselves and what they have. They share their love with family and loved ones, but also with strangers, homeless people, lost children, dying aunts, co-workers who are "suddenly single."
Heartbreak survivors learn that emotions work like a pendulum, the farther they swing to the negative, the greater the potential they have for their emotions to swing the same distance toward happiness, peace and contentment. Hard hearted people may not get angry much, but they don't have the capacity to enjoy life to the fullest either. They believe that happiness can be bought with money and delight in the acquisition of it.
Those with unbroken hearts like to be bosses because they don't have the ability to be sensitive to the things that common people enjoy and appreciate. They think they are whole people because they have no experience with being other than like rocks. They believe they are the smart ones and those who get their hearts broken are simply careless with their emotions, that are needless anyway.
People with cobbled-together hearts know how to live whole lives, something they discover before they find themselves at the end of it. Some of the rock hearts never learn that and secretly die with the intention of returning to earth and finding a way to take their money with them wherever they go. It's all they really have.
I find it easy to like people whose heart has been broken. We share much in common, including our ability to survive. I wouldn't care if I never met people whose heart has never been broken.
Have you ever wondered about why some kids are so very different from other kids? It's not just their natures. Part of it is that some kids have never had their hearts broken (yet) so they act like the child version of adult rock hearts. A broken heart is not something you wish on a child, but it makes them different people who live different lives because of it.
Life changes when you get your heart broken. It's a tough experience, but no one ever promised us that life would be grand. At least they shouldn't have because it's not. We grow when we survive the worst that life has to throw at us.
People whose hearts have been broken have a greater capacity for life. But you could never convince the rock hearts of that.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to grow better and stronger people after their hearts have been broken.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Monday, August 27, 2007
"The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential."
- Steve Ballmer (Microsoft CEO)
The world is always a beautiful and interesting place when we hear from the gods of Microsoft. To listen to them, you would think they made it.
Do you feel empowered to do what you want to do? In terms of learning what I could not before, I certainly benefit from the age of information technology. But do what I want to do? People, not technology, stand in the way of that because they don't make the technology do what I would like it to do.
Computers and the internet allow me to be creative in ways that were never before possible. As I have impaired fine motor skills (brain and fingers not on speaking terms) and mild dyslexia (usually involving interchanging of letters), writing with a pen or pencil would be extremely slow and discouraging. With a keyboard, Delete and the backspace key are among my favoured allies.
Those of us who use the internet frequently each day must commit devotedly to security measures. I spend approximately one-fifth of my time at the computer updating my anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-rootkit and various anti-rogue programs, then scanning with them. My updating and scanning time often equals the time I have to be creative and productive, Ballmer's two biggies.
That 20 percent increases dramatically if I have a hardware failure, a spyware invasion (not likely, but it happens to others) or installation of bad (incompatible) software that just doesn't want to go away.
No doubt I save a lot of trees every year because I don't use a typewriter. No doubt I bear some responsibility for employees of white-out manufacturers not having jobs because I have nothing on paper to cover up.
Ballmer's statement is the party line. It's what we have been brainwashed to believe since the early days of personal computers. The truth of the statement is questionable in practice. Unless you have abundant Microsoft redundancy servers and computers to back you up so that you can switch from one keyboard to another within seconds. Unless, that is, you have redundant money.
The oldest generation among us cries that people don't write letters any more, that young people can't spell and their grammar is atrocious. All true. However, I feel certain that the percentage of adults who write something each day is many times higher than it was in grandpa's day. Anyway, wasn't it grandma who wrote most of the letters that grandpa took credit for?
We should have no doubt that the potential Ballmer spoke about is there for us. We have access to the best libraries in the world, online services that allow us to communicate with people around the world by voice or written word, forums that find us sharing ideas with others on six continents, and vacations we can take any day where we can see better photographs than most of us could take ourselves--and no lost luggage.
Like it or not, the electronic age is with us full force and likely forever.
A friend who is involved on the inside track with computers phoned today to ask if I had an account with a particular bank. He advises his clients to not use Outlook express for online bank services (such as money transfers), but even the special web services whose main purpose is online banking can be invaded.
Some accounts in the branch I deal with had been "tampered with" (other details were confidential and the bank publicly denied everything). The only way they could have been invaded (money removed improperly) was if the transaction information taking place between a user's computer and the bank, using a secure service, were captured during the transaction, just as a phone line can be tapped.
Information technology has sped up the pace of the world we live in. Grandmas's dress may be in style because that style has returned, but if she can't receive text messages on her cell phone and upload pictures from the phone to YouTube or MySpace, she only looks fashionable.
The world and most every life in it is in constant change. We need to not only be physically ready for it, we need to be emotionally prepared to cope with it. It's life today.
Privacy faded into history several years ago. Today almost everything about our life is public information. The average person who works in a city passes from 100 to 300 video cameras each day. Workplaces have hidden cameras "for security purposes." Police cars have camcorders on their dashboards.
Let's not forget little software programs that employers, parents and spouses can hide in a computer to track every web page, every keystroke, done by a computer. Maybe those six-year-old kids who are smarter than their parents with a computer can bypass kid-control software by installing a tracker program themselves to learn what daddy has been up to late at night. Whatever you do, don't tell your kids they can't do it.
Did you know that the Central Intelligence Agency and similar organizations in other countries monitor every email sent (software searching for keywords) and can pinpoint the exact computer that accessed a web site that appeals to terrorists, right down to the street, house and computer?
Being a crook simply isn't safe any more. Although, organized crime can be seen less often on the streets now and more often with email and web site scams. Even the underground economy is more organized.
Yes, Messrs. Ballmer and Gates, you have given us much to think about.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how we can prepare our children for a future that is much different and much more complex than the world we grew up in.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Sunday, August 26, 2007
- Mukesh Ambani, MD, Chairman Reliance Industries, India
The question that jumps to mind each time I read that quote is Why? Why do we believe that growth is a way of life? Why do we believe that we have to grow at all times?
Mr. Ambani is a wealthy man, an influential man in many aspects of the Indian social system. He got there by believing that Reliance (India's largest private sector company and himself its largest shareholder) had to continue to grow. As if the preordained destiny of all corporations is to grow.
Worldcom had to grow. Enron had to grow. Quest had to grow. Exxon has to grow. Halliburton has to grow. These companies became frighteningly large, with startling influence on the political system of their home countries. They could make or break a president, for example.
Some, like Enron, didn't make it because their growth was mostly in the minds of their top executives and shareholders. Others barely survived. Some can't be stopped by currently accepted means.
There's only one reason why growth is an absolute necessity for corporations. Greed. Shareholders don't just want their share, they want more than their share. When shareholders make more profit than expected, they generously endow their top executives with compensation packages that annually rival what in the days of our grandparents constituted a remarkable lifetime of wealth accumulation.
We have seen recently how interconnected business is around the world today when some below-prime mortgages defaulted in some US banks and world stock markets quivered for a few days until the US Federal Reserve and other national banks adjusted their priorities to bring the markets back into line.
Most of us know what it's like when we get to a bank or store to find that we can't make a purchase or deposit or withdraw money from our accounts because "the system is down." What if a hacker brought Microsoft to its knees? What if the New York Stock Exchange had to lock its doors because its computer systems and their redundant backups all went down together?
We tend to think of 9/11, when the World Trade Centers came down, as a colossal tragedy of unprecedented proportions. Yet from a business standpoint 9/11 was something that affected companies simply had to work around. What could have been worse would be a power loss that required rebuilding major infrastructure over a period of weeks or months.
I believe it will happen some day. A couple of years after 9/11 millions of people in northeastern US and central Canada went without power because of a glitch in a power grid in Ohio somewhere. It could have been worse. That required mostly a quick fix.
