The One And Only Way To Achieve Peace

Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and co-operation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 – 1969)

Is eternal peace even possible? Given the present set of circumstances under which we live and have developed in terms of civilization, not likely.

When most of us think of justice, we think first of our courts of law. There, surely, justice must prevail above all.

If justice is the quality of being fair or just, then it must be based on truth. In most countries, truth may be buried or denied for a variety of reasons in court while the skill of the barristers in arguing a case based on limited facts is what determines the outcome.

One would think that fairness should best be meted out by governments elected by the people whose best interests they trust their elected representatives to uphold. I know few people who believe that their governments are fair, at least to the extent they they have confidence in their elected governments.

For consideration and cooperation one would best look to one’s mother because these are hard to find elsewhere. They exist, these treasured qualities, but they grow in acidic soil.

Who can we look to for peace, someone who can use justice and fairness in their truest senses and from whom we can expect consideration and cooperation as Eisenhower predicted? That sentence contains the reason for its own failure.

Peace, be it individual or at a community, national or global level, must begin with ourselves. Peace is individual. Global peace requires that a large majority of people in the world want peace, are prepared to act to secure peace and enjoy and appreciate peace wtihin themselves.

Doesn’t that sound almost impossible? Well, if you think so then perhaps you are part of the problem.

When Toyota wants to sell cars, it advertises heavily. Using industry standards regarding market penetration with television commercials, Toyota will put its ads on several times on each station or network it uses, often ten to 12 times in an evening. Proctor and Gamble does the same with their soaps and other personal products. They hit the consumer again and again, mercilessly, with the same message. Repetition sells.

What have you done in the past year to promote peace, either within yourself or in the world? If you want personal peace, don’t look for it from Toyota, Practor and Gamble, political leaders, religious leaders or news sources. They thrive in a troubled world that seeks comfort from their messages.

Wars are fought to achieve peace, if we believe what our leaders have told us in the past. It hasn’t worked, of course. People flock to places of worship in troubled times, then find other things to do when life is calm because they understand that their religion did not bring peace.

If you truly believe that peace is a worthy objective, then make peace within yourself. Start talking about peace with other people. Include it in a conversation, but don’t try to start a discussion about peace or people will likely head away from you.

Others will only want to listen to you about peace if you honestly believe that peace is possible yourself. And if you and everyone else who believes in it keeps talking about it to as many people as we can find who want to know how it can happen.

We can be quiet on the subject, as most of us are. When those who want peace remain quiet, those who thrive in times of war and chaos advertise their message loud, clear and often. War-lovers, though they comprise only a small minority of people in any country, are persistent and tireless. They never quit because their lives revolve around what they preach.

So long as those who want peace remain quiet about it, there will be war and troubled times. Some people will prosper and those people will not be the ones who want peace.

Do you want peace? Then show it. Talk about it. When someone asks how peace can happen, direct them to the source of this article. Explain the reasoning I have used here.

Peace lovers can only be more powerful than advertising agencies when they spread their message to others. Word of mouth is the most effective and powerful form of advertising.

You have that effectiveness and power within you. Talk.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring peace to the world by word of mouth. Pass it on.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Someone Is Doing You A Favour

One can never pay in gratitude; one can pay “in kind” somewhere else in life. – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This quote may seem out of place to some people. Their lives have not been graced by good deeds or favours done for them by others and they have little time or interest in doing something for another person that does not benefit themselves.

In past generations people had to support and do favours for their friends and neighbours because they knew the time would come when they would need help from others when they couldn’t make it on their own.

A farmer whose crop was destroyed by hail would receive seed donations from neighbours whose crops had been bypassed. When a new barn had to go up, the rural community had a “barn raising” where the whole building usually went up in a day.

When a family had a death, especially of the wife/mother, the rest of the community would pitch in with meal donations for the next while until the family could function again on its own. Shelter was always available for anyone who needed it.

In suburban areas today neighbours feel successful if they manage to reach an agreement over a questionable move that could affect both without going to court. In cities many apartment neighbours don’t even know each other. And they won’t meet because, by convention, no one speak to others in an elevator.

When someone does something nice for another, the good deed doer might not even receive a “Thank you.” Some don’t want favours done for them because they believe it creates an obligation for them to return the favour.

