The Only Solution To High Divorce Rates and Broken Families

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.
– William Somerset Maugham, writer (1874-1965)

While this sounds like the perfect explanation for why western countries have such high divorce rates, Maugham lived before that phenomenon began. What changed?

First, divorce ceased to be a social taboo such that divorced persons were no longer social outcasts from their married group associations. Divorce today is so common that it is almost expected. Tell someone that you have been married for 30 years today and they will react with surprise, “To the same person?”

No doubt there was a strong desire by people before the 1960s to leave each other, to separate by means of divorce so that one or the other (or both) could enjoy a happier life. But social pressure came to bear in keeping unhappy people together in marriage until they finally got old enough to be able to cohabit with a minimum of strife. Many of our grandparents and great grandparents were not the happy lovable people as we knew them, when they were younger.

Divorce became accepted as a necessity because so many people were separating and living common law with another person. It was easier to change the law to allow couples to divorce so that new couplings could form with new marriage arrangements. ”Til death us do part” gave way to “Until we can’t figure out how to live together any more without someone getting beaten to death.” (The remark was intended facetiously, but the amount of spousal abuse and murders of spouses today makes you wonder if that latter should not have been included in the marriage vows of some couples.)

A couple of generations ago when the average person didn’t live to retirement age, staying together until the death of one partner was not such a stretch as it is today when a couple who marry at age 20 could conceivably live long enough to celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary.

As Maugham said, people go through many life changes over that length of time. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip will celebrate their 60th anniversary this year, for example, yet no one is ready to pack either of them off in a box.

Until the 20th century, the primary purpose of marriage was to give birth to and raise children to become the work force of the future and to provide for parents in their elder years. For many young people today, work is their main focus in life and family comes a poor second. They don’t know how to succeed as couples because they have not been taught the skills necessary to secure this evolving relationship.

These skills are teachable, but we don’t teach them on a broad scale.

We also don’t teach young adults the skills of parenting. Most get babysitting courses and take Lamaze classes, but parenting courses are rare in most communities. So we find many conflicts within couples and within families.

We have the skills for successful marriage and successful raising of children within the professional groups of psychologists and therapists and some professional speakers. But the primary purpose of these professionals is to fix broken people, not to provide them with the skills that would prevent them from breaking in the first place.

Let’s put this together. We have the skills, but we teach them to the wrong people or to the right people at the wrong time.

Why should we be amazed that a couple has lived together for many decades? These people learned–somehow, somewhere–the skills they required to have happy lives together. Successful marriages and successful family raising can be done in today’s world because it is happening around us. But a majority of couples are not receiving the necessary information they need, as the statistics show.

It’s not a radical idea to suggest that the skills be taught to individuals who intend to be part of a couple and to individuals who plan to become parents in the future. What’s radical is the idea that the education systems should alter their curriculum to accommodate this “new” social necessity.

As Maugham said, people grow and change naturally. If a couple is to remain together, they don’t need to stare into each other’s eyes every day. Rather they need to look outward toward the future in the same direction.

No doubt this will require better methods for sorting mates into those that are acceptable possibilities and those that are not. This, too, is teachable. There is little point in boasting about marrying the best looking girl or guy around if the marriage lasts only a few years (or months) and ends in tragedy.

(The best looking kids in school are so used to attention they can’t get in a marriage and family situation that most of their pairings end in divorce, so physical attraction has only limited value in mating choice. Young people need to be taught other criteria.)

In today’s world of megasocieties, we have returned to the days of our pre-human ancestors when it comes to teaching marriage and parenting skills. In later tribal societies and agricultural communities–parts of the past of all of today’s modern societies–marriage and parenting advice was considered essential.

As a retired teacher myself, I can attest that there is room for this change in the curriculum. Moreover, the addition would add an important aspect to school that many kids find lacking today, which is teaching them about the real lives they will live as independent adults.

The alternative is the fragmenting of society that occurs today, with divorce rates over 50 percent and an increasing percentage of couples choosing to not get married at all.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the tough choices in life a little easier to understand.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

When Someone You Know Talks About Suicide

The first duty of love is to listen.
– Paul Tillich, United States theologian (born in Germany) (1886-1965)

Perhaps the world’s greatest need is for people to listen to each other.

Everyone agrees that love is a wonderful thing, that everyone should be loved and have someone to love. However, it’s rare to find places where people actually teach what love is, how to create it, how to express it, how to recognize it in others, how to enhance it once it exists and how to make it last. These are all teachable skills, but in general they are not skills that we teach.