In my own remote community a year ago, a tornado did enough damage that it required several teams of electrical workers to get power restored to our cottage community within ten days. It would have taken a month if many residents hadn't pitched in to help keep them supplied from morning until night.
That tornado didn't strike New York, Tokyo or London. It struck a cottage community. The real damage it did was in the nearby wilderness where it levelled every tree in a half kilometer swath, two kilometers long. Millions of trees were wrenched out of the ground but nobody cared because no one lived there.
Life as we know it could change in a moment if we suddenly couldn't buy food, couldn't get water out of our taps, couldn't fill our cars with fuel, couldn't turn on our computers. What would change? Mad Max comes to mind. The crazy people who merely annoy or bully their victims today would use their guns to take from others what they need, without considering what those others might need.
Corporate greed has become a social norm--greed is now a personal and accepted norm for many people. When some big crunch arrives, the greedy bullies will become greedier and more aggressive. Some people always profit when the majority of people are in need.
We could focus more on people rather than making the greed of a few the social norm for everyone.
Mad Max was not just a 1979 Australian science fiction movie. It was a forecast of what life could be like in the future if we do not change the focus of our society from money to people. What did we do about it? Nothing. Road rage wasn't a factor in 1979, though it was in the movie.
How many signposts do we need?
Corporate hacks call anyone who wants to make people more important than money a communist. But we aren't, any more than they are fascists. Those are political labels people use to denigrate each other, to destroy their reputations.
Money's not a bad thing. It only becomes bad when people use money as the driving force in their lives, when they make the acquisition of wealth the hallmark of success in their lives.
That's the way it is now in the western world for many people. The people who make important decisions that affect the lives of every one of us.
Think long term. Choose carefully. Vote wisely.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to change society, for those who know what they want but don't know how to do it. It's easier than you think. Political spin doctors know these techniques already. So do those who train terrorists and suicide bombers. If you don't, you will be their play dough.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Saturday, August 25, 2007
"The only question to ask yourself is, how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve this success?"
- Larry Flynt, Hustler publisher and porn filmmaker
Larry Flynt came out of a background of poverty to make a success of himself, if wealth and notoriety are the hallmarks of success, as they are according to social leaders in the western world.
Hustler broke the morality barriers as the magazine outdid Playboy in providing what a great number of readers wanted most, bold views of naked female genitals. Mere coincidence caused much of the rest of the female bodies to appear in the magazine's photos as well.
Flynt now makes fortunes serving up filmed sexual experiences tied loosely together by flimsy plots to audiences that are so ready to accept his offerings that even the highly rated Friends television show often had two or more of the characters gathering to watch "porn."
Many people don't like what Flynt does. The man can't walk, is paralyzed below the waist because he took a bullet from some highly moral person who thought him better dead. The attempted murderer had many supporters among other highly moral people.
Is Larry Flynt a success or a despicable moral pervert? Either, depending on who you speak to.
What everyone seems to miss on this subject is the reason why Hustler and Flynt's other enterprises have such huge audiences who always have money to spend to buy his products.
The explanation is that he provides something that people believe they need and want. You may disagree with that, but that changes nothing. The well known angst and rebellion of many teenagers have fundamentally the same cause. The young people want something they aren't getting from the most important people in their lives. That's usually nothing more or less than knowledge about their world.
But what exactly do they want? As a society we don't know because we have readily adopted the hypocrisies we have been fed since the Victorian era (though they began hundreds of years earlier). Those hypocrisies require us to either deny truths or to keep them covered.
First of all, the people who want to kill someone who is immoral by their standards break one of the founding principles of those moral standards, that of not killing or wanting to kill another person.
While virtually all of these people would tell us that they believe that God created humans and that humans are God's greatest creation, His most perfect of all perfection, they want our bodies covered because it's apparently shameful to them. The irony (hypocrisy) of believing that God created perfection then their wanting to cover it because it is shameful totally escapes them.
We highly intelligent mammals may not all want to kill others of our own kind, but almost every one of us has a built-in hormonal urge to reproduce, considered by religions as a moral imperative and by evolutionists as the instinct to spread our genetic material for the survival of our species.
In order that we not copulate in brutal and insensitive ways, methods that have males treating females as nothing more than sexual objects, we need to learn how to have sexual experiences that both partners believe are enjoyable and respectful. Yet we forbid those members of our society who are approaching or at the peak of their reproductive potential from learning such information.
It's "dirty." It's "lewd." It may well be exactly in line with what the God these people worship has dictated in holy books and what their moral teachings say about treating others with respect and providing them with learning experiences, but they have decided that it's wrong.
Teenagers who are gaining their own footing in the intellectual sphere of learning find this hypocrisy repulsive. They may not say so in so many words, but they show their revulsion by rebelling in other ways, transferring their displeasure with what they are being denied to the same culture of people who deny them their fundamental human rights.
Adults, who have almost no other ways of learning the information themselves, turn to pornography as the easiest way to learn. Can't they learn from television and movies? Yes, but few people want to begin their sexual events by ripping each other's clothes off, inhaling the skin off each other's faces with their open-mouthed "kissing fish" kisses and thrashing around as if physical harm is a definite possibility. That's not respectful, enjoyable or even realistic.
Our public access outlets for sexual information are nothing less than examples of insensitive and brutal events where film or tape can't convey the true beauty of the experience so they resort to exaggerated acrobatics.
It's time for us to grow up as a society. It's time we acted like responsible adults who know what their children need instead of brain-impaired large children who let bullies with twisted senses of moral power dominate our lives, creating more problems for us than they ever solve and denying us basic human rights.
We live in a society where hypocritical bullies rule the roost. It's time to tell them NO MORE! It's time for us to take responsibility ourselves rather than let them feed us their retrogressive morality that gives them power and creates enormous social problems for the rest of us.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make the right things happen and the wrong things disappear in our society.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Friday, August 24, 2007
"It makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there's nothing you can do about them, and why worry about things you don't control? The activity of worrying keeps you immobilized."
- Dr. Wayne Dyer
I confess to a bias in favour of the thinking of Wayne Dyer on many questions. He always bases his answers and propositions on the realities of human nature. Human thinking, without taking human nature into account, lacks a feeling of reality, such as ordinary folks may feel when reading philosophy.
Dr. Dyer focusses on worry in this quote. He could as easily have given his attention to anger, vengeance, self pity or self delusion about religious matters, all situations where people cause more harm to themselves than they receive as benefits.
Worry is a form of masochism, of harming ourselves without due cause. We always have an excuse for our worry, not a reason, though we believe it's real. Our excuses are more often self pity than anything else.
Let's take the example of a mother/wife worrying about the husband/son/daughter who is way past his/her expected time for arriving home. We all know there are thousands of reasons why people may be delayed. Some bear on bad judgment of choices about how to be responsible about getting home at an expected time or phoning to give a reason for the delay, but most are simply reasons beyond the control of the "late" party.
During the summer high season for tourists at the resort where my wife works, she usually leaves work at midnight. She drives alone along a highway that is known to have drunk drivers any day of the year. On a weekend night, the risk is greater. On any night she may encounter a deer, moose, bear, racoon or coyote on the road, among other possibilities, each of which have been known to conduct themselves inappropriately in the face of an oncoming vehicle.
Every night my wife works I have a valid reason to be concerned about her safety on the highway late at night. However, I could experience the same conditions in the daytime, myself, and think nothing of it. I think that if I wouldn't be afraid of driving the highway then I should have confidence enough in my wife to drive it safely as well.
Confidence? Perhaps trust would be a better word. We all know that our trust could be betrayed by anyone and the worst kind of trust betrayal is by a loved one. But it happens. I would rather trust because I can live with trust much longer than I can live with worry.
