Monday, July 28, 2008

We Need Better Lightning Bolts

It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning.
- Bill Watterson, comic strip artist (1958- ), in his comic strip Calvin & Hobbes

If only...

Those who claim that organized religion is on the wane may be correct. A few key reasons come to mind.

First, religion is supposed to benefit the individual believer, yet it more often benefits the leaders of the various segments within each religion. Religion benefits the leaders more than the individual followers.

Second, historically as well as at the present time clerics have been widely known to be among the worst violators of the sins their religions speak against in commandments.

Third, the massive expansion of media coverage of violations of the law among religious leaders among religious leaders has made following some of them like belonging to an organized crime family.

We must be suspicious of any religious leader who claims that what we do on earth is supposed to be solely to please God. While most of us want to be cooperative and follow religious and moral rules, we must question what kind of God had to create humans to be his servants and slaves. Does this sound like the beautiful and beneficent God our clerics tell us about?

Why did God give us free choice so that we could violate what he wanted of us? Isn't that like a master-slave relationship where the master gives the slaves free reign to do what they want, then punishes them with eternal damnation if they do anything other than what they have been commanded to do? That doesn't even make sense.

Clerics have over the centuries attributed every bit of misfortune to breaking of God's commandments, resulting in everything from fires and floods to AIDS, bankruptcies and divorce. Enough people believe this nonsense that the rumour mill keeps churning behind the scenes even when the real causes and sources for natural disasters and personal misfortune can be proven.

It's God's way of paying people back for their sins, say some. But isn't that what the hell they threaten us with is for? Either we should be punished here on earth so that we can all go to heaven cleansed or we should have free reign here and pay for our sins eternally after we die. If we get punished both here on earth and in hell, isn't that double jeopardy?

If the strongly religious people truly believe that their God is all-powerful and will punish sinners accordingly after they die, why do the self-righteous want to punish people here on earth? Are they concerned that God might miss a sinner? Or do they have God-envy?

Let's look at the self-designated upright pillars of society in a different light. If we examine their behaviour carefully, ignoring their message while focussing on what they do, they are really closet bigots. In fact, the self-righteous may be the most prejudiced people we have in our communities. They ignore that part of their holy book that says "Judge not that ye be not judged." They tend to be the most judgmental people we have in our societies. Yet prejudice, they claim, is a sin. One for which they personally have no intention of paying any penalty.

On the surface, every religion is designed to help guide an individual through a complex and confusing life. In practice, most organized religions are tax collecting agencies who want to control the behaviour of their taxpayers so that they will give more.

If God is ashamed of anyone in our society, he could find no better objectives than the highly religious.

Every religion has good at its core. Every religion goes corrupt over time. Every religion has people who profit from donations and who know how to maximize them for their own benefit. Every religion has people whose prime objective is to bend the minds of the followers to do their will.

That's what religions do. Not what they say they do, which is quite different, often quite the opposite.

Attendance at religious services is declining in most parts of the world where people are well educated. Not because the core of religion is at fault--because it isn't--but because educated people understand fraud and choose to avoid it.

This doesn't mean that belief in any doctrine is disappearing. I suspect the opposite. I think that we have more people who believe in what the core of the religion they were born into teaches while attendance at places of worship declines. Of course there will always be places where charismatic speakers can charm large audiences. We also have advertising that sells product well and politicians who can get themselves elected by making all kinds of promises they have no intention of fulfilling once elected. It's hype. It works. It brings in money.

I find it ironic that I have never met an atheist who is anything other than a good person who tries to do his or her best for their family and their community. What they don't believe in is the false gods that organized religions use to manipulate the minds of their followers. Most haven't yet figured out how to find the real God.

The more self-righteous among us rail against false gods. Maybe they should look into a mirror.

Where are those lightning bolts when we need them?

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 can tell truth from fiction, what is worthy from what is deceptive, what is real from what is devised by the greedy for their fraudulent purposes.
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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Secret Law of Abundance

The secret of the law of abundance is this: In order to receive and appreciate the good things of life, you must first give.
- Norman Vincent Peale, inspirational writer and speaker (1898-1993)

I confess that I have never heard of the "law of abundance" other than in this quote. The number of citations on Google is so great I conclude that many authors and speakers have used it for their own particular objectives, to lend greater credence to their arguments. The fact that Dr. Peale calls this law "secret" is nothing more than hyperbole.

However, the weakening of the first part of the quote takes nothing away from the second and more significant part. " In order to receive and appreciate the good things of life, you must first give."

This sounds counterproductive to anyone who was raised in a strongly capitalist society, where "Pay yourself first" is the prime rule for entrepreneurs and "Take as much as you can get" is the general rule for both business and personal lives.

Surely it doesn't make sense to give away what you have earned in order to get more of "the good things of life." That's true. At least it's true if you believe that the most important things in life--the "good things"--are either money or what can be bought with money.

Can money buy happiness? This debate has been ongoing for so long that it bores most people. No, many people say, but I'd like to suffer with more of that kind of unhappiness.

Does tickling a child make that kid happy? Does laughter alone give evidence of happiness? The feeling we get when someone tickles us comes from the same source as pain, from the same nerves, along the same pathways. Tickling and pain are essentially the same sensation, only pain is felt with greater intensity. If tickling and pain come from the same source, then the laughter from tickling by someone cannot be misconstrued as happiness. Happiness and pain/tickling must be different.

The joy people have from getting money, from keeping money and from spending money are all like tickling. They are all transient, all insubstantial, all subject to change in a flash. As with the sensation from tickling, the joy of money stops in a flash when the motivation stops.

A close friend expressed grief to me recently, explaining how much his "nest egg" investments in the stock markets had dropped so much in value as a result of the recession in the US. Not a single other factor in his life has changed except for the current value of his investments, but he has lost sleep over it. The fact that history shows that stock markets always recover and move to greater values means nothing to him because the value of his stocks today is much lower than it was a year ago. The tickle he felt a year ago has become his pain of today.

That's not happiness. Nor should it rightly be considered worthy of unhappiness, pain or grief.

Money is no more one of the good things in life than the shirt you are wearing right now. You might miss your shirt if you lost it or it wore out, but you know that you can get another. You can always make arrangements to get more money as well, though it might take longer than buying a new shirt.

Dr. Peale said that "you must first give." That involves at least one person other than yourself. Giving to yourself is like emotional masturbation. You must give to others in order to receive and appreciate the good things of life. We even enjoy sex more when we work to make it more enjoyable for the other person. That benefit takes thought and effort, but it shouldn't cost money.

No one understands why the "law of abundance" works this way--give in order to receive more in return. It likely has something to do with our fundamental nature as social creatures. We must need each other and depend on each other to feel secure, even though logically it would seem that someone who doesn't need anyone else should be more secure. Those who feel the most secure need at least one other person, depend on at least one other person and strive to meet the needs of at least one other person.

They are happy when others around them are happy, have been made happy by something they have done themselves. That happiness returns to them, with interest.

The more we work to make others happy--not with money or what it will buy, but with love and effort--the more happy the others will be and the happier we will be in return.

The Christian Bible says "Give and ye shall receive." Now you know why. Though places of worship want money, what the Bible wants you to give is love. Give love and you will receive love in return.

No, you can't count that kind of love. But you don't have to pay tax on it either. It has no real value in monetary terms.

Have you given love in the past, but not had it return to you by the one you loved? It's highly likely that the other person was so steeped in the value of money that he or she couldn't understand the value of love. That's not your fault. Find someone else who does value the love and the happiness you have to give.

For those who believe in the value of money as the value of life, every relationship is a business relationship. Business relationships come and go based on the value that each party offers constantly and uninterruptedly to the other. That's the core of the throwaway economy.

Love should not be thrown away. True love cannot be thrown away, but business love is disposable.

Find someone who can appreciate and enjoy what you have to give of yourself. You will find it comes back to you. Over time, that joy and appreciation will increase if both parties understand and work at what Dr. Peale calls the law of abundance.