What will happen when a real community tragedy strikes this sort of place? For example, a country-wide food shortage resulting from crop failure due to climate change. No country can afford to buy enough food from other countries to feed its people for long.

In New Orleans, people starved and died from lack of fresh water, food and medications because help didn’t reach them for many days after the hurricane struck. Imagine the shock and confusion if two or more large cities suffered such tragedies at the same time.

It’s a great tribute to the people of New Orleans who survived but were not properly rescued for days that they didn’t fight each other for food or riot and loot to steal supplies from boarded up stores. History teaches us that people have rioted and looted under far less stressful circumstances than impending death from disease or starvation.

When people help each other today we call it charity. However, the word charity either must be redefined or a new word must be found for a new kind of helping that is spreading around the world.

We see people jump to the aid of the citizens of Afghanistan so they can recover from the destruction of their war. Or of Iranians after an earthquack that flattened a small city. Or of Indonesians, Sri Lankanas and Indians when a tsunami killed a quarter of a million people.

Today it matters to some people that a few in their own community cannot read and write, so they create literacy courses. It matters that some people suffer from emotional trauma because they can’t cope with the downturns in their lives, so turn to drugs or even suicide. They create helplines and subsidize psychological services and retraining.

It matters when some die needlessly because an industry has polluted a water supply or tobacco companies have inserted poisonous substances into tobacco products or an auto manufacturer has put a defective and potentially dangerous car on the road.

It’s not the insult that matters now but the fact that their fellow citizens of the world are into trouble they can’t manage.

The change can be seen all over the world, often in situations that don’t warrant a place in the news. A culture of helping others, of an obligation to help our fellow humans who are in trouble, is growing.

As Anne Lindbergh said, we can’t repay someone who has done us that kind of favour. We can, however, pay it forward. We can do a good deed for someone else who needs one desperately. We can help those who want it. We can stop making it seem shameful to need help from others.

We can even do favours for those who need it even if we haven’t received any ourselves. As many are learning, it’s the right thing to do.

Someone has just done you a favour of passing along some good news. Maybe it’s not much to you. But you could pass along some good news about the future we all hope to see to someone else.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring good news to a needy world.
Find more good news–lots of it– at http://billallin.com

Shut Up and Listen

It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)

To have knowledge one must have learned. To have wisdom one must have learned. So where do speaking and listening come into it?

An expert auto mechanc usually has at least one large metal bureau of tools at his disposal when he begins to repair a car. To complete the job he will likely only use a tiny fraction of those tools. Yet without the complete set he might well not have the tool he most needs when the time comes.

So it is with wisdom. A wise man or woman must have vastly more knowledge at his or her fingertips in order to give the best possible advice in a particular situation than is needed for that one situation. However, without that library of knowledge the best possible advice might not be at hand when needed.

The old saying that we learn more with our mouths closed than with them open came about for good reason. We may be able to think and talk at the same time, but we can’t learn and talk together.

Occasionally we will meet someone who seems full of knowledge and quite willing to share it. In abundance. Only after several minutes have passed might we realize that this person has done almost all the talking without giving us much chance to respond.

If our reply is on the same topic as the wonderful speaker, we may be acknowledged for having continued with the thread of his monologue. If we attempt to change the subject, we may find the subject quickly changed back as soon as the talker begins to speak again.

Our natural conclusion might be that the talker has something he feels he must get out before leaving us, something he needs to get off his chest. However, it’s far more likely that the talker wants to stay on his favourite topic because he fears having the conversation stray to another topic in case he knows nothing about that topic.

The talker wants to be valued as someone with knowledge, thus he continues to speak on his favourite subjects, with no hesitation about repeating himself in future conversations. Because the depth of his knowledge is thin on most other subjects, he doesn’t want to be revealed as a know-nothing when he has so carefully cultivated a reputation as someone knowledgeable.

It’s only possible for a young person to be knowledgeable on a limited number of topics. Accumulating an encyclopediac base of knowledge requires several decades of life experience. That, in turn means listening to others a great deal.