When my wife gets home, she finds a happy (if sleepy) husband who is glad to see her home instead of a frazzled mess of a man who can't keep his emotions under control.
If I worried, it would not be about the safety of my wife so much as how I would get along without her in the event of a fatal accident. That's reality.
If we worry about our financial problems, they incapacitate us. Rather, we incapacitate ourselves since worry has never accomplished anything. Nothing ever got better because someone worried. Nothing ever got solved. No one ever felt more loved because someone worried about them--cared, yes, but not worry.
Worry is purely destructive. And we do it to ourselves. No one ever asks us to worry about them or about our problems. No one holds our head under water until we promise to worry. Worry is purely voluntary. We hurt ourselves.
How can we not worry about important matters? After all, some things we worry about may change our lives, always for the worse. They seldom do. Few of the things we worry about come to pass. Worry prevents us from doing anything about matters we have the ability to address. It immobilizes us, as Dr. Dyer said.
When we accept that worry is nothing more than a form of self pity, it becomes easier to shake the habit. No one wants to be thought of as harming themselves. That's akin to suicide on the morality scale.
If you can't do anything about it, don't worry because it won't likely happen anyway. If you can do something about it, get on with it. If a situation means that much to you, change it or change the conditions that create it.
Finally, worry could kill you. Like any strong emotion, worry compromises the immune system, causing it to fail when it's needed most. It's like sending your immune system into a gunfight with a pencil as a weapon. A compromised immune system leaves you open to attack from any kind of harmful microbe, especially those you wouldn't have any trouble with if you were healthy.
People who worry are not healthy. Not physically, not emotionally.
No one can enjoy life when they worry.
Walkers claim that you can't walk and worry at the same time. Instead of worrying, go for a walk. It's good cardiovascular exercise, so you will be much healthier for it. And you will live longer and healthier.
Good thing I don't worry when my wife drives home at night. There are too many bears out there on the dirt road in the forest where we live.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to get through your life safely and happily while banishing your problems. It works and the plan is embarrassingly cheap.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Thursday, August 23, 2007
- John J. Plomp
Written as a joke, this statement tells much about the relationships of many parents and their young children.
All questions have answers. How a parent responds to a question to which he or she doesn't have a ready answer that is generally acceptable to their community or is verifiably true will vary a great deal.
Some parents won't answer the "questions without answers" at all. To a young child who is formulating a concept of the world around her, no answer is rejection of the child as an individual, robbing her of recognition as a person who has or will some day have a significant role to play in the society around her.
Others parents may say "nobody knows" when in fact someone may well know the answer to a question such as "Daddy, why is the sky blue?" Everyone on this planet lives under a blue sky, though the shade will differ from place to place. A child trying to understand her environment will want to know about what's up there as well as what is underneath her feet.
An honest answer from such parents may be "Someone knows, but I'm too lazy to find out for you." Whether the parent intends the child to understand this as the unspoken reply, that is what the child will conclude. A young child will have trouble believing that everyone lives under a blue sky and nobody knows why it's blue. To a child, this would be inconceivable. Children believe that everyone wants to know about the world around them because that is what they inherently want themselves.
Some parents create fantasies as answers to questions to which they don't know the real answers. These fantasies are not usually harmful to the child because most will accept as they get older that every culture has fantasies they use to explain complicated questions to young children. Fantasy concepts such as the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy create fun situations for kids so they tend to accept them under those conditions even when they cease to believe in them as realities. And they pass them along to their own children.
To a young child, is it wrong to explain thunder as angels bowling in the heavens? Thunder can sound very much like a bowling ball rolling down an alley. The parent relates a sound to one the child may understand, that of a bowling ball rolling over wood. However, attached onto that little story are the "throwaway" concepts of angels and heaven. They don't mean much to an adult as part of a fantasy story, perhaps, but not so with a child.
As the child ages and is taught religious lessons about angels and heaven, the story about bowling angels seems ridiculous. But no more ridiculous than heaven's streets being paved with gold when spirits have no need for either paved streets or the mineral that is valued only by mortal humans.
A few parents will know the answers to those questions that young children have. I am reminded of the joke about the parent whose young child asks about sex, whereupon the parent thinks the child must be more mature than he believes and undertakes to explain mammalian reproduction. At the end of the story, the child thanks the parent and says "Bobby asked me what sex our cat was and I didn't know."
A parent who doesn't know the answer to a question posed by a young child has an obligation to find out and report back to the child. A parent who knows the answer must explain it in language the child can understand. That's often a problem. Babies, for example, don't use Baby Talk. Only adults do that. A parent who underestimates the ability of a child to comprehend an intellectual concept underestimates the potential of the child.
Young children spend almost all of their waking hours formulating concepts of the world around them. Adults, by comparison, do this very little. Many adults are more prepared to accept the explanation and conclusions of someone else (even a stranger) for a complicated question than to find out for themselves. That accounts for why we have so many stupid followers in our society who are prepared to believe almost anything if it's told to them in an authoritative manner.
Young children understand concepts because it's what they do. For the first six years of their lives, everything they experience is a component of what becomes their concept of what the world is all about.
Lie to a young child and the child will grow up to believe that lying is acceptable, especially if you don't get caught. Strike the child unnecessarily and the child will understand that physical abuse of children is the way of the world. Sexually abuse a young child and you destroy any possibility that it will grow up to be a competent and confident individual adult who can stand with other more balanced adults as an equal.
Treat a young child with respect and the child will respect others as an adolescent and an adult. Teach a child what he needs to know and he will teach others, spreading the word exponentially.
Fail to teach a child what he needs to know before he needs it, such as how and why to avoid drugs and alcohol, and the best intentioned of parents may find themselves trying to raise a child that has become an addict.
Children don't want to be ignorant. No young child wants to grow to be a social deviant. Every child wants to be respected, appreciated and treated as a member of the society (family) to which he or she belongs. The family is the child's world and no child wants to be an ignorant member of that world.
If this is the kind of adult we want in our community, this is how we must treat our children. Teach right, teach good and teach peace.
If we want our children to be treated this way by their parents, we must teach young adults what they need to know before they become parents. This can be done by the education system with very few and inexpensive changes.
If you believe that this is the best way to make your community, your country, your world a better place to live, don't let this message end when you reach the end of this article. Talk it up among your friends and relatives. Talk about it at work. Especially talk about it at Home and School and Parent-Teacher meetings.
This is what you can do to make a difference to the world. Change can only happen one conversation at a time.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to help people make significant changes to better their communities and their own lives.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The only thing that will bring immediate effect is infinite patience.
- A Course in Miracles (Foundation for Inner Peace, http://acim.org )
Immediate effect? Yes. If you know that it will take time for something to work itself out, it relieves the stress of the moment.
If you know that something critical in your life might destroy your life as you have come to know it, you might implode and do something that will critically affect your own life without intending to do so. But if you believe that nothing critical will happen quickly, especially if it involves people, then you can plan little steps to take one at a time to avoid the dreaded big crunch.
Does patience solve everything? Look back five, ten, twenty or more years (if you have them behind you) at the matters that caused you the most stress then, the ones you wondered how you would every possibly make it through. You did--you are reading this, so you must admit that you made it.
Maybe one or more of those troublesome times caused you great grief. But now, not so much. You may still grieve the loss of someone, be it through death or unrequited love, but the impact is greatly reduced. Time doesn't completely heal all wounds, it leaves scars.
Patience and time alone won't make pain or troubles go away. We must take steps to rebuild our lives around what happened. Not "moving on" means living in the past. That includes bankruptcy, divorce, death of a loved one or harassment from a boss or neighbour. Doing the same thing you did when the big thing happened is not moving on, it's throwing an anchor into the past and hanging on until you drown.