No loving friend or relative is more loving than when they listen to us. When we go through our most critical crises, more than anything else we need someone to listen to us as we think out loud. We need someone who will pay attention when we say things that sound stupid after they reach open air. We need a backboard for our thoughts.

One of the best ways to cope with crises is to talk about them. People who find their way to psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists pay others to listen to them. These experts, more than anything else they do, get paid to listen. Most often they guide their patients to solutions by reviewing with them what they have said, then allowing them to reach their own conclusions and solutions themselves. The best healing is always self-healing.

Modern society has a greater need than ever before for social science professionals, as we can see by watching lists of them expand in every city and town. Perhaps the need for them has increased so dramatically because we don’t have enough close friends who will listen to us with love.

We tend to have many casual friends and hangers-on, workmates and neighbours who are with us when we host a good party but may disappear at the slightest whiff of trouble. Those who have gone through a divorce will often attest that their friends treated them as if they had a social disease when their separation or divorce was announced. Find yourself broke and you will likely also find yourself lonely, as if whatever you have was contagious.

The statistics regarding suicide and murder-suicides within families have increased shockingly. Reviewing these cases after the fact, the most common characteristic described of the perpetrators is that they were “loners.” They were loners for a reason, that reason mostly being because they had no one who would listen to them and act as support when they most needed it. That may seem oversimplified, but it’s at the core of almost every social problem.

Imagine this: a workmate comes to you to confess that he plans to kill himself on the weekend. What would you do? Most people would drag out the platitudes they have heard before, that someone loves them, that more people care about them than they realize, they they should think of who would be hurt if they ended their life. Yet what these people need most is to be taken somewhere quiet and allowed to talk, talk endlessly and without restrictions. Maybe with lots of coffee.

They need to know that there is someone they can count on who will listen. They need to know that between them and the cold dark earth is someone who cares. They may not have the skills to know how to find and develop such a friendship or even the nerve to tell anyone else about how welcoming death seems to them.

They need to know that someone cares. Often that caring can be shown by someone who will listen to them. It’s a kind of love, a love for others of your own kind.

Few people talk about dying or about wishing their life was over or about killing someone unless they have a critical problem. If you hear something like that, it may be your chance to save a life. Or many lives. It may seem like a huge burden to adopt, but you become the appointed one.

The last thing someone who is having trouble coping with his personal problems needs is to feel alone, to feel that no one matters, to feel that he won’t be missed. To feel that there is no one in his life who will listen while he blathers on about something just to keep his mind away from the terrible tragedy he is trying to avoid.

Someone needs you to listen. Now. Everyone feels more secure with their life when they know that someone will stand between them and tragedy and listen.

It’s one good way to show someone you love how much you love them. Just listen and encourage them to talk about anything they want. That’s love. It may transform you in the process.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the social necessities of life more clear so that we can address them.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

People Are Screwing With Your Head About Heaven

Don’t wait for the Last Judgement. It takes place every day.
– Albert Camus, writer and philosopher (1913-1960)

What if that’s true? What if what we have been told conditions are like in an afterlife is really nothing more than our daily lives?

Some people live lives that they would not know how to improve if they knew what they could wish for. Does that seem possible to you?

Some people live under such conditions that they would not shed a tear if their mortal coil were snatched away from them today because they can’t imagine anything worse.

People living for the accumulation of money and wealth could not imagine themselves in a heavenly place on earth because they can never be satisfied, never have enough. That applies as well to those who live for sex, for gambling, for drugs or any other addiction, for hate or for the desire to destroy or to hurt. For them, this life is nothing but a continual wanting, a need for something they can never have. Isn’t that a form of hell? Getting more, but never getting enough. Never finding happiness because they’re on the hunt for something not related to happiness.

For some people, the amount of money they may have or lack or need means very little. To the accumulators, these others live in poverty, a private form of hell. To themselves, they live in heaven because they do what makes them feel good and they never regret the passing of a day. They don’t imagine living in a place where the streets are paved with gold as being anything interesting, just a waste of resources on materialistic thinking.

The latter group are builders, supporters, helpers to their fellow members of the species of humanity. They won’t lower themselves to the level of someone else when they would rather raise the other to their own level if that is desired. The help those who want to be helped.

They see their mission on earth as something very different from that of the accumulators. The accumulators gather as much as possible around them for as long as they can. They believe the old saying that he who has the most when he dies wins. But the accumulators have nothing to take with them when they die and most have little to leave behind except spoiled children who will enjoy their newly acquired wealth.

