Thursday, February 28, 2008

You Can Be Free

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Roman emperor, stoic philosopher (121 - 180 CE)

As emperor for about two decades of the greatest empire until modern times, Marcus Aurelius knew what it would be like to allow external problems to prey on his mind. Though he was known as one of the five great emperors of Rome, there was always a lineup of powerful men who wanted the job and had the swords and henchmen needed to cause him to lose his life.

Any empire has problems and a great emperor has great problems that prey on his mind day and night. He had the wisdom to separate the operations and vicissitudes of his position from the conducting of his life. Not an easy task, surely.

Considering the number of quotations attributed to him that pass around the internet nearly two millennia after his death, Marcus Aurelius distinguished admirably between himself and his people, his empire and its conquered people and occupied lands, even between himself and life itself.

Thus he knew well that to allow external influences to cause you pain and worry was to adopt the pain and worries of the world. He wouldn't do it. He respected himself too much.

Look back at your own life for a moment. Remember back ten years. What sorts of things troubled you then? Do they still trouble you now? Almost no one can say their problems of old still trouble them, unless one of their problems is lack of self confidence.

A decade ago my life seemed to be hanging by a thread due to financial problems. Sometimes I wished I could just die so that the pain would go away. Until one day I had coffee with a friend who is a chartered accountant. Just when I was thinking that my next meal might have to come from a soup kitchen, he said "You're a long way away from being bankrupt, or even from severe financial hardship."

When I stepped away from my self destructive thoughts after our casual meeting, I could see that by rearranging my finances I could pay all my bills and have a decent life. My fear of becoming poor kept me from doing what I could to improve myself. I had emotionally hog-tied myself and thrown myself into a downward spiral.

That all ended that same day. As Marcus Aurelius said, I used my power to revoke external influences that were ruining my life.

When I consider how far I have come in the past ten years, that very special life lesson that came at a time of great personal crisis in my life may have been one of the best things that has happened to me.

The amazing thing to me is not that life changed for me, because others long before me obviously knew that could happen. The amazing lesson for me was that I had the power to refuse to allow problems I had no control over to affect my life.

Since that time I have developed two different medical syndromes which impact every day and hour of my life. But I know how lucky I am that I don't have to let them bother me. I emphasize the positive in my life and ignore the negative, at least I refuse to give it any power over me. I am the positive part of me; the negative comes along, but no one cares about it, including me.

I enjoy freedom today that I never had before my great crisis (or previous ones) because I refuse to let problems I can't control affect me. And the ones I can control, I fix.

Try it. I give you the gift of freedom, if you choose to accept it.

Bill Allin

, a book that shows adults how making small changes in their own lives can improve them, the lives of their children and everyone else who knows them. It tells you what you need to know.
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Where Did We Go Wrong? How Can We Fix It?

The ignorant work for their own profit; the wise work for the welfare of the world.
- Bhagavad-Gita, Hindu holy narrative, about 5000 years old

Well, that sounds like fancy-worded crap, doesn't it?

Until you think about it.

Our world is filled with ignorant people. They aren't ignorant of their own choice. They simply were never taught to be anything other than ignorant followers. Well, followers and they were kept ignorant of what they missed.

They not only accept that their ignorance is the right way to be, they encourage others to join them. Such as through political parties whose only true power lies with the leader. Such as with religions whose primary purpose is to provide influential jobs for people who crave power over others while giving them back confusing and conflicting nonsense in return.

A large part of the world's economy revolves around capitalism, whose primary claim to fame and devotion is that people can earn as much money as they want if they work hard enough. In their personal best interest, of course. Though in most cases people end up working for others whose purpose is to get as much work/profit from them for as little compensation as possible.

Capitalism not only makes a few people embarrassingly rich, it is largely responsible for poverty in the world, a condition it maintains by preventing people from getting a good education and developing in way that do not profit the large employers.

Even communism largely failed because its leaders were nothing but closet capitalists once they removed their communist clothing, leather boots and military hats. Their truest devotion was to their own best interests.

Our education systems never teach to what children need in their social and emotional development, only what industries need in their workers/followers, which means developing the intellectual and physical aspects of children. Some schools (a small but increasing number by my calculations) do address the social and emotional needs of their students, but often only after the kids have run into trouble with their parents, the law or themselves. That genie is hard to stuff back into its bottle, but they do it for many kids.

Ignorant people have the impression that because they have great knowledge or skill in one or two specialty fields, they should be respected for their opinions on all subjects. In fact, high school dropouts often know more about topics of general interest that highly paid "experts" away from their field of expertise.

Most cultures of the world encourage their children to become experts in one particular field of study, not to be generalists. So we have a throw-away society because adults don't know how to fix anything or to build anything for themselves.

Yet a glimmer of hope remains, often below the social radar. We remember the words of Sir Francis Bacon four centuries after he lived. We remember the words of Confucius and The Buddha millennia after they lived. We learn life advice from the Bhagavad-Gita five millennia after it was written. Somewhere adults are learning that there is more to life than being a brainwashed servant to industry, to politicians or to religions.

Wisdom is there for us if we seek it. Unfortunately, it's not like pizza delivery. No one brings it to our door. We must go looking for it.

Money and high paying jobs are not the keys to happiness or self fulfillment we help our children to believe. The happiest, most fulfilled and most remembered and loved people are those who help others without regard for helping themselves in the process.

These aren't secrets, though we keep them carefully hidden as if they were.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book to convey the wisdom of the ages to today's parents and grandparents about raising children according to all their needs, not just those that benefit industry later.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

How You Can Follow Your Bliss

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of trackthat has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life youought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that,you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, andthey open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't beafraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going tobe. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn'thave opened for anyone else.
- Joseph Campbell

[bliss: noun, a state of extreme happiness]

A small voice inside me wants to add "except if you are physically, intellectually, emotionally or mentally lacking the fundamental ability to achieve your goal."

Can a person who has no talent for painting follow his bliss into a life of painting, for example? Perhaps yes. Some styles of painting seem to be so simple that a child in primary grades could do them.

Is that possible? Yes. Within each brain is the ability to do something far better than most others. Savants are geniuses in one particular field, while being considered retarded in most others. A painter with no talent for painting in conventional styles may invent a new genre which would make him a creative genius of painting.

We really know very little about the brain functions that come into play in creative processes. Science is studying the brain, but scientists may have problems understanding what they learn because they have trouble appreciating what can't be hypothesized, tested and proven.

Van Gogh either sold only one painting in his life or none, depending on which story you read. By that standard, he died a failure. And he cut off part of his ear out of shame for embarrassing his friend, which makes him an insane failure to some. He also indulged liberally in absinthe, which would make him an addict.