Love thy neighbour as thyself. Sound familiar? Christians will recognize it as the prime commandment of Jesus. But the same advice exists in every religion, even if the words differ slightly.

Give and you will receive. But you must give first and you must give freely, not depending on what you will receive in return. If you are looking for return, you are basing your love on the business model of love. The easy come, easy go, disposable kind.

Real love makes you feel superhuman. The best the business kind of love can make you feel is powerful. Real love helps you to understand why so many people in every culture of the world believe that there is more to existence than these body vessels we inhabit during our lifetimes. The business kind of lovers will never understand, never appreciate, never enjoy the real good things of life, either here or in some future existence.

But they may appreciate a good tickle.

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 can understand and appreciate the real good things of life, not just what they learn in school.
Learn more at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Bad Will The Future Really Be?

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, nicknamed "the wise" Roman Emperor, (121 CE - 180 CE)

An emperor of Rome, indeed the leader of any country up to modern times, would need to be sanguine about the future because the chances of his having his head detached from the rest of his body before that body was worn out stood exceedingly high.

What about old Julius? He certainly couldn't have used all of his weapons of reason when he allowed his formerly trusted ally Brutus and his gang to slay him. Actually, he likely did. To the best of his ability.

Julius was a very ill man, suffering from a great deal of pain and loss of his abilities of perception due to disease at the time of his death. It's entirely possible that he did the equivalent of falling on his sword, just to put himself out of misery. He knew he was too sick to rule Rome, to give it his best. Yet his honour forbade him from committing suicide, even if it be for the good of Rome. It's highly likely that he knew what was about to happen when he met privately with his "enemies."

In other words, we now know that Julius Caesar likely used the best of his mental faculties to do what was best for both himself and for Rome. History hasn't recorded the event of his death that way, but history has a way of relating what its teller wants to the story to be.

Marcus Aurelius must also have used his abundant mental faculties during his almost two decades as emperor of Rome (actually king, as Rome did not call anyone an emperor). His reign was the ultimate example of Pax Romana and his death brought turmoil as to who should lead the greatest empire the world had known until then (later the British Empire was greatest in history, covering one-quarter of our planet's surface at one time).

Though Christians were still persecuted in his time in theory, in practice they seldom were. Rome (undoubtedly a brutal regime in many ways, though hardly the worst in history) really was fairly peaceful during Marcus's reign. It would have required considerable weapons of reason to make peace so effectively that the period was given its own name.

So we turn to ourselves. Every media outlet in the western world and most in other parts of the world report almost daily about how bad conditions are in the world. I have heard many young people from North America say that they don't plan to have children because the world is just getting worse and they couldn't in all good conscience bring children into such tragedy.
The world must be getting worse, just listen to our media tell us. But it's not so.

No point in history has ever been so peaceful, with such a great percentage of people living long lives, healthier than their ancestors, in human history. The media always tell us that the world is a terrible place and leave us to conclude that the future will surely be worse. Neither is true.

Even during the dreaded Holocaust, when millions of Jews, cripples, people with much lower than average intelligence and people who simply pissed off the Germans were being exterminated, good things were happening elsewhere in the world. In the west, women who worked necessary jobs in factories earned a decent living and started a movement for equal rights for women that is still going on today. The Jews that survived got a country of their own a few years after the war, something they had not been able to accomplish for themselves for the previous 3000 years. The powers of the world came together as never before to defeat evil.

Just as Marcus Aurelius said that we will face the future as it comes to us with the same weapons of reason that we use today, we must use the weapons of reason we have available to us today. Or we will make the world a worse place to live, unsafe, unhealthy, unlivable for our children and grandchildren.

Our weapons of reason that help us to cope with today must make us realize that good things are happening in the world each day, even we if don't read about them. We must reason that just because our media report almost exclusively bad news does not mean that the world itself is getting worse. They just report what many people want to hear. Paris Hilton makes the news when she sneezes (and maybe her dress has a "wardrobe malfunction"), but we hear nothing about the millions of good people around the world and in our own communities who are doing good deeds and making good things happen every day.

It's important that we heed Marcus Aurelius's advice about the future. It won't be as bad as the fear mongers want us to believe (they make their living scaring people, remember, rather than getting "real" jobs). And the present isn't as bad as almost every source of information we have make it out to be.

We need to use our weapons of reason every day of our life, not just about the future. The more we refuse to find out information about what is really going on in the world and decline to use our powers of reason when we learn it, the worse the world will become and the worse our own lives will become.

Not learning and not thinking is what will make the world really worse. Bad guys can easily manipulate the thinking and voting of people who are ignorant and who don't want to think for themselves, who depend on others to think and to tell them what to think and believe.

We have the power within us, even those of us with the poorest of education and the most dire of backgrounds. It doesn't cost a thing to use it. We just have to try.

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 can think for themselves about subjects other than the limited ones taught in schools.
Learn more at

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Night The Moon Will Appear Square

Those who understand only what can be explained understand very little.
- Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Austrian writer of psychological novels (1830-1916)

We live in a world molded to a great extent by both science and economics. They don't control our moment to moment existence, but they form the framework around which we tend to build our belief system.

For example, science creates a drug and physicians (some of whom derive a commission by prescribing that drug) prescribe it, while the patients accept that taking the prescribed drug must be necessary as the only way to heal because a respected professional recommended it. We believe because we trust the source, or think we must.

Almost every major newscast on radio and television includes a stock market report even though its content bears extremely little on everyone but a few who may be listening. However, many listeners will believe that the rise or fall of the share price for Microsoft or Exxon has some magical effect on something that influences their lives, somewhere.

Scientists and economists, indeed all people in the traditional professions, work with factors they can understand and manipulate (or could if they had the power). The scientific method (hypothesis, testing, conclusion) depends on the users having factors they understand and can work with ("massage" in the case of economists). What they don't understand, they can't manipulate, thus isn't important.

That extends to what isn't important to them--as they have so much influence on our lives--being considered as non-existent or unimportant to us. In fact, some people claim the inability to prove the existence of God using scientific method as evidence, even as proof, that God does not exist.

That thinking is an easy sell for people who believe that science has the answers (proofs) and for those who understand just how much fraud has been perpetrated on simple minded people over the past millennia of human history.

Just as the fact that because someone robbed a bank means that banks are unsafe places to save our money cannot be accepted as valid by most people, the perpetration of fraudulent "facts" and imagined history on people who will not take the trouble to investigate for themselves should not make anyone believe that God does not exist. Even if science searches for evidence of God, but in places where God has no interest, though people have made fantastic claims about God working in these ways, that does not prove that God does not exist.

The article is not about the existence of God, but about how easily people's minds and belief sets can be influenced by convincing arguments made by determined people.

If I were to tell you that our moon will appear as a square rather than as its usual disk on August 1, a considerable number of people would make a point of checking out the sky on that date.
Because they believe the moon will appear square? No, because they believe me as someone with authority on one subject, so I might have expertise in another. How many predictions of Armageddon go unfulfilled each year around the world, despite the fact that many people prepared for the Final Event in each case?

In the investment business there is a saying that "If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is." That should apply to what we believe as well.

Asking followers to "just believe" or to "have faith" that something that sounds unbelievable is real or true should be a tipoff that a fraud is in progress. Or at least a distortion of reality. Though there are many examples of this in religions, more happen every day in television commercials, in unsolicited mail in our mail boxes and email inboxes, even in movie promos that precede the feature we went to watch.

Those who understand only what can be explained not only understand very little, as our Austrian writer stated, it's more important for us to know that they may not be capable of understanding more than they can manipulate in their minds. They form beliefs based on what they can and cannot manipulate with their minds.

Let's take a common example that has been foisted on us for decades. Science fiction movies have made us believe that if "aliens" came to earth from a distant planet, they would almost certainly want to harm us, to obliterate us. According to these movies, the only viable action we should take is to destroy them as soon and as completely as possible.

