TV Commercials Can Ruin Your Life and Health

TV Commercials Can Ruin Your Life and Health

The question for me was, could TV actually teach? I knew it could, because I knew 3-year-olds who sang beer commercials!
– Joan Ganz Cooney, American television producer, one of the founders of Sesame Workshop, home of Sesame Street (b. 1929)

[DISCLOSURE: The purpose for this article is to make readers aware of the effects of following life and health advice offered by TV commercials. These are science based facts, not opinions. The science part is left out to make it easier to read.]

Children, adolescents, even adults learn about life and life skills by watching television. As odd as that may sound, they have few other convenient sources for information they need. Today’s parents literally know almost nothing about parenting and the needs of children other than food, clothing and shelter.

For most of human history children learned about life from their parents and neighbours as they worked and played alongside their parents in fields and workshops. Today children are separated from their parents for almost all of their waking day, leaving surrogates to do the job of teaching them about life.

TV fills that role magnificently as it seeks to mold the minds of children to become devoted consumers of particular products as they get old enough to spend money. The prime objective of programming is to entertain people long enough that they will stay around for the next set of commercials.

But what are television commercials teaching? Is it worthwhile life advice? No. Do parents realize that they have turned the job of teaching almost everything their children learn over to pathological commercial interests who want people to follow what they teach with the same devotion as people give to their religions or their preferred political party? Again, no.

First, I want you to think about all the TV programs you know. Which among them has role models you believe children should follow? Of course we need buffoons to laugh at and actors to play conflicted characters for drama. Would you change lives with any of them?

As you think about the TV programs you know, one that would interest kids, adolescents or poorly educated adults, can you think of any you would like to represent life in your home or workplace? Even one? I can’t.

TV news is filled with violence and perversion. Shows that emphasize personalities tend to have them conflicting among themselves. Comedies show people with personality problems, social problems, even mental illnesses (never identified as such). Dramas (mostly soaps) show people with lives that no one would want to emulate.

Commercials are where real life teaching takes place. Commercials pay the freight for programming. And they are often better produced. Their messages are meant to be taken literally, also to create a long term following. That’s why you see the same commercials repeated over and over. And over. And over. As a hypnotist would do when putting a volunteer into a trance. The rule of thumb in TV advertising is feed the same message to people ten times or more and they will believe it. Anything.

Let’s set aside anything to do with political or religious advertising as it is filled with so much brain twisting propaganda and distortions of truth that networks and stations should be required to flash warning signs before and after them. Networks don’t bother big advertisers because there is too much income at risk.

Let’s begin our look at commercials for personal care at the top. Hair care companies may have done the most and best research about hair care than any commercial product manufacturer. But their products only heal what other products have broken. In fact, most hair would be best treated with a simple soap wash every few days. The hair of a person who eats a healthy diet will look good so long as the natural elements of hair are not stripped away by chemicals. Wash, rinse with clear water, then leave the hair alone for a few days, other than brushing.

Any commercials to do with mouth care are deceptive, if not outright harmful. I have not seen one teeth brushing commercial in decades that shows a person brushing their teeth in a way that would avoid cavities. On the contrary, the ones I have seen would promote cavities and sensitive teeth. Neither is necessary, but both keep other industries like dentistry and teeth cleaners alive and flourishing.

The mouth (along with the skin) is a secondary part of the body’s immune system. After the major immune system component in the gut, the mouth is the first line of defense against attack by diseases. Kill all microbes in your mouth and you destroy one component of your immune system. Wash your body with soap thoroughly in a daily shower and you will decimate another part. Take doctor-prescribed antibiotics and you will destroy the major component of your immune system. That’s what these products you see advertised do. The advertisers make fortunes on your devotion to their somewhat or totally harmful products. Your doctor will come to know you intimately from your frequent visits.

Skin care products are a travesty against good skin health. To begin, cosmetics for women produce a look that studies have shown men do not prefer over the look of no cosmetics. Men know that cosmetics mean “fake” and act accordingly. Women who claim that they make themselves up to make themselves feel better have self esteem issues. Are they trying to compete for attention with other women or attract them?

Clothing fashions are another issue of brainwashing. A man or woman who believes that he or she performs better at work because they look better is a victim of effective advertising and self deception. Most bosses look at job performance before apparel. Should you be known for your good looks or your job skills?