Yet van Gogh followed his bliss. Failure though he may have been during his lifetime, we now recognize him as one of the great masters of art. During his life, most people thought what he painted was crap. For van Gogh, it was his world.

Music is another field in which a person may get lost and live a good part of a lifetime in a world that many would say doesn't exist. People who can get "lost in the music" must be mysteries to those who are unable to achieve that state.

Music exists in every culture, in every part of the world. In many of those cultures people enter trance-like states that mimic drug-induced states as their minds leave their immediate surroundings and get folded into the music that becomes a whole separate world for some period of time. This may happen while listening to music or dancing to it.

That blissful state is available to those who only listen to music as well as to those who make it. When your bliss involves music, you will be blissful participating in music at whatever level you choose to make part of your life.

Writers experience a similar phenomenon when they write. They create a world within the scenario they are writing about. To them, the rest of the world disappears like a vapour and reality forms around what their mind produces. Time means nothing. Hunger doesn't exist. Even a change of ambient temperature from comfortable to extra cold or hot may not be noticed because it plays no role in the created world of the writer's imagination.

While I can't speak from personal experience about the world of art, I am abundantly familiar with getting lost in music and writing. I can't play a musical instrument because of motor problems with my fingers. I would be an excellent conductor (have been on a few notable occasions) except that I must memorize the score because I can't read as fast as the music must go. But I can listen to and enjoy music with the best of them.

I can also say with some confidence that I can write. This may seem like a small accomplishment, but 20 years ago I was functionally illiterate, barely able to either read or write.

While my reading improved over many years of practice, my writing only improved when in 1999 I found myself with something profound to say, a message to deliver to the world. Since writing my first book I have written on hundreds of topics, each time taking me into a world of that subject as I lose track of anything happening in the "other world."

Can you follow your bliss? Definitely. Will doors magically open for you, as Joseph Campbell said? Amazingly, they do. Is it easy? Nothing worthwhile is.

When what you are doing is your bliss, hard work is part of the living of that special life that no one else understands but you. Others may appreciate it if they have had similar experiences, but they will never understand it the way you do yourself.

Following your bliss you are always alone, but never lonely. It's like being surrounded by love. Maybe you can express some of that love in painting, in music or in writing, or maybe it's just your special place alone. When you are there, your brain cooperates by splashing you with dopamine, its own special feel-good drug.

It's an addiction when you learn to use it. But one without a hangover or come-down period afterward. No one knows why or how those special doors open to you. Some attribute it to a higher power than us. Those of us with the ability to experience that bliss won't discover the source of the door opening because that requires us to alienate ourselves from the very thing that makes us whole and worthwhile in order to study it.

So, like many important things in life, bliss remains a mystery.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how parents and grandparents can guide children so that they can experience the bliss of life rather then the drudgery and fear that most adults live with daily.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Interesting And Unusual Facts About Snow

Before winter leaves the northern hemisphere I'll take this opportunity to tell you a bit about the white stuff that has been lying two feet thick in my yard for the past few months.

First of all, by now most of it is ice, either individual crystals or packed solid, though it still looks like snow. What's on top, having been exposed to the warm sun all day today, is what is known to skiers as corn snow. That's really lumps of white ice, crystals the size of small kernels of corn.

Ice itself is unusual because it's not like any other solid. Water expands when it freezes, unlike (almost) every other material that shrinks when it becomes a solid. Ice continues to melt and refreeze down to extremely cold temperatures, which explains many peculiar characteristics that northerners experience, such as it forming around a shovel left in it for a few days.

Snow is technically a mineral, like iron and salt.

The Innu people of northern Canada, Siberia and Greenland do not have dozens of names for snow, as you may have learned in school. In their languages (Innuit and Inuktitut among them) they combine several descriptive words into a single word. For example, "snow that drifts into a wave-like pattern" (eight words in English) would exist as one word in Innuit. So their "many words for snow" are really combinations of words to describe particular snow conditions (on the ground, not falling).

The Algonquian Indians of northern Canada (neighbours of the Innu, but below the tree line) long ago hated them so much that they killed them on sight, especially after the white men supplied them with rifles. Without trees for fuel, the Innu tended to eat the flesh of animals they killed raw, often their only warm food. Because of this the Algonquians called them "Eaters of Raw Flesh," or Eskimoes in the Algonquian language.

The Innu call themselves Innuit, meaning "the people." The word is spelled Inuit and Innuit in English, in different places, depending on who does the translation.

Another myth you may have been taught is that each snowflake is individual and unique. Most snowflakes tend to stick together with others into globular crystals. And lots of snow flakes look similar to anyone who takes the trouble to look closely at enough of them. For each one to have a unique shape and composition would be a statistical impossibility.

Most snow crystals--the prettier ones-- are very wide but very thin. Though they're thinner than a piece of paper, they may be up to a few inches wide. The Guinness Book of Records lists the largest snowflake at 15 inches across, a record held in Keogh, Montana, USA, since 1887.

At the centre of each snowflake is a speck of dust, volcanic ash or particle from outer space. Temperature, humidity and wind determine the shape each crystal takes as water vapour freezes on it.

Newly fallen snow is usually about 90 - 95 percent air, which explains its property as a good thermal insulator.

A blizzard with lightning is called thundersnow. They're rare, but one this winter in our area brought down enough trees that power was out over a wide area for several hours as workers tried to find then repair the many damaged lines and transformers.

You likely have heard that you shouldn't eat yellow snow. It's...well, pee. But don't eat the red snow either. Often called "watermelon snow," it even smells like the fruit. But it's colour comes from a species of pigmented algae that grows in ice. Red snow may taste great, but stay close to a toilet for a day or so.

Although avalanche deaths have risen dramatically over the past half century due to the increasing popularity of skiing and snowmobiling--250 deaths in the US over the past decade--it's not true that shouting, yodeling or other loud sounds will trigger an avalanche.

The most snow in the USA usually falls on Valdez, Alaska. It receives an average of 326 inches of it per year. Never mind that it's 27 feet of snow, that would turn into 2.7 feet deep of water over everything in the area if it all melted at once. Because of the air within it, snow takes up ten times as much space as liquid water.

Despite how white the North and South Poles are, it snows very little there. The little bit it does snow each year never melts, but it accumulates over decades and blows around a lot, creating blizzard or white-out conditions.

The snow in Antarctica is mostly so hard and flat that it reflects sound as well as light. Researchers have heard human voices talking as much as one mile (1.6 km) away.

A man named "Snowflake" Bentley admired the flakes so much that in 1885 he took closeup pictures of some 5,000 individual flakes. He died of pneumonia. No kidding.

