Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Issue Of Losing Our Privacy

The more developed we become, the more technologically connected we get, the more we regret the loss of our privacy. The media and internet blogs and chat groups wail that we can't keep anything private any more.

What I wonder is: Why?

Granted, there are personal matter such as finances that are none of anyone's business except the owner of those finances. Yet many of those same people do their banking over the internet, which is anything but secure.

A recent study in Canada showed that the major Canadian banks pay their customers who lose savings as a result of their identity being stolen from internet banking transactions about $250 million per year. The banks deem it much cheaper than improving their security, which would cost about two billion dollars (a one-time cost).

Those same banks have their staff assure customers that internet banking is safe--indeed, even urge them to open internet banking accounts. Meanwhile, even the scammers are onto this, sending out "account confirmation" notices by email and notices of "upgrades" that require confirmation of banking details (name and password, at least) that look dangerously similar to emails from the real banks. The fraudulent emails even include bank logos and fake bank email domain addresses that look identical to the real thing.

Meanwhile, the same banks offer little encouragement to customers to do their banking over the telephone, which is far safer. True, it is possible to break into a telephone line and steal banking information. However, this is wiretapping, which is deeply frowned upon by the police. And it's fairly easy to track the sources of the illegal taps. Criminal charges follow.

What we hear about bank fraud and identity theft is enough to make anyone think that their whole life could be in the toilet by the end of the day if their identity were stolen.

I remember "the old days" where people in cities didn't have to lock their doors. In many rural areas, it's still like that today. People know everyone, so they know everyone else's business. It's almost impossible to keep secrets from rural neighbours. Isn't that loss of privacy in the extreme?

At the same time as city dwellers are losing their privacy against their will, they are losing the concept of real friendship. Real friends help real friends in trouble, no matter what. Friendships in cities today resemble more business relationships where each party must contribute an equal share to the relationship and each party must benefit from the other's efforts or the friendship is dropped. "What have you done for me lately?" is the key to many relationships.

Meanwhile, our loss of trust has caused us to want to keep our children indoors instead of out playing sports or investigating life away from the security of home. The kids stay home, eat junk food and play video games (both readily and willingly provided by parents). The kids get fat. But the parents don't notice because they are putting on the pounds as well due to lack of physical activity and overindulgence of prepared foods.

Many people fear going outside their homes after dark. That's not just a caution for them, but a real and substantial fear.

Now I wonder whether we are not teaching ourselves to be afraid of everything. We don't even look at strangers in an elevator, presumably because we fear they might rob or rape us. We don't count our change in convenience store because we want to be out of there before it's robbed the next time.

Parents watch and monitor the activity of their kids, in some form, all day, every day. The children, not used to much freedom of choice or independence from their parents, want to get away from the parents when they become teens. At that age, when the kids have learned very little except fear and dependence from their parents, they go out into the world and get themselves into trouble.

Of course that only accounts for a small percentage of adolescents. But how small a percentage is small enough to ignore?

When my wife and I had young children, we routinely taught them how to cope with the situations they would face when they went out alone. We taught them what to expect, what to do if unexpected things happened and how to react in as many possible situations as we could think of.

How many parents do that today? Ninety percent? That's a pretty high figure. But it leave ten percent of children unprepared to face the world they live in. It's no coincidence that ten percent is about the amount that get into trouble, either with the law or by indulging in illegal activities, including drugs and alcohol.

Where everyone knows everyone else's business, a child can walk down a street and every neighbour who sees that child will know what he is doing and where he is going. In most cities of fear, the same child would be a stranger to the neighbours. In which situation do you think the child would be safer?

Loss of privacy only matters when private information becomes known to the wrong people. Lack of privacy can be a great benefit when the right people know what they should.

We need to stop fearing the good guys and learn to trust them more. They will not trust us or our kids so long as we don't trust them.

The bad guys aren't that hard to identify. They don't wear black hats, as they did in the old western movies. But they follow patterns. We can learn those patterns and teach them to our children.

Long ago it was said that it takes a village to raise a child. Most kids don't live in villages these days. Some kids in cities are treated as enemies by neighbours who don't know them well.

It's time we taught kids and adults about living in large, modern urban complexes. We have the technology, but we don't have the updated social practices to go with it.

Teach the children what and who to trust and what and who to not trust. If we don't, they will learn to fear and lack respect for everyone and everything. Does that sound familiar?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow competent children who know how to cope with their world. The book comes with learning guides.
Learn more at

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The World's Worst Problems Can Be Solved

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.
- Douglas Noel Adams, English author (1952-2001)

No one likes to blame themselves for anything. It's not easy to accept fault, then lie down nicely and wait for the consequences to assault.

That's not what Adams is suggesting we should do. He's recommending that we change ourselves to account for the new learning we gained by making the mistake, by committing the crime or the sin, by simply being a fallible human like everyone else.

Change is what growth is about. Change in our lives is more important today than ever before in history.

It used to be, in past centuries and millennia, that the older people were the wiser ones. In the past, the sum of human knowledge changed very little over a lifetime, so the longer one lived, the more one knew. That applied to human experience--personal or vicarious--as well as to information. That is, an old and wise person could speak to the wisdom of a younger person taking a particular action or making a specific decision because he or she would know that the way proposed did not work in the past when others had tried it.

Today the sum of human knowledge doubles every century. It's totally impossible to keep up with it. Older people are more inclined to fall behind with their grasp of new technologies and ways of thinking. They tend to be behind the mainstream, not ahead of it. Most old people are not wise in the traditional sense of the word. They are likely backward. So the younger generations tend to ignore their advice because they don't have the wisdom that older people of past generations were able to accumulate.

Old people today have less value to the functioning of their society and their culture today than ever before in history. The reason is that younger generations need different things from the older generation than the younger generations of the past needed. And the older ones have not changed to fulfill those new needs. Of course there are exceptions, as there are with any generalization.

That disconnect can change. But only when people accept that they must learn and continue to change throughout their lifetime.

Every change is not necessarily right. Some are wrong. Wrong in every conceivable way except that they give more power to one or more individuals. See the history of Hitler or today's Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe for confirmation. That requires older people who may have the time and the improved level of wisdom relating to change to speak up and gather people to work toward reversing or eliminating the results of the power mongers who made the wrong decisions.