Remember the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Imagine having the job of building one of those. The Great Pyramid is still the largest manmade structure, whether today or in history. What if you had been the one who had to build that giant statue that straddled the water in Greece, at a time when bridges were small and only had to hold minimal weights at one time? It might have been stressful if your boss had told you to get it built or lose your head.
Believe it or not, the troubles that most of us have today pale in comparison to those of our ancestors. Women died in childbirth because they wanted to have families. Children died in horrendous numbers before the age of five. Losing one's entire wealth was common, through robbery, natural disaster or war. Some people had to entirely rebuild their lives several times if they lived long enough.
Today few of us need worry about dying as a result of a tragedy in our lives. What we need is to remember that we will likely live through our tragedy and take steps to build new lives sooner rather than later by going through more self imposed grief than necessary.
Patience won't make a problem go away by itself. It will help, immediately, to know that we will get through the problem. Then we have time to climb out of the well that fate threw us down.
If we didn't drown in that well, we will reach the top eventually. When we get to the sunlight again depends on when we begin to climb.
Self pity is an anchor that holds us down. Most of our feeling bad is self pity. Most depression is self imposed in the sense that depression is avoidable, and even as a medical condition it's solvable.
An experienced and qualified clinical psychologist recently told me "Shit happens!" He used those words for effect, to see if I could work my way around them. I did.
Life is messy. Few of us have neat, clean lives. They're cluttered, worn, dog-eared, shabby and threadbare in some places. However, unlike the items to which we usually apply those adjectives, we have fix and rebuild ourselves.
It takes patience. And some work. A bit at a time. Then more patience.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show you the next step up.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Half the truth is often a great lie.
- Benjamin Franklin, statesman, author, and inventor (1706-1790)
To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.
- Abraham Lincoln, 16th US president (1809-1865
I couldn't resist putting quotes from these two great Americans together because they both point toward the truth.
Franklin said that half the truth is a lie. Lincoln that to be silent about the truth makes us cowards.
Does a woman who has just spent a few hundred dollars to buy a new dress that doesn't suit her but she bought it because the sales clerk said it looked great on her, then models it before her husband before going out for an evening with friends, want to hear the truth about how she looks or a "white lie?"
Conventional wisdom says that the husband should lie through his teeth if he wants his wife to enjoy the evening, and to enjoy it himself. She wants flattery, not the truth, so we are told.
So she wears her new dress out to a party where her friends offer her similar flattering compliments while thinking to themselves and saying to each other that perhaps this woman has totally lost her taste for attractive clothes.
The lie was successful for a short time, but the truth became public and will stay around like a bad smell for ages.
The US invaded Iraq because US intelligence reports stated that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Saddam said he had no such thing. In fact, the US had given Saddam the same weapons they accused him of having later, so Iraq had WMD for some period of time. What US intelligence failed to account for was how Saddam had used up what they had given him.
For the sake of that half truth, the war in Iraq costs US taxpayers over two billion dollars per day, every day for years.
Stockholders of Enron loved the unbelievable results their company posted for several years, naively trusting that the unbelievable must be true because they read it in Enron's annual statements. When the truth came home to rest, they blamed Enron, not themselves, for believing that the stock was too good to be true.
We know that our education system has charge of students who are committing suicide at a greater rate than ever before, committing acts of violence in school and outside at an unprecedented rate, taking drugs and alcohol at levels unimaginable to their parents.
Rather than teaching our children what they need to know as adults, we leave it up to our governments to put the bad guys in prison and insist that our schools do a better job of teaching the 3Rs. It's important to us that our children be kept as innocent as possible for as long as possible.
Ignorance has devastating results. Believing lies makes it worse.
This is the culture we teach our children, by example, by role modelling as parents. Somehow, though people always get hurt by a lie or a half truth, we have embraced the idea that short term gain is worth the long term pain. The drug that makes us feel so great for a few minutes but like hell for hours afterward is worth it, according to what we teach our children.
I disagree. Avoiding the truth, no matter what the circumstances, means more pain, more hurt, more damage later.
Perhaps while we change our ways to teach our children the long term value of truth we can also teach them how to word the truth in such a way that its delivery isn't painful. It can be done. It's simply a matter of learning how to use the language effectively.
When would teachers ever have time to teach such life lessons? When they must spend less time focusing on discipline and punishment because their students know the truth about why they are in school and what they can expect in their future, they will have time to teach what the kids really need.
We accept teenage angst as a function of life in this time of history. Teens don't rebel in every culture. They do so mostly in western cultures where we don't teach them what they need to know about life. They know what they don't know and they rebel because we refuse to teach them. And we say they're bad.
We see what is happening but say nothing about it.
No child of three years wants to grow up to be a criminal, a junkie, an alcoholic, an abuser of his or her spouse. Kids go that way because they don't receive life lessons before they need them. They crack when they can't cope with their lives because they didn't have the skills they needed.
Childhood innocence means adult ignorance. Adult ignorance means troubled times.
All we have to do is to teach children the good lessons they need.
This is a good day to start. And don't be quiet about it.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, the book that tells us how to do it with a minimum of fuss and expense and maximum effect.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Saturday, August 18, 2007
- Horace, Roman poet (65 BC - 8 BC)
What we believe about life is determined largely by our experience. What happened in the sphere of our lives in the past will, we believe, continue and possibly be increased in the future.
Whether what we experienced in the past represents in any valid manner the real state of the world in which we lived is not just in some doubt, but is irrelevant to most people. Experience is life. Truth is what we can wring and wrench out of our experience. It's hard to convince anyone of a truth if their experience tells them the opposite.
As children we perceive the world totally according to our experience because we don't have enough "truths" from our reading or dialogue to think differently. For most of us adults, our expectation of life in the future was shaped largely in our childhood.
A child who experiences a great deal of fear or abuse will have a great deal of trouble trusting anyone as an adult. Even periods where the adult may trust someone such as a spouse or great friend implicitly may be punctuated by other times when that person finds it difficult to trust anyone.
Children raised in a healthy atmosphere with healthy foods and healthy activities usually continue those practices as adults. They may have "off" periods during their young adult lives, but they almost always return to the habits they learned as children.
Children who grow up in creative families, always involved with building, devising, inventing, testing and improving generally have adult lives that mirror their childhood experiences. Similarly, children who live in families with an unstimulating atmosphere usually (but not always) become adults who depend largely on entertainment generated by others. And on others for their employment.
Children of sports fans become sports fans as adults and no one expects it to be any different.
As we age we may experience more times when people deceive us, disappoint us, steal from us, cheat us or report information to us as fact when it is, at best, a distorted version of something that happened. The cumulative effect of these experiences may determine how we treat others in our later working and senior years.
Negative experiences weigh heavily on us and tend to accumulate as facts of life while positive experiences hold less weight on our memories and must be experienced far more often than negative ones in order for us to not believe that the world is getting worse as we get older.
The writers of ancient Egypt recorded their beliefs that their children were less disciplined and more inclined to be disrespectful and waste their time than the older generation. People have believed that the world was going to hell in a handbasket (or to hell in a wheelbarrow) for centuries, using those exact words.
But is it? Not likely. It mostly can be explained by the fact of cumulative negative experiences making people believe that the world is getting worse as they get older. That may partly explain why family size in developed countries is much smaller than in developing countries, as people with better education tend to be more aware of news of the world and believe that they "don't want to bring children into a world like this."
Fewer wars are taking place today than ever before in history. Health conditions in most of the world are better than ever before. People are better educated in most parts of the world than in the past. People know more today than their ancestors. New cures for medical conditions are announced almost weekly. More people live healthier and happier lives today than ever. People today may live decades longer than their grandparents or earlier generations and be more ctive and joyful while doing it.