In addition to snow blindness you can get from overexposure of the brightness of snow on the retinas of the eyes, it can also drive people crazy. A little understood kind of hysteria called pibloktoq can cause a variety of symptoms including echolalia (senselessly repeating words overheard from another person) and running around naked in the snow. Note that this is not the same as the Scandinavian ritual following the sauna, despite appearances.

According to one theory of earth history called "snowball earth," our entire planet was covered with snow and ice some 600 million years ago. Opponents argue that no complex life form could have survived in that environment. However, it's impossible to know if the oceans were frozen over and how much life could have survived near the water if only the land were covered with snow and ice.

Now I really must chuck some firewood into our wood stove before hypothermia sets in.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to learn to be competent and confident adults. That's stuff they rarely learn in school and often not at home.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008

How You Can Change The World

It is a mathematical fact that the casting of this pebble from my hand alters the centre of gravity of the universe.
- Thomas Carlyle

While it's true that the casting of a pebble by one person literally alters the centre of gravity of both the planet he is on and the universe, neither takes notice of the change.

Does that mean the change is insignificant? Not at all. You wouldn't notice a difference if I threw a stone across a field. But then you are so insensitive that you don't think about the fact that you are spinning around in space at nearly 1000 miles per hour (1600 kph) as the planet you stand, sit or sleep on rotates on its axis. This in addition to the fact that you race at thousands of times that speed as the earth revolves around the sun each year.

If an asteroid were to head toward earth, with a high likelihood of collision, it could be diverted from its course with a comparatively small tap by a spacecraft sent to change its path. That small tap, over time, would not just divert the asteroid from its collision course with earth, it would fundamentally change its course around the solar system forever. The "small" tap would have to happen soon enough to make a minor course change significant over a great distance so it would avoid hitting us.

Science is learning that, as we search deeper into our past, all the major extinction thresholds were caused by impacts from asteroids or comets. Just last year we learned that what wiped out the wooly mammoth and its giant fellow earth dwellers, as well as the Clovis people that first inhabited North America, likely resulted from the explosion just north of the Great Lakes of an asteroid.some 13,000 years ago. A millennium-long cold spell we know as one of the Ice Ages resulted.

All the known human inhabitants of a large continent were wiped out from starvation because they didn't have the technology we have today to divert the course of the asteroid. A small tap at the right point of time would have made a world of difference 13,000 years ago.

Small actions that seem insignificant at the time can make enormous differences years later. Jesus of Nazareth likely didn't know that his words would be revered by nearly a third of the world's population two millennia later. Before him, Abraham wouldn't have known that his devotion would be the beginning of great religions that today encompass over half the people of the world.

The point is that doing the right thing when we have the opportunity to do it can make all the difference in the world in years to come. Even if very few people notice it at the time.
The people who are remembered over time are those who began something that changed the course of history by their words or their actions.

True, history books mark the passage of great warriors more than the actions of gentle folk. But perhaps it was the gentle folk who made the great changes through their small actions. Anyone can make war, only the intelligent can manage peace. It was the gentle folk of our past that made us who we are today, rather than primitive warriors and hunter-gatherers.

A few words here, a bump or nudge there can cause huge changes down the road.

The only things that can prevent such changes from happening are those who believe that nothing they do will matter later. Or that life is much worse now than it used to be. Both are clearly, unequivocally, provably wrong.

Do the right thing. It will matter. Knowing that it will matter later will be your reward.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book that shows parents and grandparents how to teach children in such ways that they will be able to make significant changes in their lives and their world confidently and competently as adults.
Learn more at

Friday, February 22, 2008

Gold: Much Different Than You Think

Gold doesn't do much, it just sits there looking pretty. Not its beauty so much as its inertness gives gold a large part of the value we place on the mineral.

Gold isn't unique to earth by any means. Our moon, which in the early days after formation of our planet was smashed off it and hardened to become a satellite of its mom, is expected to have large gold deposits.

In 1999, the NEAR spacecraft showed that the asteroid Eros holds more gold than has ever been mined on earth. It's a bit out of reach so far.

The largest deposits of gold on our own planet--estimated around ten billion tons of it--are in the rock beneath our oceans. However, no one has yet figured out a way to get that gold out cheaply.

Archeologists believe that gold may have been the first mineral ever mined on earth. Decorative gold pieces have been found in Bulgaria that date back 6000 years, roughly the same time period as the Stone Age.

Going back to the seventh century BCE, gold wire was used to attach fake teeth to those who could afford it. Gold fillings for teeth date back at least to the 16th century, likely to ancient Egypt.

The Inca Empire had one of the largest collections of gold known. When King Atahualpa promised to fill a room 22 feet by 18 feet and as high as he could reach with gold as a ransom to his Spanish captors, they accepted. The Spanish got the gold, but killed the king anyway.

Gold mining got started in the United States after Conrad Reed found a lump of it on his father's North Carolina farm in 1799. The family used the 17 pound lump as a doorstop for three years before a local jeweler spotted it and gave the Reeds $3.50 for it, about one-thousandth of its true value.

Conrad caught on--the lump would be valued around $100,000 today--and decided to begin the first gold mine in the US.

Despite the claim made in the old James Bond thriller Goldfinger that covering a body could cause death through "skin suffocation," it's not true. Actress Shirley Eaton had everything but a small section on her abdomen covered with gold paint. Viewers didn't see the bare patch, but sight of the rest of her covered in gold spurred the imaginations of many young men.

Gold can be pounded to a sheet five millionths of an inch thick. One ounce of it has been drawn into gold wire 50 miles (80 km) long and five micrometers thick, one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

Because it's virtually indestructible, it's estimated that 80 percent of the gold ever mined is still being used.

Gold has been used to wrap around the Apollo lunar lander and as eye protection on the visor shields of astronauts. It's used as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, via injection. Doctors don't understand yet why it provides an anti-inflammatory effect.

Alchemy is the name given to the study of how to change base metals into gold. Though alchemists from the days of Shakespeare on failed to produce gold, the Soviets actually created it from lead in one of their nuclear reactors. Sort of. Using radiation, they were able to transform lead nuclei into gold. Too costly for too little of the precious metal though.

Though the mining of gold impacts the environment badly by sending cyanide into waterways and nitrogen and sulphur dioxide into the air, the final product is environmentally green. Thin gold sheets cover the windows of some office and apartment buildings to reflect the sun's heat in summer and hold heat inside in winter. That's why the glass seems to be gold coloured.

Australian researchers have found microorganisms that actually consume trace amounts of gold, then poop it back out as larger nuggets. Mining companies want to use the method to replace cyanide.