The internet, books and television can be useful sources of information, but only by listening to others can we gain an insider’s knowledge of nuances and tweaks that show real expertise. That often means asking questions and then listening as someone who may even know far less than us about most things expounds on his knowledge and expertise on subjects he knows well.

The other method of gaining wisdom is by making mistakes and learning from them. Those with this kind of wisdom may be annoying to listen to, but they can save us a great deal of grief by following their advice.

There is no easy path to wisdom. It requires a commitment to a lifetime of learning. That’s not easy. But then, neither is expertise in anything.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to clarify the tough lessons of life.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

You Don’t Know Diddly! I Know Diddly

A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
– Erin Majors

The ignorant work for their own profit; the wise work for the welfare of the world.
– Bhagavad-Gita, Hindu Song of God, about 200 BCE

These two quotes go well together because they demonstrate that the same kind of people-helping-people concept of the right way of conducting our lives has existed for thousands of years and all over the planet.

In the earliest days of our species–characterized by clans of between a handful and 20 members–our ancestors depended on the best that each member of the clan could give for their very survival. The loss of one member–a specialist tool-maker, a woman of child-bearing age, a warrior–could spell the end of the clan because that person’s abilities could not be replaced.

Today in the western world we teach children to be islands, especially islands of strength that have command of everything they need, with the ability to do whatever they must do in their jobs and their personal lives. More important even than having these skills is giving the appearance of having them without needing to use them.

Yet as the total amount of information rises at a staggering rate–too great for anyone to keep up with–we are all as ignorant as a grade school dropout on many topics, lacking both knowledge and skills in many areas that affect our lives.

Many people have little idea what a healthy diet is, what exercise their bodies need, what supplements they may need to take to their food intake to keep their immune systems in good health, even how much sleep they need to be alert and at their best throughout the day.

The “throw-away society” did not come about because we wanted to be wasteful but because we wanted things cheap enough that we could throw them away when they broke because we no longer had the skills to repair what we broke. Throw-away tools and appliances, in turn, put enough skilled repair people out of work that few wanted to enter the field.

In general, we don’t buy much that is not mass produced. Most of what is mass produced cannot be repaired. Indeed we have become so ignorant about most of what is around us, essential information that we need, that seemingly absurd warning labels must be attached to appliances. Don’t use your hair dryer when you are asleep. Don’t take electric appliances into the bathtub. Don’t drive your car without fuel or oil.

(Don’t these warnings defy natural selection?)

People of marriageable age should carry their own warning labels: Don’t marry me if you have no idea what it takes to make a good marriage. Most people don’t. At least more than half of those who get married don’t. The marriage failure rate is dropping slightly, but only because fewer people are getting married, preferring to avoid some of the costs associated with divorce when they split. At least some people know they won’t be together for long, forever.

All of this, at a fundamental level, results from the fact that we do not want help from others. That would mean that we must learn from others, which puts us in an inferior position in business terms. We pretend to know, then take the bricks when we fail. Unless we can find someone else to blame our failures on.

The only way around this problem is for mothers and fathers of young children to teach them that learning must be a lifelong pursuit and they will need to constantly learn from others–ask others for help when they need it–or they will eventually find themselves in trouble because they won’t know enough.

Today nobody knows enough. We all need to learn from each other or we will fall behind. We all know people older than ourselves that we call dinosaurs because they haven’t kept up with new knowledge and skills, though they may act as if they have.

If we all must learn, then that means we all must teach others when the opportunity arises. It’s what we owe to our society as a member of it.

The alternative is a progression into a deeper well of ignorance. There is nothing good about ignorance, unless you are a power seeker who needs ignorant people among your supporters so that you can gain more power. We have all seen that too, whether we realize it or not.

For a society to succeed and thrive, every adult member must be a teacher. Those who know must be prepared to teach those who don’t know but want to know.

Those who don’t know have an obligation to learn, to ask those who know.

It’s not hard, just different from the way we have been doing things.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us through the tougher problems of life.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Islands In A Common Sea

“I feel we are all islands – in a common sea.”
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The older I get and the more I learn about life and existence, the more apt this quote seems.

Each of us is an island, remote and distinct from all others because no one knows us nearly as well as we know ourselves. Nor is it possible to know anyone else that well. It’s difficult enough to know what is on the mind of another person even in the most intimate of situations, and then we may be mistaken.

