You May Be Stupid And Not Know It

Strange as it seems, no amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it.
– Stephen Vizinczey, Hungarian-born Canadian writer (b. 1933)

One dictionary defines stupidity as “a poor ability to understand or to profit from experience.”
Why would anyone with a higher education be stupid, possibly stupider than someone with less education?

Education–at least the education systems I am familiar with in many parts of the world–functions on a model that strongly promotes and supports conformity. Conformity, by definition, means following someone else’s point of view of the world. Usually this takes the form of following the point of view of the power establishment, those who control power in a country, a state/province or a community.

Agree with the establishment and you “fit in.” That means not only enjoying the benefits of agreeing with and supporting the ruling establishment and authority, but accepting its faults and warts without grumbling. And sometimes its illegal behaviour.

Poor people, for example, have trouble accepting the point of view of the establishment. Some slipped into poverty especially because they would not or could not conform to the belief system of the establishment. The establishment believes (sometimes even states publicly) that the poor are lazy, thus allowing themselves to be exempt from addressing the core of their problems.

People with severe health problems also have trouble supporting the establishment because they believe the people in power should do more to help them, especially to treat them according to the Golden Rule, the way the ruling people themselves would like to be treated in similar circumstances.

The people in power are never either poor or suffering from severe health problems. You never see someone with oxygen support or on a ventilator in a seat of a legislative assembly. These days you may see someone in a wheelchair, but those people, like the women who hold elected office, have fought their way through a morass and tangle of red tape to get there.

In some countries and elected legislative bodies, by law there must be a set minimum number or minimum percentage of seats for female representatives. I am not aware of any legislative body that has a minimum of requirement of representatives from among the poor or those with permanent health problems.

Ironically, social assistance for the poor–in whatever form that help may take–requires a huge portion of the budget for most governments. Health care, whether it comes from government coffers, as in Canada, or private health care or private health care companies with government assistance, demands a huge percentage of funds available for public use. In Canada, which has public health care, the budget for “free” health coverage requires over half the provincial budget totals.

Those who use the greatest portion of public funds have the least representation in legislative bodies. The people in power think this is a grand way of doing business. They, of course, are neither poor nor of ill health on a permanent basis. Consequently, the poor remain poor and those with permanent health problems seldom recover. That is, they remain permanently unhealthy even if good health care would cure their problems.

Does this mean that legislators suffer from “a poor ability to understand or to profit from experience?”

Anyone who hasn’t been asleep for most of their life knows that corporations have great influence over governments. The bigger the corporations, the greater their contributions to political parties and elections and the greater their influence over decision making.So within government bureaucracies, conformity is not just the norm, it’s the rule. Sometimes it’s even the law.

Corporations themselves have bureaucracies run by a few people in power at the top. They like conformity because they have policies (both written and “informal”) they want followed to the letter. In a sense, corporations are like the military, only without the uniforms (unless you call “suits” a uniform, which they may not be but they prove conformity), the foot stomping and the salutes.

The military, the ultimate in enforced conformity, requires underlings to obey even orders that don’t make sense or that may contravene the laws of the land. That’s enforced stupidity because those in lower ranks seldom get opportunities to think for themselves.

Religion enforces conformity, at least in the sense that what is said publicly must agree with the policies of those in higher authority. Those who don’t want to conform either leave the faith, are banished or excommunicated. In a few cases, killed.

Most people who have passed through high school have learned that the wisest strategy for a paper or project is to give the teacher back what he or she wants. Be innovative, but only with certain parameters. In university and postgraduate school, the strictures tighten so that those who do not give the professors what they want in the form they want it may not pass or may not receive sufficient marks to move on to a higher level.

I disagree with Vizinczey’s statement to the extent that I maintain all organizations in societies create stupidity, not just fortify it. They make thinking for yourself an anti-social act.

It has been said that having everyone thinking for themselves would result in chaos, in anarchy. This is not true. Even anarchists think alike. As to human chaos, that is highly unlikely because our nature as social beings would forced us to consider all possibilities for policies and procedures before making decisions. Our social nature would compel us to choose leaders.

Chaos? No. It would shift the present power mongers from their perches and place those who have the ability to organize and lead without fear and intimidation into positions where they could act in the best interests of the public that elected them.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow children who can think for themselves without sinking into the abyss of banality, conformity and stupidity.
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What We Miss Most

When you are eight years old, nothing is any of your business.
– Lenny Bruce, comedian (1925-1966)

It’s a good laugh line for a comedian. Just about everyone remembers that when they were eight years old nobody wanted to include them in adult affairs or conversations. And the adults in Lenny’s audience likely did the same with their own kids.