The USA has the world's largest hoard of gold bricks, but India has the largest amount of gold because of its many decorative uses. About 20 percent of finished gold around today is used as decorative thread in Indian saris.

At this point, finding new sources of gold takes enormous resources. Asteroids, the moon and the ocean floor are too costly to mine. And Indian ladies are decidedly reluctant to be de-frocked just to produce more gold trinkets.

If only someone had thought to ask Goldfinger how he accumulated his gold fortune.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn how their problems of today began and how to help their children avoid having the same or other life problems.
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(Primary source: Discover, December 2007)

What Is Reality? Why You Should Care

I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.
- Jimmy Stewart in Harvey, 1950

In the movie, Harvey was a giant, man-sized rabbit that could be seen only by Jimmy Stewart's character. Harvey was either a figment of Jimmy's character's insane imagination (as his opponents tried to prove) or something supernatural, which no one but the lead character seemed prepared to accept.

Let's take a close look at that quote. Wrestling with reality is something we all do on a daily basis. It's what life is, most of the time.

But what is reality? What does it mean to you?

I submit that "reality" as a concept is something others use to help us define our behaviour as either acceptable or unacceptable. "Get real" and "Do a reality check" are examples of how others use the concept of reality to get us to alter our behaviour to bring it in line with what they want and believe.

Or reality is what we submit to because it's too hard to wrestle with it until we have subdued it. When we give up and act like everyone else, we have given in to "reality," meaning that we have accepted that following the crowd is the only worthy route to take in life.

Are those kinds of realities worthy of our devoting our lives to them? Remember, the people who want us to do those reality checks have something to gain by our behaving the way they would like. That gain may be nothing more than getting us to do what they want. Yet that gives them power over us. The reality behind that reality is that by behaving the way these people want we have granted them some power over our life.

As a young man going to university, I worked in the summers at a meat packing company that operated slaughterhouses. I learned about the flocks of sheep that would follow one goat, without thinking, into the funnel track that would be their last expression of life. (The goat always walked through to lead another flock later.)

The concept of sheep following a leader to their deaths earned a special place in my life as a result of that experience. Seeing people blindly and willingly follow some leader into self destruction raises my anger at the association. Wanting someone to "accept reality" is a way to manipulate that person into doing what you believe he or she should. It's not persuasion by reasoned argument so much as coercion by emotional argument.

If we must wrestle with reality, we must grapple with someone else's reality, what someone else wants, not what we want ourselves. Of course we can persuade ourselves that "reality" is what we wanted after all, but it may not have been that way. Most of us do that. Most of us act the way others around us want us to act.

And that's just fine. Sheep are fundamentally happy animals, even as they enter that funnel in their final moments.

Sheep accept the reality offered by others. They believe it's the only way to go. It's their reality.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn how they developed the fears and habits they have today and to figure out how to change them for the future if they so desire.
Learn more at

Monday, February 18, 2008

How To Avoid Traumatic Dreams

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
- Plato, philosopher, pupil of Socrates, teacher of Aristotle (428-347 BC)

Harkening back to our prehistoric past, as social but uncivilized dwellers of forest and savannah, we required a degree of caution and sensitivity toward activity that might take place around us at night, activity which might result in our becoming lunch for a predator.

However, why should a child be afraid of the dark today? In the womb, the fetus had nothing to fear in permanent darkness. That fear, like all fears, had to be learned after birth. In most cases, the fear would be learned as a result of something a parent did, or did not do when something alarming happened during the night.

Others, including extended family or other children, might have implanted scary stories in the mind of the child, but the parents have control of the child's activities during most of the times that he or she could experience something that could develop into a fear.

Night is also a time when most children are left alone in their bedroom, apart from the security they enjoy during the daytime with parents or other caregivers. But nothing in nature says that they should be afraid, unless something has sparked that fear.

Sure, scary dreams can produce a fear of the dark. However, dreams tend to be frightening for a reason. We have control over our conscious mind during the daytime, but our unconscious mind takes over at night. The unconscious can be just plain crazy sometimes, unfettered by norms, securities and boundaries we have during the daytime.

In general, my experience tells me that a brain that is active and learning fruitfully during the daytime seldom has scary dreams at night. If anything, the brain that is intellectually active during the daytime tends to have rather boring dreams at night, such that they are quickly forgotten. A brain that is active during the daytime with thoughts relating to emotional or social problems is more apt to have bad dreams at night.

The best way to give a child calm dreams at night is to provide a stimulating environment in which they can learn during the day. A boring daytime or an insecure one might well lead to scary dreams at night. Daytime fears or insecurities tend to develop into nighttime dramas. Small daytime experiences can become monstrous at night.

It's equally true that fears in adults are learned. Nothing in nature suggests that we are born with fears, though we might have some degree of caution built in (see above). It's also equally true that adults who lead mentally stimulating lives during the daytime tend to have fairly mundane dreams at night. Those who lead boring daytime lives may well have nightmares or bad dreams.

The whole topic of dreams is not as simple as this, of course, because science knows relatively little about consciousness or the unconscious. However, the tips given above may help you to analyze your own daytime and nighttime mental activity to determine if you need to change something about how you spend part of your daytime life.

You can as well help someone else--especially a child--who may be having trouble coping with traumatic experiences at night. It won't be the whole answer, but it could be the beginning of a solution to apply the knowledge you received here.

The brain, like the rest of the body, wants to exercise, demands to be exercised. Provide that exercise--without forcing anything that causes information overload--in the daytime and the nights should pass peaceably.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults who want to learn why they are the way they are and how they can change themselves. And for parents who want to know how to grow their children well.
Learn more at

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Power Of Big Industry

If you want to know how powerful the pharmaceutical industry is, such that it gets the nickname Big Pharma, ask yourself why good health practices are not taught in schools and supported by curriculum and resources. Our education systems teach kids how to be good employees, but not how to be good people, with good character and morals, or even how to live healthy and satisfying lives. Schools that do teach such topics are rare.

Historically, industries use up young people in the prime of life, then spit them out when they get past their most useful stage. By that time they are ready to be permanent customers of...Big Pharma. All big industry has a vested interest in maintaining the system's status quo.

Everyone believes that good physical, emotional and intellectual health should be goals of their society, but few adults really know the practical aspects about how to achieve them. Fewer still of those who know actually put their knowledge into practice. It's too easy to be like everyone else. Industry makes it too easy to follow the crowd.

The biggest problem in the sphere of health is that people don't know what good health practices are and they have trouble finding out. When they turn to government health services, they find either a confusion of data resulting from studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies contradicting independent studies or clear pronouncements of health needs that vastly understate the real health needs of people.