Teeth whitening was originally used by movie actors to make them stand out from other actors on set. Teeth whitening, like fashion and cosmetics, was an industry founded by people who wanted to sell something that people did not need, except to impress others. Generally speaking, those with real talent and skill do not subscribe to that kind of fake.

People who whiten their teeth to look better in real life do indeed stand out. They stand out as being needy, prepared to do anything to get attention. Anyone who chooses a life mate based on white teeth, fashionable clothing, beautiful makeup, type of footwear or kind of car driven is bound for breakup when the fake wears off. Yet that is what TV commercials teach in North America, where the divorce rate is now well over 50% and a majority of kids in school classrooms live in single parent households.

Generally speaking, if you depend on TV commercials or programs to tell you how to live your life you will live a troubled life. And probably in debt.

When you think about buying something you have seen advertised on TV, remember that the choice is yours. Will the long term disadvantage of harm to you outweight the short term benefits? Of this you may be certain, the advertiser always wins. The advertiser has no obligation to benefit you, only to make you believe that you will benefit from the product. What will you believe?

You may think that what you have just read is opinion by one person. It’s not. I don’t care what you do or wear or how you live your life. That is your business not mine. I don’t have time or interest in meddling in your life.

I do take an interest in helping people to think about choices they make, what effects those choices have on themselves and on others. If you “dress for success” to impress others, you will have bought into the model that industry leaders want. You will be a follower, not a leader. A consumer, not an independent innovator.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about inexpensive solutions to major social problems. If you have hear the word “sheeple” you understand that what you have read above is indeed a social issue.
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Who Lied to You Today? Advertising about your Head

Who Lied to You Today? Advertising about your Head

Beneath the makeup and behind the smile I am just a girl who wishes for the world.
– Marilyn Monroe

Most of what we learn about our head and parts of it that require our personal care we learn from our parents, our peers or from advertising. Most of what we learn from parents and peers can be directed back to advertising. Most of that is misleading, distorted or clearly wrong. Some is even harmful.

But we believe it, which is why industries that create the advertising keep it going. To them, what is important is not the truth or your health or best interests, but the fact that you keeping buying their products.

A smile makes anyone beautiful. Cosmetics (and a smile) can make the proverbial silk purse out of the sow’s ear. What we know as the cosmetics industry today began with the rise of Hollywood and Bollywood. Cosmetics were intended to attract attention to a character for a couple of hours. But life is longer than that.

Eventually the smile drops and the makeup comes off. Then two people who were attracted to one another in that artificial state must deal with real life. With “just a girl” as Marilyn said it. Cosmetics of one sort or another can be as important to a man wanting to influence others as to a woman.

No one can be certain how many breakups and divorces result from the realization that the real people involved in a relationship do not match with the artificial character behind or beneath the cosmetics. Cosmetics hide the real person only temporarily.

Teeth whitening began in Hollywood when actors and actresses wanted to be seen on screen and noted while those with real teeth colour were not. Off screen, whitened teeth look fake to anyone paying attention for more than a few seconds. Note that many teeth whiteners are composed of hydrogen peroxide, which used to be known as oxygen bleach. Yes, bleach.

Two grades of hydrogen peroxide are available on the market. The kind you buy in a dollar store or most pharmacies will say 3% on it. That is not food grade peroxide. Food grade is much harder to find and is about 35%. As the tissue (skin) inside your mouth is very porous and easily absorbs anything, you want to be certain that you do not put a chemical that is not food grade in there.

Mouthwashes promise to remove millions of vile and supposedly dangerous “germs” from your mouth. Yet saliva does that. A large majority of what advertising claims as “germs” are really microbes that are part of your immune system. Your body protects itself from stuff it doesn’t want to hurt you by killing it as you are eating. Kill those microbes and you destroy part of your immune system. Mouthwashes that claim to kill 99% of mouth germs never tell you in their advertising about the fact that they also kill part of your immune system, your body’s first line of defence. “Clean” your mouth, destroy your immune system.

Tooth brushing you see in commercials is all wrong and will do nothing to prevent caries (the proper dental term for what the rest of us call cavities). Mostly the brushes swipe the broad sides of teeth, which are kept clean by the foods you eat anyway. Nobody gets cavities there. Eating an apple will do that.