Would removing Mugabe today result in the same consequences as removing Saddam Hussein did in Iraq? Answering that question well requires much greater cognitive functioning and knowledge retention than life decisions did in the past.

A few years ago we blamed Saddam for the state of health of Iraq. So the US and its allies removed him. That resulted in a war that has lasted for several years. The change that was needed was not simply removal of a dictator, which opened up animosities that captors of Saddam could not imagine. As it happened, Saddam (with his sons) was the one individual who was preventing a civil war in Iraq. Removing him removed the obstacle to civil war.

No one wants to remove Kim Jong Il, of North Korea, because even he was able to change when those who opposed him chose to work with him rather than against him. North Koreans will benefit as a result of changed approaches to apparently intractable problems. Not only has North Korea been removed from the notorious Axis of Evil list (only Iran remains on the list), but the people of North Korea may look forward to some day being able to eat a full meal. That's a big change. It resulted from a big change in approach by governments interested in the problem with the dictator.

Blaming doesn't work. It creates dead ends. And too often dead people.

There are no dead ends, in reality, only people who can't change their ways of thinking enough to see other possible alternatives. As Mr. Spock said in the old Star Trek series many times, "There are always alternatives." Seeing alternatives requires changes in thinking.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who will be able to learn and change throughout their lives because they have the right foundation to build on from early childhood.
Learn more at

Friday, June 27, 2008

What Are The Limits Of Possibility?

The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.
- Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction novelist (1917-2008)

It wasn't possible for humans to fly, with or without wings. Perhaps the greatest genius of all time--certainly the greatest polymath of all time--Leonardo da Vinci designed a few flying machines, but none proved workable. Now people can "walk" in space, move through air with jet-power packs strapped to their backs, and even travel in airplanes, snoozing and dining at their leisure.

It wasn't possible to see past that glass ceiling known to astronomers from ancient times as the visible heavens. Now telescopes allow astronomers to see light that began its travel up to 13 billion years ago, in places we can't even imagine.

It wasn't possible to speak with someone who was not within shouting distance from you, unless you used a drum whose beat could be heard a little farther away. Now I can use my cell phone from a seat in my boat to speak by phone with someone who lives on the opposite side of our planet. People in desert communities speak with others in desert communities or on mountain tops by satellite phone.

What's possible? Does it indeed have any value to claim that something is impossible?

Judging by what has developed out of impossibilities of the past into possibilities of today, we would not be on certain ground to state categorically that anything is impossible. The question should not be "What is possible?" or "What is impossible?" but "What do we want to do and how can we do it?" Asking the question "How can we do it?" opens the gateway to previously unimagined possibilities.

What purpose is served by claiming that something is impossible? Believe it or not, it has some value. It serves as motivation for those with vision beyond the immediate to show that the "impossible" really is possible. I used to be functionally illiterate, going back about 20 years. This article will be read by people on six continents today. As a middle-aged adult, I learned to read and write. Some say that's impossible, or nearly so.

Don't rule out anything.

Can anyone prove that God exists? Likely not. Can anyone experience God? Definitely. But the people who have experienced God have little real interest in proving what they have experienced to doubters and naysayers. God doesn't proselytize. Neither do those who know him.

Are there bigger questions than that?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their children to have the best possible advantages in life as they approach adulthood. And for people who want to know what they missed in childhood so they can experience it as adults.
Learn more at

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Do You Know What You Missed As A Child?

Turn the power of praise upon whatever you wish to increase. Give thanks that it is now fulfilling your ideal.
- Charles Fillmore, cofounder of Unity School of Christianity (1854-1948)

Okay, I accept that the quote sounds like it was spoken directly from a pulpit. But that was the way Fillmore spoke and wrote.

Praise is to human social interaction what fertilizer is to gardens. Most gardens will grow without using fertilizer, but they may grow stronger, healthier (free from risks of attack by competing species of plants) and more plentiful with fertilizer. So will the good effects of praise on relationships, including work relationships.

As members of a social species, we human naturally seek acceptance from our fellow humans. We want to fell that we belong. We want to feel that we are a part of something of significance. We want to feel that the part we contribute helps to make our total experience work better, both for us and for those who are part of our group.

The traditional model of relationships in a work environment was based mostly on the old master-slave model of our distant past. People work to the best of their abilities because they get paid to do so, so that model dictates. But it doesn't always work that way.

People can do barely adequate work for which they get paid a more than reasonable wage, but they can't necessarily be fired without the employer risking a wrongful dismissal legal case. A barely adequate job may not only hold a company back, it could bury the company if a significant number of employees have a similar attitude.

In the new business model that is increasing in popularity since the 1980s, an employer tries to make each employee feel that the success of the company is a direct reflection of their own person success. Even in times of poor markets, the employer strives to encourage employees by watching carefully for individual examples of good work and successful dealings with the various publics of the business so that the employees feel that they will al work their way through troubled times together.

In this business model, there are no bad employees (or there shouldn't be), only employees that need more encouragement and direction to be more successful. Every one of us has bad times in our lives and they don't correspond with the bad times at our place of work (we hope). A good employer will help a troubled employee through those bad personal times in order to get good work while on the job.

It works the same in a family. Every young child seems to bring home a steady supply of creations (usually paintings) from school or a pre-school facility. Those creations make their way onto the refrigerator or a bulletin board, so the child knows he or she is appreciated. But that only works for just so long.

A child knows if he or she has produced a piece of trash painting, even if the teacher praised it and encouraged the child to take it home (less trash to dispose of after school). If the parent gives only blanket praise, as the teacher had done, the child knows that the parent is praising him or her, only the effort that went into it. In other words, flattery, with no substance or sincerity.

A child needs to know what is good about a piece of work, not that the whole thing is "marvelous." A child needs to know that the parent understands what is in the painting, The child learns that by having the parent ask questions about it, then adding comments and constructive advice.

Just as an Olympic athlete feeds on successes along the way to the next international Olympics, a child grows in a positive way by both praise and help to improve next time. Blanket (non-specific) praise is treated by a child the way everyone should treat flattery, knowing that it's for show, but without value.

The sole objective of a child--every child--is to grow to be a competent and confident adult who can cope with downturns in life because he or she has the skills and tools to work with, yet having the ability to achieve great successes because their increasing body of skills and improved talents have produced better than ever results.

