Saturday, March 05, 2011

End of Stress for World's Ticking Social Bomb

End of Stress for World's Ticking Social Bomb
Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what we are told;
Religious dogma is doing what we are told, no matter what is right.
- Elka Ruth Enola, Canadian poet, advocate, teacher, opponent of Sharia-based schools

A bit of departure from my usual range of topics for this article as I attempt to explain why so much trouble in every country in the Middle East is actually the best thing that could happen for the future of our world.

I recently finished reading Chasing A Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, by Tarek Fatah. Fatah is nothing if not blunt about a disease that is infecting every democratic nation in the world. We might call the perpetrators of this disease terrorists, suicide bombers or militant Muslims who have politicized one of the world's great religions for their own personal power or for the power of their leaders. Fatah calls them Islamists. Comparing an Islamist to an ordinary Muslim is like comparing Adolf Hitler to your average Christian. These people all worship(ed) the same God, but they do and did so very differently.
When the great Prophet Muhammed completed setting down the Muslim holy book, known as the Qur'an (or Koran or any number of other English spellings of an Arabic word), the last thing in the book was the clear statement that the book comprised the whole religion of Islam, as given to him by Allah (the Arabic word for God). He made it clear that what he wrote down as messages from Allah was a religion, a way to lead one's life, a belief set, not a political formula. When he died shortly thereafter, struggle began for leadership of the religion, but also for political leadership of all Muslims. Potential leaders then and now don't follow the word of Allah (the Qur'an), the word of Muhammed or the word of any sincere Muslim imams since that time, but instead their own greed for power.
That struggle continues to this day, 1400 years later. It powers terrorism, radical Islamists who lead violent revolutions when they can and use force to oppress or kill their own people when necessary to gain or to hold power over them. As I write this, that powers Moammar Gadhafi's slaughter of his own people in Libya, a country he seized control of and has held total authoritarian control over for 42 years. Gadhafi, like other political leaders of the Arab world (some of whom have been ousted already, some are still struggling to hold power), believes that he holds ultimate power over his people by divine right. Divine right means that he believes he was anointed by Allah.
When demonstrations in Tunisia toppled the president of the country, it troubled world-watchers who expected the Middle East (almost exclusively Arab, except for Persian Iran) to ignite with civil wars virtually overnight. The Tunisian demonstrations had been peaceful, but they were not expected to be so elsewhere. Then hundreds of thousands of Egyptians (to start, they became millions) gathered in Tahrir (liberation) Square, in Cairo. Egyptian demonstrations were notorious for being bloody, even deadly, in the past. This time they were peaceful and President Mubarak resigned (encouraged by his own military). Something had changed.
Demonstrations in other Arab countries have also been peaceful. Libya became violent only when Gadhafi's military fired real bullets at unarmed demonstrators and killed many of them. The only Arab countries where large demonstrations have not happened were in places like Saudi Arabia and Syria, where the military stopped demonstrators quickly and assisted some of them to "disappear" permanently. Within the Arab world, people knew that other Arabs under all other autocratic regimes were also ready to shake off the shackles of oppression by their dictatorial leaders (sometimes also known as "kings," often as presidents-for-life).
Why should we who live in free countries care? Saudi Arabia (home of two of Islam's most important cities, Medina and Mecca and owner of about 20 percent of the world's known oil supplies) has sponsored schools and universities that teach nothing but militant Islamism in every democratic country in the world. The Saudi royal family has spent billions of dollars on these schools, building them and maintaining them, for many years.
These are the schools that teach young people who become suicide bombers, aggressive demonstrators at G8 and G20 summits, political candidates who claim prejudice against Muslims in order to gain enough sympathy to get them elected to political office in many parts of the world. That includes the USA, the UK and Canada where the schools are kept open and active when police try to shut them down by their leaders cry prejudice in the media.
Meanwhile, back in the home countries in the Middle East, the leaders have blamed the US, the UK, Israel and the West in general for all the problems in their respective countries. Especially for poverty of the people, which the leaders have claimed is caused by the capitalist West. Politically left-leaning people in the West believed the claims of the Middle East leaders and the imams of the Islamic schools. In Canada, for example, a country that prides itself on its official multiculturalism, the New Democratic Party has often publicly supported the Islamic schools, claiming prejudice against them in matters such as the wearing of the hijab.
The people, the ordinary citizens of Middle Eastern countries, were apparently not fooled though we didn't know that. They finally admitted to themselves that their problems were caused by their own greedy leaders and not by the US or Israel. Now the people want to throw out the lying militants that have ruled their countries for so many years.
They will succeed, as large masses of people always do eventually. To you, that will mean that Islamist schools and mosques run by militant imams in your country will have their main sources of income (such as oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Iran) dry up. That will likely reduce the risk of terrorist problems in your country considerably. That could change the political climate in your country. Not just for the next few years, but forever.
It might mean that sociopathic industries in the West who have made uncountable billions of dollars by teaching us to fear "terrorists" may finally have to become more ecologically friendly with their environment--with our environment--as we turn our attention to their pollution of the air we breathe and the water we drink and away from "terrorists" who never presented much of a threat to us anyway. As the poor citizens of Middle Eastern countries mature and take control of their own destinies away from power hungry and greedy autocrats, we will mature along with them and take control of our air and water--and of our own lives in many ways--away from industrialists. They had no right to teach fear and materialism to us to distract us from the emotional control they have held over us for decades. By believing them we became emotional slaves to their will, which was always to make huge profits, no matter what effects that had on our lives or our environment.
Let's cheer for the citizens of the Middle East, but not send our militaries there. They don't want us to interfere. They want to feel that they are finally in control of their own lives. If our militaries interfere, people like Gadhafi will slaughter their own people and blame the West for starting civil wars.
Let's learn from them. It seems they are ready to treat us as brothers and sisters after all. We should respond accordingly, with respect.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to know how to develop the children in their charge socially and emotionally as well as intellectually and physically. Our worst social problems are caused by people who are underdeveloped or maldeveloped socially and/or emotionally.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

