A Peace Plan That Will Work Worldwide

Please read the signature line at the end of the article to learn about a book that can make the dream of worldwide peace a reality. It’s not a religion or political ideology. It’s founded in the principles of sociology. It works.
‘Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems’
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“As my conception of ahimsa went on maturing, I became more vigilant about my thought and speech. The lines in the Anthem:
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks
particularly jarred upon my sentiments of Ahimsa.”
Mohandas K. (“The Mahatma”) Gandhi; The Story of My Experiments With Truth; 1927

Ahimsa more than anything else is a philosophy of non-violence. Some Hindus and Buddhists and especially Jainists (or Jains) subscribe to ahimsa as a way of life.

It means more than simply not killing others. It’s the guide for ordinary people that is the equivalent of the medical dictum “Do no harm.”

That means doing no harm to anyone or anything. It includes emotional harm as well as physical. In ahimsa, emotional harm is as bad as physical harm, maybe worse.

To Christians it would be the equivalent of turning the other cheek, what Jesus did when insulted and assaulted. This aspect of Christianity, however, finds little support in action within Christian countries.

Ahimsa means not arguing with others, instead using dialog to find compromises. In ahimsa, peace is greater than any other force.

Most people who subscribe to ahimsa are vegetarians or vegans because they don’t want to make animals suffer either through penning them in life or by killing them. Killing living plants is done to survive.

Can ahimsa really be practical in today’s real world or is it a pie in the sky philosophy that few could or should take seriously? Gandhi made it work.

The Mahatma (Great Soul) was the most successful and magnificent icon in history who was non-violent yet achieved great goals. More than for any other reason, the British left India because Gandhi urged people to protest peacefully against their inhumane rulers. It simply cost too much to provide security services for so many people who wanted to protest.

To the British, India was “The Jewel In The Crown,” the colony that brought wealth and power to the UK that nothing else could. India made the British Empire. But it was brought to its knees by the little man who would not harm anyone.

Before departing India for good, the British were faced with possible riots in the Punjab and Calcutta (now Kolkata). The army believed it might be able to contain an uprising in Punjab, but it had no idea how to contain the (mostly Muslim) mobs of Calcutta. It didn’t have the manpower to control an angry mob that large.

The British decided to send their 55,000 available troops all to Punjab. To Gandhi they said “If you can control Calcutta (Bengal), then go to it.”

Gandhi went to Bengal and spoke to the tribal and religious leaders there. There was no riot, no one died, no one was hurt. The British army in Punjab mowed down hundreds of Punjabis at a time as they rioted.

One man prevented a bloodbath that a whole army could not. He was a man of peace. He spoke of peace. He taught peace. 450 million Indians believed him. Most of the time.

At the time of independence, Pakistan threatened to invade Kashmir until India came to its aid (absorbing Kashmir in the process). About ten million people died trying to make their way to the new country of their choice. Hindus moved from Pakistan to India while Muslims moved from India to Pakistan. Ten million were slaughtered by others of the different religion.

The Great Soul couldn’t be everywhere.

India today is largely a country of peace, despite what fears of nuclear attacks we may read about in the western media. Those fears were mostly in the minds of western new editors rather than in the minds of Indian people.

Gandhi taught peace and lived peace. He died at the hands of a militant Hindu who didn’t want peace. But his legacy lives in India today as if he were still alive.

Teaching peace works. Gandhi proved it on a macro scale.

The lesson is there for us to learn.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to implement a peace plan throughout the world, one that will work and will cost very little.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

How Political Leaders Manage To Swindle So Many People

Please read the signature line at the end of the article about a book you should know about and a plan that will help everyone in the world.
‘Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems’

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Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled.
– Michael Crichton

This statement applies exceedingly well for politics. It may be less apt for business or family situations. In business a leader may be responsible to a board of directors who should be more responsible than to submit to this kind of thing. In families a matron may well speak for the whole family, giving the explanation that everyone agrees with her whether it’s true or not.

In politics, no one can be completely certain of anything until it has been brought to a vote. Even at voting time who voted for or against what is carefully recorded so that it may be used against an elected representative at a later date.

No matter what effect peer pressure may have within a political party, the leader may also have his way if he can make the claim of concensus within a party caucus, then insist on “party solidarity” at voting time. The leader may, in fact, have no knowledge of how many people favoured his initiative, nor would he care.

The leader not only wants to win, he wants to win everything by having votes go the way he chooses. He uses persuasion, coercion or the concensus argument to win the favour (vote support) of his own party members.