We don’t even know ourselves well. Most of us can look back ten or twenty years and find how we have developed to be remarkable, unexpected, with growth in ways we had no ability back then to anticipate.

The most obvious way to find out how difficult it is for others to learn about us is to apply for a job. On a few sheets of paper and in a few minutes of interview time an applicant must convey who he is and what he represents as a person as well as how suitable he is for the job. No one I have ever met has left an interview feeling confident that he or she has summed themselves up satisfactorily under those circumstances.

We are so different that we often have trouble conducting a conversation with others because we think so differently, our experiences are so different, our interests so different, our world view so unique that we must turn to small talk to get through brief periods that might otherwise be awkward.

Yet we hold much in common other than our genetic material, our language and our culture. Over six billion of us believe that something supernatural exists, that we should not kill each other, that we should work together where possible to achieve greater goals and that we should help others with needs greater than our own.

As a social species, we each feel the need to communicate with each other and we have a need to be touched by others we care about. In general, we believe that life should continue and that humankind should not destroy either itself or other forms of life on our planet. We believe that neither we nor others should foul our environment, the place where we and so many other living things carry out our lives.

With today’s technology we can communicate with others on the far side of our planet, in realtime. As we do, we learn that the “foreigners” that we know so little about have much in common with us. Some of us, in such situations, seem reluctant to point out our differences, believing that what we have in common is more important and our differences of lesser significance.

No matter who we are or where we live, we each strive for something in our lives. Among other life forms we call it survival and reproduction. Yet among ourselves the striving seems greater, to establish that we are, that we exist, that we mean more than a simple organism for reproduction.

The confusion that many of us experience in our “common sea” causes some of us to behave in ways that cannot make us proud of ourselves as a species. Yet all around us, on every day, in every part of the world, many of us–largely unhearalded–show ourselves to be magnificent and special representatives of what we know as human life.

We do demonstrate that there is more to us than our genetics and our experiences. We can each do that if we believe ourselves capable of it.

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

Sex Is The Issue

Between men and women there is no friendship possible. There is passion,
enmity, worship, love, but no friendship.
– Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

Strange, I believe, for someone whose sexuality went against the norm to express an opinion about relationships between the sexes with such conviction.

Wilde’s opinion certainly went with the flow of society on this subject, though on many others it didn’t. He lived during the Victorian period of England, the glory days of the great British Empire.

These days the Victorian period is best known in some circles for its severe restrictions and limitations about what was acceptable and what was not in human relationships, especially between the sexes.

What it preferred to express no opinion about was homosexuality, which made Victorian nobility so aghast that the subject dare not be mentioned in proper company. Not, at least, until Wilde flaunted his homosexuality and was charged by the police. The social darling that so many loved became a social outcast when his homosexuality became public knowledge.

The inhibitions of Victorian England were so strong that people became convinced that nearly everyone was a closet sex maniac waiting to be outed and exposed given the opportunity to have unapproved sex. Similar thinking today forces women in some Muslim countries to wear burqas that cover every possible part of skin that could be exposed.

Not that sexuality wasn’t exploited in some parts of England. Paper flyers of the day show drawings of women bare to the waist inviting men to visit entertainment parlours in certain parts of London and other cities to see dancing, acting and supposed other eventualities.

Today’s relaxed attitude toward sexuality, relationships and sexual preferences has shown that once sex is removed from the restricted zone of topics able to be discussed between men and women friendship is indeed possible.

In the Netherlands, where prostitution and exposure of bare skin in public is the least restrictive in the western world, not only is friendship between men and women more common and widely accepted, rape is much lower than in most western countries.

The problem or question of friendship between men and women, it seems, was not that it wasn’t possible, but that society raised the risk factor to the highest level, thus making unapproved sex between unmarried men and women more exciting and more of a challenge. Sex, it was thought, was on everyone’s mind if not on their lips.

Given the opportunity to engage in friend relationships where sex or the “dangerous” potential of it is not a high priotity, men and women can become the best of friends. In many marriages where sexual tension is not a factor husband and wife can be best friends, something which was not considered likely by Victorian Brits.