The builders and helpers don’t consider themselves poor. On the contrary, they consider themselves rich in what makes their lives worthwhile. For them life is not about what you can buy with the money you have, or about power or influence. It’s about what you do with the time you have.

It takes no wisdom to spend money. Everyone does it. It requires wisdom to spend time wisely. The accumulators spend their time getting more money they can’t take with them when they die and they can’t really enjoy because they spend their time trying to get more. The builders and helpers invest their time in creating a life for themselves by helping others to grow toward their potential.

The accumulators look forward to getting their reward in heaven, even if they haven’t earned a reward. The builders and helpers have their reward here, today.

Camus told us to not wait for the Last Judgment, that it takes place every day. Perhaps he should have added that each day we have the opportunity to build ourselves toward that Last Judgment at the end of the day.

Every time the sun comes up, we begin a new lifetime. Tomorrow is always blurry and yesterday fuzzy. Only today is clear and vivid. No one can prove that yesterday ever existed or that tomorrow is anything but fantasy. Today is in our faces.

Tonight when you go to bed, you will have done more to help yourself or more to help others. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t build yourself, grow yourself into what you want to be in the future. Everyone can help others to grow and to build, even if they are in the process of growing themselves.

The difference is the objective of what we want from life. If what we want from life is only what we can use in life, then we live a base existence. If we live to have others admire us for what we have accumulated, we live a base existence that will be squelched out of being one day, never to be remembered.

There is nothing special about the stuff of this planet from which we derive money and wealth of other kinds. It’s all over the universe, in about 100 billion galaxies. Only this earth has humanity. That makes earth special. Only those who advance the cause of humanity will have meant anything while they were here.

You must figure out what you believe is important. You must stand up for what you believe. You must work for what you believe. But, at the end of the day when no mortal remains of you is left, what will you have contributed that benefits those who stay behind?

Tomorrow you will have another chance at another lifetime. You will choose between taking unto yourself or giving of yourself. By the end of the day your lifetime will have been wasted or will have contributed to the betterment of humanity.

Heaven won’t wait for you. You have to do some building yourself. Heaven, whatever it is, is not an entitlement but a reward. It isn’t bequeathed to you, you must work for it.

You can’t buy it with money. You can only buy it with yourself.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to have life make sense because much of it doesn’t.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

A Leader Creating Fear Is A Sign Of Corruption

Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts…perhaps the fear of a loss of power.
– John Steinbeck, novelist, Nobel laureate (1902-1968)

Lucky Alexander the Great! He died at age 26. Rather, lucky for his people.

It has been said that power corrupts. Most of us will have accepted that without thinking about it. There has been a correlation between power and corruption through history. Steinbeck took it one step further, asking why.

People who achieved their positions of power by clawing their way to the top, by putting their opponents and enemies out of the way by various means, got into the habit of fighting for power. When they reached their pinnacle, they had nowhere to go. They couldn’t rally the troops because the troops had no reason to be rallied for the same causes as previously.

History has proven that it’s not possible to maintain the status quo with relationships. Either they are building or they are crumbling. A great leader who has fought his way to the top position or to build a great empire has no more climbing to do. What then? The human structure beneath him begins to decay because the leader doesn’t have the skills to maintain it. He knows how to rally and fight, not to hold onto one position.

With the structure under him failing, the great leader begins to fight his own people to hold power. That’s akin to social cannibalism. Or he begins to form new relationships that will secure his position. These are usually not of benefit to the people. That is, the leader becomes corrupt.

No one seems to be clear when Adolf Hitler lost his sanity, but it may be reasonably assumed that he did so shortly after his early conquests in Europe. Was the Holocaust his way of demonstrating to his people–his military, his party and those who voted him into power–that no one should oppose him? He was known to use hatred of Jews as a way to achieve leadership, but no one expected him to annihilate millions of them. The Holocaust may have resulted from Hitler’s fear of losing his position of power.

Fear hurts anyone who tries to maintain a position without building on it. Usually the relationships that crumble are those where the leader wants to hold power for himself, not where he wants to share it or to benefit those under him. The latter pair would be beneficient leadership, while the former would be selfish or acquisitory. Leaders that become corrupt want more for themselves, but can only get more by means of corruption.

A beneficient dictatorship is, theoretically, the best form of leadership for a people. However, examples of beneficient dictators through history are rare because the ones who achieved power by promising to help their people became corrupt when they got there. Perhaps, as Steinbeck said, it’s the fear of losing that power that corrupts.