Other movies have humans travelling through space to other planets and approaching them in peace, with the objectives to make contact, to share and to help them if we can.

Apparently in the movie business only humans are civilized enough to travel with peaceful intentions. Peace, just like here on earth, right?

Those two possible scenarios have been repeated dozens of times in movies, even though together they are not just hypocritical, they are absurd. Yet one of our major forms of entertainment perpetrates this absurdity on us again and again. We go in peace, everyone else comes to destroy us. We find enemies not just on earth, but we invent them in space.

If Moses or Jesus of Nazareth or the great prophet of Islam were to return to earth today, how long would they last before they were killed in some manner or another? Half the people alive in the world today purport to believe in these people and to follow their ways and their words (which differ very little, except in ritual). You can be certain that one of the "believers" would be the murderer, not someone who doesn't believe in that person in the first place.

Do we really believe that peace is possible in the world? Our media don't present us that way. Should the real heroes not be those who can bring peace where none existed before, not those who can defeat one invented enemy after another? Which is the greater accomplishment, bringing peace or making war? Heroes should save lives, not destroy them.

If we will ever make sense of a world that is trying to twist our minds into knots, we need to teach children how to think critically and to not be bamboozled by frauds, charlatans and propagandists. We could never teach the older ones, the adults, because they already believe what they have been told to believe.

Beliefs are at the centre of the life of every human. Everyone accepts that we need to teach beliefs to children. I propose that we need to teach how to distinguish among that fraudulent claims made by many people and many sources about what we should believe. The only way that could succeed would be to teach children before their minds get tangled, twisted, molded.

That change would not be hard to enact. But we can't expect schools to change themselves because teachers get paid to teach what is on the curriculum and teachers rarely have the final say about what goes on the curriculum.

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 grow children who can avoid becoming automatons, products of corporate interests.
Learn more at

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You Were Inevitable

"Life only starts to make sense when you realize that sometimes--often all the time--two completely contradictory ideas can be true.Everything that led up to you was wrong. Therefore, you should not have been born.But everything about you is right: You had to be born.You were inevitable."
- Jonathan Coe, The Rain Before it Falls, Viking (U.K.), 2007

Perhaps the most inspiring words I have ever read.

Jonathan Coe's multi-generational narrative takes the reader through decades of grievous family history, where everything including abandonment, emotional abuse and the beating of a child that blinded her points to a cold, dire, sometimes brutal existence for the recent descendants. Yet the blinded girl had to be born and grew up to be happy and fulfilled, according to the narrator of the story.

But, That's me, I thought. And it could be you.

Maybe the terrible family history and problems you had to face in your life prepared you for the total person you are today.

You are not the tragedies of the past in your life, nor the calamities that befell your family before you came along. You were the product of them, yes, but you came through them.

To the average person, the rock that will one day become a beautiful sculpture is nothing but a rough, crass chunk of space debris. To a sculptor, the rock is the protection that has surrounded the beauty he will soon reveal from within, for eons. Somehow or another, the rock clothing that surrounded you has been chipped and drilled away to reveal something beautiful. Something beautiful that is you.

If you identify yourself as being the product of a troubled past, you will act the role of the troubled person of the present waiting for something else to go wrong to destroy your life. If you see yourself as the beautiful creation you have become, you will be a different person.

You are not your past, nor the inheritor of the troubled history of your family. You are who you are. Not only are most of your ancestors not alive today, not even you can live in your own past. You are who you are today, no matter what happened in the past.

Your past is no more real today than the genocides of Hitler, the agonies of The Great War to End All Wars or Joan of Arc tied to the stake. Today is today. It can only be today. The past brought you to where you are today, but it does not force you to be its victim.

You were inevitable.

If you want to make yourself useful to the world, make it better for someone. The more people whose today you improve, the more likely they are to pay the favour forward.

The world improves not by those who destroy, but by those who create and improve in preparation for the future. Generally speaking, your life is better than the lives of any ancestor in your past. If it doesn't seem that way, then maybe you aren't looking at what is right and good.

When you see what is right and good in your life, pass it on. You don't know how much better the future can be for your descendants. But you can try to do what is right and good for them.

Teach right. Teach good. Teach peace. (What I call the Philosophy of T3)

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 grow into a better world that they will help to create. You can help to prepare them.
Learn more at

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why You Lost At Love

In real love you want the other person's good. In romantic love, you want the other person.
- Margaret Anderson

In one line we have a summary of the difference between two very important kinds of love in our life.

With romantic love, we want something from the other person, something incoming from the other person (whom we desire) for ourselves. With real love, we want the best of ourselves outgoing to the one we love. By "the other person's good" Anderson means the welfare of the other person.

Can the two exist within one person, between two people? It's possible and many claim to have succeeded, but the feat is so difficult as to be highly unlikely.

Romantic love is a hormonal attraction, a primal instinct we have to spread our genetic material (DNA) to future generations, though this gets sidetracked by birth control methods and with same-sex relationships. The feelings are there even if the objective is something other than having babies.

Romantic love usually lasts from two months to eight months, though exceptions see it lasting two years or longer in rare cases. Romantic love is very energy demanding. As with mating rituals of other species, romantic love with humans requires great production of hormones and huge demands on the metabolism, which over a long term could negatively impact the immune system. In other words, romance is hard work on the body.

Real love, as Anderson calls it, requires commitment, which involves a very different set of requirements on the body, specifically on the brain. Interestingly, Margaret Anderson's real loves were of others of the same gender as her. Her romantic loves, if she had any even with other women, would have been brief and relatively insignificant to her compared with her real loves, two women with whom she shared her life (monogamously) for many years (one was the widow of the great tenor Enrico Caruso).

It would be very hard to have your own best interests at heart (romantic love) and the best interests of the love of your life at heart (real love) simultaneously. The push-pull would tear a person apart emotionally.

Why do so many relationships end in heartbreak and divorce? When the romantic period ended, the two people were not prepared to give more of themselves when they had got used to receiving from the other. Heartbreak occurs when the romantic period ends for one party while it still continues in the other.

In a relationship such as marriage, breakup and divorce brings a slightly different kind of heartbreak. Both kinds of heartbreak, however, involve grieving for the loss of the other. That is, the person with the heartache regrets the loss of what he or she was receiving from the other, not the fact that he or she will not be able to give of themselves to the other any longer.

Heartache, like any other kind of grieving, is both personal and selfish. Few people believe, deep down, in the saying "If you love someone, let them go. If they return, it's love, if they don't, it never was."

Both romantic phases of relationships (or the potential to have one) and real love fail mainly because one or both parties don't know the skills, the requirements and the commitment involved with keeping a relationship going. More romantic relationships never happen because one of the parties is socially ignorant of critically important social skills than because of inadequacies in the looks department. It's hard to fall in love with someone who doesn't know how to be romantic. Men may like to look at dumb blondes, for example, but few want to marry one.

On the other hand, two beautiful people may fall deeply in love, with hormones rushing like the Kentucky Derby, but the relationship may fall apart if one or both lack the skills necessary to keep the non-sexual part of the relationship going.

That often happens with real love too. Couples who "drift apart" don't just develop different interests. One or both lose track of the giving part of the relationship, the part where they both have to constantly have the best interests of the other at heart at all times.

Love, the most powerful emotion we have and the greatest of bonds we can have with another person, is not a simple business. Few people are prepared to love another person who has little idea about what is needed to sustain real love. It would be like allowing someone who has just passed a first aid course to do brain surgery on you. It ain't gonna happen.

In good relationships, people want another person with the same levels of skills and knowledge as themselves. Someone with more knowledge and skills is a bit intimidating. Someone with fewer skills is dull and inept.

In a relationship where the person with the greater knowledge and skills wants it to work, that person must bring the other up to speed or the whole thing will fizzle.

Someone who knows he or she lacks social knowledge and skills about dating, marriage and the whole issue should go to the trouble to read up on the subject. Most of it can be learned from books borrowed from a library. Or by taking a course at a college or private school that may offer it, if one is available (they are scarce). Or by befriending someone who has the skills and pumping that person to give what they know.