I remember a man I overheard speaking to another man, when I was about 15 years old, saying “I don’t bother trying to have conversations with anyone younger than 25 because they don’t know enough to hold a decent conversation.” It impressed me so much I decided to learn enough to be able to hold a good conversation by the age of 25.

I certainly didn’t consider including my own children in conversations I had with my wife when they were that age. They weren’t interested anyway.

I was wrong.

My kids were wrong, but maybe because of our practice of excluding our kids from adult conversations they just got used to how things were.

It’s the sole purpose in life of a child to learn what it’s like in the adult world they are enter within a few years. The young of every species has that same purpose.

If we, as parents and grandparents, don’t include kids in our conversations, they miss out on opportunities to learn from us.

What we don’t teach with intention, kids learn by our example. If our parents didn’t talk about sex or even indicate that they had sex with each other, they likely didn’t say much to us about the subject. We learn the hard way, probably the way our parents did. There’s a pretty good chance that we and our parents both missed out on much of what we could have had and done if we and they had known more.

In turn, our kids miss out if we don’t know what to teach them and how.

Kids most often follow the examples of their parents when they reach the age of majority and have to choose a political party to vote for. They have overheard discussions among their parents that led them to the conclusion that one party is better than the other(s). Most parents don’t even indicate to their kids that voters have more than one choice. The young adults vote the way their parents would.

We’re forced to learn too much the hard way. We make too many mistakes on stuff where there was no reason we shouldn’t have known better, stuff that someone should have taught us.

Why should a child learn a foreign language and trigonometry in school if that child will never use it as an adult, but that child never receives proper instruction about how to make and keep friends, how to be a good spouse in a marriage or how to be a good parent?

We fail at friendships, marriages and parenting. We never get a chance to fail at speaking the foreign language or using trig in most cases, but that’s just as well because we likely forgot most of it since we had no use for it.

Do the arithmetic. Which is more important, knowing how to make and keep friends, how to have a compatible marriage and how to be a good parent or how to speak a foreign language and do trigonometry?

That’s not to put down learning languages or trig, only to state that we have other more important needs that our parents, our grandparents and our teachers seldom or never address.

We accept this because “That’s the way it has always been done.” It’s clearly wrong, so does that mean that many generations of our ancestors were wrong? It’s a sharp edged pill to swallow, but, yup, they were wrong.

When we chose to exclude ourselves from the natural courses of nature in our modern world, we didn’t compensate for the important lessons that nature teaches to every other species on the planet. We miss some of the most important lessons in life. Parents don’t know them so they can’t teach what they don’t know. Or they are reticent about teaching what they learned themselves by doing and making mistakes.

No matter, we have sports, drugs, other addictions, abuse, volunteering, exercising and lots of other ways to compensate for our lack of knowledge about important human subjects.

That won’t change until some of us decide to change it. The longer we wait to change the system by teaching kids what they need to know as adults, the bigger the job will be.

It could all change in a flash if school curriculums were changed. That’s not hard because curriculums change almost every year to some extent.

Doing nothing is easier. Except the problems keep getting worse.

Maybe we should talk about this subject more.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers that provides material that all kids should know but that most never get at home or in school.
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Just How Dumb Can We Get?

Ours is the age that is proud of machines that think and suspicious of men who try to.
– H. Mumford Jones, US critic & educator (1892 – 1980)

Not just your age Mumford, the present one as well.

Many people have an odd fascination with machines with Artificial Intelligence (AI). Two generations ago the most popular Christmas gifts for girls were talking dolls. A generation ago people flocked to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey to hear the computer Hal conduct conversations with the spacecraft’s crew members. The Star Wars franchise brought R2D2 and C3PO (a near-android) and audiences loved them.

Today people scoop up for gifts anything automated, including video games and toys with robotic capabilities. A programmable cordless vacuum cleaner that looks like a shortened curling stone and gathers floor litter without human hands operating it is another immensely popular gift. Sony’s walking robot remains an expensive dream for most kids.

So popular are automated things, especially those that use computers or computerized chips are their hearts that Microsoft is about to launch a new all-encompassing operating system that will tie together the computerized systems in many different household appliances, some of which have not yet been released to the marketplace.

We look forward to the day when our computers and computerized robots do some of our thinking for us. Are we not afraid that they will eventually replace us and become effectively the heads of our households? Though we should, apparently we do not have such a fear.