How to Cope When Others Hurt You

How to Cope When Others Hurt You
'More hearts pine away in secret anguish for unkindness from those who should be their comforters, than for any other calamity in life.'
- Edward Young, English poet (1681-1765)

We don't think in terms of hearts "pining" away these days. But then, Edward Young lived some time back.
Today people are sad, depressed, withdrawn or just plain "hard to get along with." We take pills, eat too much, go dancing, join clubs, watch endless reruns on TV. Or we just mope (pine away).
Loneliness and poorly developed social skills no doubt play a large part in people pining away. It's easier to pine away and be lonely if you don't know how to make new friends. Edward Young brings our attention to one cause we would all rather not think about. Living with someone who is unkind or who doesn't care enough to make life really worthwhile. In most cases, a person suffering this fate reacts the same to each of the two because they can be the same problem with only slightly different faces.
What is an unkindness? It sounds bland and meaningless, unless you're the victim. An unkindness is an act of behaviour by one person that hurts another. It's not the intent of the doer, but the reaction of the receiver that matters. Neglect can also be an act of unkindness.
Of course you may be tempted to think that something considered an unkindness is personal, that, as some believe of happiness, unkindness is a personal choice. In that case, if a person chooses to see the action of another as an unkindness, it is, but if the person chooses to ignore the act, it's not an unkindness. Choose to see something as unkind or choose to not think anything of it.
It doesn't work that way in real life. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. What one person considers unkindness seems beyond their control. If an act violates the basic life values of a person, that person is incapable of controlling their reaction. If the unkindness is in the form of neglect, that may be outside of their control as well.
What's the choice? The choice is to consider unkindness from someone we care about as not worth time or thought. Just ignore it. But ignoring behaviours that used to hurt stuns the emotions, makes them "cold." No one who is capable of deep feelings for others wants to lose that, to become cold, to maybe lose the ability to love in the process.
Therapist offices fill each day with people who feel others have been unkind, are unkind, continue to be unkind to them. They don't know how to cope with a problem they believe rests with the other person. More lives are ruined by an inability to cope with problems than for any other single reason.
So is living with or being close to a friend, neighbour or workmate who is unkind--who commits unkind acts--hopeless? It is if you believe it is.
If the unkind person is someone you live with and you want to continue that relationship, you need to show the unkind person more love. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to love them more or have sex more often. We humans assess the weight or value of the love that others have for us by touch. The more someone touches us, the more we feel that person shows their love. The touch may be casual, such as touching the other's arm as you pass. It could also be a lingering touch, such as when you watch television sitting next to each other or do something else together. Just don't linger long enough that the touch seems fake or contrived. That's turns people off.
Of course the touch method of assessing love works both ways. But many people don't know that. In fact, some people find touch--even loving touch--in some circumstances almost offensive. That kind of person lacked love and touch as a child. Learning to touch and to be touched may take that person years, but they will come around. Consistency and persistence matters. They can change if they want to and if the other person tries hard enough for long enough.
Friends, workmates and neighbours can also find ways to touch each other casually. Often that involves a hand touching the arm of the other as a means of emphasis in a conversation. That kind of touch is always brief, never more than a second or two. Longer than that could cause alarm or suspicion.
Dealing with a situation of repeated unkindness almost always involves doing something you are not accustomed to doing. If you were doing it already, the unkindness may never have occurred.
Will this method work for everyone? No. Some people are emotionally cold and can't be changed. The choice then is to stay or leave, keep the friendship or find other friends. Staying with an emotionally distant mate does not necessarily mean living a life in the belief that the other person doesn't love you. It means accepting what you can't change and doing something differently yourself.
Join a group or activity where touching is a part of the activity. Take dancing lessons, for example, or join a group where close contact is the norm. Or help others. Many volunteer situations involve circumstances where two people touch in the course of an event. Volunteering can help both the person who needs help and the volunteer. Both benefit.
Often people who need help from others have found themselves in that situation because they could not cope with their life circumstances. Sometimes those life circumstances involve needing loving touch and having no way to get it. Lives can literally dribble away when people need love and touch, don't know it, and waste their life away looking for something they don't understand in places they will never find it.
Any problem you may have with another person may be very hard to cope with. Now you have a choice. You have a way to improve the relationship between you. Or you can leave. The latter choice may not be easy, especially if the other person is a spouse or life mate. It doesn't guarantee eventual happiness either, especially if leaving means finding yourself in a life situation where you need social assistance just to survive.
Learning coping strategies may be the best answer. It isn't easy. Life problems and working through them never are.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for people who need to learn what they missed as children or who want to teach their own children what they need so they won't grow up to be socially or emotionally unbalanced adults.
Learn more at