Why Parents Need to Cruise the Streets at Night

Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.
– Henry David Thoreau, “Walden”, 1854

New fashions, seeming to defy the passage of time, tend to reflect old fashions of three decades ago. The reasons for this are obvious. Designers don’t have to think of anything creatively new because by the time the fad buyers of one generation have outgrown their gotta-have phase, the next generation has taken its place.

Fashion itself is a peculiar industry where predominantly gay designers create designs for anorexically-thin size zero heterosexual models, presumably to be copied by rip-off designers who “design” for massive chain store clothing outlets.

Teenaged girls, in their effort to look attractive to the opposite sex, wear clothing best suited for prostitutes who walk the streets in the evenings. Their fashions bear striking similarities.

The thinking of the girls–mass hysteria in full blast as they try to be up with or slightly ahead of the crowd–is that prostitutes know the kind of clothing that attracts men. That thought link is not direct, but filters through one or more layers of designers at clothing manufacturers who ensure that the clothing is just inside the line of acceptability for most parents who shell out the cash for their body-peddling kids.

Theoretically, parents should be able to cruise the streets where prostitutes hang out at night to see what teenage fashions will be popular in the coming months.

Especially if you’re the parent of a teenage daughter. Either you will know what she will want to buy or you will know what she is desperately trying to avoid, but losing personal popularity by doing so.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to keep it real and up front.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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When The Suffering We Know Is Better Than The Unknown

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Of the many peculiarities of human nature that are difficult to explain, this ranks near the top of the list.

We have people (men and women both) who are afraid to leave an abusive relationship because they don’t want to live alone, because they are afraid that their lover will find them and harm them, because they don’t know what to do to get away and can’t bring themselves to make plans. Or, perhaps, these are mere excuses offered to those who know about the abuse they suffer and urge the victim to leave.

Many people work jobs they hate because they are afraid to leave. Their excuses include the risk of not finding a better job, of getting a new job and finding it worse, of needing the stability of an old job they know well during this “difficult time” of their lives, of the current job market being slim. In fact, most of them refuse to even look for a new job.

Many people attend the services of the religion they grew up with, regularly, because they fear the consequences of leaving.

Their minds are often made up so steadfastly that they can’t be knocked off their position by reason. They don’t feel the need to expalin to anyone else because their minds are so solid on the subject. But they will sometimes confide in others, leaving that small opening for change.

There are other examples of the fear that many people have of leaving the suffering they are familiar with, but they all have one common factor. The issue that is the problem is a very important parts of their life. Whatever the relationship they fear severing, it has constituted a major factor and commitment of their lives, an undeniable portion of their lives they invested in who they are today.

Of the several people I have personally helped over a major hurdle in their lives, they all wanted to know that they had someone behind them to support them if they faltered. They needed to know that it was alright for them to take the big step and fail, that they would not be failures in life if they did, that other opportunities would present themselves that would be better if they made a mistake with thier first choice.

They wanted to know that they were not alone when they changed their lives.

In the final analysis, we are each alone when we make major life decisions. Few of us have one friend so close and dependable that we can be absolutely certain they will be there for us if we try and fail.

What each person in a position of making such a life-altering decision needs to know is that no matter what happens, the sun will rise the next day and they will rise with it. Somehow, those of us who survive the night manage to find a way to build better lives if we dare take the big chance.

And there is always someone who will help if we look hard enough and ask people we believe we can trust.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the real opportunities for a better future.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Trying To Stay Sane In An Insane World

Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.
– RD Laing, psychiatrist and author (1927-1989)

One dictionary defines insanity as a “relatively permanent disorder of the mind.” Who decides that the dysfunctional condition of one mind is “relatively permanent?”

In times past people whose behaviour strayed too far from the norms of society were either imprisoned or incarcerated in insane asylums. Today the deciding factor of insanity seems to be whether or not a person might be a danger to themselves or to others. Even that danger must be a physical one, as people who are emotional dangers to others or to themselves are allowed to move freely among us.

Is the world around us insane? In some senses it is. We allow politicians who are known to have devious or suspicious pasts and beliefs to persuade us that they have the best plans for the next government. We vote for candidates who themselves make promises or their parties make promises that we know very well they will turn their backs on if elected.

We believe people who lie to us, even if we know they are lying. That may be someone who tells us we are stupid or incompetent or a leader who tells us to be afraid of an enemy who knows nothing about us and wants nothing to do with us.

We allow ourselves to be propagandized by television commercials, and the minds of our children to be programmed by them, without taking any trouble to either learn the truth about the products they advertise or teaching our children the skills they need so that they can tell when someone is trying to twist their minds.