While vote rigging is no longer seen on a massive scale in well established democracies in the western world (hanging chads aside), claims of fraudulent voting and vote counting are common in developing countries and poor countries. The media may report such deviances, then, in more than half the countries of the world.Can fraudulent voting procedures be called part of the concensus argument? It may if many party elected members, officials and members know about it but do nothing. The leader would claim the silence of these people on the basis of concensus and the need to prevent massive upset of the country if the leading party were found to be guilty of criminal activity–they would all lose their main source of legitimate income. Some would lose their feeling of being remotely associate with a source of power, the leader.

In any situation where a vote may change the direction a group will take in future, the concensus argument may sway undecided voters to vote in favour of the measure proposed by the leader. If possible, the group leader may claim concensus because little opposition has been heard to a proposal (maybe because those opposed wanted to wait for the vote to express their opinions without being harrassed by the leader in public before the vote) and he will avoid the vote entirely, thus depriving his silent opposition of their last minute weapon.

There is nothing genteel about politics. We understand that the force of command should be used in the military to ensure that the entire unit is working together. We don’t expect it in politics where voting is done openly, supposedly above board.

We would prefer to believe that the power struggles within politics all happen in the back rooms and the final results work out best for the people.

The people of Argentina watched the concensus argument used repeatedly during the years the Perons were in power. The Perons led hallowed public lives while skimming much of the country’s wealth for themselves. Once the Perons were gone, the Peronists that followed made a once substantial country into one of the Third World.

The people of the US watched it happen when President George W. Bush took his country into war in Iraq with evidence that was confusing at best, with no real threat against the US and without any consultation with voters. The country, Mr. Bush said, knows that invading Iraq is the right thing to do.

“The country” was Bush’s use of the concensus argument whereby he had no need to consult with anyone dependable and without reliable evidence. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, even in his final speech as PM, claimed the invading Iraq was the right thing to do.

As everyone, it may safely be claimed, wants to do the right thing, it follows (according to the concensus argument) that if invading Iraq was the right thing to do then he and Bush made the right decision by doing it.

That’s concensus, used in a democratic country without consulting parliament, Congress or the people, used to impoverish a country and kill many of its healthiest young adults. And to make the users of the concensus argument enormously wealthy.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to solve costly community and national problems and make the severity of many personal problems manageable at the same time.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

How To Recognize A Functionally Illiterate Person?

Please read the signature line at the end of this article to learn about a book you should know about and a plan you should have for the future.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems

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Before speaking, consider the interpretation of your words as well as their intent.
– Andrew Alden

Much of the conflict, discontent and hurt in the world began as a result of misinterpreted words of others.

Of course Adolf Hitler intended to take over the world when he prepared for war in the late 1930s. But British Prime Minister Chamberlain believed that he had “peace in our time” when he returned from Germany in 1938 with an agreement with Hitler that Germany would not wage war. Chamberlain deceived himself, we now believe.

But Hitler misinterpreted the consoling and compromising words of Chamberlain as well. He thought the UK would be an easy target, that it would not resist him. He was very wrong as at one point Britain almost alone stood in opposition to Hitler’s juggernaut.

People tend to misinterpret written words more than spoken ones. Some say it’s because written words do not come with facial expression and body language as spoken words do. I disagree to a point.

In conversation we tend to lay out our thoughts in a fairly orderly fashion. If necessary we repeat them so that our listeners will fix our ideas in their minds. With the written word, the reader is alone. Too alone sometimes to grasp the intent of the writer even if the writer has expressed himself or herself well.

Each word has a meaning, usually more than one. Its position in a sentence determines which of its multiple meanings is intended so that a reader can understand a whole sentence. A paragraph combines several concepts or thoughts into a flow.

Often written language is more elevated than spoken language. That is, an adult speaking to another might be understood easily by an eight-year-old but the same adult might use words that are above the reading level of the child when writing a message. This often happens without thinking about it as almost everyone has written essays or papers for high school, college or university.

In addition to complexities of language and sequence of thought, we have a series of paragraphs in a written work that may lead to conclusions that must stand independently of each paragraph. Misinterpretation begins the first time a reader loses track of the overall intent or purpose of the written work and becomes fixed on one idea expressed in it.

An example of this happened not long ago in Turkey when the Pope quoted a passage in a document a church official had written over 600 years ago to show how the Church of Rome at that time hated Muslims. While the entire context of the Pope’s message was about reconciliation between the world’s two largest religious belief sets, some Muslims took the 600 year old quote out of context and repeated it to others as if today’s Pope had written them himself.