Kids know this intuitively. Parents, many of whom treat their children as if they were never children themselves, don't necessarily remember this.

The prime objective of a parent is not to provide food, shelter and video games for the child. The prime objective is to be a role model and teacher so that the child stands "on the shoulders of giants" (Isaac Newton's words) in order to reach greater heights than the parents could or have.

No child ever has the objective of being nearly as good as his or her parent. Nor should it ever be the objective or a parent that the child should only be nearly as good. Both child and parent should want the child to be better because the child could take advantage of the experience, skills and talents of the parent, then add their own to create something new and unique.
If a parent doesn't "get it," the child may not be what he or she could have been.

A person doesn't need perfect parents in order to reach self fulfillment and achieve their potential. But a child who has parents who know what they are doing in growing the child will reach greater heights sooner than the one with little help from home.

As an educator and sociologist specializing in education, I have never met a parent who didn't do and want to do their very best for their children. I also have never met a parent who claimed that they knew enough--what they needed to know and should have known--about raising children when they first became parents.

That's wrong. The discrepancy is both tragic and unnecessary. People--kids and adults--suffer because they don't know.

We have the knowledge. But it's tied up with a few educators and social science professionals who meet roadblocks everywhere they turn trying to spread the word.

Talk about it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to know what kids really need instead of just the limited stuff that school curriculum provides.
Learn more at

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Buy Your Way To Happiness? Not Likely

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.
- Denis Waitley, American inspirational speaker and author (b. 1924)

What the hell does that mean?

If that was your reaction to the quote, you might be a bit light on the happiness scale, and may not know it.

Think about things that can be owned, earned, worn or consumed. They all require spending money. Thanks to the rich and powerful West and its persistent propaganda telling us that we can't be happy unless we spend money, an unbelievably large number of people in the world equate happiness and spending.

That requires people to have money to be happy, going along that way of thinking. Everyone who is poor must be unhappy, as a corollary. Or at least lack the ability to be truly happy.

People with lots of money spend, spend, spend. And they are happy. Or they believe they are. They must be, they conclude, because they are living the lifestyle that says they must be happy. They believe they are happy because they have been taught to believe that.

Yet look at the divorce rate among these people. Look at the percentage of their kids who take drugs and alcohol and simply can't manage in school. Look at the number who grow up with a video game as a surrogate mother instead of a real one. By the time they are in their teens, they don't want their natural mother anyway, many of them, because their mothers don't know what to do with them. And they have no idea what to do with their mothers.

So they all spend as much as they can to be happier.

But they don't get happier. What they do get is embroiled in addictions and obsessions, causes to which they devote much of their lives--such as their religion of choice or a political party--in a vain effort to teach the rest of the world how to be happy.

Some cults in other parts of the world understand. They have no source of the money needed to spend the way the addicts do in the West. So, jealous of the West and their own inability to get money to spend on the luxuries they believe they need to be happy, they become suicide bombers or terrorists of other stripes. Some kill their own people out of spite.

Most people in poorer countries don't behave that way, of course. But they have gotten the message. They believe that only fate has prevented them from being happy by not giving them the ability to earn money they can spend to make them happy. "Poor me, fate has dealt me such a cruel blow."

However, others in poorer countries do not succumb to the consumerism propaganda. They believe that happiness is what you make for yourself. And what you make for others around you in the process. They become musicians and dancers, for example, and find happiness in their music. They cherish the "spiritual experience of living every minute" with their music. Others get involved with other forms of artistic endeavour.

They lose themselves in whatever they do. Musicians become one with their music. Painters one with their paintings. Actors one with their particular craft, and so on.

Are the arts, then, the secret to happiness? No, it's the giving of themselves to something beneficial or to someone else that is enjoyed and appreciated by others that brings the happiness.

I can't say whether they live each moment with "love, grace and gratitude." Those are Denis Waitley's words. What words would I use? I stumble over them myself now that I have found happiness I could never have understood until recently.

While I was growing up, I was taught repeatedly, at home, at school, at church, playing sports and doing just about every activity involving others my own age that I must come first in my life. I must be in charge. I must be in control. I must succeed at everything. "Pay yourself first" and buy what you can with it. Borrow to buy what you can't afford so that you can show it off to others so they can see your success. Only when I outgrew that infantile, selfish and consumerish way of thinking and began to share my life freely with others did I find happiness.

With happiness, the more you give to others, the more you get back in return. Business doesn't work that way, which is why business wants us to be selfish. And consumers. Business lives for money. A life built around a business model is pretty shallow.

Business, however, cannot be happy. It's emotionless, even sociopathic if you believe some studies. Shaping our lives on a business model not only doesn't bring much happiness in return, it tends to lose for us many of the opportunities for happiness that we could have enjoyed.

Make someone happy today. You'll be glad you did. Really.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to teach their children how to be more than consumers, who want them to live lives full of happiness.
Learn more at

Sunday, June 22, 2008

When There Are Too Many Stupid People

Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.
- Alfred North Whitehead, mathematician and philosopher (1861-1947)

Sometimes it's hard to tell if knowledge is dead and buried or if it's alive and well, toiling in laboratories, libraries and offices all over the world.

Knowledge may be summed up as facts we can use. Trivia that has value only on quiz shows and in party games wouldn't be considered knowledge because you can't actually do anything with it. A nonfiction book sitting on a shelf is not knowledge, in itself, because without a person to do something with it, it has no lasting value.

The sum of human knowledge doubles about every 15 years now. In the days of the ancient Greeks, who were known for their wisdom and knowledge, the sum of human knowledge varied little from one year to the next. So as a person got older, he or she could learn a greater portion of the available knowledge, thus gaining wisdom in the process.

Today, people who know a great deal are considered freaks, geeks, specialists or people who should be avoided because they may be dangerous. Dangerous? Adults who know very little tend to be suspicious of, if not actually fear, others who know lots.

Why? Humans are still in our infancy in terms of social development, even if we are well into our midlife technologically. We still function, as societies, much the way our prehistoric ancestors did when they were part of a tribe. Though we have grown beyond the optimum size of a tribe in most communities and cultures, our social system has not advanced with our population. We still think in tribal ways, to some extent.