We get cavities, if at all, between our teeth and at their base where the gumline is. Brushes do not get there easily, no matter what the commercials say. Only floss can do that. You can buy a pick at a pharmacy that will allow you to remove anything that has built up at the base of your teeth or between them. That is what a dental hygienist uses.

If you use a brush on the flat surface of your teeth, don’t spend more time doing it than a hygienist does. A few seconds per tooth. More than that and you will grind away at the enamel and dentin that protect your teeth from attack. That would result in tooth sensitivity, meaning pain, which would cause you to have to spend more money on toothpaste that is specially made to be gentle.

All toothpastes are designed to grind the teeth. Almost all contain fluoride, which is a poison. The advertising never mentions that. Poison. Read ingredient lists on stuff you put into your mouth to see how many end with “…ide”. They are all poisons. Try to dispose of fluoride in the USA and you will find it is declared a hazardous waste and must be disposed of in an environmentally safe way.

If you must brush, understand that toothpaste accomplishes nothing. You don’t need it at all. Brush, using water only, horizontally along the gumline, not vertically across your teeth. Cavities grow out of plaque, which is composed of harmful microbes that eat through the enamel and dentin. Remove that and you eliminate the cause of cavities. Those harmful microbes hide where you don’t normally brush.

Any over the counter medication you buy at a pharmacy when you have an ache in a tooth or an ear will be mild and only act temporarily, if at all. If they work, you may be experiencing the placebo effect. Not bad considering that the placebo effect works in up to 30 percent of people who believe they are being helped. A doctor or dentist can prescribe something stronger, or cure your problem by eliminating the cause.

Shampoos that “clean” your hair while leaving something beneficial in it don’t really clean. Yes, the take away protective oil from your hair, then leave deposits of other stuff that does nothing to add to your hair’s health. Only pure soap, such as from a bar, will wash your hair clean. For a conditioner (to keep your hair shiny and deter tangles, use a mixture of one part apple cider vinegar and two parts water.

If you wash your hair with city water, remember that most city water contains chlorine, another poison. Chlorine kills microbes in water cities take from rivers or lakes. Inevitably it will also kill healthy bacteria on your skin, another way your body protects itself from attack with its own immune system.

Does it seem as if advertising presents you with a favourable impression about products that will or could do you more harm than good? Now you understand why it is important for you to know about them.

Cosmetics industries create repeat customers the way pharmaceutical companies create lifetime patients, by causing problems that keep you coming back for more.

The above is intended to cause you to think carefully about the chemicals you use on your body. It is not intended to be conclusive or persuasive, or medical advice. It is intended to make sense. Each point is backed by science. Advertising does not have to make sense to be effective at persuading people to buy a product. It just has to make money for the manufacturer. And it does, which is why you see so much of it.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book or inexpensive solutions parents and teachers can use to help grow healthy children. He has also authored hundreds of articles.
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Who Lied To You Today? Fracking

Who Lied To You Today? Fracking

Almost all of what we are taught–we think of it as news–by television and other media, by politicians and by religious leaders is either false, misleading, misstatement of facts or plain deception. To them it’s all part of the game of life.
Take the following for what it’s worth, or leave it. It is not based on scientific research which, like statistics, can be manipulated to say anything the writer or sponsor wants. It is based on logic, what makes sense and what does not.
Hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking) involves forcing toxic chemicals into permeable rock underground. Resource companies claim the process is safe, though they will not reveal what chemicals are used. The poisons remain within the rock forever, or until they are released into groundwater that people drink. In some cases fracking has been proven to cause minor earthquakes.

Chemicals are governed by law in the USA and available to public scrutiny in the Environmetnal Protection Agency’s data base of toxic chemicals. Except for those that were in use before the law–Toxic Substances Control Act–came into effect in 1976. They were grandfathered and assumed to be safe, were never studied. Tens of thousands of chemicals in use today are not listed and need not be revealed by companies engaging in hydraulic fracturing.

That’s why fracking companies need not reveal the chemicals used in their underground explosions. Chemicals that could leak into drinking water that would not even be tested by municipalities. Other countries depend on the EPA list of toxic chemicals as if it was exhaustive, which it certainly is not.