We lock our doors at night against evils that may not exist when anyone with an IQ greater than a doorknob would not invade a home when the owners are home. And we leave large areas of easily broken glass windows available on our homes while we put multiple locks and deadbolts on our doors, as if no thief would be discourteous enough to not come through the proper door.

We work excessive hours to earn a mighty income so that we have enough money to buy recreational toys (and drugs) we barely have spare time enough to use. We value leisure time, in theory, but don’t know how to relax when we have it. So we go shopping, even to the extent of choosing vacation destinations where the shopping is known to be good.

We take excessive and shocking amounts of drugs, both prescription and “recreational” because we don’t live healthy lives and need something to protect us from the unhealthy lifestyles we have decided are necessary for us.

We pity those who have emotional breakdowns or who retreat into various medically accepted forms of mental illness because they couldn’t cope with their lives using the coping skills at their disposal.

Rather than trying to figure out what is insane and what is “normal,” a condition which keeps changing itself over time, we should plot a course for our own lives that is within our ability to cope and that will deliver to us the kinds of rewards we most want from life.

And not listen to all those crazy people out there who tell us different.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help each person carve a path of sanity for themselves through a seemingly insane world.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

The Only Way To Succeed

“I’d spent my whole life feeling like a freak and an outsider and that nobody understood me and suddenly I felt like it’s OK to feel different.”
– Madonna

You may have wondered how the performer who has reinventd herself several times to remain among the leaders of the music industry got to be the way she is.

She knew something special. She knew that she had to be among the best in her field–whatever field she chose to enter–and she committed herself to work extremely hard to the best of her ability to reach that goal and to stay there.

That may seem trite, that someone has to work hard. But in Madonna’s case she worked hard in a field in which she was considered an outsider, because she was a woman, because she was aggressive, bcause she was talented, because she was bright and because she would not allow anyone to put her down. She was determined to be who she wanted to be.

Not many people can say that they plotted the course for their lives and have followed it through relentlessly. The reason is that most of us face too many setbacks that cause us to take detours, so many that we lose our way and become someone we didn’t plan to be.

Staying the course for a lifetime is very difficult because there are always people who want to divert us, for their own reasons and often for their own benefit. Ignoring the naysayers requires a kind of devotion of its own, one in which a person must develop a kind of emotional armour to let attacks against them bounce off while they continue on their chosen path.

No doubt detours will happen along the way. Life’s detours get most people lost from their course. Those who eventually reach their goals find their way back to the direction they were headed after every detour. Every time.

Along the way they find others who want to either join them or to support them. They become the few good friends that persistent goal-seekers have.

Those who succeed at anything always have fair-weather supporters and hangers-on friends. These are accepted with gratitude, with the understanding that they will disappear again when the going gets rough again.

The going has got rough again many times for Madonna. Recently it was because she wanted to adopt a child from Africa. The media searched endlessly for some way to trash what she wanted to do. To help the media, several people were prepared to lie along the way to get their share of attention.

She will win again because her attitude is “To hell with the naysayers and the trash media!”

Sometimes winners can only succeed by turning and walking away from detractors. Over the long term, the critics disappear while the winners continue on. The winners work harder and never lose sight of their goal.

Bill Allin
Turning it Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine a light on the path through the mess that life can sometimes become.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Exercise Is For Sleepwalkers

I believe that every human has a finite number of heart-beats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.
– Neil Armstrong

There comes a time while running the rat race that some of the participants stop to realize that racing with the rats is not as physically stimulating as their bodies need. Their minds, their emotions, their intellect, their very being has been absorbed by working hard to earn money for their employer (and for themselves so they can buy the products sold by their employer and other providers of rat race facilities) that they have become physically unfit.

As a result of some epiphany–a heart attack, a movie, the death of a friend or a warning from their doctor–they decide that they must exercise their bodies. So they join a fitness club and do what they are used to doing, devoting their entire time and energies during that period each day to exercising their bodies.

They seem to have two primary objectives for this period of physical stress: exercising their bodies as much as they can (preferably their hearts as well) and giving their brains a total rest.

As neutral observers we might be tempted to believe that this commitment to focussing their minds on the work of their bodies, be it on machines or on a track or pavement, is required to do the job of exercising well. However, that belief would be erroneous. With the possible exception of counting sequentially, the brain is not required for any of these exercises.

Exercising, either in a gym or outside, is time for brain-sleep.

Of all the possible ways in which a body could be put to use for the purpose of accomplishing something–with or without the brain in gear–these people choose to do nothing but stretch and contract their muscles for the entire period of their “workout.”

I decline to offer ways in which a person could use their time beneficially while exercising to help their families, their community, the underprivileged, the homeless or many other causes because that would require me to assume that you can’t think of any yourself. I choose to give you more credit than that.