People who are knowledgeable on a variety of subjects tend to be feared as if they were part of a visiting tribe. We all understand physical strength, agility and ability with weapons. We don't understand what a person with a huge library of information between his ears could do. Likely nothing, but we aren't certain. Could he be dangerous and we wouldn't even know it?

Wisdom today has much less to do with absorbing information we are able to use and more to do with the ability to see beyond the problems of the moment to solutions that are not evident to most people. It's being able to find answers while others are still trying to figure out the problem.

Wisdom and knowledge today may be more rare among educated people than in the ancient past (slaves and peasants were always kept ignorant and illiterate) because too many of us believe we know what we are doing when in fact we haven't a clue. Too many of us believe we can buy our way out of any problem we can't manage ourselves and we're shocked when we can't.

Personal relationships show excellent examples of this. While there are many reasons why relationships fail, one is that many people have never asked what the other person in the relationship wanted from them. They assume that if they are together, they must be providing what the other wants. They buy their way through a divorce because they don't understand each other. Never tried. Didn't know they should.

While I can't believe Whitehead's assertion that knowledge will die because so many people are not aware of how little knowledge they have and how little ability they have to find the answers and solutions they require, this deficit is nonetheless huge and is having an unpleasant impact on many societies.

Not knowing something we need to know is one thing, especially if we know how to find what we need. Not realizing how clueless we are about so many things is dangerous because these people often don't abide by the rules of society. This includes such things as not following speed limits on the roads, taking drugs that we have no idea how they will react with our particular metabolism and wasting fuel in our cars while we watch the prices soar.

Bring to someone's attention that they are not following one of these rules of society or that they should be doing something differently because the way they are doing it might cause them grief and they react with hubris and arrogance. How dare we! Those who try to help clueless others are treated as if they were muggers.

There's nothing shameful about not knowing something. What is shameful is to deny it, to cover it up and to not take the trouble to find out.

There's nothing pretty about ignorance. It's not funny either. Strange that it's so popular.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to understand what kids need to know beyond what's in their textbooks and what they learn on the streets.
Learn more at

Monday, June 09, 2008

What Our Kids Need To Survive

Cleanliness and order are not matters of instinct; they are matters of education, and like most great things, you must cultivate a taste for them.
- Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-81)

We humans are naturally inclined to gather into clusters of individual living spaces, whether hamlets or cities, when doing so means we can produce more food than we need to survive. But we aren't naturally inclined toward any particular form of order (government) or forms of cleanliness, other than we don't usually foul our own nests.

Order and cleanliness must be taught if they are to be followed. If they are to be followed by everyone, they must be taught to everyone. That means to every child.

That's where modern societies fall down, badly, tragically. So long as most people get the main parts of the society's messages as they grow up, everyone assumes that every child gets the messages.

And they assume that every child gets the same messages in the same manner and with the same effectiveness.

These assumptions are all wrong. Every one.

When members of our communities mess up, such as by breaking laws, having unwanted children they can't or won't support or breaking down emotionally due to excessive stress our only solutions are to punish them or fill them with drugs.

This lesson is not hard, but we aren't learning it. We're screwing up and paying more each year to make up for the messes we're making. Anything we want everyone to know and to follow must be taught to every child or adolescent.

That's it! We can't depend on every set of parents to teach their children the same lessons because they don't know the lessons themselves. If you doubt that, check out how many adolescents are in prison, are homeless or are in gangs because they can't make it on their own.

I am not aware of any government that does not pass laws. I am as well not aware of any government that has a systematic method for ensuring that laws that it passes are taught to the members of the public to which they apply. That doesn't make sense.

I am aware that in many jurisdictions of the world, ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse for breaking it.

In the western world, cleanliness is taught. Some would say to a fanatic extent, given the obsession we have for buying cleaning products that are far more powerful than necessary and that harm the environment when they leave our homes. But disease born from unclean and unhealthy environments is in decline. No so in all parts of the world, as we know from the spread of bird flu.

Since we leave the teaching of cleanliness mostly to corporations these days, of course they teach us to use their products. Only later do we learn (the hard way) that their products have done considerable harm to the environment (air, water, land). By then they have moved on to entice us with products that are "cleaner" and "greener."

Our governments and our education systems take no responsibility for teaching either laws or cleanliness beyond what is minimally necessary to get them through the day. They leave that to our media, which means to our corporations.

We have only one way to ensure that every child learns the same lessons that we expect them to follow as adults. That way is to put what we want them to learn on school curriculum.

In the United States today, over ten percent of adults are either in prison or have criminal records. That's the highest in the world, per capita. But even other countries such as Canada, the UK and Germany aren't far behind.

We also need to teach our children one other kind of lesson. We need to teach them how to cope when their lives get messed up and they might turn to breaking the law, to drugs, to suicide, to abuse or to obsessions such as overwork. They need to know what to do when they realize they have a problem that causes them to get involved with some form of anti-social behaviour.

Let's begin with you. Have you taught your children all the laws they need to follow? Have you taught them how their lives (and probably yours) will be destroyed if they turn to counterproductive measures such as drugs, alcohol or overwork?

Have you taught them what to do with packaging when they have consumed its contents on the street? Judging by the streets of most cities, not every parent has taught that lesson.

The only way to ensure that family-friendly and community-friendly practices are followed is to teach them to every child. Every child.

Will schools have time, given how busy their teaching schedules are already? Yes. They will get the time they gain when they don't have to deal with misbehaviour and lack of attention because their kids want to be taught what they really need but aren't getting.

Oh, yes, kids know that they need to know lots of things to function properly and in a healthy manner as adults. They aren't sure what those things are. They know naturally that they need to be able to cope in the society they will enter as independent adults soon. They don't know how to do that.

Most know that they aren't getting all of what they need. It upsets them terribly, though they tend to demonstrate their frustration in different ways than adults do. Kids misbehave when they aren't getting what they need in life. When they misbehave, we call them brats. They don't know what else to do to get our attention. We punish them.

Don't wonder what's the matter with kids these days. Wonder instead how so many manage to join the mainstream as adults when finding out what they need to know is so hard for them as children and adolescents.

Do you know what laws your national government passed in the last year, laws you will have to obey or find yourself in court? Kids won't either. And they have no way to find out if we don't provide ways for them to learn.

Do you know where to turn when life gets too much for you? Suicide? Drugs? Abuse? That may not be you, but it's what a shocking percentage of people do.