There is little doubt that militant Muslims spread the word quickly about how the Roman Catholic Pope had expressed his hatred of Muslims. But the original misinterpretation likely happened innocently enough, by someone who latched onto one thought (a 600 year old one) and neglected the whole concept of what the Pope was trying to say.

Some people, especially those who are functionally illiterate, may have trouble grasping the full meaning of written words. Statistics Canada, the agency that compiles statistics for the Canadian government, in 2002 published a document that said that two-thirds of retired Canadians were functionally illiterate and about 45 percent of pre-retirement Canadian adults were as well. Those Canadian statistics likely can be used for other G7 countries as well.

We have people who can’t read so well, even though they believe they can. They may read the newspaper, but never a book. They read the weather report on the Weather Channel, but they never read online news articles on web sites. If they read online news reports, they may not grasp the significance of how that item fits with others on the same topic so recent history has a fuller meaning for htem.

For these people (the Canadian report said that 94 percent of Canadian adults read fewer than three books in a year, many none at all), the spoken word is best. It allows for repeats, facial expression, body language and evaluation by the speaker about whether or not the listener has heard and understood.

Most of the comments made by readers following one of these articles shows that they have understood what I have intended for them. Some just don’t get it. They believe they are good readers because they have “read” all the words to the end of the article. When they latch onto one thing mentioned in an article and dwell on it to the exclusion of the main point of the article or the context in which it was placed, they are usually functionally illiterate.

It would serve us all well to understand that some people will misinterpret what we have written, so we should be prepared to back up what we write with spoken communication. It may be a choice of either explain better or fight.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how ordinary people can make a difference in the world to make it a more peaceful and safe place to live. That plan is there and it’s cheap to implement.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Isn’t Lying To Yourself Fun?

Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to make the world and our own lives easier to understand and manage. Find out more about this book at the end of the article.

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It does not require many words to speak the truth.
– Chief Joseph, native American leader (1840-1904)

Some people use the excuse that “they” don’t really want the truth, that “they” want a fantasy “they” can nurture, one that doesn’t involve “them” in responsibility for the way things are or in doing anything to improve the situation. Most times that’s a lie.

It’s no exaggeration to say that truth is one of the most difficult human concepts to find in practice in today’s world. We find the media twisting news to make the platform and policies of the political party their owners favour look especially good.

We have politicians putting such “spin” on information they are required to reveal in news stories that they always appear innocent of sordid charges and even supportive of the side that appears to be “right” at the time.

We have clergy telling lies and committing illegal personal violations against others of their followers. Some teach their children in religious schools (the only schools that can usually be attended by children without charge or fee in those countries) the background they need to become the terrorists of tomorrow.

We have spouses lying to teach other about where they spent “missing” time and lied-to spouses lying to themselves by accepting a lie they know to be false.

We have children getting involved with drugs, breaking all sorts of laws to pay for their addiction, then lying to their parents about what they do with their free time and who they were with. Their parents believe the lie because they want to.

What would our world be like if everyone told the truth? This hypothetical question has been proposed before. This time I would like you to return to the first paragraph after the quote and consider how those situations would be different if the people who make excuses didn’t make false alibis because they had to tell the truth.

Then move to the next paragraph and consider what our world would be like if the media told the truth, the facts rather than doctored and editorialized Pablum.

Continue, one by one, to the end of those paragraphs that discuss situations where we daily experience people telling lies and half-truths that confuse and complicate our lives in a real world.

You live in a real world, unless you want to live within your own fantasy. Your own fantasy shouldn’t extend past advertising of products you would like to buy or services you would like to have. But your life is made so complex by untruths that it’s hard to understand sometimes because so many people tell something other than the truth. And the stories seldom all match.

It could happen that people begin to tell the truth. We could teach children to tell the truth, provided that we don’t lie to them while we do it. We could also teach them how to convey the truth in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the receivers. I used to have a reputation as an employer who could fire an employee and make that person feel lucky that he or she had the opportunity to begin a new work life elsewhere, so I know it can be done.

Nothing is improved with a lie. No situation has ever improved because of a lie. No life was ever made more secure or better because of a lie. People who allow themselves to be deluded by lies eventually experience a day of reckoning when the truth becomes obvious. By then the lie-teller is usually nowhere to be found.

Until we start teaching the value of truth to every child, we will continue to live in a complicated fantasy world where very few things turn out to be the way we were told they should be.