We believe that technology will not only make our lives easier, but it will also prevent itself from taking control of our lives. Arthur C. Clarke, the British science fiction writer and co-author of 2001 (with director Stanley Kubrick), warned us with Hal, but the lesson didn’t stick. If anything, Hal (a metal box with an actor’s voice-over) prompted even more research into AI and its uses to assist humans in their daily chores.

The modern world population, those who have easy and constant access to the Information Highway which gives us more information that we can absorb, has become essentially a race of stupid animals. As writer Stephen Vizinczey said, “We now have a whole culture based on the assumption that people know nothing and so anything can be said to them.” Yet that culture wants machines that can think. think for them, we must assume.

Are we really stupid? The so-called post-modern world requires expertise in many fields, which in turn requires our best educated people to specialize in one field of study so intensively that they know less about most subjects than a high school dropout. We don’t repair anything broken any more, we buy a new one. We don’t fix broken equipment in our homes because we don’t know how. We toss it and buy new.

We hope for casual conversations with colleagues because strangers might want to talk on subjects we know nothing about. Small talk about nothing of significance has risen to an art form.

We pollute our air with half a million chemicals, warming it unnecessarily with coal-fired electricity generating stations, drive huge SUVs that emit many times as much CO2 as smaller cars, and we drive as much as we can our vehicles that use fossil fuels rather than putting pressure on science to deliver alternative energy sources. And we know we are doing it. That’s stupid.

But, as H. Mumford Jones said, we are suspicious of those who think, speak or write along any train of thought that differs from what our politicians, our industries and our pop scientists tell us is the right way to think. In fact, we often socially ostracize such people, cause them to lose their jobs or find ways to imprison them or otherwise silence them.

Perhaps we need Artificial Intelligence to compensate for the lack of intelligence we exhibit ourselves, in our personal and our public lives. Though our public lives are getting smaller as we turn our civic responsibilities over to politicians and their agencies, even to the extent of staying away from the polls on voting days.

Before you go thinking that I believe we are bound for hell in a handbasket or are dumbing ourselves down to the intelligence level of dirt, remember, we will soon be able to have transplants of brain tissue, whole brains or artificial brains.

We’ll know it has already begun when we find a revival of the name Hal for newly born babies. Or C3PO.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want their children to be able to think as adults, including the tools, resources and plan to make it happen.
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Why So Many Kids Go Wrong

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
– Albert Camus, French writer (1913-1960)

Well, I do, Albert, so where are you so I can refute your statement?

Seriously, Camus was right, some people do go to extensive lengths to be considered normal by others. But why?

We are social animals. As such we have standards, mores and rules/laws by which people must conduct their affairs so that our society does not descend into chaos. When we deal with a clerk in a store, for example, we have an idea of what to expect from that person, as the clerk does for us.

Two or three decades ago (depending on the location) a movement began to make people in wheelchairs have access to every building they may need to enter. That made sense for a medical building, for example, because someone in a wheelchair would certainly need to visit a doctor eventually.

People in wheelchairs wanted to be treated like everyone else and have access everywhere someone with two working legs would have. To them, normal meant having the same rights or access as those who could walk.

Striving to be normal goes much deeper than that. A child who is socially underdeveloped may work very hard to be like the rest of the kids, but that child can never be “normal” in a social setting. The child may seem to be a loner, may stutter, may remain quiet with others around, may agree with the leader of the group most often, will likely not do well with schoolwork, but try as he or she might they will not be able to be like the others, normal in a social setting.

Being socially underdeveloped as a child carries through adulthood, sometimes through life itself. Many socially underdeveloped kids eventually learn the social skills their peers did as children, whereupon they can interact in social settings like others, thus be “normal.” That catching up socially requires a huge amount of effort, something Camus says that few understand.

Certainly the peers of a socially underdeveloped child don’t understand. They consider the kid weird or strange. They nitpick to find faults with the child that may not exist in reality so they can talk about the odd one in their own “normal” groups.

Often a socially underdeveloped child will be bullied by another socially underdeveloped child. Bullies are classic cases of social underdevelopment, perhaps with a touch of maldevelopment. They need social interaction with peers, but have no idea how to achieve it. They want to be normal, but can’t, so they lash out at the weakest among them, which is usually another socially underdeveloped child. The same happens with adult bullies and their victims.

Children who are underdeveloped emotionally have similar adjustment problems. They tend to be punished for their deficiencies and the resulting behaviours, as socially underdeveloped children are as well. What we don’t understand in odd or strange children usually causes them to violate social norms, thus we punish them to teach them how to act normally.