Being the clever and resourceful person you are, you likely can answer these questions positively. Not many can.

Talk about it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teaches who want to equip their children with what they need to know to survive and thrive as adults, instead of struggling along on what they learn in school now.
Learn more at

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Stuff You Didn't Know About Sexual "Bonding"

That's "bonding" in a social sense. It doesn't mean a male and a female stuck together, mid-copulation, for life.

Monogamy in a sexual sense virtually doesn't exist in nature. The red fox, noted for its devotion to one mate, slips away occasionally to spread around the good will. The Adélie penguin, also famous for its monogamy, gets away occasionally (the females, that is) to mate with unattached males.

The female penguins exact a fee for this service. The male has to pony up a bunch of stones to bolster the nests of the female. Some skilled female penguins can even get a male to offer up the stones without offering her services later.

"Genetic testing has put the lie to the myth of monogamy" according to narrator F. Murray Abraham, of the PBS series Nature. Ninety-nine percent of mammal species never form pair bonds. Of the few that do, the genetic material of the devoted pairs can still be found in offspring of others. In the case of the red fox, that figure is about 80 percent.

So, in nature, monogamy means devotion to one mate in a relationship sense, not in a sexual sense. Nature cares about genetic diversity, not relationships.

Though life began on our planet some 3.8 billion years ago, sexual reproduction didn't evolve until about two billion years later. Scientists aren't sure why it even developed since they believe asexual reproduction has advantages over the sexual variety in several important ways.

The excuse that close relationships of paired animals required it falls apart when you realize that sexual reproduction developed first in plants. Unless, maybe, plants that reproduce sexually send signals between each other that we can't detect. "Hey, Baby, how about we put your pistil together with my stamen?"

The earthworm Dendrobaena rubida has the best of both worlds, with both male and female reproductive equipment. It can mate with any other of its own kind. In a pinch, it can even double itself around and mate with itself. Successfully, without having idiot offspring. And they don't call each other by nasty names either.

We know a fair amount about the mating habits of monkeys because they have been studied intensively for the past few decades. Bonobos, which are quite similar in appearance to our nearest DNA relatives, chimpanzees, are notorious lovers. They go at it many times each day, with no thought about jealous mates. Bonobos are also known as the least aggressive members of the ape family. Do the math.

Barbary macaques have maybe the noisiest mating procedures. Once the male engages the female, the female yells to get the male to ejaculate. Without the yelling, the males often don't climax. My sources didn't say if the yelling was of the "Get it on, you....!" or of the accentuated sweet talk variety.

If people did that, it would be on YouTube. Or YouPorn, a new site for amateurs.

The spiny anteater, native to Australia and New Zealand, has a penis with four heads. (You can't make up stuff like this. No one would believe it.) However, only two of the anteater's penis heads will fit into a female at once. No mention in my sources about threesomes.

The ultimate in mating--at least the ultimate in mating sacrifice--must be the tiny paper nautilus. It's an octopus. The smaller male impregnates the much larger female by shooting his penis into her. Then he has to leave it there and take off or the female gets mighty grouchy.

Nature has lots of examples of homosexual behaviour. About 1500 species of mammal, fish, reptile, bird and even invertebrates do it.

When two male geese decide to keep company, a female will often slip between them and mate with both. Later, the males share fatherly duties. I have seen that happen with mallard ducks as well. It was a bit strange to see two males and one female together constantly for weeks at a time each year.

Fruit flies have been studied in laboratories because they are such easy subjects. At the University of California at San Francisco biologists exposed male fruit flies to high levels of alcohol, then turned them loose. The males were ready to mate with anything they could, including other males and other species of flying insect (if they could).

One expert said that eventually the test turned into a homosexual orgy, with "a chain of males chasing each other."

The more alcohol the males had in them, the less likely they were to mate successfully, despite their lack of discrimination. No wonder they're a great model for studying human-like behaviour.
While bonobos and orangutans join humans as the few species to mate face to face, few other primates do. Hamsters and beavers are among them.

French kissing is rare in nature. The white-fronted parrot is the only species other than humans known to do it. The birds open their beaks prior to mating, then touch each other's tongues. After that, the male spews his lunch over the female's chest.

While the latter behaviour is not common among humans, it's not unknown among college frat boys.

Size does matter. Tall people tend to choose each other as mates. People also tend to choose mates with the same hair colour (check out how many blonds are coupled with blondes), skin colour and education level.

One British study even showed that obese people tend to choose mates with comparable levels of body fat. While the reason for this may seem self evident, the mates usually select each other before they become obese.

Finally, nature plays some dirty tricks on us dumb humans. Young women with the most curvaceous figures usually become fat as they get older. Rounded butts and eye-catching breasts are almost entirely composed of fat. For many women, fat collects first in the places that men pay most attention to. Then it spreads. As always, caveat emptor.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today' Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to teach kids what they most need to know to avoid getting into trouble, before the trouble presents itself.
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Saturday, June 07, 2008

How To Live A Meaningful Life (seriously!)

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.
- Greg Anderson

I can't tell you more about the author of this quote than his name. The quote is so popular that most citations on Google's lists didn't even provide that much. The Greg Andersons Google did turn up seemed to have darker sides than I would prefer.

The quote itself could be dissected with surgical precision. It begins with the idea of motivation. Motivation is a positive or proactive action in this case. Most people seem to react to life, not to treat it proactively. That is, they do what needs to be done because it needs to be done, not because they are motivated by some strong feelings to do it.

The quote says that goals should be the motivating factor, not simply a reaction to surroundings or events. Specifically, goals that have deep meaning. What's that?

A goal with deep meaning would be one that requires much effort to accomplish and that would provide considerable satisfaction on achieving it. It would also be one that would enhance our edification as an individual. Saving a life or making a difference in someone else's life might be such a goal. Getting a university degree. Raising a child successfully.

"Dreams that need completion" is a re-expression of the previous phrase. Dreams, by themselves, go nowhere. They are nothing more than hopes, only with less chance of coming to pass than most hopes. Dreaming of world peace would be one like that.

World peace does not, could not, be achieved without many intervening steps, smaller and more manageable things that could be accomplished. Each of those would have a recognizable end point which, when reached, a person could say it has been accomplished.