Experience may not tell us that information, which accounts for why many people do not have an optimistic view of the future.
If we want a better future, let's not leave it to the creative and healthy families to spread their influence. That will take too long. We need to change how our schools educate our children so that two dozen or more young people with positive attitudes toward the future will emerge from each class.
That won't cost a cent. But we will have to talk to others about it so that the changes can be made at the classroom level.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make the world a more positive place with fewer problems.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Friday, August 17, 2007
- George Burns
Considering that the comedian lived to a few days short of his 100th birthday, his joke is well taken.
But what of the rest of us? Who do we have to respect?
Respecting elders is the fifth of the Bible's Ten Commandments and a component of the teachings of almost every culture through the ages. In tribal days (which comprise most of human history) respecting elders was critical because only those who had lived long enough to have learned from their elders and accumulated experience of their own held the wisdom needed to help the tribe continue through its new experiences. Elder wisdom was the thread that held everyone together.
In our modern megasocieties that is less necessary since there are always a few people who hold a great deal of wisdom in any society. Look at the wisdom demonstrated by our political leaders, our religious leaders, the pillars of our communities.
OK, bad example. Look at our business leaders who make fortunes for their shareholders while depriving those in resource-rich communities of decent lives, selling poison-laced tobacco products to citizens of poor countries who have not heard how lethal they are, selling products with warranties they have no intention of honouring. They have turned our education systems into factories that churn out followers (not leaders) with the kinds of skills their industries can use to make more money.
Business leaders may not be good examples either. Let's look at our idols, the members of our entertainment industry. Surely Paris Hilton, movie heroes, rock band members and the like have messages we can learn from.
Messages, yes, if it's negative role models we're looking for.
How about teachers? Almost every one of us had a teacher we respected greatly, one who inspired us to strive toward our potential. Most of them, however, were average folks who struggled along on meagre income, with few resources, inadequate curriculum to work by and almost nothing to support what there was, and dreadfully little support from their superiors in administration.
The average career of a teacher in North America these days is five years, which indicates how devoted most new teachers are to enslaving themselves to a system that refuses to give them what they need and ignores the primary function of education, to grow competent and confident new adults for the coming world.
The problem is not that we don't respect our elders. The problem is that our elders subscribed to the dictates of business that "money is everything, only losers don't have it," thereby losing track of their function as positive role models for younger people.
Most people in the western world do have money. So much that those in developing nations envy us our possessions and we have sufficient to throw money at just about anything that pleases our hearts, even if it only lasts a short period of time. We have houses that are twice as big as those of our parents and cars (or approximations thereof, such as vans or SUVs) that serve needs we don't have, other than the need for bragging rights.
Who can we blame for this? Look around, the possibilities are everywhere. Conservatives tell us that our problems of lack of respect are simply consequences of living the good life, of having what everyone else wants but can't have because they aren't prepared to mortgage their souls for future wealth and promises for the present.
We don't need someone to blame, but someone to show us that what we have achieved is subservience to industries that control our lives from cradle to grave and to offer an alternative lifestyle with true hope, happiness and fulfillment.
Does that sound like pie in the sky? Then what is real, Paris Hilton? Ron Lay, former head of Enron? George W. Bush? Saddam Hussein? Osama bin Laden? These people either are or were until recently idols for many people. Respect may not be the best word, unless it's a grudging respect for their notoriety. Fame is the ultimate goal of the money society.
When we can't be happy with what we have then we will never be happy with what we can achieve in the future. If we can't see beauty around us today we will never see it by moving elsewhere.
We need positive role models to follow. We need our media to show us that those positive role models will help us to reach objectives in life that are worth striving for.
With enough money a person can buy anything. Anything but what's important in life. People with money persuade themselves that owning is all that matters. People with little persuade themselves that what they lack in life could be bought. It's parts of industry's social paradigm.
We can never find a better life at the bank or the stock market.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to teach everyone in the world life lessons that are worth learning.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
- Albert Einstein
Whose eyes and heart would one use, we might ask? Actually, as it happens, just about anyone's, including those of a stranger.
During his working years my father always had employees and colleagues he could consult on any subject, including getting someone to repair the plumbing in our house or fix a problem with his car. After he retired, he lost contact with such people, as is the way of modern business relationships.
When he had a question or problem about which I had some knowledge, he would politely listen to my suggestion or allow me to complete a repair. But if he was told something different from what I had said about some topic, he would be more inclined to believe the stranger he just met in a store than me.
This is not unusual in families. Strangers are believed to give unbiased advice because they (apparently) have nothing to gain by lying. However, as many of us know from experience, strangers can be just as wrong as anyone else, unbiased or not.
Many of us take what we hear on the evening news as fact, as if networks present nothing but the truth on any issue. Over half of us now understand that television or radio news reports may well be editorialized to the point of giving us limited facts in such a way as to distort the truth of a story. So, needing another source for news we turn to the internet, which is renown for inaccuracies and just plain lies.
Over one-quarter of the material aired on "free" television is advertising, which is lies twisted and convoluted so much that they begin to look like truth about needs the advertisers created on our behalf, or promotions of programs that seldom meet the lofty objectives shown in the 30 second promos.
Over half of the content of newspapers and magazines is advertising (see above). In the case of some magazines the story content may describe some business or business person who by merest coincidence has just agreed to advertise in the publication. Information sources these days can often be described as media whores based on their policies. Yet when the media do it we call it business, whereas most of us want the older form of prostitution to be removed from the streets.
Some of us go to places of worship where the religious leaders literally invent stories they call "facts," claim they come from the holy book(s) and insist that they must be true because the information came from an unimpeachable source. Some scientists in Islamic countries have been known to claim something as proven fact because it appears in the Qu'ran. In Christian countries you can learn a great deal about the personality and nature of God, whom the same religion teaches in unknowable.
As a writer I have been known to spend many hours a day at my computer dressed in my pajamas and slippers, but most people who go to work at someone else's place of employment dress according to the style of the day, which usually changes from season to season, as someone else dictates. Do the heads of state of our countries do a better job at running their nations or cooperate better with each other at summits because they wear suits and neckties, always in the latest styles?
Come election time in many democratic countries, a huge percentage of qualified voters don't go to the polls because they don't know who to vote for. The others do their civic duty, voting for the candidates their party has told them to vote for or their favourite television news anchor openly supports.
Like it or not (there is no valid reason we should), what we believe (or "see") is what we have been told to believe.
When a devastating natural disaster such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean a couple of years ago strikes, the media jump on it and tell of the endless amount of human suffering. We immediately phone in our pledge to support relief efforts to help survivors. The same media say little or nothing about the millions who suffer and die from AIDS, malaria, even dysentery every year, and the families who may find themselves orphaned, homeless and starving as a result, so we don't worry about contributing to those causes.
As Einstein said, our hearts, like our eyes, depend on others to tell us what is important and to ignore what is not.
When a factory closes or a fishery loses its traditional stock, putting many people out of work, some rush right away to find other employment. Others can't find any other job, more than any other reason because no one tells them to go to this place and submit an application or go to that school to learn a new trade. When they don't have a boss to tell them what to do, they don't know what to do.
Without guidance we humans are often dumber than the "dumb animals" we consider lesser species. No doubt we have brilliant intellectuals who can think on any given topic, we have experts in every field, we have hard working entrepreneurs who build their own businesses successfully. But many of us would still be using leaves and old catalogues in outhouses if we didn't' have others to build bathrooms for us and advertisers to tell us which bathroom tissue to buy.
The purpose of this article is not to criticize lazy or unthinking people. It's to bring to your attention that our system of education (including what our children learn from their parents) fails us. It produces automatons and followers, not people who could function independently if a disaster put our power systems out for an extended period of time.