I will ask that you consider, if you know someone who fits into this category of person who stops running the rat race just long enough to do the kind of activity a gerbil does on a wheel, suggesting to this person that their time might be spend more productively to make the world a little better place while getting the same amount of physical exercise for their bodies.

But please don’t be any less gentle with your suggestion than the man who did the very first moonwalk, Neil Armstrong. Now there was someone who had more to do with his time than gerbil-race.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help people keep it real.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

My Country: Free But Not For Every Citizen

The most certain test by which we can judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.
– Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton), historian (1834-1902)

Canadians have viewed the claim by US President George W. Bush that the US is fighting the war in Iraq for “freedom” with skepticism. For one thing, Canadians are not certain what the measure of freedom would be when Mr. Bush achieves it.

However, we Canadians are confident that we live in a free country. Unless, of course, you happen to be of Middle Eastern origin.

Maher Arar, a naturalized Canadian citizen born in Syria, travelled to various countries as part of his business. With his Canadian passport, he felt confident that he could move freely, even into and out of his native country.

On one trip back to Canada from Syria, Arar was stopped at Canada Customs and held on suspicion of terrorist activities or connections. When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the national police of Canada) and the Canadian Security and Investigation Service (spy agency) could get nothing of interest from Arar, they sent him to the USA.

When their equivalent agencies in the US could also not get any worthwhile information from Arar, they deported him to Syria where he spent a year in prison being tortured every day. The Syrian authorities also got nothing from him.

It had never occurred to these agencies that Arar had nothing to tell them because he had nothing to do with terrorism, terrorist cells or with arrnaging finances for terrorist organizations. He was born in Syria (an “Axis of Evil country), he visited Syria and he phoned people in Syria. That was enough for them.

Arar did, however, have a beard (as all Muslim men do), olive coloured skin and Syrian heritage, which seemed to be enough to make him guilty in the eyes of Canadian and US security agencies.

Neither Canadian nor US agencies had the legal right to send Arar to another country, least of all Canada because he was a Canadian citizen. The US deported him to Syria without even telling Canada about it.

Maher Arar survived, returned to Canada, suffered through successive thorough investigations and eventually was given about 10 million dollars to go away and shut up by the Canadian government. He was removed from the Canadian list of suspects relating to terrorism.

The Canadian government, pressured by the media who were now firm Arar supporters, asked the US to also remove Arar from its watch list. The US refused, declining to give any reason. After all, that would be tantamount to admitting they broke their own and international laws.

Maher Arar continues to live in Canada with his wife and family, trying to cobble together a life after a year of torture and daily expectations of death in a Syrian prison. Nights, for him, are the worst time of the day.

Meanwhile, three other naturalized Canadian citizens in situations amazingly similar to that of Maher Arar want to be absolved of any accusation of association with terrorism, receive compensation and build new lives after their own extensive bouts with torture abroad.

These four men have a right to wonder where in the world they could live now where their lives and those of their families would not be at risk.

Certainly not in any country that is fighting in Iraq. Or in any country whose government knows how to find Iraq on a map of the world.

Free countries, yes. But how free when the national police break the law and destroy people’s lives without fear of being held accountable?

Are we in the “free world” fighting for freedom for everyone or just for those with the same skin colour, religion and nationality as us?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make a complex world a little clearer to understand.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

One Tactic of Successful Liars

Several excuses are always less convincing than one.
– Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

It’s an odd characteristic of human nature that we tend to accept one excuse that someone gives for not doing something or for doing something incorrectly or late, but the more excuses that person offers the less likely we are to believe him.

Mostly likely that tendency is based on our own experience. We have, in most cases, one reason for doing something. At any given moment, we may be able to think of one good reason why we didn’t do what we promised to do or did incorrectly or late what we were supposed to do.

Our experience tells us that some people have the ability to think up a steady stream of excuses just as a lawyer in court can think quickly on his feet. However, we may feel that a person with a string of excuses is simply fishing for one that will work, whereas a simple excuse, though lame, might be passable. We accept from others what we might give ourselves in similar circimstances.

When someone offers us one excuse for doing something or for not doing something he should have done or for doing it incorrectly or late, we are quite capable of finding justification that will fit around that one excuse to make it plausible. At that point, though reluctant, we may be prepared to move on and forget or ignore the offence.

The most effective excuse that someone convicted of murder has ever given to elicit sympathy and assistance from others on the “outside” to free him is “No matter what the evidence given in court says, I didn’t do it.” That one simple yet inadequate (for legal purposes) explanation tends to gather support from others who believe the legal system may have failed an innocent man.

Give one excuse, stick with it and don’t embellish.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to give a break to those who don’t know how the system of human nature works.
Learn more at http://billallin.com