Yes, we punish children and adults for being socially and/or emotionally underdeveloped and acting out because they can’t cope with their inability to be normal with their peers.

By punishing them as children we ensure that they will not likely rise to the level of development of their peers because they will believe that it’s impossible for them to be normal. They will always feel left out, different.

Almost every adult in a prison is either socially or emotionally underdeveloped or maldeveloped, or both. At that age they have been broken for so long that society could not afford to do the necessary psychological repairs, so we put them behind bars and forget about them. Pretend they don’t exist in our society. Call them bad, social offenders.

It may be true that most children are born with the same potential. That potential is very different among them by the age they enter the school system because of their different opportunities (or lack thereof) to develop socially and emotionally as well as they do physically and intellectually in the intervening few years.

Trouble begins in the school system. Teachers are not only not granted permission to work to develop children’s social and emotional skills according to the curriculum, they may be denied permission (in most classroom settings) by the administration. “There isn’t time.” “Stick to the curriculum.”

By the time kids enter school, many parents believe they have taken their children as far as they need to socially and emotionally, so they leave it up to the school to carry on. The school can’t do much in most cases.

Every socially or emotionally inappropriate behaviour of adults can be traced back to social or emotional (or both) deficits when they were children. No one wants to do this and few will try because it upsets everyone who prefers to deny any responsibility for underdevelopment or maldevelopment of social miscreant adults, when they were children.

Society can manage social and emotional development of children the same way it manages intellectual and physical development. In fact, plans to do this are fairly easy and very cheap to implement.

Before anything can be changed, we must admit as a society that we have children who are not receiving assistance with their social and emotional development. Then we can put programs in place to train parents and teachers how to fulfill the rest of their respective roles in raising a child.

Talk about it.

Bill Allin is a sociologist, retired teacher and author of the book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, as well as the fountain of inspiration for programs related to the TIA program.
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The Secret Of Love

Animals have these advantages over man: they never hear the clock strike, they die without any idea of death, they have no theologians to instruct them, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcome and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills.
– Fran├žois Marie Arouet (aka Voltaire), letter to Count Schomberg, August 1769

As admirable as Voltaire’s reasoning ability was and as impressive his observations about human nature, I wonder how he reached the conclusion that animals know nothing of the power of life.

An avowed dog person for most of my life, I became servant to a household cat some 18 years ago. Since then my wife and I have had two other cats, one of which has epilepsy and has gone deaf.

The most impressive–dare I say shocking–lesson I have learned in my years of observing the behaviour of cats is that they are remarkably similar to humans in their needs. I don’t mean just the needs for food, shelter and security, which all living things share.

Our cats do hear our grandmother clock strike because it gongs on the hour and half-hour. It means nothing to them because neither the ticking of the clock nor the gong itself serve any purpose toward satisfying their needs.

What does a clock add to our lives? At most it serves as a reminder that we must perform actions, usually in the service of others. Cats can be altruistic at times, but they are clearly not into servitude. Cats would have disappointed Pavlov.

Our cats know when they want to be fed because they are hungry. If they aren’t hungry, they don’t care if food is available to them or not. They don’t overeat, nor do they eat in front of the television. They will, however, eat as a form of comfort, if their problem is not of a severely emotional nature.

They clearly know when they need to be touched (petted). Not only do they make their needs known to the petters, they allow little to stand in the way of their satisfying that need when they have it, if humans are around. They prefer petting from the humans they know, but will accept it from strangers who happen around at the right time.

Humans do not do that. We seldom know when we need to be touched by another, even though it’s a need so fundamental to us that regular lack of touch can alter our personality.

Children almost never come to mommy demanding to be held. They may come, but they don’t ask in words. The closest they come to asking is when they hurt themselves. Being held by mommy when they hurt does nothing to help the hurt, it’s a way of (an excuse for) demanding to be touched without using words (we don’t use words to express that need, sad to say).

Voltaire says that animals have no idea of death. I disagree. When our epileptic cat has a petit or grand mal seizure, he wants to be alone in an enclosed area, secure that he won’t explode all over the place. However, for days before and after the seizure, he seeks touch and comfort many times each day. He knows when he will have a seizure, days ahead. He seeks the security he wants and needs ahead of time.

People seldom know they are about to have an epileptic seizure until it happens, or maybe just a brief period before. Cats are more sensitive to their bodies. Most of the time they do what they must to heal themselves. Only their owners insist upon taking them to vets.