Dreams can be goals, but only if they are carved into smaller and more manageable portions, each of which can be accomplished with a plan and considerable effort. World peace will never happen by itself, even if a million people decided to pray about it, all together. Somebody actually has to do something, something concrete and quantifiable, something that can be seen to have been accomplished when the job is done.

"Pure love that needs expressing" may seem simple, but it could be confused by someone who takes it out of context. Love, in this case, is not sex or romantic love, or even motherly love. This love that needs expressing is about the goals with deep meaning. It's a matter of being devoted to accomplishing each stage of the development and eventually achieving the goal with deep meaning. It means loving what you're doing.

That is how to truly live life.

Doesn't everyone do that? Actually, very few people do.

Most of us have life goals as young adults. Whether we accomplish them or not could depend on whether they had manageable steps, whether we had the resources of time and money to accomplish them, but most of all whether we devoted ourselves to reaching those goals. Most life goals get lost along the way, according to the people I have asked about their own.

Perspiration is the fuel by which goals are accomplished, not inspiration. Most people find they don't want to put that much effort into accomplishing their long term goals. So they satisfy themselves that they just "got too busy."

Is it necessary to live life at that level? I mean, it's really hard work, isn't it?

Spend some time in a crowded place, such as a market or a fair, and observe how similar people behave to worker bees in a hive. Worker bees are extremely important to a beehive. And basic workers are important to a society. But, once gone, they are forgotten and quickly replaced with others of their kind. Dead workers are forgotten quickly.

It isn't necessary to live life at the level of accomplishing meaningful goals. Worker bees don't regret their contributions to the welfare of the hive. But not one of them accomplishes a goal with meaning because they spend their lives doing little tasks that need to be done.

I submit that if you look at people who truly live life at the level of meaningful goal accomplishment recommended in the quote, you will find people who feel the same way about life as those who firmly believe that God lives within them.

And that's pretty good.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teaches who want to teach their children the important lessons of life. Many of those lessons are provided in the book.
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Friday, June 06, 2008

The Big Bang: God's Answer To Boredom

When did God get bored with nothing and decide to create something?

Whether you believe any of the thousands of creation stories that have existed for millennia around the world or you prefer the utilitarian approach of science--it all happened by accident--the ever so popular, highly touted and taught-as-fact Big Bang theory was never satisfying for many people.

For so-called creationists, they wondered what the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient and everlasting God did before he spent that time building "what is." For Christian creationists, why would a creator do nothing for infinity before, then spend six days busily creating everything, followed by an endless amount of time trying to patch up what his most devilish creations messed up? That seems pretty lame, when you think about it.

And whose days were the six? Earth days? Earth is a tiny speck in a moderately sized galaxy among billions of galaxies, in one of a possibly incredibly high number of universes. Or were those God-days? God-days could be...infinitely long.

Why would an omnipotent deity need to rest on the seventh day? Why would he need to rest at all, ever?

Was it boredom that caused him to become a creator? Why did he create such an imperfect chief angel (the Devil) that decided to oppose him and become the spiritual father of every human being (see Hebrews in the Bible)?

For those who believe in a Godless creation, what "was" before the Big Bang? Why did it even happen?

Three theories have developed over the past few decades that may lend some credibility and understanding to the nothing-then-something event called the Big Bang.

The first was proposed by Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, whose 199 theory was improved in 2004 to suggest that the whole of everything is cyclical. What we know as our universe is a "brane" (short for membrane) that is three dimensions floating in a four dimensional reality. (Imagine sheets of paper blowing in the wind to get an idea of the concept.)

Every once in a while, branes would collide. That, they claimed, was our Big Bang. What's more, our brane will collide with other branes again, though not likely soon.

The expansion of the universe is merely the early stages of the events following the explosion. When the universe gets thin enough, its components will find each other attractive again and come together. That whole cycle process should take about one trillion years. In other words, the time since the Big Bang is 0.1 percent of the time until the next cycle begins.

The second theory, proposed by Sean Carroll, suggests that time--especially the single direction of time, not going backwards--is the problem with previous theories. He says that time progresses more like the pendulum of a clock (that's my interpretation, he didn't use those words), moving one way, then the other. What we know as time is nothing more than the pendulum swinging one way.

Each time the pendulum (our universe in time) gets too far away from its position of equilibrium, it slows down then goes the other way. Time appears to reverse, though it's really just the pendulum swinging back toward its straight-down position. Then it goes out the other way.

The third theory, put forward by rebel physicist Julian Barbour in his book The End of Time, suggests that time is an illusion. There is no such thing as time.

Each moment we experience, he says, is like a snapshot. The past is nothing but imagined memory, with no more validity than an imagined future. Put many pictures together and you could flip them like a flipbook, giving the appearance of something happening, specifically the passage of time.

What's more, what we experience is but one snapshot in an infinite number of them in an infinite number of universes. Every possible scenario that could have happened since the Big Bang has happened in a flipbook in some universe, somewhere.

The Steinhardt-Turok theory may be tested as soon as 20 years, when technology allows scientists to study whether the waves left over from the big Bang look the way they would in the cyclic theory or like the ones that would be from the single Big Bang event. Apparently they will behave differently.

The Carroll theory may not be testable, unless we can live several billion more years to see time swing back toward the equilibrium.

The Barbour theory could never be tested because it would have to be tested in some time-oriented framework.

Barbour wants us to simply believe the theory he has worked so hard to develop for the past 40 years. Believe without testing? That sounds like religion, doesn't it?

In any event, if you have been uncomfortable with the Big Bang theory because it began from nothing, be assured that great thinkers are working to ease your mind.

Meanwhile, God must be chuckling.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents who want to teach their children what to believe and what to be suspicious about so that they have the opportunity to make up their own minds.
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Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Mystery Of The Future Revealed

As people used to be wrong about the motion of the sun, so they are still wrong about the motion of the future. The future stands still; it is we who move in infinite space.
- Rainer Maria Rilke, German poet (1875-1926)

This quote struck me because it turns backwards our thinking about the future.

The way we think of the future, most of us believe that it must bounce around as if trying to avoid us and detection. To many of us, the future is unknown, a mystery that will unfold in some fashion in ways we can't imagine at this time.

Not so. Rilke says it's not that way at all.

We are the ones who bounce around, not knowing where we are going.