Why don’t governments take action against the perpetrators of these crimes? The natural resource companies always claim that they offer jobs. To politicians, the offer of jobs may even been more attractive than a good bribe because more jobs mean a better chance of being elected next term.

When the resource companies–never ones to be inconvenienced by possible damage to the planet or to human health of its workers–feel threatened by politicians, they warn that closing down will mean loss of jobs. That tends to silence political interference.

As of 2015, the government of Canada has sole possession of and responsibility for 22,000 former mines contaminated with poisons in the area. In one former mine area alone, the Giant Mine in Yellowknife, once a few billion dollars of taxpayer money has been spent cleaning up the area, it will cost two million per year just to maintain the frozen ground where arsenic is stored. Residents around these areas fervently hope that flooding does not contaminate the soil of the land where they live, and their bodies in the process. All of those mining companies went “bankrupt” leaving taxpayers to clean up after them indefinitely.

Ironically, when the companies negotiate with the governments and find themselves forced to take measures to protect the health of workers and the environment, they tend to become more efficient and garner greater profits. However, this evidence has little impact on their drive to make profit as quickly as possible.

Our planet is not short of energy resources, no matter what you may hear. Big oil companies, who receive the most flack from the public, are the biggest investors in alternative energy sources such as solar energy and wind power.

The claim is that solar and wind are not dependable because they are not consistent and dependable sources of power when people need it most. For that reason, resource companies claim, taking resources from the ground is and always will be necessary.

But they never mention the most plentiful and dependable sources of all. Our planet is always warmer one kilometer and more beneath the surface–a common depth to dig for other resources–than it is higher up. Difference in temperature means a dependable source of power.

The oceans almost always have waves, even if they don’t have much wind blowing above them. Waves have energy. Tides have energy so long as we have a moon.

More importantly, water temperature varies a great deal from the surface to a short distance below. That never varies, just as the heat from the interior of our planet never varies. Both are infinite for our purposes.

Even water itself is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, both sources of energy.

Could we run out of water to convert to power? Recent study has shown that there is at least as much water locked in rock in earth’s mantel as there is in all the water on the surface of the planet.

What about desertification? Are not droughts causing fertile land to become deserts, as happened in the Levant, the land east of the Mediterranean that most westerners call the Holy Land? It is true that the Levant was once as fertile as the Garden of Eden–human agriculture began there–until climate change made it into mostly desert.

Even in Israel, Syria and Lebanon, farming takes place. It’s all a matter of growing crops appropriate for the climate. Under the world’s largest desert, the Sahara, lies the world’s largest underground freshwater lake.

Fracking is not necessary to get cheap energy when free and sustainable sources that will last forever are available. We should not expect resource companies to be open about offering to do what is right by its employees or the planet. They have never behaved that way.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a book about do-able and inexpensive solutions to our worst problems. Fracking is a social problem when it affects the lives of many people.
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Additional material about hydraulic fracturing

There are many, and I mean MANY, examples of fracking problems in the USA. Most of them involve leaking of chemicals into ground water that is later used as drinking water. Hydraulic fracturing involves having a soup of chemicals (no company will ever reveal the mixture because it would shock everyone and cause the practice to be stopped–they claim their mixture is an industry secret, a coverup) explode deep under ground. The purpose is to crack the rock (the explosions are that great) that natural gas that is trapped within the rock will seep out.

As you think about that and the nature of natural gas, being as gas that can seep anywhere, you can see that, unlike with liquids, natural gas is extremely difficult to control and contain. The chemical soup itself is easier to control if it is inside of a container on the surface of the ground. But underground, after an explosion of rock that no one can tell how much crack will happen (it is usually shale rock, not granite that would be easier to estimate and control) the liquid could go anywhere. In many cases in the US, it has gone into drinking water sources.

Many countries have banned fracking entirely, deeming it too risky. The USA and Canada, being essentially job whores, have made fracking legal and licensed in many places. (I use the term “job whores” as a derogatory condemnation, without meaning any reference to prostitution–which I do not condemn.)

The most attractive lure of fracking is jobs. That is what gets the attention of politicians and they in turn get votes based on their perceived creation of “new jobs.”