That’s not pretty. There is no need for us to lie to ourselves about that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about how to make the world, our communities and our personal lives much better without spending a fortune. It’s all real. And true.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

You Too Can Be A Spin Doctor

Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to bring power to the people who care. Learn more at the end of this article.
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When we have the courage to speak out — to break our silence — we inspire
the rest of the “moderates” in our communities to speak up and voice their
views.
– Sharon Schuster

“Moderates” is what Schuster calls people who have thoughts, ideas, opinions and criticisms about what happens in their communities, but aren’t prepared to speak up to do anything about it.

Why would that be? In the past (my past at least) I heard the old saying that “you can’t fight city hall,” meaning that established governments have resources that can support or oppose anything that the powers behind them want. That includes challenges in court as they use tax money to pay teams of lawyers, as necessary.

That situation hasn’t changed. No doubt it is very hard to oppose the direction any level of government is taking, especially if it involves a courtroom. However, more and more class action suits are not only being accepted by the courts, but winning against governments and big industry.

Suits against Big Tobacco are prime examples of how ordinary folks who have been hurt by an industry who purposely put poisons and addictive substances into tobacco products in order to sell more product were able to gain substantial retribution and compensation from those industries.

However, the landscape has changed somewhat over the past few decades. Now it’s not the governments themselves that hold the power over what they do–that is the representatives of the people who elected them–but the power behind the elected representatives. When it counts, the vote goes to the money.

No doubt our elected representative influence the way a vote goes in a legislative body for much of its day-to-day business. But on important matters, questions about which the moneyed backers of elected representatives want to have a vote go one way or another, the power of the backroom–and the boardrooms behind them–matters more than the consciences of the representatives themselves.

The best examples of these are the U.S. Senate whose activities play out in the media daily. Others include the past two U.S. presidential elections where the president of the most powerful country in the world was decided less by voters and more by the powers behind the scenes who influenced everyone from the Supreme Court to the people who counted ballots (but not those with hanging chads).

However, there is one place where ordinary people can express themselves and find others who think like them. That place is the small newspaper that may publish daily, twice a week, weekly or even twice a month. These editors and publishers want local opinion and those who are prepared to speak out (and speak up) can find an outlet for their views in the editorial pages.

When we think of newspapers, we tend to think of the biggest of them. But their editorial policies may prohibit those with viewpoints that differ from that of the publisher/owner from finding daylight. The small papers like to support local opinion and are happy when they can get behind a worthy project and support those who want to make it happen.

They want readers and don’t mind a bit of controversy because they know that controversy brings more readers.

Those who believe they can’t reach a larger audience with their opinions may find willing support for their ideas if they can write in publishable form. Small newspaper always need news and editorial material.

The only power that supercedes that of the backroom boys in legislative votes is the power of the public as demonstrated by the popularity of their opinions in the media. Small newspapers offer that potential to those who want to spread the word about something in ways that no other medium could.

Today’s ordinary citizen may not have any more power than a citizen of the past. But the ones who learn how to work the small newspapers to their advantage can make a difference without having the big money that backs most elected representatives.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book that gives the background needed by every citizen about how to make their community, their families and their personal lives better and safer.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

Is God Worth Believing In?

If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save
people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of
their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a
TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is
foul, foul, foul.
– Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

I believe that Asimov, like many atheists, claimed to be an atheist not because there is no evidence for the existence of a supreme deity but because he saw the many flaws and hypocrisies of the organized religions around him. In other words, it was not God that Asimov didn’t believe in but the various forms of God touted by organized religions. The former may be true also, but that was not his point.

Pope Benedict, like many predecessors, urges the world to make peace. Yet his words indicate that he believes that Christianity is the only true religion, that Roman Catholics belong to the only true church and that Jews do not subscribe to anything that may be called a religion at all. Some of those Jews live in Benedict’s home country, the one that was responsible for killing millions of Jews during the Second World War. Benedict, in effect, excluded Jews from the Catholic heaven.

There isn’t a religion in the world whose clerics profess chastity that is not under attack in the courts today for cases of sexually violating women in their congregations and children in their personal care.

One of the first things that children learn about the God of their religion is that He is mysterious, unknowable, supremely powerful and all-knowing. Then most of them proceed to dictate to their parishioners and followers how they should behave and what they should not do, based on information they have received directly from God. That’s the same “unknowable” God.