Our governments seldom have long term plans for the future. As they are elected for relatively short terms, they focus on the duration of their terms, plus a couple of years more. Most give little thought to what they want for their country 25 or 50 years in the future.

They can't set policies to prepare for a future 50 years hence because they don't think about it. They only set policies they hope will get them elected next time.

Businesses, especially large ones, set long term objectives. They want to think their way into the future to be prepared for what they will face then. However, their long term plans can turn on a dime when their financial fortunes hit rough patches. In effect, they plan for the long term future, but act in their own best interests in the immediate future. Profit today, not prospects tomorrow, are what counts for them.

As individuals, most of us go through our lives as if we don't know what to expect of tomorrow, let alone what our lives might be like in ten or 20 years time. Planning might come in the form of retirement investments.

As of this writing, I recently passed my 65th birthday. I have reached the age when traditionally, in western countries, people retire. Then, going by historical records, I could be expected to die within the next decade. But it's highly unlikely that will happen.

I could easily live for another 30 or 40 years, as my ancestors lived well past the age when their own peers were dying off. I eat healthy, try to exercise enough. I make long term plans because I expect to be able to fulfill them.

Should a person of 65 years have plans for what they might be doing at age 90 or 95? To a younger person, that might seem silly. But unless my peers and I make plans for our future, we may find ourselves in wheelchairs, sitting in hallways of nursing homes for our final two decades of life. That's not my idea of Golden Years.

The future begins tomorrow. The future 25 or 50 years from now will depend entirely on what you and I and others around us plan tomorrow. We will meet the future knowing what it's like because we will have planned it. If we plan it.

My wife and I will move to a different home in a different Canadian province within the next two months. Everything will be new to us, except our citizenship. One of the first tasks we plan for our new property will be to plant trees where we want them.

We will plant spindly young trees no taller than ourselves. We plan to sit in their shade for years after they have reached their full height.

Will we do little more than to sit in the shade on a summer's day? Not at all. Chances are we will plan how to take the world by storm with our new ideas on those future days. As usual, those ideas will be rejected by the majority of people when posed, then be adopted heartily by the same people a few years later when they realize they are better than what they have.

We make our own future by building it, day by day, thought by thought, one daringly new action after another.

The future is nothing to be frightened about. We will build it ourselves, by our actions and sometimes by our inaction.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to teach their children how to prepare for the future, how to cope with it and to build it to their own satisfaction instead of just surviving it.
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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

We Crave What Would Destroy Us

Before we set our hearts too much on anything, let us examine how happy are those who already possess it.
- François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, French moralist (1613-1680)

Let's look at some examples. Start with winning a lottery.

Despite the stories published about unhappiness and even financial hardship (later) suffered by winners of large sums in lotteries, I have heard many people say "I'd like to suffer that way," or "Just let me try it." Those people had learned nothing from the examples of unhappiness experienced by others who won lotteries.

Most people who win large sums in lotteries have little experience with managing large amounts of money over which they have complete control. Some give it away to family members or charities, or spend lavishly on a lifestyle they have never experienced, while most try to keep it (invested) for their "nest egg" when they retire.

With no experience managing large amounts of money, very few keep a significant portion of their winnings until retirement. Because their names become public information, they get plagued by charitable organizations for donations (for years afterwards), by strangers who simply want a handout (a surprising number of them come out of the woodwork) and investment "counselors" who make frequent transactions on behalf of their clients to extract fees from them.

Many (especially, but not exclusively, young people) wish they could be rock stars. So many rock stars are either drug users or addicts or heavy users of alcohol, or both, that it's a wonder anyone would want to emulate them. True, they get adulation from the crowds, but the pressure on them to make continually more money to support growing numbers of helper employees often nets them less than their less heralded counterparts.

Music stardom brings with it fame, a double edged sword. Being recognized every time you step out your door is great for the ego for a while, but it becomes stifling when you can't appear in public anywhere without being mobbed. Stardom usually reduces a person's ability to move around in public places, including travelling, which many "unknown" people enjoy.

Movie stars have gained adoring followers since the days of silent movies. They suffer the same downside of fame as the music stars. And the same pressure to make more money and inability to move about in public without attracting greedy and grabby fans.

The "stars" who inhabit the pages of supermarket tabloids have no private lives at all. The paparazzi follow them everywhere and photograph them in the most embarrassing and compromising situations possible. Even an innocent photo can become a scandal in a tabloid when it is taken out of context. Some tabloids simply use pictures and invent absurd stories to with them. A few "doctor" the photos to service their scandal stories.

Having a "public" life may seem attractive to someone who lives their whole life in relative obscurity. Having no private life because photographers or fans follow you everywhere (including to the bathroom) means sacrificing what most people consider to be their life. Fame can be a prison without bars.

A few people want to be writers or poets. They adore the work of their favourites and wish they could produce the same kinds of material. They may even love the idea of working at home, as most such artists do. What most of these wannabes don't understand and would not be willing to commit to if they did is the years of toiling alone, in obscurity and with little income, unappreciated by most of the world, in the hope of being discovered as an overnight success one day.

The fault and folly of wishing to be someone we aren't is that we don't take into consideration the downside of the lives of our idols. We only see the good side, the parts of their life that we would most like to have.

In my role as a sociologist I have informally studied many people who wanted to be someone else. When I pursued the wishes of these people to the point of making them aware of the whole span of experiences of those they idolized, not one has wanted to exchange lives with them.

As the old saying goes: The pasture always looks greener on the other side of the fence, but it looks just as brown as your own when you get up close.

A newer saying goes: Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who like the skin they were born in and want to make the best of their lives instead of wishing to be someone else.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Who Can You Trust?

The truth is the kindest thing we can give folks in the end.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author and slavery abolitionist (1811-1896)

Surely truth is all around us. Our newspapers as well as our radio and television newscasts are filled with truth. Actually, they are filled with facts, many of which have been edited to give the one-sided impression to readers and viewers that the media owners want us to believe. Beyond that they express opinion, often supported by nothing more than fictional "information."

We elect politicians to work on our behalf, to represent us in the governments of our country, our state or province and our municipality, then to return to us the truth about what is going on at their respective legislative levels. But bridges collapse due to neglect, people get fired or resign regularly for corruption or unacceptable social behaviour and some corporations become obscenely wealthy from government contracts.