In fact, fracking requires few workers. Some highly trained people are brought in from their last jobs (never from the untrained local labour group), plus truck drivers. I feel safe in saying that there is no community in existence where fracking has been used that is entirely satisfied with the industry. Most residents anywhere near the mines are afraid they or their children will die one day from contamination of their drinking water by the poisons from fracking.

Like virtually every natural resource company, when they have a financial problem they declare bankruptcy and vanish into the night. One Canadian mine will cost Canadian taxpayers $2 million every year, forever, to contain poisons that if let out would kill every person in the nearby town.

Two additional points are worth making about fracking.

First is that it uses an enormous amount of fresh water, which is then contaminated by its chemicals. In Saskatchewan, for example, where fracking is taking place full bore, fracking is taking away fresh water needed by the Canadian province’s most important industry, agriculture. Farms cannot risk using water that could possibly be contaminated by fracking chemicals because produce from the farms is all used for food. Already a province that is usually not blessed with an abundance of clean water, Saskatchewan now does not have enough water to service its food-growing agriculture needs.

Second is that while the waste water from fracking can be reused–fracking companies would rather not reuse its own water because its used water has pulled heavy metals out of the ground it fractured–it must be stored in the meantime. Who wants contaminated water stored near their home? Where can you imagine it would be safe to store contaminated water indefinitely? My country, Canada, has water all over its surface, perhaps more than any other country in the world, and we are concerned about leakage that would contaminate our fresh water. Contaminated water in surface water could be used for drinking, but it is also used by countless animals, plants and beneficial microbes that allow food to be grown in the soil.

Even if the waste water from fracking were safe (bear with me, I know it is not), the heavy metals drawn from the ground would make it unsafe. When it comes to water, fracking is a lose-lose situation.

While Nova Scotia has put a moratorium on fracking, waste water from fracking exploration mines in NS still needs to be disposed of. No community in Nova Scotia would allow it to be put into their sewer system. No community in neighbouring New Brunswick would allow it to be put into their sewer system, even when large amounts of money were offered for doing just that by the company involved. International law forbids it from being dumped into the oceans.

How safe can a liquid be if it can’t even be dumped into the ocean? Our oceans have two huge garbage patches each larger than small countries, but fracking waste water is not allowed.

Fracking companies, like every mining operation that ever existed in history, will lie through its teeth, swearing it is telling the truth on the grave of its mother. Not a single one of them could ever be trusted. They have done more damage to our planet and its (former, often now extinct) life forms than any other cause.

The University of Toronto Magazine online has an article in its Winter 2015 edition that will explain more about fracking from a political science professor who is as much of an expert on the subject as anyone (given the secrecy that surrounds fracking operations at all levels).
On Shaky Ground | Dale Sproule | Winter 2015 | University of Toronto Magazine

Truth, Lies and Real Life

Truth, Lies and Real Life

Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer, and poet (1803-1882)

Apart from a few notable twists of truth in my childhood, to avoid punishment (deserved) for my misdeeds (my lies never succeeded in fooling my parents), I have always been a great supporter of telling the truth.

That has had me facing trouble when it was revealed (some said I should have kept quiet). However, trouble inevitably follows lies as a bad smell follows a skunk. Telling the truth allowed me to work my way through unpleasant consequences, where necessary, to find clear sailing beyond. The consequences were of shorter duration, requiring less subterfuge, when I was able to face them and work through them.

That sometimes had its own downside. People I worked with, or for, found themselves having to cope with someone who told everything “as it is.” I avoided exaggeration and meanness, but my truth made them uncomfortable. The reason is that my truth often brought to light their own misdeeds or avoidance of fulfilling their own responsibilities.

Sometimes that meant that workmates avoided me for some period of time. Sometimes it caused me to have to look for a new job. They covered their failures and inadequacies and expected me to do the same with my own. To them, pretending was preferable to bringing the cold hard truth to light and having to face others who were upset by it.

It avoided forcing them to change.

We have this nebulous term “white lies.” One dictionary I consulted described the meaning of this term as “an unimportant lie (especially one told to be tactful or polite).” I question the value of the “unimportant lie.”

A standard joke of comedians tells of the husband who, when asked by his wife if the dress she has just put on is too tight or looks good and will make her look fine at an event they are about to attend, replies (when he fears she might burst a seam) “Of course dear, you look great, as always.” This, we are told, is an acceptable white lie.

