It’s Not As Bad As You Think

They did not live in vain, those that came before us, for we are here.
– Yves Theriault, Canadian writer, Aaron, 1954

Maybe you don’t want to know this. Maybe you believe that the world is worse than ever before, that the End Time is near. If that is the case, you should save yourself because what follows won’t agree with your doomsday beliefs.

We have a tendancy to believe that the world is getting worse, that people are behaving worse, the violence is on the increase, that children misbehave much more than when we were children. In short, that the world in its present state is a poor thing to have to pass along to the next generation.

That may be the bubble you have created for yourself, but it doesn’t fit with the reality that is our history. That may be the impression you get from the media, but the media strive more than anything else to make you afraid so that you will give them more of your attention, time and money.

According to United Nations statistics, the world is a safer place than it has ever been in human history. To begin with, the world has normally had around 30 wars ongoing through most of our history. We have 26 now, perhaps as few as 24 depending on where you draw the line.

While the United States, for example, has far more crime than it did half a century ago, it also has far more people in far less space, with fewer resources in many cases. Simply put, more people means more crime.

Indians worry that their crime rate is burgeoning, especially in their large cities, but the population of India has doubled in the past half century. Just over 50 years ago, when India gained it independence, 10 million people died in skirmishes while trying to migrate one way or the other between the new Pakistan(s) and the new India (India was divided into three–arguably four if you include Kashmir–parcels when the British left).

True, we have the power to obliterate the entire planet many times over using nuclear weapons. But the only country that has ever used such a powerful weapon was the US, over two Japanese cities, and those atomic bombs were far less powerful than today’s nuclear arsenal.

Nobody wants to press the button. They know what would happen. Not only devastion far worse than that in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but similar weapons would be in the air heading for their own location before their own weapons struck their targets.

Let’s look back at some tragic times in the past century. Joseph Stalin had up to ten million people killed during his time as the supreme leader of the USSR, but Stalin never did anything that would cause harm to himself. Hitler had over twenty million lives snuffed out during the Holocaust, plus many more as a result of the war, but he never did anything that would harm himself until the Allies were outside his bunker and he shot himself.

Hitler was, by all accounts, crazy, yet even he would not do anything that would harm himself or that would allow his enemies to harm him until it was obvious that he had nothing left to live for.

We may worry that some madman may acquire nuclear capability and wipe the world we know into history, but nothing in human history should cause us to believe that it would happen. Leaders, mad or not, don’t even consider anything that would end their dreams of world domination. They want power, not self destruction.

The world has always been a violent place. Humans have always been a violent species, perhaps the most violent of any since we kill each other with little provocation. But the ones of us who die by violent means are unlucky, just as the ones who die of disease or injury are unlucky.

The vast majority of us live fundamentally similar lives from one year to the next. We have people killing themselves slowly by smoking or taking heavy drugs or driving at breakneck speeds, but we don’t give them much notice. They present a much greater risk to our safety than nuclear holocaust or climate change, but they don’t warrant a spot on the nightly news.

(Smoking is a danger to non-smokers? My mother, who never smoked, died of lung cancer from inhaling second hand smoke from my chimney-smoking father–who also died of lung cancer. It’s more common than you think.)

Rather than listening to doomsady scenarios propagated by the media, we should be making our own lives better. Not making ourselves richer, because wealth never made anyone happy. Making our lives richer.

Those who live rich lives inevitably make the lives of those around them better and make the world in general a better place.

It’s better than worrying about bombs and violence. Worrying never did a lick of good for anyone, ever.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help make every life a little better, one at a time.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

There Is A Way To Make Things Better

The wisest mind has something yet to learn.
– George Santayana

Santayana, a distinguished philosopher, knew about a lifetime of learning and why it was necessary. He imparted much advice about how to live a satisfying life.

The first schools for formal learning taught philosophy as their main subject. Philosophy taught about life and since the ancient Greeks often didn’t live to a very old age because they were often at war, knowledge about life needed to be taught to young people before they needed it.

Today we teach people how to cope with life after they already have problems, in the offices of therapists, marriage counselors or prison psychologists.

One bit of advice that seemed to pervade Greek philosophy was the need for continual learning, a lifetime of self education.The concept of lifelong learning has received new breath in recent years as we have discovered that our recent ancestors learned too little about life over their adult years. This resulted in social (community) problems of unparalelled proportions.

The twist on the ancient theme these days is that job security is so undependable that we need to continually learn new skills and knowledge bases in order to be prepared if our present job disappears. However, the rate of personal problems among our society–not the least of which are a divorce rate over 50 percent and mood altering drugs being the biggest selling pharmaceuticals–testifies that even today’s adults that are learning new skills don’t know enough to be able to cope with the rigours of their lives.