Sometimes our political leaders distort the facts enough--then preach them as truth--that we support going to war over them. Osama bin Laden is still at large in Afghanistan's eastern mountains and Iraq is anything but a settled democracy. So much for the truth about weapons of mass destruction (other than the ones the United States gave to Saddam to use against Iran) and the rapid disappearance of the Taliban.

Television brings us truth in its documentaries. Sometimes. Again, producers edit the facts to convey the impressions they want us to believe. For example, how many well fed people have you seen in documentaries filmed in Africa? When they conduct campaigns--such as about global warming--opposing points of view rarely receive due consideration so that we can get a balanced collection of information on which to base an informed opinion ourselves.

Mostly they give a one-sided opinion, albeit with an overload of facts to support their opinion, and leave us to believe it's the only conclusion possible.

Fortunately we have our places of worship to turn to as refuge from the onslaught of hype and distorted facts. Then again, no two churches, mosques, synagogues or temples preach similar versions of truth about their respective religions. And opinions vary within each about what is right and what is not, though the minorities are usually silenced quickly.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the quote that began this article, was one of the most influential authors--mostly through her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin--who moved governments on both sides of the Atlantic to abolish slavery. (Her sister was the motivator who encouraged Harriet to write a novel because of her "talent with a pen.") Yet even she has been accused of wanting to keep freed slaves poor and submissive, like Uncle Tom.

Mrs. Stowe submitted that truth is the kindest thing we can give to people. With the amount of lies, propaganda, distorted facts and opinions masquerading as facts that surround us, we must wonder if we could recognize truth if it jumped up and slapped us in the face.

Even at the most personal level we have come to believe that "white lies" are acceptable in certain situations in order to be tactful or polite. Women apparently don't want to know the truth about their new dress or weight gain or hair style any more than men want to know about their personalities, their neatness or their future job prospects.

Do we deserve the truth?

Do you deserve the truth from others? Do you want the truth?

Do you tell the truth at all times? If not, you have no right to expect it from others. And--count on it--you won't get the truth from them.

In a world where everyone's wrong, it's hard to know who or what might be right.

Let's start a revolution. Let begin telling the truth, as best we can, as best we know it. Like the domino effect of people smiling at each other--very effective, by the way, as lots of research shows--we may find others doing the same.

Imagine a world where you could trust others to tell the truth. Imagine being able to believe what you heard or read. It could happen.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to begin programs of truth-telling with the children they teach so that they will grow into a world they can trust.
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anger's Terms Of Endearment

Two things a man should never be angry at: what he can help, and what he cannot help.
- Thomas Fuller

First of all, this quote deals with the management of anger, one of the strongest human emotions. Fuller implies that we can either control it or let it run loose. He suggests that if we want to control it we need to understand the root of the anger and whether the investment of emotional energy that anger requires is worth the investment.

In general, anger expressed is never worth the investment of emotional energy it requires. Furthermore, it tends to do more harm to the angry person than to the object of the outburst. It never does any good over the long term.

Mostly we don't realize how much harm anger can do to us. Anger, especially when held as a grudge over a long period of time, can depress the immune system, opening the possibility for organ failure or disease. That's pretty serious, especially as it's a form of self harm.

Even in a short term bout of anger, the immune system takes a sharp downward spike so that during the period of anger the angry person may have little or no defence against attack by rogue bacteria or viruses. While an angry person is shaking a clenched fist at or giving the finger to someone who has given offence, serious trouble may be brewing inside his own body. And he will know nothing about it, until tragedy strikes and a doctor gives the bad news.

There is no point in getting angry at something you can help because if you can do something about it, you should do it and get on with your life. No problem getts better become someone gets angry about it.

If you can't help the problem, there is no point in getting angry because no one else can help you with it either. Sometimes life sucks, but it's just like hitting a pothole in the road with a wheel of your car, you drive on and forget about it.

Why do we even have the emotion we call anger? If it's so self destructive, how did it even evolve and why don't we evolve it out of ourselves?

Evolution is taking place within our species now. We are in the midst of evolutionary progress whereby the female vagina is moving from access from the rear to access only from the front. Slightly more than half of today's women lack a clitoris. And around 35 percent of us never develop wisdom teeth. These changes simply happen so slowly that we don't notice.

We could evolve anger out of our species, but that would mean giving up one of the most critical responses to danger, the fight or flight response. Anger is nothing more than the fight or flight response extended over a longer period of time.

The fight or flight response allows us to quickly evaluate a potentially dangerous situation, then choose to deal with it (fight, in a loose sense of the word) or get out of the way (flight). If we are crossing a road and suddenly see a bus bearing down on us, it wouldn't be wise for us to have to weight all of the options as to how to respond to the situation, requiring a brain process that takes far too much time for our own safety.

With the fight or flight response, a heavy dose of epinephrine (better known by its trade name Adrenalin) races through our bloodstream, making our nerves and muscles almost instantly ready to respond to whatever the brain decides we should do--tackle the matter in a confrontation or get out of the way. As humans rarely win confrontations with buses, we need almost instant response to save our life.

That same surge of epinephrine goes through someone who is in the process of getting angry. Some people can go from calm to full blown anger in the same time it takes a Porsche to go from zero to 60 mph. Unfortunately, that is when the brain process of evaluating a situation to determine the best possible course of action, the one that takes much longer than fight or flight, should kick in. For some, it doesn't.

For others, it does. We have experienced, either by being personally involved or by being onlookers to others in situations, the danger of emotionally violent responses that end up with hurt, regret and repentance later. So we have conditioned ourselves to make that longer brain process kick in instead of the fight or flight response that produces anger.

That's a matter of rigid training or of personal discipline of the self.

Road rage is an obvious example of people who take the stupid behaviour of someone too personally (it's rarely intended to be taken as offence) and allow their fight or flight response to take over. The "fight" part dominates and the person exhibits some form of rage, often an illegal behaviour, but he doesn't consider that at the time because he doesn't have time to think about it.

Implicit in Thomas Fuller's advice is that we should think, thoroughly and clearly, when a situation presents itself that could develop an anger response. Not only is it wise to avoid doing harm to our own health, it's not smart to ruin relationships or break the law in a bout of anger.

Anger is within our own control. All it takes is practice and some self discipline.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to teach their children important life lessons, such as how to avoid doing harm through anger and how to master their emotions.
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