An example would be a lack of information about our need for trace minerals, the lack of which could result in death or disability for some. When's the last time you heard about someone dying of a deficiency of selenium, for example? Yet a good friend of mine received a diagnosis that he had been about two weeks away from death from selenium deficiency when the specialist saw him. His family doctor knew nothing about the problem.

Reading magazines only confuses the issue because they tend to follow the latest trends and fads without doing real research into how to achieve good health. Consequently, most of us turn to Big Pharma as our saviour when our body begins to break down.

Big Sugar is the name given to the sugar industry because it controls so much of the diet that too many people in western countries follow. You can find products containing far too much refined sugar in vending machines in schools, even in some of the prepared foods that cafeterias serve.

At your supermarket, foods loaded with refined sugar can be found in abundance in almost every aisle (except the produce section where the sugar is natural). Refined sugar junk food products are often among the cheapest in the store. Some of them always appear around the checkout counters where marketers know that impulse buyers will grab them as they open their purses. You can find some in almost every aisle.

Across the country, sugar-laden junk foods are the cheapest foods in every store. Oddly, it would seem, though some products vary hugely in price from one part of a large country to another, sugar-laden foods hold the same price wherever you go. Differences in costs for transportation explain great differences in prices for many products such as fruits and vegetables, but the same factors seem to not apply to sugary junk foods. Apparently it costs more to ship healthy food products great distances across a country, but junk foods cost no more to travel the same distances.

The obesity problem that plagues every western nation has refined sugar as one of the major contributing factors. Diabetes follows obesity, though diabetes also has its own pipeline.

You can't turn around without bumping into something made from the raw material of Big Oil. Everything plastic, for a start. Everything in your car that isn't metal (with the exception of coolant and washer fluid) is made partly with oil.

You can't move anywhere outside of your home without using some products made from oil. Even walking or riding a bicycle you likely have oil as part of your footwear and other clothing.
Each year we watch as the cost of gasoline rises, along with the profits of oil companies.

Big Oil profits most in wartime. Military vehicles require huge amounts of fuel (no hybrid fuel or fuel-efficient trucks there). Many countries with oil reserves in the ground are world trouble spots because power mongers want to control its sale. Those who control the oil resources of a country control that country to a great extent. That includes the US where the Oilmen Bush have held the presidency for 12 of the past 20 years.

Nothing you or I can do will directly change the dominance and power that these giant industries have over our lives. Even former US President Bill Clinton couldn't do that; as soon as he left office the oilmen bought their way back in.

However, we can change our habits and we can talk with others about how small changes among many people can make a huge difference. Fruit provides the same sugar kick as junk food, while also giving us vitamins and minerals without the results of the sugar refining process to mess up our bodies. We can learn about and support alternative energy sources.

And we can learn how to live healthy lives that won't find us dependant on drugs to get us through the final decades of our life. Big Industry doesn't want us to do that.

So, how do you feel about the whole thing?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn how to teach their children how to lead healthy lives that don't depend on Big Industry to tell them what to do.
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Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Storm That Changed World History Forever

One of the most ambitious emperors in history mounted the biggest naval invasion force in history and suffered the greatest naval disaster in history, changing world history thereafter in the process.

Genghis Khan (1162-1227) has the more famous Mongol name as a great emperor of China and invader of foreign territories. His empire stretched from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Kubla Khan, his grandson, is better known as the kindly host of Marco Polo, the European who wandered east to find the source of the Silk Road.

Unknown to many, Kubla Khan had greater ambitions even than his grandfather. Establishing what is now Beijing as his capital city, he planned to conquer or at least control the whole world.

Japan, a rising world power in those times, was one of his objectives. But far from the only one.
In 1280 CE, Kubla Khan ordered the construction and assembly of the world's largest navy. On target, one year later, his fleet set sail for Japan in May of 1281. His objective was a navy of 12,000 ships. He reached that number in time, but only through a massive construction effort.
(To put that into perspective, the second largest invasion navy ever was involved with the D-Day invasion of France by the Allied Forces, with a fleet of 4,000 ships, many of which were smaller than the Chinese ships of Kubla Khan's navy nearly 800 years earlier.)

The Khan's shipbuilders were Chinese, at that time designers and builders of the most impressive ships the world had seen. The warships were about four times as big as European warships of the time. They even included watertight compartments that would prevent water from flooding the ship if one compartment was punctured.

In August of 1281, as the emperor's fleet approached Japan, a massive typhoon (hurricane)--the top level of storm by today's standards of measurement-- struck the Chinese fleet. Before hapless Japan had a chance to fight to the death to defend itself, 12,000 Chinese ships sank, taking their crews with them to the bottom.

However, not every Chinese ship sank. The ships that held the leaders of the navy (not including the Khan, who was at home spending time with his wives and concubines) survived. Why did the ships of the leaders survive while the rest of their fleet sank? In short, the leaders' ships were built without flaws.

The Chinese were none too happy to comply with the Khan's wishes to build naval ships because they had recently been conquered themselves by the Mongols. They toiled as slaves to build the fleet. In response, they built flaws into their workmanship. The ships would not hold together in a bad storm, even though they looked good when they set sail.

It turned out that Kubla Khan's demand that 12,000 ships be build within one year was far too ambitious. That size fleet should have taken from two to five years. So the naval leaders supplemented the numbers with river boats seized from Chinese fishermen and traders. River boats had little need for keels and were designed more to carry cargo than as warships. They were not designed to withstand the rigours of storms at sea.

In the typhoon, they tipped over easily while most of the other ships in the fleet fell apart and sank.

Japan was saved by the kamikaze (big wind). But the story doesn't end there. Kubla Khan's reputation was soiled and the reputation of the Mongols altogether was trashed. Not long after Kubla Khan died, the Mongol reign over China fell apart and disappeared into history.

True, the Mongol tribes were among those who invaded eastern Europe decades later, bringing about the fall of the great empire centred in Rome. But those tribes were not coordinated in their efforts, the invaders integrated into European civilization and the Renaissance blossomed not long (by historical time) later.

But the story doesn't end there either.

In the time of Kubla Khan, Chinese traders, explorers and settlers had spread over most of the globe. One of their villages has been found in Nova Scotia, Canada, and others are being investigated on the west coast of the USA and in South America. They may even have sailed across the Atlantic to western Europe along with the Norse traders who had been to the Americas before the turn of the First Millennium.

With the defeat of Kubla Khan's great fleet, China could no longer afford to send ships around the world to explore and to trade. All Chinese ships, crews and settlers were called home from across the globe. From that time on, Chinese culture turned inward, with no significant expansion for centuries.

That left the world open to Europeans. And to Christianity.