Every religion claims that their God is better than the Gods of other religions., even if the Gods are really one entity. Every religion claims that their devout followers will receive an escort into heaven before any non-believers, some even claiming that non-believers in that particular faith cannot possibly go to heaven anyway.

Every religion claims to believe in peace, yet almost every war since the end of the Roman Empire has been either started or supported by religions. In the Second World War, both the Allied countries and the Axis powers claimed to have the support of God–both of the same God.

Asimov, I believe, was soured by the claims about God made by the religions he knew. He knew many religions. By their standards, he was an atheist.

By his own standards, maybe not. He was a public atheist. He said he “would believe in a God who would choose to save people” yet the Gods of most religions have not chosen to or been able to prevent most of the atrocities of history, such as the genocides of Holocaust, Rwanda or Kosovo/Albania.

Perhaps what atheists are saying is that they want a God they can believe in, not one supported by fantasy and fiction invented by power hungry religious leaders. Maybe they want a God they can trust, as opposed to the Gods proposed by religious leaders who can’t back up their claims and put spin on any apparent failures or deficiencies of their deities.

Organized religions constitute the largest unelected human power structures in the world. They hold power equivalent to that of elected governments, but are not accountable to anyone (except in recent violations of laws).

No one expects a religion to be able to prove the existence of God. That would be a violation of their own beliefs, given that God is unknowable by definition. But people seeking answers to their most important questions about life and afterlife deserve to be served by people who can be trusted and who will not distort the truth, whatever that may be.

Religious leaders and their devout followers who want to persuade others to join them should be prepared to follow their own life guidelines, but publicly and privately.

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

We Can’t Kill Them All

The recognition of the sanctity of the life of every man is the first and only basis of all morality.
– Leo Tolstoy

Christians call it The Golden Rule. Confucianism has a similar dictum. Virtually all religions have some version of The Golden Rule.

But Tolstoy’s statement goes beyond those moral guides of religion. His statement includes respect for ourselves. As the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (circa 580-500 BC) once wrote, “Above all things, reverence yourself.”

Those who have little or no respect for themselves cannot have the ability and depth of character to offer respect to and for others. Respecting ourselves must be the place where we begin to teach children.

We must respect the children we teach and in turn teach them how to respect themselves. Sometimes, in our times of greatest need, the respect we have for ourselves and our loved ones is all that holds us together, separating us from those who resort to suicide, depression or insanity.

I would take this concept of respect a major step forward. We need to respect the multitude of other life forms on our planet and the non-biological part of it as well.

Respecting ourselves already has us respecting some other forms of life. Modern biological science estimates that we may harbour as many as nine times as many microbes on our skin and within our bodies as we have cells of our own body. In fact, we are already what the first Star Trek television series called symbionts. Not only do our bodies host other life forms, we depend on them to fight off still other microbes that would harm us with disease and other infections.

We are not individual life entities, islands in an ocean of other life forms. We are communities of life ourselves. Respecting our own health means providing support for the uncountable bacteria and viruses within us that help to maintain our health as they live their own lives.

We need to respect life forms beyond ourselves and beyond other humans. We have vegetarians and vegans disavowing the eating meat because the animal slaughter they believe is inhumane and unnecessary. Yet everything that every one of us eats–plant or animal–was at one time a living being with a life cycle and a desire to survive and reproduce just like ourselves.

We consume components of the mineral kingdom as if their sources will go on forever, which of course they won’t. We build unrepairable appliances, for example, then throw them away when they no longer work, which is sooner rather than later because we build them as cheaply as possible. But minerals can’t be destroyed any more than biological life can be destroyed. It collects in waste dumps waiting to be rediscovered as new sources of precious raw materials for manufacturing in the future.

Our waste dumps collect minerals in random willy-nilly fashion. Instead of separating our mineral waste so it can be recycled and remanufactured later, we cast it into huge piles where our descendents will have to pay heavily to dig it up and separate it. That includes separating off the poisons that have developed in the decomposing waste soup.

Biological life can’t be destroyed? Of course any given entity of biological life can end its lifespan, but the now-dead cells become food for other life forms so that the food chain of life keeps revolving incessantly. Biological life never disappears, it only changes shape and position with respect to other life forms.

When we look after ourselves, we extend our own lives and the lives of many other microbes (in succeeding generations) within us. When we look after other forms of life outside of ourselves, we ensure that the food chain will continue unimpeded around the world. When we look after (respect) non-biological materials, we provide for the generations that will follow us.

As Tolstoy said, morality is all about respect. That respect begins with ourselves.

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