There's nothing pretty about ignorance. In any relationship, almost no one wants to have a lover who doesn't know what they are doing. And the odd one who does, I wouldn't trust.

There's no shame in being ignorant about love. The shame is in knowing you are ignorant and doing nothing about it, then blaming others for being so "cold."

In something as important as love, whether it be of the romantic variety or the "real" kind, it pays to find out what you should know before setting out. Otherwise you may as well wear your ignorance on your forehead. Loser!

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teaches who want to grow children who know how to have good, sound relationships because they know what they need to know.
Learn more at

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How We Learn To Love An Unhealthy Lifestyle

As I write this I am experiencing a high level of anxiety brought about by stress from many different sources over a period of several weeks, my present purpose being to convey not my feelings but the effects that stress over a long period of time has on my thinking and decision making. The effects of stress on one person can affect another person similarly, if not identically, thus my experience can be a learning situation for you.

I have experienced depression and its effects in the past, though that was cleared entirely by my taking vitamin D supplements to compensate for the lack of sufficient direct sunlight on my skin to allow my body to create vitamin D on its own. The effects of depression bear striking similarities to the effects of stress/anxiety over a long period of time.

With depression I found that triggers would set off a bout of anger for a period of several minutes (up to an hour), then the emotional energy would dissipate and turn into what most of us would call depression. With stress, the anger comes to stay, varying in degree enough that it could often be called intolerance of the behaviour of others, inability to understand the life situations of others (lack of empathy) or a strong desire to get away from the company of specific people, rather than it being labelled easily as anxiety.

My present anxiety caused by long term stress has not resulted in any thoughts of suicide, which depression has done in the past. While I seek relief from the effects of my anxiety, I do not want to resort to easy solutions such as medication, addictive behaviour or the ultimate easy way out, suicide.

Why should you care? One or more people you know (perhaps many) may exhibit the some similar behaviours as I do right now, for the same causes. You may know nothing about the causes of the people you know or my own because we don't talk about them. We only talk about the effects, the bad behaviour, sometimes our own but usually of others who we think act weird or permanently irritable.

Stress has caused me to lose sleep--a considerable amount over a period of weeks--and this could easily compromise my immune system as well as causing me to exhibit symptoms of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation alone could cause irritability, inability to get along with others and a short fuse on the temper. Coupled with long term anxiety it could result in amplified instances of anger, intolerance, not paying attention to the needs of loved ones, not taking proper care of loved ones due to an egocentric attitude, even a desire to generate conditions which could destroy a close relationship just to have something "happen" to give a person the feeling that he or she is in control of something.

Stress can cause loss of sleep, but the sleep loss effects add to the effects of long term anxiety, rather than simply overlapping them. One doubles up with the other, so to speak.

Now we have causes which could result in such well known behaviours as road rage, office rage, marital arguments, marital incompatibility (real or imagined), disconnects in relationships with a person's own children, lack of interest in sex (at least of the softer, gentler, more loving kind), erectile dysfunction, inability to cope with other personal problems, even turning to addictive behaviours or substances for some form of relief.

Enter drugs, prescribed and otherwise. Prozac is the most prescribed drug in North America. Legal and illegal sales of Viagra and Cialis flourish. As many as 25 percent of people in many communities may have used marijuana or one of its derivatives in the past year.

The rates of divorce in most countries of the West hover around or above 50 percent. Examples of physical and emotional abuse surface frequently. Police must deal with family problems on about one-quarter of their calls in many communities. I don't have statistics to show what effect martial problems could have on other socially unacceptable behaviours, such as fights in bars or even theft from employers.

Where do people who suffer from these problems turn to find socially acceptable help to solve their problems? A family doctor will likely prescribe drugs, which solve nothing, merely cover up symptoms. Some--the lucky ones--get referred to counsellors who specialize in helping people who suffer from anxiety symptoms caused by high stress. Unfortunately, that part of the health care community is so fixed on a steady source of income that treatment may not be the best because it's in the financial best interests of the practitioner to have the professional help last as long as possible.

The whole ethic of teaching children about what they must do to "succeed" in the working world prepares them to face and accept stress and long term anxiety, though not how to cope with them.

We teach kids to not just enter the rat race, but to believe that this is the way life is and should be, and that they should learn to "enjoy it" by making as much money as possible and finding as many "interesting" ways of spending it as they can.

This article cannot present instant cures for complex problems. It can only point to the way that those with a concern for solving those problems should turn.

Treat broken adults one by one and we continue with our present kinds of problems. Teach children how to cope with the lives they will live in the future, as adults, and we change the path of the future for our descendants.

Change is possible if we know what we want to achieve and where to begin that change process.
Teach the children.

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 can cope with their lives as adults better than today's adults can.
Learn more at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's About time

For most of human history since the dawn of the agrarian age (about 12,000 years ago) our ancestors looked outside their homes in the morning, checked the sky and thought OK, I can do this task today (or I can't because the weather's not right). Though they had sundials and clocks existed in some places, most people told the time by the sun, or by the fact that they were hungry. And checking the weather meant looking up.

Today many of us check the weather forecast first thing after we put the morning coffee on, even though the chance of weather preventing us from doing most of the task we want to accomplish in a day is very small. We check the weather as if it might affect our whole future.

Time surrounds us, with clocks in every room and watches on our wrists. Though a few of us can still tell the time of day within a few minutes by the location of the sun, most of us don't have to look up to tell the time because we have checked a clock or our watch within a previous few minutes.

Time is so important to us that we speak of life ticking away, of each succeeding year seeming to be shorter, of our personal schedule (daytimer or PDA) being what keeps us on track to get done everything we have planned. We even have pithy saying such as "Time is money" that encourages us to avoid wasting time.

According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, we use the word "time" more than any other noun in the language. "Year" holds third place, with "day" coming in fifth and "week" seventh.

Although we invented the concept of time (no other living thing uses our system of timekeeping), it's not really a fixed thing. An hour spent waiting in a doctor's waiting room seems endless, whereas an hour spent enjoying the company of a loved one passes like lightning. In one experiment at UCLA, researchers rang a bell after test subjects had sat in silence for 53 seconds. Healthy-brained people thought that 67 seconds had passed, while those who were wired on stimulants such as caffeine thought that 91 seconds had elapsed.

In another experiment, the researchers found that people with a healthy brain who stared at a photo of an angry person for five seconds thought that more time had passed than if they looked at a picture of a neutral face.

Psychology Today reports that nostalgia--remembering times past--may be healthy. Reliving pleasant, happy or exciting events of the past can give our spirits a lift. Loyola University Chicago researchers found that thinking of good memories for 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful and happier than if they think of their present lives. Most people don't indulge in such reverie. They don't have time.

Our media do everything they can to make us unhappy, even depressed about the condition of our lives and the state of the world in present times. Television news almost always reports bad news. Can you remember a newspaper ever reporting that we are living in good times? Newspapers always tell us that some times in the past were better--indeed, were good times--but never that the present times are good and rarely that the future will be better. The media thrive on presenting items that, if taken out of the context of the rest of our lives, would be depressing.

Alas, nostalgia for the good times of the past deceives us. The past was never better, in total. The present is never as bad as it seems, unless we persist in focussing on the negative parts of reality while ignoring the good parts. What we persist in seeing in the present is what we believe is the condition of our life and of the world in the present. If we believe the dark news the media presents, we will believe that the world is getting worse. Despite the evidence that the world today is a much better and healthier place than it has been for humans ever before.

Can we slow down the pace of our life? According to author James Gleick in his book Faster, "The historical record shows that humans have never, ever opted for slower." However, that claim is deceptive. Humans of the past had little option in most cases to slow down the pace of their lives because they spent almost every waking moment trying to earn a living to support a family (or to provide for one at home) and to survive the hardships of life as it was in their time. Today most of us spend time entertaining ourselves, though we claim to not have enough time to do it justice.