Let’s lay this one out bare. The woman knows the dress is too tight or she would not have asked her husband for an opinion. The husband knows the dress is too tight but doesn’t want to make his wife feel bad. Problem solved, for the moment. Then the couple attends the event where every women who sees the wife can see she obviously is wearing a dress that is too tight–or simply that she has gained weight she doesn’t want to admit to.

That situation, we are asked to ignore, to claim that no one at the event will notice the too-tight dress. I submit that every woman at the evident would notice, and many men as well. Moreover, the penalty she will suffer for her social faux pas will be much greater than if she had simply faced the truth (or been told the truth by her husband) and changed to another garment before leaving home.

No one at an event wants to tell a woman that her cosmetics are smeared, as that might embarrass her. So she moves about advertising her messy face to everyone until she later sees herself in a mirror in the ladies’ room. Again, the embarrassment she feels when she realizes that so many others have seen her with messy makeup is far greater than what she would feel if someone had told her sooner.

By the same token, a man might emerge from a public washroom/restroom with his shirt tucked inside his boxers at the back and the waistband of the boxers advertised to the world until the next time he visits the washroom. Is a feeling of great shame in private any less significant than a slight embarrassment when something is revealed in public?

White lies and slight perversions of the truth to help someone avoid embarrassment “to be tactful or polite” always come out. The consequences are always worse later than they would have been at the time.

A white lie is simply a way to delay a worse consequence.

What is the attraction of a lie? Often a lie will produce exactly the results in a person that the person wants to have.

Lies are beautiful, in the short term.

An example that keeps thumping in my brain is the concept of the character of God. Every religion has a God (some, like Buddhism, are technically philosophies of life). Every religion admits that we have no way of knowing anything about God. Yet there are people in every religion who will happily tell you all manner of warm and comforting things they believe about God. Where did these things originate? In lies. Well meaning lies, I admit. Tell them what they want to hear.

Oddly, most religions grant a male gender to their God, yet the characteristics given by those with ready answers about their God almost inevitably fit better someone of female gender, a mother. Why? Those who do not feel personally secure want to feel that their God cares for them the way a mother would.

For some, it works. For a while.

Getting back to our original quotation by Emerson, I question just how beautiful most people find truth. Truth in nature, for sure. As the saying goes, truth is beauty and beauty truth. Even the truth of a natural disaster, when viewed after the fact and from a distance, can be seen as beautiful, in a way.

If we judged the truth of Emerson’s statement about truth and lies based on our own culture, we would have to say that we immerse ourselves in lies. Almost nothing we see on television or on the stage is true, the exception being documentaries (though some of them have political or social agendas with carefully edited “facts”). Virtually everything in every commercial or print advertising is a perversion of the truth (massaging truth to make it look better, making us want what we mostly don’t need).

We live in houses that convey a certain social status we may not have in reality, wear clothes that tell strangers we are something we may not be, drive cars or trucks to make others believe we can actually afford them.

Put simply, lies are more attractive than the truth. There are those among us who want to believe our lies so much that they actually come to believe them. Where is the truth? We expect others, even strangers, to “have faith” that the message we are trying to convey is the truth.

The hidden request is to “trust me.”

No matter how many times we say a lie, it is still a lie. But we can believe the lie. That’s life. But is it really better than the truth?

Bill Allin is the author of 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 cope, without fear and lies, with the world they will one day enter as adults.
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When The Experts Are Just Plain Wrong

When The Experts Are Just Plain Wrong

‘I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, he would grow up to be an eggplant.’
Ursula K. Le Guin, American author (b. 1929)

‘You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium.’
Ursula K. Le Guin, American author (b. 1929)

If these two quotes give evidence of one thing, it’s that just because a person is an expert in one thing does not give him the right to believe that he is on every subject.

By virtue of the needs of his art, a writer must be a thinker. However, there is no requirement that the thinking be clear, orderly, logical or that the material presented must be truthful. We need only follow the spoutings of pastors and politicians to show that.

Members of other professions, experienced with receiving respect for their knowledge and skills within the context of their work, often come to believe that their thinking must be correct on all subjects. Engineers and architects, for example, seldom admit they don’t know something. We call it arrogance when they act as if others don’t know what they are talking about and hubris when they can’t imagine being wrong.