Being a reader, you are not likely one of those people. You read, so you have knowledge and access to resources. You are part of a tiny minority. In the western world a mere six percent of adults read more than three books per year, most read none.
If you, who reads and have resources do nothing to change how our education system works, don't expect those who don't read or think for themselves to know how to change anything, including their minds.
Talk about this with others. Only by talking about it more and more will anything change. It's the only way anything can change.
It is your responsibility. That's what you get for being so smart.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about a cheap and easily implemented plan to change our education systems without resorting to religion, political ideology or war.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Sunday, August 12, 2007
The first thing to understand about fear and shyness is that neither is a symptom of cowardice or inferiority. Neither fear nor shyness have anything to do with cowardice or inferiority, so no one should make the association, either consciously or unconsciously.
Cowardice and feelings of inferiority may be associated with each other in some people, but not necessarily. Both are symptoms themselves of emotional abuse or emotional maldevelopment or underdevelopment, conditions which this article will not address.
Fear is natural, built into us in the form of apprehension of potential danger and associated with the fight or flight response. Fight or flight is a decision-making process that allows the brain to make rapid choices in the face of risk and it's backed up physiologically by the chemical epinephrine (aka Adrenalin), a chemical secreted by the adrenal gland to give people an instant jolt of strength to either run from danger or to face it (and fight in some cases).
Fear only becomes a negative when it affects our daily lives. At that point it may be called a phobia or severe anxiety. Most cases of life-affecting fear are self induced, resulting in the harm done to the fearful person by their own brain being far worse than if what is feared actually came about. Being self induced, both phobias and severe anxiety can only be overcome by self therapy, often but not necessarily with the assistance of a professional psychologist or therapist.
Shyness is a special kind of fear. It stems from emotional abuse (usually in childhood) when someone in a position of power (such as a parent) treats another person as inferior, a failure, stupid or worthless. Repeated treatment of that sort will make a victim shy about doing or saying anything that might cause others in different settings to treat the person in the same way as the abuser did in the past.
This shyness fear is usually at the unconscious level. The shy person consciously is afraid to make a mistake, even if he or she knows that a mistake will not harm their reputation, such as those that might happen in a casual conversation among friends.
The other kind of shyness is a feeling inadequacy. While the shy person might feel that they can't think of good words to use in a conversation or how to say something in a small-talk-casual manner, the problem may be that the shy person simply cannot think fast enough to make conversation rapidly.
For example, I have a problem processing information in my brain quickly. In some circumstances I act like a genius, while in others I seem to stumble more than someone with a low intellect. The difference may be only the time I have to process the incoming information and act upon it.
In groups up to four people I can hold my own in conversations when only one person speaks at a time. In larger groups I seldom say anything because more than one person may be talking at a time and my brain can't process that much information at once. I am the proverbial wallflower in a large group.
A shy person may simply take longer to process incoming information (such as in a conversation), which has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence.
To fill in gaps in a conversation when such an insecure individual wants to continue to hold the floor, the person may repeatedly say "Uh," or repeat prepositions ("of...of...of the next day") or stutter in order to not lose their place in the speaking order. Losing your place in the speaking order of a conversation makes you feel like you are being ignored or incompetent.
My wife is very understanding of my problem of processing information and thinking while doing something else, such as driving a car. I sometimes leave gaps in the middle of sentences of half a minute or more while I think about how to word what I want to say. That does not involve a risk to my losing my place in the conversation because my wife allows me time to do my thinking before speaking.
However, such patience is uncommon in most social situations. In a conversation, participants want a continuous flow of vocal sound, which often results in small talk degrading into drivel or talk about the weather or who won a sports match. While people want a constant flow of vocal sound, some are unable to produce it themselves so they talk about immaterial matters.
A shy person must avoid situations where he or she gets part way through a sentence or series of sentences then must stop to think of what to say next. The way to do this is to prepare what they want to say fully before beginning to speak. Actually say the words, in order, in their head before saying them out loud.
This means that a shy person may not speak as often in a conversation as others whose brains work faster. However, it does not mean that the shy person will not say something of importance. On the contrary, often someone who speaks quickly may use many words to say something similar to what a shy person may say more concisely.
Life-altering fear and shyness are manageable. They are not signs of low intellect. In fact, people who stutter may be of above average intellect but have trouble putting the many ideas they have into words in an easily understood order without stuttering or using some other form of place-holding mechanism.
The best advice for a person with life-altering fear or shyness is to get your priorities straight, then get your thinking in order. Most people can't remember what they were worried about or fearful of ten years ago, five years ago, even one year ago. If you are unlikely to worry about something five years from now, it's not worth worrying about today.
Worry (a euphemism for fear) usually prevents a person from addressing the source of their problem, thus prolonging and magnifying its effects. Worry makes a small problem into a tragic event. Get your priorities in order so that you can address your problems directly.
When face to face with seemingly big problems, most of us find that they diminish in size considerably as we work our way through them. Worry and fear are road blocks, not detours.
Find your detours and get on your way again.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book that shows how big problems can become manageable when faced properly.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Thursday, August 09, 2007
People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance offoolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools.
- Alice Walker, writer (1944- )
No one should underestimate the significance of this statement. It describes well a shockingly large number of people in the western world.
See how familiar these sound to you. Never let them see you sweat. Don't blink first. A good executive is someone who always has someone else to blame.
In our business, our politics and our religious organizations the managers who rise to the top are those against whom the label of "loser" has never been applied. In those three fields, making a mistake is the free pass to the bottom of the heap, if not to prison or oblivion.
In recent years we have seen numerous examples in each of those fields of people who have been corrupt, who have made terrible mistakes, who have harmed countless others in their drive to the top. They have been caught, tried and punished, or the last step is in the process.
We still insist that our leaders must be perfect, faultless, unimpeachable. They aren't. They can't be. But we continue to act as if our leaders must be perfect.
To begin with, they must be as ignorant of new developments in the world as we imperfect souls are. So much new happens in each field of endeavour that it's all the experts can do to keep up with it in their own fields. In a field that is not theirs, they are as ignorant as the rest of us.
Doctors, for example, often spend at least one day each week updating their knowledge base and their skills, just in order to keep up with advances in their own specialties. Not doing so might result in litigation for malpractice.
With governments at all levels passing legislation and bylaws constantly, lawyers must spend much of their time catching up, including finding flaws and faults with new laws and bylaws. So much changes with respect to building codes, safety regulations and new engineering and design in the construction industry that builders must study constantly or fall behind. Every field experiences the same level of development and the same risks of its participants falling behind.
So much discussion and debate takes place in many parts of the world on a regular basis regarding religion that clerics must stay up with as much as they can or they will not have adequate answers for questions from their followers. Those who don't have answers resort to the old standby "Have faith."
When we listen to debates in different places on the same subjects it becomes obvious that seldom do debaters bring the same levels of knowledge to the table. The better prepared any participant is regarding an issue of religion, the more likely that person is to survive without embarrassment. Keeping up is nearly impossible.
The one field where we expect every participant to be the most knowledgeable and skilled or at least have access to others who are skilled is politics. Yet politicians require no level of expertise in any subject to be nominated, only a good support system. And popularity to be elected. The people who daily enact legislation that affects our lives are often no more knowledgeable about what is happening in the subject area of the laws than you and I. Consequently they vote how they are told by their leaders.
At some point the ignorance or lack of skill of everyone becomes evident if they work in a public arena. The most successful become skilled at backpedaling, fudging results and blaming others to survive.
The vast majority of us live personal lives where we unconsciously admit to ourselves that we can't keep up with everything. Yet we still subscribe to the belief that we mustn't make a mistake or admit to having made one. As Alice Walker said, we remain foolish in order to not look foolish.