Our ancestors, in most cases, could not afford to slow down. We can. Much of the rush of our lives exists because we have adopted so many interests and responsibilities, often more than we can manage comfortably. If we give up those activities and responsibilities we have adopted because we believed someone else's claim that they made life better, more interesting, more worthwhile, we could devote ourselves to actually making our lives more rewarding.

Is it necessary that we commit so much of our life to time-oriented pursuits? We invented time and we invented the belief that time is critically important, that being late is a grievous mismanagement of time, that procrastination is bad and that so much of our time must be filled with doing something that we believe our own creations.

We should each rethink our commitment to a lifestyle oriented around time. We can't avoid some things related to time, such as our jobs. We can consider how devoted we must be to living a lifestyle proposed for us by people who have something to gain (usually a financial one) by having us centre our life around time.

For one thing, getting enough sleep is important to how we view the world and the life we live. So many people deprive themselves of so much sleep over a long period of time that they suffer from some symptoms of sleep deprivation. Those symptoms ensure that we can never be truly happy about our life. Get a good night's sleep every night and the world seems like a much better and more manageable place each morning.

Take the time. If the world and your life looks better as a result, it was worth the investment.

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 have a balanced view of the important things in life, who don't want to provide more entrants for the rat race.
Learn more at

Friday, July 11, 2008

Go Ahead, I Dare you

Everyone confesses that exertion which brings out all the powers of bodyand mind is the best thing for us; but most people do all they can to getrid of it, and as a general rule nobody does much more than circumstancesdrive them to do.
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, abolitionist and novelist (1811-1896)

Checking the dates of birth and death of Harriet Beecher Stowe we can see that what seems to be a condition of modern times has existed for at least well over a century.

In her day, wars were common, more common than today, such that most people experienced at least one war during their lifetimes--usually one per generation--and were either conscripted or volunteered to fight in one. It may have been unhealthy, as war zones then had environments similar to the most polluted cities today. It may have been risky, but young men went to fight for "freedom" or to prevent being attacked by "the enemy," so the risks were deemed worthwhile.

Though they didn't sleep well or eat properly, they got a steady and dependable pay envelope, which was more than could be said at home for many. For young men who didn't want to use their brain much, war offered excitement they couldn't get at home. The average lifespan of men was just over 40 years in those days, so risking their lives for some pretty lively excitement seemed worth it. Even if they died in battle, they would only die a few years younger than the average man in their society.

Today we have young people who would rather die of a drug overdose than do a job that required them to expend physical energy. Even taking drugs itself shows how little they use their brains to learn that both their physical and their mental health could be affected.

Are we naturally lazy or do circumstances drive us to it? As an educator and student of human behaviour, I would have to say the latter is more correct. Only those with physical impairments--many of which go undiagnosed for years--are lackadaisical as children. Those who develop chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia later in life were often not terribly energetic as children, though this has not been studied much.

Most kids are very active both physically and intellectually. Don't two year olds and three year olds have a reputation for asking enough questions to drive their parents to distraction? Asking questions is an indicator of an active mind. Their play tends to be fairly physical in nature at that age, perhaps because they don't have the intellectual development to engage in more mindful pursuits.

Somewhere along the way most people stop asking questions. In fact, it has become so common that it's considered a sign of incompetence in some business communities to ask for help or to ask questions that might annoy or embarrass the boss. If you don't know, at least don't let everyone know you don't know, just shut up, is the rule of thumb.

So we produce a society made up largely of intellectually stunted adults. The thinkers are considered the weirdos, the troublemakers, ones who could possibly be dangerous if given their way.

Intellectually stunted adults who just happen to have a cultural tendency towards obesity, mostly due to the fact that they embrace any activity that requires little physical effort and as little mental effort as possible.

To ensure that the adults produce children with the same preferences, we create a fear of having our children out by themselves where they might learn something other than that prescribed by school and the family. So the kids stay at home, play video games and visit porn sites or chatrooms on the internet, if they aren't participating in some sort of social networking system such as YouTube.

Yet it has become not just the social norm, but social and even legal requirement that kids should be tended by adults all day, every day, such that they can never learn anything not on their required community curriculum. The intellectually and physically lazy adults don't need to teach the kids to be lazy because the kids pick it up from their role models who are required by law and social norms to force their children into social conformity. In so doing they become mentally and physically docile themselves.

Go ahead, dear reader, get angry about this. I dare you. Use your intellect and emotional energy to give me example after example to show that I am wrong.

That would require you to think critically. Are you up for it?

I am. Do it.

Bill AllinTurning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who are not bound to social norms that will make them into fat, lazy, unthinking consumers.
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blaming Is For Losers And Bigots

It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to beunable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong. - G.K. Chesterton, essayist and novelist (1874-1936)

When I first read this quote, I stumbled over the word "bigotry." I didn't associate bigotry with being right or wrong, but with people hurting other people for unjust reasons.

As I reread the quote several times (always wise with Chesterton quotes), I tried to place the situation into context. In what situation could a person not be able to imagine that he had gone wrong?

The answer: when he has found someone else to blame.

In most branches of culture in the West, laying blame on someone else is one of the primary rules taught to children.

"My child didn't do anything wrong, it was the others who did it and blamed him." "My child didn't do anything wrong, it was the teacher who let the others get away with it and my kid got blamed." Then there's a whole litany of examples where father or mother hold the main responsibility for something going wrong, but they repeatedly blame someone else, usually a boss, co-worker, neighbour, family member or someone else they don't want to see succeed.

The "mother" and "father" parts of those blame sessions serve as role models for the children. What kids learn is what their parents do. This lessons is: when something goes wrong, always find someone else to blame.

That's not significantly different for blaming unemployment on immigrants who have come into a country and take jobs that the country's natives would not accept. Including when doctors, judges, architects and professors have to drive taxicabs or work construction jobs because they aren't allowed into the professions that secured their right to immigrate in the first place.

It's not significantly different from blaming people of one particular skin colour for doing what they felt absolutely necessary to do to survive when their underfunded education system didn't give them the skills, attitude and work habits they needed to enter the work force as equals with their peers who happened to be born with more or less skin pigment.

It's not significantly different from advocates of political correctness who take absurd positions on what might be insulting to "others" (whose opinions they never request) and force the majority to bend to their will by using language like a political or religious paintbrush. Or others of their peers who despise changes in language usage from what they were taught in school, as children, even though language constantly changes (a fact they seem not to know or accept).

Self-righteous people are bigots, no matter in what colour of robes they clothe themselves. Every religion has its share, people who want to tell others how to live their lives. People who condemn others for "sins" they may have invented themselves or adopted from other publicly acknowledged prejudicial organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan white supremacists of the past in the USA.

The very people who claim that sinners will go to hell when they die when they are condemned by God want to play God themselves and punish the sinners here and now. They want to punish sinners (or preferably have others punish them) who have not broken laws but who may live by moral codes that differ from their own. Despite what they supposedly believe about God punishing sinners when they die, the bigots want to see anyone who is clearly different punished, preferably before they die. Just to make sure that God doesn't overlook the sinners and let them pass into the same heaven the bigots plant to inhabit themselves.

If the sinners are wrong, these people believe, they should suffer here as well as later. For what are the sinners to blame? They're different. Bigots have no trouble trumping up reasons to condemn those they feel superior to.

To a bigot, fixing is not the focus, blaming is. To a bigot, teaching someone who is clearly at fault for something so that the same problem or error will not happen again is not as important as making someone suffer now for the fact it happened.

We each get to be blamers or teachers. Destroyers or fixers. Spies or mentors. Those between the extremes live relatively meaningless lives, lives that will result in them not being missed when they die.

Like it or not, the blamers, destroyers and spies receive more recognition when they die than the multitude in the middle between the extremes. Hitler blamed the Jews (for just about everything negative he could think of), for example, and look at how many millions of people believed him and wanted to make him emperor of the world. We remember Hitler today.