For months before our oldest cat died, she came to me many times each day, to sit on my lap or to cuddle in the crook of my arm as I lied in bed napping. This was uncharacteristic behaviour for that cat, though it isn’t for the epileptic one now. I don’t doubt that they would know when the end of their life is near. Maybe they don’t dream of heaven, but who knows?

Voltaire’s reference to the clock striking, of course, refers to the death knell, not to the regular striking of a gong or ticking of the pendulum. His point is that we make much of a charade of death, most of which serves no real purpose but to make the grieving ones feel worse.

My point differs from Voltaire’s in that I want us to pay attention to the characteristics and needs of animals that we share with them, but that they do better than us.

We know that dogs and cats love to be petted. We call them pets for that reason. They need touch and they demand it from those who can best provide it. To a dog or cat, brushing the fur is nothing more than another way for them to be touched.

We need to recognize our own need for touch. Life without touch is not easy and life with a decreasing amount of touch from a loved one is even harder because we feel the lack of touch and our increase in need. The death of a spouse may be hardest on those who benefitted most from loving touch from the dead mate for many years.

Hospitals (not all) and nursing homes have found the benefits of having people with pets visit so that patients can touch them. Nurses stroke their patients and touch them more than ever in the past because it helps the patients to feel better, even to heal faster in some cases.

Voltaire’s quotation was not about animals after all, but about satisfying our own real needs instead of trying to play act unnecessary stuff while ignoring what is really important.

Now, while you think about it, go give someone you love a hug. Do it several times a day if you can. Don’t miss a day.

One of the mysteries of love is that we can’t measure it. Think not? Most of us, without being aware of it, measure how much others love us by the amount of loving touch we receive from them.

Remember, it’s not just the amount of touch we receive from others that’s important. It’s just as important to those we love that we give loving touch to them so that they can keep track of how much we love them. It works both days. We measure love by the amount of touch we receive, they measure love by the amount they receive.

Now you can understand why the so-called Empty Nest syndrome of parents whose children have grown and left home can be so severe. And why people who consider divorce do so because their partners and they have “grown apart.”

Love is an emotional word we use to describe our basic need for loving touch. Celibate nuns and priests receive little human touch, but when they devote their lives to God and to prayer the parts of their brains that trigger the feel-good response activate the same way that ours does when we are hugged by a loved one. Loving God fully can give people the same physical effect as receiving loving touch.

So, have you hugged someone yet?

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow balanced and well loved children.
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We Have To Suffer, And We Do It So Well

Man has to suffer. When he has no real afflictions, he invents some.
– Jose Marti, Cuban freedom fighter and hero (1853-1895)

When you read the quotation you might be tempted to think that it was written recently. But Marti, Cuba’s greatest national hero, lived well over a century ago. In the sense of this quotation, nothing has changed in humankind since his time.

The observation about life applies both to political/national and to personal lives. The USA and the United Kingdom, for examples, have been involved with wars at least once in each generation for hundreds of years. Were these wars necessary?

For the few hundreds of years leading up to and including Marti’s time, the world was indeed a violent place. The evolution from tribal states to centralized governments took a very long time. That is, though centralized governments try to avoid wars in most cases (the US, UK, some African and Asian countries excepted), many got involved with wars until a century ago for the same reasons our ancestors did, control of land and resources. That’s tribal.

Politically weak leaders in countries with centralized governments, who want to make names for themselves, stir up rumours that another nation is out to get them, that the people had better prepare for imminent attack or all will be lost. As this kind of politicking appeals to our natural sense of caution, fomenting fear within a population is relatively easy. In some cases, simply making up lies is sufficient to get people behind the leader who will defend them in their “time of great need.”

Even in more peaceful times, political parties feel the need to devise the appearance of conflict between parties to get votes and between candidates to help one succeed over another. In most cases, the afflictions (conflict) are more imagined than real, as becomes obvious after an election when a new party in power assumes similar policies that it railed against when it was in opposition.

In our personal lives, some people revel in conflict. In business, for example, succeeding through conflict often gets one person the top job in a company over others who see no valid reason for it. Or who lose the battle.

At the personal level, family doctors see many patients every day who have nothing wrong with them except an overactive imagination and a penchant for hypochondria. Some hand out prescriptions which are nothing more than sugar pills, just to satisfy the imaginary needs of these people to be “cured.”

Any phenomenon that can be called a bandwagon effect plays on the same need for an affliction even if one doesn’t exist.