When we can't repair something that breaks ourselves, we throw it away and buy a new one. We have our cars fixed at dealerships rather than small garages because the car companies have convinced us that only their mechanics (sorry, service technicians) have the skill to use a machine to diagnose a broken part and install a new part.
Many of us don't even vote because not only do we not know the candidates but we also have no idea what the issues are that the elected representatives will act upon. We claim that "they're all the same" or "they're all crooks anyway." These euphemistic statements serve to help us believe that we are not really as ignorant of what goes on in the government that affect our lives as we really are.
To make matters worse, many people have no idea where to acquire the knowledge they need to do something, even if they wanted to do it. The schools they grew up in taught them facts, reading and mathematics, but not the skills of resourcefulness to find what they need when they need it. That's typical of nineteenth century education, which serves us poorly in the twenty-first century.
It's not just foolish, but morally wrong, to remain ignorant rather than to admit that we need help from others and to ask for it so that we can conduct our lives with self respect and dignity rather than ignorance.
Ironically, people with great knowledge and skills usually enjoy teaching someone who wants to learn. They don't get asked much. They certainly won't impose themselves on others only to be repelled by people who don't want to be embarrassed by being shown their own ignorance.
We can all learn by experience. Asking someone else who knows is faster and easier.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to educate children so they won't be ignorant or foolish adults in a world that is rapidly becoming in need of greater expertise.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
'Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond thecomprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it isviolating all his laws.
- John Adams, 2nd US president (1735-1826)
Think of any person of power that you know or that you have read about in history. The statement applies in every case.
Though Adams was a US president and the quote was made nearly two centuries ago, it applies to every US president who has taken his country into war or who has intervened in the affairs of other countries (such as in Central and South America) over the past century.
The popes of the Church of Rome have forbidden any form of birth control (other than the very poor rhythm method) so that millions of unplanned children have been raised in poverty in many parts of the world and uncountable children even in rich countries have grown up in families where they were not cared for properly because the parents didn't want them in the first place.
Hitler believed he was not only doing the work prescribed for him by God but that he was doing the world a favour by cleansing it of "impure" elements that were destroying it from within.
Stalin was responsible for almost as many deaths of Russians because he believed that he was ordained by God to rule his country. And any neighbouring countries he could comfortably suck dry of their resources and treasures. Not the read God, of course, but himself as he gave himself demigod status.
Think of the leaders of major corporations who fudged the annual statements of their companies while receiving fortunes in annual salaries, taking their shareholders into poverty when they lost their life savings and had to retire without their hard-earned "nest egg."
The profits that Halliburton must be accumulating in Iraq as the US corporation responsible for the "rebuilding" of the country while US taxpayers fund US involvement in the country to the tune of nearly three billion US dollars per day must be staggering. You know Halliburton, US Vice President Cheney's former company, the man who has headed up the "saving" of Iraq from the dreaded scourge of Islam for the past few years.
The surprise is not that these men of power have corrupted the system and taken advantage of it for their own gains. Or even that they have claimed to be doing the service of God in the process. This is what powerful men do.
The surprise is that so many people have seen them do it and supported them.
Perhaps schools should spend more time teaching morals and ethics rather than the values of war they teach in history lessons.
Study those lessons. They all stress battles and wars won, but say little or nothing about wars lost or atrocities committed in the process. The lesson: War is good.
One way or another, the people in power control what is taught in schools, especially the lessons about what is right and wrong. People who don't believe they have any power remain silent, always more concerned with the rigours of their own daily lives.
People who have power and who want power reach beyond themselves to influence others. Those who believe they have no power keep to themselves, always too busy to get involved, to butt into "someone else's business."
That's how power works. The powerful know that.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to reveal the ugly underbelly of power so that good people can clean it up.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Monday, August 06, 2007
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
- Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher, founder of Taoism (6th century BC)
Lao-Tzu does not say that we should accept the status quo, never try to improve, keep things permanently unmoved and unmovable.
He says that we should rejoice in what we have now. That is, appreciate and enjoy the good parts of our present life and not worry over what we lack.
Our present industrial complex that effectively runs our lives in many ways uses a sophisticated advertising industry as a tool of propaganda to brainwash us into believing that we can never have enough, never have it "made," never be entirely satisfied. It's what keeps their bottom lines blossoming. And us forever dissatisfied with our lot in life.
Of course we must get a good education. To make our lives better as we get older? No, in order that we can make more money to spend on the products that our industries make and their advertising agents make us believe we desperately need.
More than ever before in history, I believe, we have the strongest elements of power in our society making us believe that we cannot be satisfied, that we can never be happy (unless we spend), that we can never have enough (unless we earn more), that we can never be too rich. That's a recipe for constant and widespread dissatisfaction.
Moreover we don't have any countervailing influences that would encourage us to believe that we have it pretty good the way it is.
By making us believe that we don't have enough, that we can never have enough, that we should always want more, our advertisers have made us selfish, unconcerned about those who can never reach the heights of success that we strive for ourselves.
We give to charities and to aggressive homeless people on the streets when they succeed in grabbing our attention and making us interested temporarily in what they have to say.
Many of us are very generous people who spend huge amounts of time helping those less fortunate than themselves. But these are a minority. We recognize them once in a while with some award, then we return to our lives of focussing on building wealth for our own future.
In North America we have built cities whose main purpose is to house as many people as possible in the smallest possible space. The lifestyle this forces our people into--particularly the disconnect from nature and the natural environment--turns many people into gerbils constantly running on their wheels but never really getting anywhere.
We don't worry much about how some industries are destroying or fouling nature because we have little or nothing to do with nature. To us, nature is that little park down the street, and it's well kept thank you very much.
Oddly, the people who most accept life as it is are those who have lived the longest times in big cities. They accept city life because they don't know any other life. Lao-Tzu would never have understood that because in his time most people were involved with agriculture, which meant that they were daily in touch with the land. They depended on nature for their existence.
Some of our people who live in rural communities or on farms often want to move to the city to enjoy the benefits of city life. That's how powerful the advertising industry has been. Young people in rural communities may want to move to a city to find some "action." And a job which may not be available around home. They grew up to be job workers, not job creators.
We may need to accept and appreciate the environment we live in, no matter what it is, as Lau-Tzu said. But we don't have to accept a total disconnect from nature.
Our species evolved in nature. We became what we are today because we had the ability to survive and adapt to any kinds of weather, climate and food resources. Today's city dwellers often can't start a fire in a wilderness area without risk of setting the forest on fire as well. They are more apt to kill another city dweller out of desperation at not knowing how to cope with their problems than a wild animal for food.
While rationalizing Lao-Tzu's advice for life in the city today may be difficult, we can keep in mind that advertisers who constantly try to make us feel dissatisfied will never allow us to rejoice about anything.
So long as we focus on what we don't have and what is wrong in our lives, we can't possibly be happy. Those factors control our lives. Advertisers either focus on a need we have that has not been met or they create one--cosmetics being a prime example.
The only way we can be happy is to appreciate that which is good in our lives and to rejoice in it. We will never live in the Garden of Eden. We will always have to make the best of what we have.
To make the best of what we have, we must recognize it and celebrate it for how it can benefit us. That's hard because someone will always be trying to tell us how wrong things are in our lives and how buying something new will help that.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us find some good in our lives, wherever we are.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Sunday, August 05, 2007
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity.
- Charles Mingus
In science they call it elegance. When a theory can be explained concisely in terms that most people can understand, that theory is said to be elegant. Not surprisingly, few scientists are so adept with words that they can explain their theories elegantly. That partly explains why they have so much opposition, as many readers misinterpret their complicated wording.
Most people recognize e = mc2 even if they don't fully understand Einstein's work with relativity. For many it's the only scientific equation they know.