We also remember The Mahatma, Mohandas K. Gandhi, a man who singlehandedly brought the attention of the world to the atrocities and brutalities that the British were inflicting on their biggest colony, India, resulting in the country's eventual independence. Though many people died at the time of independence of India and Pakistan, no one blamed Gandhi who taught that peace was the only way to effectively change anything. The massive slaughter was based on religious prejudice--Muslims and Hindus blaming each other for their problems--not on what Gandhi achieved through peace.

Strangely enough, most of the good citizens of South Asia accepted that communal violence was wrong, they stopped blaming each other and decided that the only way for the future was to coexist peacefully. They learned, they changed and they live now in peace.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow their children without prejudice, by teaching them what is truly right and wrong.
Learn more at

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Canadian Kid Solves Worldwide Problem

Seventeen year old Daniel Burd, of Waterloo, Ontario (Canada) doesn't care much for plastic grocery bags. Specifically, he doesn't like them when his mom sends him to do some cleaning job and he has to go to the cleaning cupboard where bags of plastic bags tumble onto his head from a shelf above the door.

Unlike most 17 year olds, Daniel did something about the bags other than grouse. His research informed him that about 500 billion plastic bags are made and disposed of each year around the world. While they are recycled into lots of furniture and other handy tools in some places, most of the bags end up in dumps and littering streets, parks and other places where people move about.

Sadly, the billions of plastic bags disposed of each year make their way into the oceans, where animals ingest them and die from various causes, including starvation and asphyxiation. The same fate awaits animals wh0 eat plastic bags that formerly had food in them in parks or forests.

Plastic bags take anywhere from 20 to 1000 years to break down in nature, including landfills where the breakdown time is longest because they are buried with no access to oxygen.

Daniel learned that bacteria can break down plastic bags. So he got some soil from a landfill (dump) and used a chemical that encourages bacterial growth on it. Long story short, he found eventually that two types of bacteria, Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas, worked best for breaking down the plastic.

Eventually he found that the two bacteria could break down 43 percent of the plastic in six weeks if the bacteria were incubated in a sodium acetate solution at human body temperature (that part was just a coincidence).

Daniel made a science project out of his work, then took it from science fair to science fair until he eventually won a Canada-wide science fair recently.

He says he envisions plastic recycling centres--essentially large scale composters--where a community's plastic bags or a city's bags can be broken down at once.

Daniel Burd will continue his research to speed up the process to make total breakdown faster in the future before taking it for patent and marketing his system.

Another great example of thinking outside the, bag.

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 can think creatively and innovatively.
Learn more at

Friday, July 04, 2008

Do You Know Who's Bending Your Mind?

By the age of six the average child will have completed the basic Americaneducation. ... From television, the child will have learned how to pick alock, commit a fairly elaborate bank holdup, prevent wetness all day long,get the laundry twice as white, and kill people with a variety ofsophisticated armaments.
- Russell Baker, columnist and author (b.1925)

Could Baker possibly be right? Is it that easy? Surely making contact with people who could facilitate any of the illegal situations he mentioned would prevent most people from even considering the acts as possibilities.

Children six years old can find people who will sell them marijuana and other drugs, right outside of their schools in some cases.

Anyone who knows how to use the internet can contact someone who will provide them with anything. Of course you, who are reading this, would not likely search for a web site that offers plans to make a dirty bomb, or access to fissionable materials, or war weapons of any description. You don't want those things, so you assume that no one else does either, other than very bad people.

You may even assume that web sites that offer free education within a warm brotherly group of people who will support the joiner every step of the way (perhaps until the person ignites the explosives strapped to his or her chest) are monitored by government agencies somewhere. And they are. Some. But new ones come into existence every day.

No law enforcement agency can act to indict until they gather enough evidence to prosecute the perpetrators and put them behind bars. How often do you hear of that happening? Rarely, if ever? Yet there are dozens of sites waiting to "help" people out there. (A majority of suicide bombers are rural young people who go to the city and find thsemselves lonely, without jobs or friends.)

Russell Baker was only partly right about television being the primary source for "basic American education." What the television also purveys is propaganda (called advertising) designed to help people fall into a dependent lifestyle where they believe they need various kinds of products to make them beautiful or young, or at least to smell good all day long.

Television has nothing on the internet as a source for information and even products that most of us would call totally anti-social.

In general, what we call terrorists gather together into cults based on contacts they make over the internet. Criminals source whatever materials they need without having to see the supplier using the internet. Charitable organizations find people willing to contribute to worthy causes on the internet, though the organizations themselves may be bankers for terrorist organizations.

Organized crime gangs are the source for most of the spam we receive in our email inboxes. Yes, that same spam that takes so much of your time to delete. Yes, including the young girls who are bored and want to talk to lonely men by email: "Here's my email address!" Write so I can learn that yours is a valid address. Yes, the same outfits that send heart wrenching messages with cutesy graphics that ask you to forward it to everyone you know (and, by the way, never remove the email addresses that came with them because those emails call home to the gangs with all those addresses).

Does that mean we should close down the internet entirely and return to a simpler time? It couldn't happen. For one thing, the very organized crime gangs that send the spam and gather personal information have enough money to bribe enough politicians and bureaucrats to prevent the internet from being closed down.

Should we have a new version of the internet that is monitored by authorities to ensure that nothing bad is available to people? A new form of internet is coming, but it won't have those safeguards. The bad guys will cry "invasion of privacy" and "loss of our constitutional freedoms" in the media and in advertising so no future internet will ever be safe. They will get good people they can dupe to do the crying job for them.

I get very little spam on my computer. I could count on my fingers the number of times it gets hit with viruses, spyware or malware. Why? Because I know what to expect from the internet and I avoid the kinds of activities that will cause me grief.

Can everyone's computer be as free of viruses, malware, spam, trojans and disk-destroying codes as mine? Yes. That would require everyone to learn what I know and what others who operate their computers safely on the internet know.

Having everyone know that much requires our education systems to teach this information. It requires parents to encourage school boards to put it in their curriculum. Parents will never know enough and will never be able to keep up with advancements in technology (including rogue computer code) so it would have to be taught in classrooms.

That's not likely to happen either. Our culture teaches us not to take responsibility for anyone but ourselves. And maybe our children, which some do obsessively, making the kids permanently paranoid. Look at the number of people who daily harm their own health with tobacco, drugs, alcohol, lack of exercise and self-adopted stress to see that many people don't even look after their own best interests.

Don't expect those people to help you change school curriculum. Or to change anything.
When was the last time someone consulted you about what should be placed on the curriculum of the schools in your area? Likely never. A few people make decisions like those with very little input from outside, even from politicians.

Find out who makes the major decisions within your local school system, your department or ministry of education. Propose these ideas at political meetings where politicians meet the people, such as before elections. Speak to the leaders of Home and School associations in your area. These people can all work behind the scenes to make changes happen.

Don't go to the head of the local elected school board or the director of the local school system. These people effectively have no influence over curriculum decisions. They will listen to you, then ignore your requests.

Curriculum change is a political issue, not an education issue. If you want change, you must act in a political way. Acting in a reasonable way with well reasoned arguments with the wrong people (those who don't matter) will gain you nothing but frustration.

It doesn't require a revolution to change school curriculum. It requires people to talk about the subject they want changed, and talk and talk until enough people know about the need for change that the decision makers in the back rooms decide it's a good idea.

Change is hard, which is why school curriculum changes very little over long periods of time (though its methods of presentation change). Talking is easy.

So talk. Tell others you talk to to spread the word around as well.

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 won't be naive victims of bad guys who sound really good on the television or over the internet.
Learn more at

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evil Consequences of the Anti-Abortion Movement

Irony? Hypocrisy? Double standard? No term fits the need to describe the situation where a person who believes in the right to life for a zygote a few days old or a fetus a few days older still is prepared to take the life of another who wants to abort it.