Is the planet really warming, inexorably and inevitably, as some say? The Arctic ice cap is melting, to be sure, but the ice cap in the Antarctic is increasing in size. That has always happened in cycles. Some parts of the world are getting hotter–more temperature extremes–while others are having colder temperatures in their winter than have been seen since the Little Ice Age.

Oh, that Little Ice Age. It happened roughly between 1450 and 1850. Since 1850, so our records show, earth has been warming. Reason suggests that it is warming naturally, as we would expect after a minor ice age.

Are we truly in danger of warming our own planet to the point of killing off most of its inhabitants? The hubris of that is astounding, that one species believes it has power of that magnitude. Our weather is governed by the sun more than by any other factor. When we learn to control the sun, we can control weather.

But fear over the effects of climate change is our global affliction of the day. I haven’t heard of a single coastal city or even a low island that had to be abandoned because of rising sea levels.

I have heard of many possible causes for the increase of asthma. One primary cause is surely air pollution. We are polluting our air with about half a million chemicals emitted from smokestacks and about half that number of chemicals enter our waterways. That’s the stuff we breathe and drink. Why aren’t we riding that hobby horse, since it affects the health of almost everyone on our planet?

The air pollution scare tried and failed a few decades ago. Now scientists seeking government grants are ignoring our terribly polluted air that actually kills thousands of people in large countries every year in favour of scaring us into believing in the potential tragedies of climate change.

Meanwhile, several older climatologists who claim that climate change is natural and cyclical have been virtually silenced by the younger ones. The older ones are beyond needing grants, while the younger ones have great careers in fear mongering ahead of them.

It’s hard to know what the real facts are because they get obscured by so many who have financial interests and celebrity in mind for themselves.

As Jose Marti said, we need to suffer. There are lots of people around who are well prepared to help us to do just that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems
, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want children to have the skills to be able to distinguish between advertising propaganda and fact so they can live healthy and safe lives without fear of emotional bullies.
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Are You Really That Helpless?

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
– Thomas A Kempis, German ecclesiastic (1380-1471)

Let him that would move the world first move himself.
– Socrates, Ancient Athenian philosopher (470-399 BC)

Many people claim they wish they could change the world, but they can’t. Yet they would find it difficult to change themselves, even offensive if someone else suggested it.

Changing the world isn’t hard. It simply can’t be done by one person. Because they know they can’t do it alone, many fail to make any attempt. Rather than working to gather others who will spread the same message, they do nothing, often ignoring the advice they would give to the world as to how to achieve new objectives and goals.

“If you can’t beat them, join them.” As common as that saying is, it identifies its users as guilty of something, and as quitters, if not as losers.

Starting with the ancient Jew we know as Abraham, the Semites began to spread the word among the other tribes they met about how to live a good life. Jesus of Nazareth picked up the theme about 550 years later. The Muslim Prophet Mohammed continued the theme with his own religion. In about 2500 years, around half the world believes the same precepts about living a good life.

Mind you, not every one of those people adheres to the rules. Generally speaking, the Jews are fairly peaceful people, except as they must defend themselves against those who would annihilate them in the Middle East. A large majority of Christians and Muslims are peaceful people, I believe. In fact, most of the people who belong to non-Abrahamic religions have similar beliefs about how to live a good life.

Considering how incredibly brutal the world was up until 600 years ago (and how brutal it still is in pockets around the world), we have come a long way. We probably have six times as many people on earth today as 600 years ago, which means that even more than in the past we humans have changed to a more peaceful and helpful life style.

We have no trouble hearing about those who violate our norms. The media ensure that we hear as much that’s bad among us as they can get their hands on, and they make up some of what they tell us as it is. But the vast majority of people on the planet live good lives, healthier and longer than ever before in history.

Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed spread their words, others paid attention and passed them on. The same can be said of The Buddha and the originators of Hinduism, Taoism and other religions.

These people believed that their words would eventually spread around the world. They were right. They didn’t give up because it couldn’t happen within their lifetimes.

What does that make us, the good people of today who don’t believe we can make a difference? Short-sighted, at the least.

Changing our own attitudes about what effect we could have on the future of our world could make such a difference in decades, centuries and millennia to come.

It’s not so hard to tell others about the values we hold, so long as we don’t try to convert them to a particular religion or ask them for donations. They will listen and, in time, they too will spread the word.

You can make a difference, if you believe in yourself.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to make a big difference in the world of the future by teaching children what they need to know to operate it with integrity and with honour.
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