When a greater proportion than ever before of citizens are behind bars for criminal offences, people gobble mood changing drugs prescribed by their doctors, others use “recreational” drugs regularly, the numbers of homeless people is soaring and private homes are no longer secure because drug users need to break in to steal stuff they can sell to buy their addictive substance of choice, we need to acknowledge that something is wrong.

Our solutions to the problems are to put more people in prison, prescribe more drugs and idolize more movie stars whose behaviour is aberrant or outright anti-social. Our solutions don’t seem to be working.

If we can’t cure the problem, then we must prevent the disease. We must equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need about life before they destroy their own. Or have a family, break it up and leave children to learn the lessons of life the hard way, on the streets. That’s not happening to every family, but then not every family has their house broken into, their children hooked on drugs or office rage making the workplace a dangerous situation either. Murder and suicide are both, in many places, at all-time high levels.

It’s time we learned our lessons.

Teach the children.

Teach children what they need to know instead of what industry wants them to know to populate their workplaces. Teach both, but make sure the kids learn about life and learn life skills.

Right now, many of them know almost nothing about life. Except that there is something wrong with it. They’re learning that the hard way.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to tell it like it is about life’s trials and the needs we have to learn about how to cope with them.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Preparing For Your Next Stage Of Life

Learning to live is learning to let go.
– Sogyal Rinpoche

As much as we long for security, for consistency and for our world to remain enough the same that we will still recognize it tomorrow, that’s not the way the world operates.

In nature, nothing is secure, so no animal or plant can be certain that it will not be trampled or eaten that same day. Nothing remains the same indefinitely. Even rocks wear away so that a mountain becomes a seabed or desert.

We all want to keep our loved ones with us, but we might lose any one of them within the next day. Or they may lose us. Letting go of people who comprised an important part of our life is hard. We can keep memories, but even those memories can be harsh sometimes and the bad ones stay with us.

What many people have the greatest trouble letting go of is their hurts and what caused them. In some cases they carry grudges with them for many years. While they suffer emotionally from holding onto their grudges, the people who caused the hurt usually carry on their own lives as if nothing had ever happened.

Many times, to them, nothing did happen that they intended or that they knew about. The hurt perceived by one was committed innocently and unknowingly by the other. That’s life. Not many people hurt others on purpose. Yet people get hurt anyway.

Often our greatest hurts result from deception or betrayal. These violate the trust we have put in someone, which is like their ripping away a piece of our life.

There are no easy answers to letting go. Those who have the ability to let go of what would otherwise harm them have coping skills that many of us lack. Learning coping skills is part of the emotional development of childhood.

As children we want our parents to always remain the same. Parents would like their children to remain at the same stage sometimes as well. Neither gets their wish. As children have far fewer resources than adults, they need the security of knowing who and what they can depend on, who they can trust, who will never abandon them.

One of the saddest facts of adulthood is that we can never be certain who and what we can depend on, who we can trust and that the people we care about will never abandon us. Part of the preparation that is a coping skill for these disappointments is to have a plan devised for what we would do if one of these “unthinkable” events occurs.

Tragedy happens. If we have a plan to put into place when and if it does, our transition to the next stage of our life can be much easier to bear.

Lives do not remain the same. We can prepare for change.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help people manage life’s tough times by preparing strategies and contingency plans.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Can You Make New Friends?

Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?
– Thomas Wolfe, novelist (1900-1938)

As depressing as this quote sounds, it’s actually the key that opens an understanding of human nature that can bring a person internal peace and give him a tool by which he can manage more easily the stresses of dealing with others who are unreasonable. And to make friends.

That in itself is a grand statement. However, let’s think it through a little further.

We are strangers even to ourselves, in a sense, because we make decisions daily that we didn’t anticipate having to make and those decisions affect our lives. If we choose to watch a movie, for example, we choose to eliminate the possibility of doing other activities, of learning new things, of having new experiences, of meeting new people, of facing new opportunities.

Not that watching a movie has anything inherently wrong with it, any more than any of the other options listed. It’s just that we can’t do many other things when we choose to do one in particular. A movie can change a person’s life just as much as meeting a new friend or business associate, creating something new in the basement or riding a bicycle across the country.

Because each little decision we make during a day in effect alters the course of our lives (some only minimally), and the situation works the same way with a spouse, parent or child, we tend to know very little about even those closest to us. We may think we know them well, but we don’t even know what they are thinking for more than a few brief moments in any given day.