Most people who subscribe to the anti-abortion movement do not believe in killing the abortion doctor and cases of people of this belief killing a woman who has had an abortion are rare. But they are prepared to attach a social stigma to a woman who has had an abortion, one that would last for the lifetime of the woman and even potentially impact the lives of any children she might have in the future.

The anti-abortion or Right To Life movement bases its whole argument against abortion on the emotional issue of morality. They claim it's morally wrong to end the life of a newly conceived human. They claim it's a sin.

They have no problem eating a potato, which had more advanced life within it at the time it was wrenched from the ground than an aborted fetus. For them, killing a potato is not a moral issue, aborting a human life is. Killing one form of life, they say, is a sin, whereas killing another is quite acceptable. Perhaps because they stand to gain personally from the nutrition gained by eating the potato.

Bacteria, billions of which live within our bodies and help us hold onto the very fabric of our life and without which what we think of as life could not exist, benefit from the disposal of an aborted fetus. Starving existing bacteria and preventing the multiplication of bacterial life forms that would follow the eating of the aborted fetus are not issue for them. For anti-abortionists, that kind of killing is not on their radar. Maybe because they are the ones doing it.

For the Right To Life folks, the human form of life is far more important than any other life form. This may seen natural because the Right To Life people are humans. They have a vested interest in the survival and increase in number of their kind, as explained by evolution theory.

The problem--at its foundation--is that morality is based entirely on emotion. Though humans make claims based on morality they say came to them from God, God remains silent on the issue to everyone except the believers. Those believers, in most cases, belong to a form of religion. All religions, as a close examination of any of them readily reveals, were creations of humankind.

No evidence exists that any religion is supported by God. No evidence exists that any religion ever began with God as its foundation, despite the fact that hundreds of religions in the world today claim exactly that. In every religion, one or a very small number of people claim that God has given them direction. That claim cannot be reproduced by others not of the religion, nor has it been reproduced by other members of the same religion that made the claim.

God, they say, is for everyone. But God only speaks directly to one or a very few who claim they have a special relationship with him. The hypocrisy of that never seems to dawn on the believers.

Morality is a human creation, directly related to attempts by religions to influence the character and behaviour of their followers and others who are not of their belief set.

Morality is based on emotion. As scientist and author Carl Sagan said, "Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves." Or, in the case of religions that ask their followers to believe while providing no evidence to support their claims or making their God accessible to every believer, we allow ourselves to be fooled.

Abortion is an ethical issue, not a moral one. The difference is that ethical issues allow everyone to participate in the careful scrutiny of evidence and arguments in order to winnow out a conclusion or opinions, whereas moral issues are solved merely by having the leader or a religion make a statement and make it dogma for the followers of that religion. Believers of a religion are asked to believe the dictates of its dogma as well, its moral code.

Moralists claim that the abortion doctor and the woman who allows herself to be aborted are sinners and life-takers. They believe that because that is what they have been taught by the perpetrators of the morality plot.

The aborted life, they claim, has a right to life. What kind of life, they never allow to become an issue or to come under examination.

A woman aborts because she believes that she cannot provide the necessities of life to her future child. Those necessities do not include just food and shelter, as the anti-abortionists say they could be provided through social assistance. The anti-abortionists are prepared to increase the socio-economic class we know as poverty immensely by preventing newly conceived lives from being snuffed. Look at the people who are mired in poverty today and you will find families led by single mothers well represented.

Setting aside the issue of increasing the rate of poverty by disallowing abortions, let's look at the lives of the children who would be allowed to live if abortion were prevented. The children are at the heart of the abortion issue, though the Right to Life people never seem to want it to be discussed.

A child raised by a mother and/or father who doesn't want it. A child raised by a mother or father who has almost no information, knowledge or skills in parenting. A child raised by a parent who may well be scared to death of the child because he or she doesn't know what to do with it. A child raised by a parent whose only source of income is the welfare of the state. Usually the parent cannot provide the lessons of life the child needs because the parent has not experienced or learned them herself, or himself.

Everyone agrees that women who get pregnant when they don't want a child made a mistake. A mistake should not be multiplied into a living hell for a child who was raised by a parent who does not have the tools or the skills or the finances to provide full parenting to it. All because moralists insist that the mother must pay for her mistake. Must the child suffer for a lifetime as well?

My parents wanted me. It was what they had been taught young adults should do, get married and have children. However, my parents had no idea about parenting skills. I never played with another child until I was six years old. My parents never played with me themselves because they didn't know how. When I was around three, my father told my mother than I may be mentally deranged because I had invented a fictional character to play with. That character was a cow I kept behind the dining room door.

I lived in a rural area, a farming area where cattle were the most plentiful form of life I saw in the few times I was taken in the family car for some visit to town. I saw children the odd time, not usually. But the children I saw were playing. As I had no concept of what playing was, I could not create a fictional child friend. A fictional cow friend was the best I could do. The best I knew how to do.

I was also never read to, never included in an adult conversation, never included in a parent-child conversation because none ever happened. I was a prisoner of life. My parents loved me, I guess. But they didn't know how to show that love, so I couldn't be sure. They weren't mean to me, except when they almost starved me because they insisted upon leaving me at the kitchen table because I could not and would not eat canned corn and I chose to starve instead. I detested corn, while my father loved it, so he could not understand why his child should not be forced to eat it.

I grew up in a family where I was wanted, but my parents had no parenting skills. I can honestly say that it took me 60 years to recover from my first six years with no parenting and no contact with other children. Many unwanted children of today may not recover.

I didn't become a criminal, though my background provided me with the potential for it. I considered it as an occupation at one time, but chose against it. Not because my parents talked me out of it, because they never gave me parent-to-child advice. I chose not to be a criminal because I didn't know how and didn't have the mentor to show me. There was no right-wrong decision made, just a utilitarian one based on the cold hard facts: I had no way to learn how to be a competent criminal.

Almost every criminal behind bars today can be shown to be and have been in their formative years backward or slow in both social and emotional development, the same problems I had growing up and in my first few decades as an adult. Almost everyone who takes Prozac, other mood altering prescriptions drugs, illegal drugs or an excess of alcohol on a regular basis can be shown to have deficiencies in their social or emotional development (often both).

Somehow, I missed all that. I was lucky in that way. But I lived for most of my life in a kind of prison that someone who has not experienced it could never understand. I was not a real person. Not real enough.

That is the kind of life that anti-abortionists would create for far more people than live it today, if abortion were banned and unwanted children or children born to parents who lack parenting skills and sufficient financial means to raise them adequately were allowed to happen. They could have social or psychological problems. They could have axes to grind.

The effects on the health care and social services systems of people with social and emotional deficiencies or malformations in our communities is so staggeringly large that it may not even be possible to calculate it. The consequences of having these people in positions where they can influence political decisions such as those relating to war or capital punishment is unknowable. The imagination allows us to consider how our society has been influenced by people who grew up in families where they did not receive proper assistance with their social and emotional development. Few do that because it's uncomfortable.

Where a political decision could affect whether or not people with low levels of intelligence are born and allowed to be supported for their lifetimes by the social systems of our communities, the decision is somehow clear. Where children will be born into families that don't want them, can't support them financially, do not have the parenting skills to raise them properly and that will condemn them to a life of incompleteness and social and emotional ineptitude, the decision seems to be made harder by those whose investment in the abortion issue is purely emotional. Emotional. Let every child conceived live, no matter what the consequences.

All it takes to become a parent is the ability and circumstance to have sex with someone of the opposite gender. For those who oppose abortion, that too is sufficient background for them to raise the children that result from those few moments of hormonal excitement.

Each of us must consider the ethics of this issue. However, as someone who spent 60 years learning how to be a child, learning what an adolescent of 16 should know but having agonized with the lack of skills and knowledge for so long, the morality of bringing an unwanted child into the world is clear to me.

Now consider what I passed along to my children, and they will pass along to their own kids. Knowing nothing about what a child should learn and what a parent should do while I was raising my own kids, I will tell you and they would tell you that I failed them badly. However, that confession doesn't make them better parents. We do not even have the social structure in our society to provide them with what they need to know as parents. Why I lacked in knowledge, they will lack as parents as well.