As admirable as Le Guin’s writings are, especially her utopian science fiction, I can’t help taking issue with the two quotes that began this article. They are based on her thinking, her understanding of the world. On the subjects of education (child development) and ecology, her understanding may be of questionable value to the rest of us.

First, it’s true that children do not grow into eggplants. However, many grow into adults with precious little imagination and ability to think for themselves. Consider that the average American, for example, has his television running more than five hours a day. Television, the great stupidifier, encourages people to not think by providing them with whatever the producer wants his audience to know and believe. Viewers are not allowed to think for themselves if they follow the producer’s intentions.

Look at the lineup of television programs that grace (or disgrace) the screen these days and you will find faked reality shows, home videos that show people at their absolute stupidest, soap operas that demonstrate the worst in human morals and compassion and advertising designed to convince simple minds that they should become poor and unhealthy by buying the products advertised.

Not eggplants, no. But television is doing its best to bring human intelligence down to the level close to at least a smart eggplant. When the computer is the entertainment of choice, we have YouTube to show us that many people have reached that level of intelligence already.

Ursula Le Guin seems to live in a world protected from the realities of entertainment by the average person. For one thing, she reads, which gives her perspectives that non-readers never experience. Reading stimulates the imagination as television, the internet, movies and video games never can. She can’t conceive of people not having an imagination. She is sadly mistaken.

As an educator who has taught young children as well as older ones, I can tell you that imagination has been all but eliminated (at least channeled) in many of them before they leave primary school. As I classroom teacher I found it hard to stimulate children to be creative in non-traditional ways.

As for ecology, Le Guin is correct that the universe is in equilibrium. However, she is dead wrong that nothing should change. Nature itself is the greatest force for change.

When one factor changes or many change as a result of natural disaster or human tragedy, nature regroups and establishes a new equilibrium.

Look what happened after the disaster 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs disappeared. Whether an asteroid struck our planet or climate change eliminated the food dinosaurs ate matters little now. What matters is that mammals succeeded them, and here we are.

Look what happened 225 million years ago when as much as 97 percent of life on land and 85 percent of life in the oceans were wiped out.

Nature adjusts. The universe establishes equilibrium with whatever conditions exist at the time. No matter if we destroyed ourselves, nature would adjust to a new equilibrium.

When Le Guin recommends that we “must not change one thing” for fear of upsetting the equilibrium she fails to understand the concept. In fact, we must change what we do that is destructive, at the least.

We need to consider as many consequences of what we do as we can possibly conceive. We will never know them all, positive or negative. We will always make mistakes and have some successes.

What’s more important is that we must not let those who will profit in the future from mistakes we allow to be made today convince us that we are doing the right thing by ignoring the negative consequences of the action. As the saying goes: if something looks too good to be true, it likely is.

US wars in Iraq and Vietnam spring to mind, events costing millions of lives and trillions of dollars. With nothing gained from either but obscene wealth for suppliers of war materials and fuels. Education, meanwhile, suffers as teachers must do without more and more.

Demanding that politicians tell us the truth and the whole truth will never work. The only thing that will work is to educate all people, all children, and to promote diligence and civic responsibility actively.

Doing nothing out of fear of making mistakes and allowing the imaginations of our children to be destroyed through rigid teaching methods and strict control (consider the tragedies of Zero Tolerance, for example) do nothing to make the world a better place.

Denying the truth simply makes it worse. We teach and learn or we suffer the consequences.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to know what to teach children that will help their development, and when.
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Our Own Shame

Our Own Shame

The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
Oscar Wilde, writer (1854-1900)

This would apply today to television and movies as well.

Instead of doing what we must to see that our countrymen avoid behaviours we consider shameful, we complain about the books, movies and television programs that show everyone who and what we really are.

We complain about what is wrong, but we don’t change our system so that we teach what we believe is right and good.

Changing our education systems would be easy, literally as easy as the stroke of a pen. We have lots of good people in every community that live the kinds of lives we consider ideal in a moral sense. They are the source for new curriculum material for schools.

And it’s cheap because teachers would not need new books, AV materials or computers to teach it. Teachers already know this stuff. They only need the authorization to teach it. All teachers would need is material provided in a curriculum guide.

Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for teachers and parents who want to enact change in their education systems to address problems that run rampant in their communities and even in their homes.
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When Is Lying The Right thing To Do?

Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret,
for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
– Robert Brault, software developer, writer (1938- )

It’s tough to argue against kindness. Each act of kindness that each person does makes the world a better place.

However, is it ever an act of kindness to bend the truth? Let’s consider some possibilities.

First of all, an old saying goes: a half truth is a whole lie. What does truth look like when bent to look like something different?

I can understand why someone would want to avoid blurting out to another person, “You’re ugly.” But ugliness is a position on the scale of beauty. Moreover, not just ugliness but everything on the beauty scale is a matter of personal opinion, a subjective judgment that may not be shared by others. In general, when a compliment doesn’t speed to the lips, it would be better to remain quiet.

What’s ugly? Was the Elephant Man ugly? Joseph Merrick (inaccurately called John Merrick in the film of the same name) had a head shape that bore almost no resemblance to that of an ordinary person.

Merrick never imagined himself as handsome. He was, in the estimation of many, a very charming man. Though some of his admirers were no doubt fascinated with the extreme distortion of Merrick’s head from the norm, many enjoyed his company. A great many people in this world would prefer to be admired for the enjoyment they give to others in their company than to have average looks. Thus, I submit, Joseph Merrick had a beauty about him that thousands of people admired. Ugly? Not a chance.

It’s a sad person whose self esteem depends on their looks rather than on the many other admirable qualities and talents and skills that generate genuine admiration. Was Beethoven ugly? Van Gogh? Leonardo? I use these names simply because they are familiar to people around the world. I have beautiful paintings and music in my home by people few have ever heard of. Many might not like them, but most realize that calling something “ugly” is merely the personal opinion of one individual.

“You look beautiful in that new dress, dear.” Some people expect to be lied to, even count on it from their loved ones. I wonder what people who expect to be lied to and want flattery about their clothing and appearance would think if they knew that others they will see in public think as negatively about their appearance and clothing as the lying loved one does. Does a woman really want to go out in public with a dress that looks terrible on her, feeling confident because her husband lied to her about it?

If the husband really cared about the appearance of his wife, he would go with her when she shopped for the dress and express his true opinion then. For a husband to leave an opinion until the last minute is as unwise as a wife leaving the enquiry until the last minute.

My first wife loved good quality black and white clothing combinations. She wore them constantly at work and received many compliments from those who worked for her. She had (she died many years ago) a “winter” complexion. Not one for false flattery, I seldom issued compliments on her outfits unless they were hanging on a hanger. I did, however, compliment her one day years before we were married. She wore a red sweater and a red pleated skirt (I love pleated skirts, especially box pleats and kilts) and I told her how great she looked (she looked stunning, but I didn’t want to go overboard in front of her mother). She was offended because she claimed it was an old outfit and she hated it.

How would it have benefitted my wife to be told she looked beautiful in black and white when she looked washed out? Indeed, if I had known about “colours” then, I would have recommended that she try bright primary colours. She likely wouldn’t have listened–she never did, dying with loads of regrets about how many bad decisions she had made in her life. I am colourblind anyway.

If the truth must be negative, maybe the solution is to find ways to convey it in such a manner as to make it seem like good advice.

How does it benefit someone trying to become an author to praise a manuscript that is dreadful? That person could literally spend years improving a manuscript that should have been used to start a fire. A bad story can never be beaten into submission until it’s a good story.

Bending the truth, as Robert Brault claims to have done, is no advantage if it causes the listener to make unwise decisions or faulty judgments based on it. Someone looking for praise needs more than a lie. A person who accepts a lie as if it were truth, and knows it was flattery, lives a false life. We all live false lives to some extent, but we don’t have to embrace it as a lifestyle.

When asked for an honest opinion, the choices should be between a sincere compliment or a constructive suggestion as to how to improve the objective under discussion. No one likes destructive criticism. Constructive criticism requires skill and practice, but it’s learnable.

People gain more from constructive suggestions than they can ever benefit from allowing themselves to be deceived by lies.

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 separate truth from flattery and who seek constructive evaluation as a way to improve themselves.
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