What we do know are ourselves and our experiences. When we generalize about the world based on our own experiences we may often be wrong because others don’t perceive events and choices similar to ours the same way we do. We know ourselves but others are not like us. We are unique in many ways.

As Wolfe said, each of us is a stranger to all others (at least to some extent) and alone unto ourselves for much of what we do and think.

Then it becomes important how we treat our time of aloneness and how we interact with others when we have the opportunity. Being alone is a reality, but being lonely is a choice made by those who decide to not enjoy their own company. That may sound cruel to lonely people, but the fact is that those who are lonely either don’t like their own company or don’t know how to befriend others. Either way it’s a choice.

Most people learn their skills of socializing through experience. That is, accident and coincidence play a large role in how most of us learn to interact with each other.

Social interaction skills can be learned. Some colleges have evening courses with this as an objective. However, most people who learn their social skills from lessons do so in therapeutic situations, such as from therapists. Sometimes specialized non-profit companies provide sevices for people who want to enhance their social skills.

We can’t decide how much of our own company we are prepared to enjoy unless we have the skills to allow us to enjoy the company of others when it suits our pleasure. That is, we can’t decide to be alone if being alone is the only option.

Mounting courses to teach people the skills of social interaction (how to make and keep friends) requires a bit of work, but it can be done by ordinary folks who get together with others who want the same thing. Finding others with the same desires and objectives is, in itself, an act of communication and social intercourse.

It’s easier to make friends if you get together with others who share the same goals as you. If you want to start something of this nature, talk it up among those you know and those you meet even casually. Or put a carefully worded note on a notice board about your interest (perhaps with a web email address for contacting). Eventually you will have a few who want to make something happen together.

It’s not only a form of self help, but a way of helping others. Helping others or working together with others is the way that most friendships begin.

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

Let’s Scare The Hell Out Of Them

A good scare is worth more to a man than good advice.
– Edgar Watson Howe, novelist and editor (1853-1937)

This quirk of human nature ranks among those for which we have the most evidence. But why?

Advice may come at us from various sources. Some of those sources, such as strangers or those we know little about, we consider suspect because the other person has not built up a track record of truthfulness and dependability on which we can base our trust.

Some non-trustworthy sources include the many people we see frequently, but we know base their conclusions more on feelings and a minimum of facts than well studied research. A man who has always bought the same brand of car and whose father may also have always bought that brand will almost certainly advise you to buy that brand because he believes it’s the best. To that man, the most familiar is the best.

Most of us know many people who will offer advice at the drop of a hat, whether those people themselves even consider their advice worthy. Some may be strong supporters or opponents of one political party at one time because of some news they heard or read that they especially liked or disliked. When asked (some volunteer), they will give that opinion of the day about which party is best or worst. A few days or weeks later their opinion could change because of different information.

Even advice from a reputable source such as a medical doctor may be disregarded if it means inconvenience or a change of lifestyle. “Lose weight? Why? I’m perfectly healthy.”

That kind of attitude is a continuation of what some call the invincibility of youth, their belief that they will never die.

If they have a heart attack or receive a diagnosis of diabetes where their life must change or end, a new lifestyle, diet change or exercise takes on new importance and new meaning as an adaptation worth making.

This human characteristic is so well known that scientists, among others, have adopted the strategy of making proclamations in threatening terms in order to get public attention and grant money for study.

The number of studies of climate change (aka global warming) underway in the world today are too numerous to count. We always hear reports about evidence that supports the climate change theory of warming because that evidence tilts politicians and universities more in favour of giving grants. Evidence that contradicts the warming theory receives little attention because non-scare tactics don’t work.

Today science wants to scare people, just like the movies, because it gets them money. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth used the power of film and the evidence of science to make a political statement.

Between advice that no one will take and threats that are real or propagandized theory is reason. Reason, however, depends on the conveyor of information to communicate considered facts and theory well and thoroughly and listeners who can think and are prepared to consider evidence on all sides before reaching a conclusion.

As hard as our education systems try to teach our young people to think and to consider all alternatives and evidence, the world outside the classroom works tirelesly and feverishly to teach them that thinking is not necessary if they will only listen to the message presented to them. The messages are devised by mass communication experts who get paid to twist people’s minds in favour of their boss’s product or service.

Television and movies, the ultimate thought-stoppers, remain active for many hours each day in most homes. Now corporations put their soda machines in schools and pay for exercise equipment with their corporate logos emblazoned on them so that students don’t have to move far away from their teacher to get a message that they don’t really have to think.

Before we become a society of knee-jerkers who react better to threats and propaganda than to reason, we should teach the skills of reason and effective communication of arguments to young adults.