The Europeans and their religion did what the Chinese under the Mongol emperor had set out to do, dominate the world.

World history literally changed dramatically and permanently as a result of one storm in August of 1281 CE. No matter where in the world you live, your life is different from what it might have been had that typhoon not occurred.

For one thing, you wouldn't have been reading this article in English.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn what they missed in their childhood development so that they can compensate for it and build better lives for themselves now.
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Thursday, February 14, 2008

AIDS: More Than You Could Imagine

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side.
- Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist and author (1937-2005)

While not about the music industry, instead about the AIDS juggernaut, this article shows the seedy side of a frightening pandemic that is far worse than the music industry. Seedy and frightening? Check out the information below before discounting the possibility.

Many histories and medical articles have focused on parts of the AIDS phenomenon (the topic is too massive to be covered in a single read). Everyone agrees that the disease transformed from an immune disease that has likely been around for a very long time among the monkeys and apes of Africa.

But what of that transformation? Did nature manage that with genetic mutations alone?
People of North America may recall a couple of decades ago when Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (now known commonly as simply AIDS) was considered by many to be a disease of drug users, homosexuals and the promiscuous. It was, according to some, God's revenge on those who violated His laws.

But that was only one of the conspiracy theories, most of which have bypassed us while today we learn about the devastation of the disease in Africa, Asia and to a lesser extent every other country on the planet.

The home region of AIDS, subsaharan Africa, still retains the title of most HIV-infected and AIDS-destroyed part of the world. Some villages have been virtually wiped out, with a few having almost no adults left, only dozens of children scrambling around trying to eke out an existence with no tools or skills at their disposal.

In that same part of the world, a conspiracy theory foments about the origins of AIDS. According to this theory, white skinned people (and near-whites) dominate every other continent on earth, except Antarctica (where no one lives permanently) and Africa. With the demise of the slave trade, successors of the slavers both developed AIDS from its precursor disease and encouraged the many tribes to adopt promiscuous habits and rape of unguarded women to spread the disease around.

The ultimate objective of this movement, according to the theory, is to eventually wipe every person with black skin off the continent of Africa so that the whites can have free reign over the continent they once dominated as imperial powers. In other words, it's a land grab by whites on a continental scale.

As outrageous and absurd as these theories sound, they must give us pause. Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, who spends a great deal of his free time assisting AIDS charities in Africa (and who is so close to the people that he is director of the Teatro Avenida, in Maputo, Mozambique) wrote about his experiences relating to AIDS in Africa in his novel Kennedy's Brain.

While the novel has almost nothing to do with the apparently absent brain of assassinated former US President John F. Kennedy, it does discuss the enormous size and power of forces on the dark side of AIDS in Africa. He writes in the Epilogue "What is written in this book is exclusively the result of my own choices and decisions, of course. Just as the anger is also mine, the anger that was my driving force."

Earlier in the Epilogue he states clearly that he couldn't write a nonfiction book about what he knows of the AIDS situation in Africa because few would take him seriously. With a fictitious story context, he could incorporate his knowledge and experience in ways that we would and could believe. The theories stated above find prominent places in his story.

What do we know of Africa that could refute the conspiracy theories? We know that the president of South Africa, the subsaharan country that most people hope will take the lead in developing an AIDS vaccine, believes that HIV is not likely the root cause of AIDS in Africa. His argument is not that simple, as he claims that social practices and mores have much more to do with the spread of AIDS than HIV.

We know that Lybia imprisoned, tortured into confession, tried and committed to death by firing squad five Bulgarian nurses, one Palestinian assistant and another Bulgarian doctor who hadn't been anywhere near the Benghazi hospital where about 400 children had supposedly been infect with the HIV virus. In their first trial, proof of their innocence was disallowed by the judge. In the second trial, which also resulted in the sentences to death, further evidence that was beyond doubt proof about their innocence was also ignored, despite the fact that the largest collection of Nobel laureates in history wrote to urge President Qaddafi to release them for lack of evidence.

We know that tribal conflicts in Congo (DRC) and Berundi/Rwanda have resulted in millions of deaths in the past few years. We know that Zimbabwe President Mugabe has urged his tribal supporters to oust whites from their land, killing many in the process. We know about the current problems in Kenya, formerly the most peaceful and perhaps the best organized nation in black Africa.

In Africa, one cannot use the words politician and honesty in the same sentence, unless it's to show contrast.

What are we to make then of Henning Mankell's claim that the big pharmaceutical companies of the world have unacknowledged clinics in subsaharan Africa (certainly including Mozambique) where testing of AIDS medications is done on infected victims without their knowledge or approval? Or that many otherwise healthy Africans have been infected with the HIV virus and held in captivity so that new medication can be tested on those who have recently been infected and "diagnosed?"

This article can't help you to reach any conclusion about AIDS, its origins or its future because the topic is almost beyond human understanding in its scope. It can, however, give you something to think about.

Of one thing we may be certain, where politicians make decisions about AIDS and AIDS victims and where Big Pharma stands to make incredible fortunes from a cure or viable treatment, we shouldn't turn our heads away thinking that someone else is looking after the problem.

Maybe these stories are nothing but conspiracy fantasies. If you think you can dismiss them easily, remember what happened after so many people believed in Weapons of Mass Destruction. The truth lies buried deeper than we would like to believe.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn what they missed in their years of early childhood development and what they need to know to compensate for what they missed now.
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Burying The Devils

Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face.
- Nelson DeMille, author (b.1943)

Our devils remain our devils precisely because we refuse to face them.

Be they bad habits or fears, they eat away at our emotional wellbeing, seldom reaching the surface where we must address them, such as when someone else becomes involved with them as part of our interaction with them.

We tend to be afraid of our fears, as DeMille said. That is, we can't overcome our fears because we won't address them for what they are. We imagine them to be much greater than they are, with power almost overwhelming. Our fears, then, become monsters in their own right, which causes us to fear them as if they led lives of their own.

Let's take an easy example, a fear of heights. There are two main reason why we might legitimately be cautious about heights. First is that most of us don't ascend to heights far above the ground (or the floor) on a regular basis. Thus climbing might take us into an environment or situation with which we are so unfamiliar that we might lose our composure.

That's a matter of familiarity. High steel workers walk along girders dozens of floors above the ground daily in their work without thinking about it. They don't fear the height because they are familiar with it. It has become like walking along a long narrow hallway. We wouldn't fear walking that same hallway (or girder) if we weren't concerned about falling to our death. The situation is so unusual for most of us that we don't want to put ourselves into a situation where we might make a mistake.