The question surrounding abortion should not be whether or not a conceived fetus should be allowed to have life. The question should be what kind of life they would have if they were allowed to be born. Not good.

In the courts, ignorance of the law is not accepted as an excuse for violating that law. In life, ignorance of parenting skills and child development is accepted as sufficient reason to let a child be born and raised in a social and emotional prison.

The same people who cry that science must never be allowed to produce cloned babies or to use genetic manipulation to produce children of superior skills or intelligence will happily and eagerly permit young adults who are ignorant of parenting skills to raise children who may be socially and emotionally defective or underdeveloped for life.

The existence or non-existence of life is not the critical issue surrounding abortion. The most important criteria have to do with the quality of life to which unwanted children would be subjected.

That is cruelty as egregious as genocide or murder. That is inhumane treatment of our fellow humans.

From a morality standpoint, abortion--a one-time event--is the main issue. Ethically, preventing abortions of unwanted children is an issue that extends over many lifetimes and generations.

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 are socially and emotionally developed as much as they are intellectually and physically developed.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

If Sex Is So Great, Why Does It Screw Up So Many Lives?

Where we have strong emotions, we're liable to fool ourselves.
- Carl Sagan, American author and scientist (1934-1996)

Let's deal with the most obvious example of the truth of this quote, marriage.

In most western countries, the rate of failed marriages (as determined by the rate of divorce) hovers around or above fifty percent. That means that at least half of the people who entered the ceremony believing that they were deliriously happy because they had found their soulmate for life were wrong. What they found was beautiful romance which lasted about as long as most romantic relationships, from two to eight months.

Why the huge failure rate? We humans are built for two fundamental kinds of relationships.

Romance worked well for our prehistoric ancestors because it allowed them to find the mates that would produce their children. The other kind was more akin to friendship, a healthy and lasting kind whereby a man and a woman would raise a collection of children, most of which were the direct descendants of one or both of them.

This worked well in tribal conditions where mating happened frequently between various combinations of couples. It wasn't important to the tribe who birthed the children once they were there, it was important that the whole village or band contributed to the raising of them. Having everyone take an interest in raising the children meant that the kids would have built into them the values of the community.

Prisons were non-existent. If punishment was necessary, it was administered often by means of social ostracization from the offended party or from the tribe for a period of time. As everyone knew what everyone else in the tribe was doing most of the time, crime within the tribe was rare. While there might have been fights between men over who would mate with a woman at a given time, there were usually enough females so that each male had one or more of them available. This is true today in bands of our nearest genetic relatives, the great apes.

Even when couples had paired off to live together and to take responsibility for raising the children for which they adopted obligations, mating took place with others. Maybe with others who didn't have mates, maybe with some who did. Of course they didn't copulate around the community campfire. What mattered was that the male and the female came "home" when they were supposed to be home to fulfill their other responsibilities.

Today we continue that pattern, though our religions and our media have tried to pretend that we humans were built for monogamy. We aren't. No species of primate or even of mammal is totally monogamous, according to recent scientific studies. What the animals are is committed to a monogamous home relationship, not a monogamous sexual relationship.

Romance was natural, especially for those in their teens years, because each person looked for the mate who would father or mother their offspring, the strongest and healthiest possible children. As mating and pairing off for living purposes were often two different matters, no one was surprised when the natural mother of a child did not live with the natural father. Living together as a cohesive group was, after all, what the family was all about. Sexual intercourse existed within the family, but was not necessarily restricted to the family.

Judging by what we see on television, the most common reason why marriages break up is sexual infidelity. Yet sex with various different partners was in our genetic and hormonal makeup for tens of thousands of years before religions and the media made us believe in monogamy and sexual fidelity within a marriage.

Do we even today, in what we believe is an advanced condition of humanity, have the tools, the skills and the knowledge to maintain sexual fidelity within a marriage? I submit the unequivocal answer to that is an emphatic No.

Women, especially in the early years of raising children, often do not have enough energy left by the end of the day for their bodies to produce enough hormones to have a strong interest in sex. Every few days, maybe, but not every day for most. The male, however, is built for daily or even more frequent sexual experiences during his years of maximum sexual strength.

As the male gets older and adopts more responsibilities, it's apt to be him who loses the energy battle, resulting in insufficient body strength to produce hormones to have regular interest in sex. While the male reaches his sexual peak around age 27, when his body tells him to have sex with every female he can get his penis into in order to spread his genes around, the female doesn't reach her sexual peak until at least age 33, sometimes several years later. When the male's interest in frequent sex is slowing, the female is more rarin' to go than ever before in her life. By then her kids may be past the high maintenance stage so she has more energy.

We don't have the social structures to match our rising and falling sexual interests (pun noted, I almost said mate our interests) with our basic physical needs. This is the environment into which we place "Till death do us part." And the public social commandment of sexual monogamy (which has never, ever, been widely accepted in private).

Where does emotion come into this? In this case, the response to a rush of hormones is what we call romance, which is a strong emotion. We can be madly in love with someone we want to mate with because that's how our hormones cause us to react.

As you can easily see, our social structures are not equipped to deal with public social demands which do not jibe with private hormonal/emotional needs. This gap will not soon be resolved or closed. We are in the midst of trying to cope with a chasm that has opened up now, but not ready to put the broken social fabric back together into a new form of arrangement that is as widely accepted as the old arrangement was in our tribal times of the past. The old one won't work and we don't have a new arrangement ready to take its place.

We are in the midst of a transition period in human history, in many ways, but one of the most important regards our interpersonal relationships. No one knows how it will shake out. Right now it seems chaotic.

The best we can do as parents is to make our children aware of the realities of this human condition and to give them the social, emotional and family tools and skills to manage their personal affairs with their heads up, knowing what to expect. And being prepared for what to do when they reach each stage of a relationship with another person.

We may one day end up with three phases to our adult lives, first romance and mating, second the raising of children (families) and the third a pairing for living together through old age. There is evidence for the beginnings of that possible structure for the future even now.

It's exciting if you see the transition happening before your eyes around the world. Scary as hell if you don't realize that our species is in the midst of a transition which will likely firm up long after we who read this are all dead. We need to see the big picture.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their growing children to be ready to face head-on and to cope with the changes that will happen in their lives as they pass through adolescence into adulthood and beyond that into old age.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

What Kind Of World Do We Have Really?

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession to their character.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher and poet (1803-1882)

Think about it. That person who is so negative about the world, isn't he also a pessimist about his own future and his place in the world?

The loving mother who dotes on her children also looks on the world as a loving place, with bad guys being the exceptions not the rule.

The happy person sees happy people around him and finds happy situations even when reading world news.

The violent person can cite not just violent experiences from his own family while growing up, he can show you violence all around his community and the world.

A trusting person believes that the world operates on trust, while untrustworthy people are few.

Is your opinion of the world a confession of your character, as Emerson claimed? While the two are related directly, I believe that the relationship goes the opposite way to what Emerson stated. We see in the world people like ourselves. Those who are not like us seem to be the exceptions. When we don't see people like ourselves in our immediate world, we look for them in other places. Sometimes that means a move, a change of job or a change of partner.

Even in the face of apparently overwhelming evidence to the contrary, people will believe about the world what they want to believe. An optimistic person will see the world as a positive place. Nothing will console a negative person about what a hell-on-earth we live in and how no one should bring up a child in the present conditions.

Is the world really a great place with enormous possibilities? Or is hell something we live through each day of our lives?

It depends on what kind of person you are.

If you don't care for the world as it is, change your attitude toward yourself and those around you. You world will gradually become a marvelous place.

You don't have to take Emerson's word for it. Think about what you think of the world in general and about what you think of your own life.

It's true that life is what we make of it. It's also true that your world is what you make of it.

Live the life you want your life to be. The world around you will follow your example.

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 with positive attitudes toward themselves and their world and need the tools to make it happen.
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