Will our whole economic system collapse if people think about what they do, what they eat and what they buy before they do it?

That’s what the threat is.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put some reason back into society before we become atomatons.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

How The U.S. Is Bankrupting Itself

We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.
– Dwight David Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

Fear of their security, among Americans, has existed since well before the War of Independence. The British so needed income from its colonies to support its huge empire which it maintained largely through military occupation that it hounded its colonists in North America for taxes until they could stand it no more.

The Declaration of Independence gave colonists the right to carry weapons with them in case the British attacked unexpectedly. Though the British never did resort to that kind of military tactic, US citizens have feared an unexpected attack from someone ever since.

Not only are Americans allowed to be prepared for a sneak attack of the type that the British might have launched over two centuries ago, but also special interest groups have acted publicly to continue to have their fellow citizens fear unexpected attacks. Today people attempt to protect themselves from are murderers and terrorists.

Studies have not clearly shown concrete benefits of carrying weapons, though propagandists claim otherwise. No one is certain how many lives have been saved over the past two centuries because people who were attacked or about to be attacked had weapons they used to kill the attacker. Or whether those who carry guns would actually use them in an attack. Canada, which has about the same number of guns per capita as the US, has one-tenth the rate of death from guns.

The media are complicit in the continuance of this fear of attack by broadcasting and printing stories about violence, especially on a personal level. These help people to conclude that they live in a violent and risky environment, one worth great caution and one that produces fear..

At the national level, President George W. Bush used the inbred fear of foreigners, those of a different religion, skin colour, costume and facial hair to parlay his Administration into the leadership of two wars. Few Americans have all of these fears and few will admit to any.

Fought simultaneously, these two wars cost US taxpayers more than two billion dollars per day (some estimates say as high as three billion). To finance these wars, the US has borrowed heavily and will continue to borrow huge amounts of money to support military activity in countries that few believe present any immediate threat to US security. Imminent threat to security is the cause that gives the president the legal right to declare war.

While at-home violence among its own citizens costs far more lives than the foreign wars, these social problems receive little financial support other than the building of more prisons and the hiring of more law enforcement officials. The US has a greater percentage of its citizens behind bars than any other country in the world. Many jurisdictions can’t find enough funds to hire more professionals to handle the immediate problems which steadily get worse.

However, the wars get the money because Americans have been trained to believe that foreign threats (real or imagined) present greater risks than home-grown ones.

President Eisenhower’s caution about spending too much in an unachievable quest for absolute security rates more notice today than ever before.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to put life’s tough questions into perspective.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Life Advice From The Bard

Have more than thou showest; Speak less than thou knowest.
– William Shakespeare, ‘King Lear,’ Act I, Scene iv

In other words, hold some things back, keep some things secret.

In an age when we seek transparency and honesty, not wanting others to
hide anything for fear that we can’t trust them, this advice from
the Bard seems counterproductive. But the advice speaks to some
circumstances, not to all.

It particularly involves the depth of knowledge and skill that we reveal
to others. Shakespeare advises that if we want others to continue to
respect us for our skill or our knowledge, we must continue to have more
to reveal than we have in the past or people will treat us as used up
merchandise. In his own case, he could write a new poem or a play for a
particular audience.

The advice doesn’t involve secrets, because keeping them can lead to
tragedy over a long period of time. The only reason for having a secret
is so that a person need not face up to the truth at the moment. Keeping
secrets may delay our facing up to them, but the truth seldom remains
hidden for a lifetime.

In the 21st century, we have a great advantage over those of the past in
terms of the depth of our knowledge. With the internet at hand, we can
continue to accumulate knowledge and dispense our newly acquired
knowledge as it seems appropriate. A world of knowledge is at our
fingertips and that world is growing daily.

Skills are most often learned alone, even when others are present. That
is, each skill we master results from our own efforts, and only our own
efforts, even if someone else provided guidance. So we can practise a
skill in private or when and where others are not paying attention, then
show it off in public later. An Olympic athlete is an example, where the
person trains for endless hours in private (even if in a gym) in order
to show off in public for a few seconds or brief minutes.

Shakespeare’s advice does not necessarily mean that we shouldn’t
continue to show others and help others with what we know and the skills
we have. But if we do, we need to continue whatever process we have used
to acquire new skills and new knowledge so that we have more in reserve
when it is needed.

Fortunately for us, so many people do not learn much new that even small
examples of our depth of knowledge and skills may impress them.

You received this valuable tip from the same medium that is the greatest
source you could ever find for new information and skill advice.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social
Problems
, striving to give each person some reasons to be proud.
Learn more at http://billallin.com