The second reason for supreme caution about heights is that we might be unsure of our balance. Those with good balance find it almost impossible to understand that some people have trouble standing on one foot on the floor, let alone riding a bicycle, walking on a balance beam or doing some other physical activities that require balance.

In my case, for example, it took me three days of much practice and falling before I gained sufficient balance to ride a bicycle. Most kids learn this within minutes or an hour or two. To this day I have trouble standing on one foot with my eyes closed because the balance mechanisms in my ear don't work as well as that of most people. Balance is not the same for everyone, so some people have a right to what is apparently an unreasonable caution about anything requiring good balance.

Having poor balance, however, does not excuse me or anyone from trying to improve the skill level we have. We can learn. Those with poor balance, for example, can learn to cope with situations they might encounter, even to the extent of climbing a ladder with confidence. Practice is part of it, as is taking precautions necessary to give them confidence in knowing that a fall resulting in injury or death is not possible.

When most people find someone who can help them gain the confidence and take the precautions necessary to address a particular fear, or even to do it without assistance, they address that fear and find that it was much greater in their imagination than it was in reality.

That's part of what our imagination is about, making things bigger than they really are. we need to understand that fear is not something we should turn over to our imagination.

The imagination tends to dominate more in the unconscious mind. By granting it power over our fears, we elevate it to our consciousness. We don't need to give it that power. We can keep that power within ourselves.

With that power, we can overcome our devils.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book for adults to learn what they missed, mislearned or maldeveloped as children so they can return their lives to better balance rather than succumbing to fear.
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Thursday, February 07, 2008

On Being Truly Original

The will to originality is not the will to be peculiar and unlike anybody else; it means the desire to derive one's consciousness from its primary source.
- Nicolas Berdyeav, Russian writer, philosopher

Ironically, adolescents, in their drive to be different from the rest of the society they have grown up with, tend to follow a small selection of costume styles, hair styles, jewelry piercing styles and tattoo styles. Trying to be different, they all look the same to an outsider from the same society they are trying to offend (or to be different from).

Young adults find it very difficult to be unlike anybody else because they often have no idea how to be different. They have been conditioned to follow the same patterns as their peers (who tend to be dictated to by industries) that they develop a herd mentality. This changes in college when they tend to diverge due according to specialization and interests.

How does anyone "derive one's consciousness from its primary source?" This is the point where scientists and materialists find their eyes glazing over because the discussion inevitably leads beyond their realm of understanding. Which means, to them, the topic is boring, if not outright fantasy.

However, science has no idea, no concept, of what consciousness is. They could derive it from their concept of the unconscious, but they don't have any idea what that is either. Oh, they have guesses, but they can't prove anything one way or another because they have no way to formulate a hypothesis that can be tested.

Science knows what the human brain is because it can be seen, felt, probed and examined with all manner of specialized equipment. But the mind or consciousness, not so much.

Science believes that we all act out our lives in a state of consciousness and dream in our unconscious. But it can't even prove or disprove whether the reverse is true or false. In fact, no one can prove (nor can they know for certain) that we do not dream our (apparently) conscious lives and live reality in our unconscious dreams (or what convention causes us to call dreams).
At this point, consciousness and mind (as opposed to the brain) are as impossible for science to study as the supernatural, miracles or God.

Ask science what the source is of matter and energy and they will likely point to the so-called Big Bang or some theory that serves a similar purpose. What went before the Big Bang, whether there have been more than one of them going back before the one we know and whether more Big Bangs are in store for our universe in the distant future are matters for conjecture.

Science can't deny that consciousness exists because every scientist has one. But it's neither matter nor energy. The unconscious is even more mysterious because it's apparently the opposite (with the prefix un-) of consciousness, which they can't understand.

Berdyeav and many others claim that these originate with something called the Primary Source. Call it what you like, it's beyond human understanding.

If we try to distinguish ourselves from others according to the values of fashion, occupation, beliefs or organizations to which we belong, we must inevitably deal with the values of other people. If we try to establish our consciousness on the basis that it comes from a source beyond human understanding, we have a good chance of being different, individual.

But that brings inevitable consequences with it. Those who derive their consciousness from the Primary Source don't believe in war, in the sociopathic values of business, in the materialism preached by interminable streams of advertising or in the brainwashing methods practised by most religions.

That makes them freaks. They don't mind that because they understand what distinguishes them from the rabble that doesn't understand them.

They are at peace. They understand and appreciate tranquility. They like and respect themselves. They respect everything else around them (either living or not) as part of a universal whole. They won't destroy. They will help others, but they won't force anything on them.

They are originals in the purest sense of the word.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, when and what to teach children so that they have the potential to be self secure individuals, originals rather than followers.
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Where You Can Find The Meaning Of Life

As long as anyone believes that his ideal and purpose is outside him, that it is above the clouds, in the past or in the future, he will go outside himself and seek fulfillment where it cannot be found. He will look for solutions and answers at every point except where they can be found--in himself.
- Erich Frohm, social psychologist and psychoanalyst

Simple. It's the key to life. It's the way to learn the purpose of our lives, the mysterious Arc of the Covenant on a personal level. Then why is it so difficult to do?

We humans aren't built to conform to that model.

We're a social species, which means that we need each other and we depend on our leaders to give our tribe the best advice. We need someone to tell us what to do.

Interesting. We need each other, yet we teach our children that they should be independent. At the same time we teach them that they should conform, not just to the laws of their country and their community, but to moral codes, religious dogma and sometimes arbitrarily chosen wills and whims.

We teach our kids that they must conform to dress codes in certain environments, then we complain that they choose their own fairly uniform dress code for their school and free time, according to the fashion of the day and of their school.

We teach them that they have free will, then covertly attempt to make them followers of our political, religious and value systems.

As social animals, we must know how to follow our leaders. However, our leaders are no longer selected according to the best fighters in the tribe. Or are they? We follow them, in general, but when we don't want to follow them we fight more often than we compromise.

As adults, we depend on employers to tell us what to do so that we don't have to figure out how to earn a living by ourselves. Witness the trauma that some people experience when they lose their jobs. Some don't even know where to turn, how to pay the next month's rent, how to go about finding a new job. Although self employment is at an all time high, that's more because we have a much greater population base than because more people know how to earn a living from their own individual efforts.

Where do we spend our vacations? It's a well accepted belief among travel agents that their regular clients know more about the sights in distant lands than they do about the beauty and wonders within a day's drive of their own homes. To learn about what's great locally would require us to depend on ourselves to find out. To learn about what's great in some far off land we only need to consult a travel agent or travel program on television. In other words, to let others tell us what's great far away from home.

We depend on others to tell us what to believe, what to eat, what movies to watch, what to wear, what cars to drive, where to work, even to a great extent how to spend our free time (what little we may have of it).