Making the simple complicated is something we experience frequently. Politicians interviewed on television or radio, for example, use a continuous flow of easily understood words to dodge around answering a question that would make them or their party look bad by gradually changing the subject completely to one they want to address. They never answer the original question, no matter how often it's asked.
Preachers do something similar as well at times. When they want to discuss something about which there may be some debate as to its veracity or even its wisdom, they flower up their words and use quotes from scripture that often have nothing whatsoever to do with the issue. Listeners assume that they must have missed something and that the quoted scripture must have proven the point the preacher was making. Consequently listeners believe what the preacher concludes, believing that he proved his point by quoting a holy book. He didn't.
Making the complicated awesomely simple may be creative, but it doesn't necessarily convince the multitudes. Many people believe that if someone is able to give an easily understood solution to a complicated question, there must be something missing or defective or plain wrong with the solution.
Take the drug problem for example. Thousands of people in a few poor countries make a decent living growing crops that are eventually sold as illegal drugs on the streets of rich countries. Since so many people die or have their lives destroyed by these drugs, governments spend fortunes to hire police and judges and build courtrooms and prisons to catch and punish the guilty parties.
Without getting into the reasons why people take illegal drugs, the fact is that within certain communities and social circles, drug-taking is acceptable and socially encouraged.
The same people who take drugs may never consider breaking any other laws. So why do they take drugs? The answer to the question is very complicated and no one answer fits every drug taker. What is important is that if we want people to not take drugs as adults or as adolescents, we must teach them that taking drugs is wrong when they are young children.
Teaching young children about an "adult" subject is morally wrong to some people. Instead they wait until the kids get older and try to fix the mistakes and repair the destroyed lives.
What we learn as very young children--under the age of six years--forms the basis for what we believe as adults. We can show adolescents the effects that drugs have had on some people--by visiting them in prison or hospitals for example--but the first stage of the teaching must be done when the kids are very young. Then it becomes part of them, a component of who they are as people.
Most teens who don't take drugs likely don't even remember learning that taking drugs is wrong when they were very little. Yet somehow the message got through to them, whether they learned it through a formal lesson or by overhearing adult conversations. Kids learn about their world by listening to adults talk, whether the kids seem to be paying attention to the adult words or not.
Teach the children when they are young and they will follow the lessons as adults. That's a very simple statement of solution for a very complicated subject. But it's the only viable solution to the problem. It's the only way to address the problem effectively.
Your tax money is spent liberally on police, courts, judges, lawyers, prison guards and prison facilities every year. The numbers of each go up every year. Yet how many governments want to seek the desperately cheap solution of teaching young children (preferably their parents first) about how drugs are harmful?
The same solution applies to many other community (social) and even personal problems. Teach kids how to cope with their problems before they are old enough to have the problems and they will be ready to face down those problems with confidence when they arise.
Complicated problem. Simple solution. Lots of your tax money spent for no effective return. Nothing hard about that.
So why aren't you talking to others about this solution? Want to learn more? Check out the web site using the link below.
It won't cost you anything to learn and you only have to talk to others about it in conversations you might have anyway.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to teach the world some easy and cheap solutions for complicated problems.
Learn more at http://billallin.com
Saturday, August 04, 2007
- Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) was a brilliant thinker and astute observer of human nature, but I believe he missed the mark with this quote.
For an educated person with a broad base of knowledge and understanding of what the ancient Greeks called philosophy, the quote makes sense. Someone who can make you believe something that is absurd can surely make you commit atrocities.
The concept of slavery as practised during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries qualifies as atrocity since it was based on the belief that because people of a different culture and skin colour who lived in the tropical areas of middle Africa could not speak the language of the white European imperialists and had a different form of economy than European capitalism, they must be stupid subhumans who were good for nothing more than working in the fields of white plantation owners. Slaves formed a part of white capitalism.
It may seem less than an atrocity that one person would impoverish an entire family by investing everything the family had managed to save in an internet (scam) venture that they knew to be "too good to be true." More of an atrocity if you were a member of one of those families who went from middle class to poverty overnight. Whose education ended a high school because college could no longer be afforded.
Hitler and his propaganda minister Goebbels managed to persuade enough German citizens and the military that Jews were a curse to the world because they worked hard and did well in business, thus earning income they believed should have been in the hands of Germans, that they participated in the Holocaust.
Militant Hutus in Rwanda persuaded their fellow tribesmen that the Tutsis who were better at business and at influencing government policy than the Hutus deserved to be destroyed because they were keeping Hutu people unemployed, so the Hutus slaughtered nearly one million Tutsis, mostly using machetes.
However, Voltaire made the mistake of believing that other men were as knowledgeable and as well educated as he. Knowledge is crucial to the effectiveness of the quote.
To him, an absurdity would be something that didn't make sense. However, what makes sense is learned, not inherited through genetics. There is nothing "common" about "common sense" if its components and way of analyzing factors and determining reasonable and acceptable conclusions are not taught to everyone--to the common people in common (through schools) ways.
We insist that our schools teach language, mathematics, science, geography, history, some arts, some life skills and a variety of other optional subjects that differ from one location to another. But we don't teach thinking skills, as such.
Life today in cities is not similar to life on the farm when the economy mostly depended on agriculture. Not even similar to the days when city people were mostly employed in factories, where neither the factory workers nor the farmers needed much formal education. Yet our education systems teach updated versions of the same subjects our ancestors were taught.
Today the farmers and factory/business workers all receive a good education, in agriculture, engineering, computer science and so on.
But not in how to make the basic decisions of life. Not in how to repair stuff that breaks at home. Not in how to distinguish between foods that will poison (eaten in excess) or fatten us to obesity from those that will give us longer and healthier lives. Not in the factors that must be considered when buying a car or a house. Not in the skills of building and maintaining a healthy relationship with a spouse. Not in what children need so that we can be good and effective parents, not just conscientious ones.
Most of these things were taught at home when people lived on farms or worked in factories and had to tend to their own needs. Today's parents don't have time to teach these lessons. Worse, many of today's parents don't even know what lessons to teach their kids themselves because they didn't receive those lessons from their own parents.
This is not rocket science. It's stuff everyone should know. Even in wealthy countries nearly half the adult population is functionally illiterate and two-thirds of the seniors are, if the results of a Statistics Canada study in 2002 can be generalized for other countries.
Something is wrong. People are taking drugs, gulping Prozac and having breakdowns in unprecedented numbers because they don't know how to conduct their lives safely and smoothly. This is not a consequence of modern life. It's a consequence of not teaching to children what they will need to know as adults.
Tobacco companies put poisons into cigarettes, as proven by the Canadian Cancer Society. That is absurd, but legal. It's an atrocity that such a large percentage of our adult population and a shocking percent of adolescents smoke, which will eventually kill them or give them chronic diseases.
But that's OK. The students are learning maths and science. The adults get to kill themselves through overwork or addictions by virtue of our belief in free will.
This doesn't make sense. Yet we allow it to happen. Because we don't teach children and young adults common sense, the skills of thinking and the knowledge about what is important about life.
If you want it to happen in your community, start spreading the word around. Get people to write to the authorities of your state or province. Read Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems (see the web site URL below) to find out what you need to know and how to implement a new plan.
Does it make sense to do nothing? Is it not an atrocity to continue to allow what is happening around you to go on?
Your life and the lives of those you love are being affected--and not in a good way--by allowing things to continue the way they are going.
You aren't powerless. You may believe you are, but that is only an excuse. You have a book that will show you everything you need to know and do. And we are building a community of people around the world who will offer support to each other. The web site will give you information about how to join that community (free).
Let's get busy. It's absurd to let things get worse.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough things about life easier to understand and to provide a plant to change them.
Learn more at http://billallin.com