Fear, in general, is a destructive emotion. It develops from our natural emotion of apprehension, that which causes us to be careful in risky situations. A person who is afraid is always destructive, though the degree varies and the destruction could be inflicted on themselves, such as through worry.

It would pay us well to be aware of fear when we have it ourselves and when others are trying to inflict it on us. Either way it won’t do us any good.

If a leader is trying to create fear in us, we can act to prevent ourselves from being taken over by that fear. We don’t have to be afraid just because a political or military leader tells us to be afraid.

Generally speaking, a fearful person will have difficulty doing a competent job. A job that has become incompetent through corruption can only hurt everyone.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to provide some means of identifying fear in others and ourselves.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

The Media Make Us Confused Or Ignorant

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.
– Ben Hecht

The primary purposes  of newspapers are to convey information about events of the recent past, about upcoming events and to pass along enough advertising to make the venture worthwhile. Most newspapers manage the third purpose, use the second as a propaganda machine to editorialize and the first to publish editorialized and managed information that the owners want to reach their audience.

In other words, if you want unbiased information, stay away from newspapers.

But stay away from radio and television news as well because they are as biased as the papers.

These media tend to “give the people what they want,” which usually appeals to the lowest common denominator of society. You are more apt to get factual information about the latest escapade of Britney Spears than you are about anything of a political nature. Any report that is either political or educational may well be totally biased in favour of the owner of that media outlet.

Recent studies in Canada suggest that more people get their “news” from news satire televison programs (comedies) than from newscasts or newspapers.

The lack of balanced reporting in the media may account for why so few people turn to the traditional news sources for their news. In fact, better than half the people don’t have a clear idea of what is happening in ther community or their country.

Enter the internet, which has had a reputation for biased reporting and outright fabrication of “facts” since early after its inception as a public information medium. However, the internet has the happy feature of making a wide variety of news sources available. Someone who wants to know what is happening can find out, no matter where in the world it’s going on. Google News, for example, constantly polls some 4500 news sources.

The internet also has such a diverse range of sources that a person can get a somewhat balanced viewpoint of politically charged subjects by reading reporting of the same subject from several different sources. Unfortunately, this takes time and not many people are prepared to devote as much time as is needed to get a balanced series of reports on the same subject from a variety of sources.

This means that most of us will have biased viewpoints about most subjects based on the sources we have used. There is nothing wrong with this so long as we realize that what we know is likely to be slanted toward the direction our sources want us to believe. And if we accept that opposing, contrary or just different opinions from other people we speak with may be valid and true. No one can be perfectly correct with news today.

The trouble with that thinking is that the role models we follow from the media tend to make us believe that we should trust only our own point of view and treat anything that opposes it as wrong. This is not just news bias, but bigotry. Emotional prejudice we might call it.

The only way out of this progressively worsening situation is to teach adolescents and young adults how to find factual news, how to sort through many biased sources, how to recognize propaganda and how to reach valid and supportable conclusions about the material they consume.

This is being done, but on a small scale and often on an unofficial (not on the curriculum) basis.

In general, our education systems prepare children to be confused adults who are largely ignorant of the realities of what is happening around them and their world.

This can be changed, but it must happen at the grass roots level, with parents speaking directly with the teachers of their children and the principals of those schools. School boards won’t change soon because they are hide-bound to tradition.

Change is up to each of us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to making confusing problems a little clearer and easier to solve.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Why We Have War When Almost Nobody Wants It

In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
– Leo Tolstoy, author (1828-1910)

Ask the citizens of any country on the brink of war or involved with war whether they want war and their answer will almost always be an emphatic No. “But it’s necessary because…” Only a few people who make their lviing from war, who profit from war either monetarily or emotionally, support it.

If almost no one wants war, then why do we have so much of it? The United Nations recognizes 27 conflicts around the world that qualify as wars today. Though that is lower than at any time in history, it still adds up to a staggering death toll each year.

Through most of human history strong leaders have made and secured their positions either by involving their countries in war or in claiming that a foreign power was threatening war against them. Great leaders make their name and secure their power by scaring the life out of people by making them believe that a foreign power is near to attacking them and devastating them and their way of life, then proceeding to launch into a war to prove that they were right.

Was there a real threat that Hitler could have taken over the world in the 1940s? As contrary to historical propaganda as this may seem, not likely. Every great empire in history that desired to take over the known world failed when it spread itself too thin and it could not maintain what was needed to sustain constant occupation of so many places. Even the British Empire that controlled one-quarter of the land area of the planet was not threatend by war but spent itself out of existence by supplying its military.