The attitude promoting sexual inhibition that carried on from Victorian times surely has done far more harm than good. Today sex crimes are more common and often more violent in places where sex is a public issue of morality.

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

When Money Became God

“I don’t know whether my life has been a success or a failure. But not having any anxiety about becoming one instead of the other, and just taking things as they come along, I’ve had a lot of extra time to enjoy life.”
– Harpo Marx (the “silent” Marx brother, he played the harp beautifully)

I have often wondered if Harpo never spoke because his other brothers talked so much that Harpo couldn’t get a word in edgewise. (And if the reversal of letters in his name–Oprah–inspired the mother of the television personality, who named her own company Harpo Productions.)

If I could pick one defining characteristic of western culture it would be that we teach the need for success, particularly success in an occupation that brings considerable income. We teach, by example if not by word, that those who do not make a lot of money are failures of society, people who must be supported by charity because they can’t make it through life “successfully” on their own.

We do not widely teach that survival and a minimally acceptable lifestyle has value, despite the fact that these are defining characteristics of the rest of the living world.

We do not generally teach that anything is more important than the acquisition of money, with the possible exception of ways of spending money that bring comfort and recognition.

Money being a man-made concept (gender bias inserted on purpose), people who believe that money is the most important thing in life find themselves progressively less able to accept that anything other than that which has been made by people has value. We conquer and destroy non-renewable natural resources and genetically alter renewable ones to suit the needs of our aggressive industries. And extinguish the rest.

Any concept of a supernatural being–despite lip service being paid by many in business–becomes that which cannot be believed or that which is of little importance because western business has created its own deity. Except for those who derive a very good income from religion, each of which defines its own version of God.

Living a full life means reaching a pinnacle of success before retirement, the pinnacle being defined at least by public recognition if not by actual financial income. Anything that is not within the control of business is given short shrift in terms of having importance to society. Artists are great, for example, only if they are recognized by wealthy patrons.

As Harpo Marx said in the quote, people give so much recognition to the importance of financial success that they spend much of their time thinking about it–how to get money and how to spend it. The burden of that goal, which is unreachable by many people, has caused multitudes of us to suffer anxiety which we relieve with drugs, exercise programs, religious devotion, mental illness, addictions and shopping.

Few will admit that they teach these values to their children. They do it by example, by being role models for that way of life. Most children follow the values of their parents, if not as adolescents then later in life. Even television commercials and magazine advertisements tweak our brains to believe that we must strive to be better than we are now.

The state of affairs in most western cities attests to the fact that something has broken down in the creation of this man-made capitalistic heaven. We have so many social problems, but no solutions because a solution would require that we teach people that something other than money is important. That could not happen because those who control much of the money in our societies ensure that such heresy could never make it into our school curriculum.

Business leaders tell us that our social and community problems are necessary consequences of our success in capitalist enterprise. On more than one occasion I have been faced with this argument while being interviewed on conservative radio stations in the US. FOX News lives it.

Those who believe that there is something more important in life than money, its acquisition, investment and dispersal must teach others, beginning with their own children. They must speak about how so many lives are being ruined by devoting them to being the pawns of business.

They must speak and write to others about what is more important than money. They must live the role model of a non-money-controlled life that is more fulfilling than those who see the Donald Trumps of the world as their role models and life aspirations.

They must teach that you can seek happiness by chasing money, but you will never find it. Money chasers never have enough, thus by definition can never be truly happy.

Does it require a revolution in thought, a massive overturn of the predominant way of life in the western world? No.

It requires only for you to understand that there are more important things in life than money and that the reckless pursuit of it will prevent anyone from finding those better things. Find the better things yourself. Then tell others. Change happens one person at a time. It happens in person, face to face.

For those who believe that there is nothing more important than money, there will be nothing more important. Understand that they will be tirelessly aggressive about teaching their money-chasing values to everyone they can. They already dominate some aspects and activities of schools.

If money were really worth chasing, then rich people should be happy. They aren’t. They just like to show off as if they were. They don’t even know what happiness is. They tell themselves that having money is what makes them happy. Maybe it does in their minds. But their having money is not likely to make you happy.

Money is not a god. We have no need to worship it. We have many other needs which have greater importance and which are not being met by many people. The money god doesn’t care for the failures of life.

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