Virtually every important message in our world, the messages that determine what we do with our daily lives, comes from outside of us. As followers in a social species, we have come to expect that this is how it should be.

We wonder what the meaning of life could be. Then we look to others to tell us, as if they have individual insight that we don't. This is exactly what the members of all social species of animals do.

Are we nothing more than animals that can walk upright, whisper, think and use language then? We are and will be until we learn to look within ourselves to determine what the meaning of our own life will be and how we will invest the limited time we have in it to the best advantage of ourselves and those closest to us.

Jesus of Nazareth said "The kingdom of Heaven is within you" but very few look for it there. Erich Frohm said that we should look for solutions and answers within ourselves.

As someone who can bear witness to the fact that there are more wonders within ourselves than without, having made that grand discovery myself, I'm giving you the same message. I can show you the path. You must walk it yourself.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children the important lessons of life so that they don't grow up learning the wrong lessons from the wrong people earlier.
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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Good News! What's That?

Times have not become more violent. They have just become more televised.
- Marilyn Manson

I am not one who believes that musicians and other entertainers should not express their opinions publicly, no matter the form of their entertainment or the issue under discussion.

Though I do not listen to the music of Marilyn Manson or appreciate his onstage antics, he is an intelligent man with insights into human nature that go far beyond those of the average person.
Is there more violence in the world today than in the past or is there simply far greater coverage by television networks of tragedies around the world?

Let's begin with wars. The United Nations states that there are fewer wars going on in the world today than ever before in human history. We normally have between 27 and 32 wars ongoing in the world at any given time. We have 24 at the moment. One measurement of what constitutes a war is that more than 10,000 people have died in a partisan conflict (that is, not plain genocide).

Most wars today take place in poorer countries--that is, the general population suffers from poor nutrition and education is not free and widespread among all socioeconomic classes. Many of today's wars are taking place in countries that are either Muslim states or where the population is primarily Muslim. This is mere coincidence because Islam spreads faster among very poor people. Although violence is preached in some mosques, it is also taught (and has been in the past for two millennia) from Christian pulpits.

Studies have verified that war takes place less frequently in countries where the general population has a higher level of education. Violence may be recorded in higher numbers in better educated populations, but that's because much of it goes unrecorded in poorer countries where the general level of education is lower.

Small efforts are taking place in many poor countries where teachers from rich countries volunteer to teach kids who might otherwise receive no education. Governments in rich countries spend far more money in developing resources in poor countries so that their own corporations can exploit those resources than they do in teaching the children of the countries. We could raise the level of general education in the world if governments were more interested in making peace than in developing industries that thrive in war conditions.

Television news teams and news organizations in general love to broadcast records of violence. In Afghanistan, for example, each time a soldier from NATO is killed or injured, it hits the news of the soldier's native country, though almost no news of rebuilding of infrastructure and education systems ever gets air time.

In the news business, no news is bad news. News about violence is much easier to find than news about good events that happen. People who do good works under tough circumstances tend to stay below the news radar because news reporters have too often in the past brought them unpleasant backlashes resulting from exposure. Good news, no matter how welcome by viewers, is harder to find than bad news.

News networks have conditioned us to believe that we want to know bad news. They compete with each other not to show us the good things that happen in our neighbourhoods and our countries, but how tragedy wreaks havoc with lives, families and futures. Tragedy inevitably involves violence in the news business.

Now that half the people in developed countries get their news from the internet, the same sources of news that supply our television stations give us the same goods on their web sites. It's easier for us to read from a network news site than it is to seek out news sources that are more impartial and that provide information about good stuff.

Even without trying, someone who wants to avoid violent and partisan news can't help learning the latest escapades of Britney Spears, for example. But if Muslims in a community work together to raise money to help rebuild a Jewish synagogue that has been damaged by bigotted and violent vandals, few will learn about it.

Whatever sources we use to learn about what is happening in the world, we should keep in mind that they are partisan and they present highly editorialized material. We can also remember that their bias is toward bad news, not good news.

Good news is out there. We need to find it. If that's too hard, we should make some good news ourselves.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know to lead balanced and confident adult lives that are not poisoned by biased media.
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

We Complain, But...

Better to light a candle than to rant against darkness.
- Confucius, Chinese philosopher (circa 551-478 BC)

Yet we do rant against darkness. Often while refusing to let others provide a light.

We complain that many parents do a poor job of bringing up and tending to the needs of their kids. But, although you can find birthing classes in every city and town, classes to teach young adults the knowledge and skills of parenting are almost nowhere to be found.

We complain that teachers don't do a good enough job teaching what kids need. But we also complain that education taxes that go to hire more and better teachers, to outfit classrooms with usable up-to-date resources and to build curriculum that addresses social and psychological needs of children rather than "the basics" are much too high.

We complain about the evils of consumerism, about how Christ is no longer more than a few letters in the word Christmas and Santa Claus has become the real hero of the spending season. But we spend more time buying more useless gifts for more ungrateful people with each passing year.

We complain that we must buy more locks and pay for security services for our homes because of rising crime rates. But we continue to give people with severe problems more reason to need to turn to theft to satisfy their needs.

We complain that drugs have become a part of daily life for so many people. But we withhold information about the effects drugs have on the wrecked lives of addicts from children before they are exposed to drugs on the streets where their schools are located because we desperately want to keep them "innocent" for as long as possible.

We complain about the regimented lifestyle that has us following the same routine every working day. But we join the crowd with uniform suits, shoes, coats, accessories and vehicles so that we fit in with the "business ethic" of our employers.

We complain that we find it necessary to embark on exercise programs just to get enough physical activity to stay fit and reduce the anxiety associated with constant stress. Then we drive several times around the parking aisles of shopping malls just to get a parking space that's as close to the entry door as possible.

We complain about the corruption of politicians. But we continue to elect the warriors who frighten us that foreigners want to harm us or that the economy will tank if the other party is elected.

We complain that it's almost impossible to find real meaning in life. But we attach ourselves to religions or political parties whose primary purpose for existing is to give power to a few people who get well paid to feed us dogma that wouldn't make sense to a ten year old child.

We complain that there is so little that is worthwhile on television. But statistics show that televisions are on in most homes for several hours each day, presumably spewing useless pap to people desperate to feel that they know what's going on.

Light a candle. See what you're missing. Get a real life. Help your kids grow into healthy, well balanced adults. Spend the emotional energy you now spend on complaining on investing in effective measures that will correct the problems.

Go to the TIA web site and join the people who want to make a difference.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how, what and when to teach children what they need to know so that they can avoid leading sheep-like lives as consumer lackeys as adults.
Learn more at