The former Soviet Union did as well, both by buying influence in its sphere of controlled countries and by occupying Afghanistan. Occupying any country is extremely costly, as the US knows from its experience in Iraq. Hitler could never have occupied so many countries much longer than he did because he would have run out of money.

The people don’t want war, but they fight them and send their sons and daughters to fight in them because, time after time, they believe the threats spouted by their military and their militaristic leaders.

One way to avoid this devastation would be to teach every young person in high school how to recognize propaganda and how to recognize when their minds are being bent by someone with the power of persuasion. It wouldn’t be a hard subject to teach, but the power mongers would work tirelessly to prevent it from entering the curriculum.

We would have the power of numbers if enough of us care about it.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to shine some light down the long dark tunnel of politically motivated education.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

The Speedway to Human Extinction on Earth

vFor all our conceits about being the center of the universe, we live in a routine planet of a humdrum star stuck away in an obscure corner … on an unexceptional galaxy which is one of about 100 billion galaxies. … That is the fundamental fact of the universe we inhabit, and it is very good for us to understand that.
– Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

Do we live on a routine planet? Certainly if size matters earth is a dwarfy orb. The only thing keeping earth from being removed as an official planet by the world body that determines such things (International Astronomical Union?), as Pluto was recently, is that we get to make the rules.

Humdrum star? Our sun is on the small side of medium, at its most optimistic estimate. Obscure corner? We’re certainly not front and centre of the Milky Way. Unexceptional galaxy? Among billions of galaxies, the Milky Way looks most magnificent only to us.

Then why the hubris about our being the most magnificent thing ever created? The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) told us that because they wanted their adherents to believe that humans were the ultimate creation. To be that, we had to live on a world that was the centre of the universe with everything revolving around us. Including the sun and the rest of the planets in our solar system–the stars that didn’t blink, to the ancients. Turns out most of that was wishful thinking.

They told us that we humans had dominion over our planet. To them, the ancient, crude Bedouin tribes that created the religions that trace their ancestry back to Abraham, that meant that we were the greatest and that we could do whatever we wanted with the planet, its animal life and its plant life.

And we have. Rather, the leaders among us have and the rest of us just followed along because we needed the income.

Now we realize that we have at least partly destroyed our home planet in ways from which it can never recover. We worry about our atmosphere warming by a degree, but we don’t worry about the poisons in the air that are causing the warming as well as causing untold harm to our health, including diseases that were never important until recently.

Now we have the problem with the bees. Biological scientists estimate that 85 percent of the plant life on earth depends on bees in one form or another. Forty-five percent of the food we eat is influenced in some critical way (usually by pollination) by bees. Now hives of honeybees all over the world that make our food supply possible are dying off by the millions at a time. No one knows why. Perhaps the most major key to our food supply is disappearing and we have no idea how or why. Billions of bees die daily.

Is that something we want to blame on a defect of nature? Are we prepared to do something to stop our atomosphere from warming by a degree, but allow the human population of the world to be decimated by lack of food because we believe that nature is throwing us a bad break?

There are many reasons why we should be humble and look at how we fulfill our role as dominators of the planet, preferably before we make ourselves extinct. CEOs of large corporations and political leaders who subscribe to this need to be humble and to work to make earth a better place so that we can survive are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

That leaves it up to us ordinary folks who are just trying to make our way in the world without causing ourselves much grief. But ordinary folks are used to following what their leaders tell them, not taking leadership roles ourselves.

If our political and business leaders won’t help us change, who can we turn to? We must find a leader among ourselves.

Remember that poor but populous former British colony called India? When it had fewer than half the population its has today and wanted to get from under its yoke of virtual slavery, it turned to a little guy who hadn’t even grown up in India, Mohandas Gandhi, to lead them. Gandhi never did become the political leader of India. He just said the right words to the right people. Together, in enormous multitudes, Indians followed Gandhi until the British had no choice but to grant independence to its colony.

No violence was ever proposed by Gandhi. Only peaceful demonstrations and walks. He believed that people can get their way if they talk–with support in great numbers–with the people who rule them.

We need leaders who will look more at us and our needs than admiringly at themselves in their mirrors. We must find leaders from among us. Now, before we begin to starve.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the need for a new kind of leadership, of leaders who care more about the welfare of their people and their planet than about big business.
Learn more at http://billallin.com