Quote du Jour
- Do not be too quick to assume your enemy is a savage just because he is
your enemy. Perhaps he is your enemy because he thinks you are a savage.
Or perhaps he is afraid of you because he feels that you are afraid of
him. And perhaps if he believed you are capable of loving him he would
no longer be your enemy.
- Thomas Merton, writer (1915-1968)
Perhaps he wouldn't care about you because you are so weak that you
feel it necessary to love others. Being incapable of love himself, he
sees those who love as weaker than himself.
Each of these statements makes sense, but each seems strange
We don't talk much about people as enemies these days. Countries
have enemies, and always have, but people know others who are mean,
thoughtless, uncaring, brutal, stupid or bullies. In other words, we
have improved our supply of adjectives since Merton's day.
Our ancestors used to think of the native peoples of the Americas and of
Africa as savages, even to the extent of capturing them and shipping
them abroad as slaves. Now we understand that their views of ecology, of
spirituality and of community deserve our study and respect because they
are (or were before we tried to "civilize" them) more advanced than our
A savage was automatically an enemy. Mostly because our ancestors
didn't understand anything about people whose ways they didn't
understand. We tend to fear what we don't understand.
We have people who fear others they don't understand today. Those
among them who are leaders want to make war on the "enemies" of their
people. War is an easier concept to grasp than trying to get to know and
understand strangers. They go to the extent of teaching their people to
fear the "others" rather than trying to get to know them.
Americans in particular are susceptible to this. American citizens who
travel abroad treat "foreigners" (despite the fact that they are within
their own countries) as inferior. They expect to be able to buy whatever
they want and to pay off anyone who takes offence at their ways.
Following the teachings of their leader, they make no attempt to learn
the ways of the people in countries they visit because they have been
taught the others are inferior. And potentially dangerous.
For this they are hated, reviled, despised. Mostly behind their backs.
The good Americans who travel abroad are overlooked, forgotten, while
the mean, thoughtless and socially ugly ones are remembered as
Fear itself is something that may be feared, as Merton said. Fearful
people may be dangerous because you can never be certain what someone
may do when they are afraid. Anyone who is or who may be dangerous at
any time can be considered an enemy. It's easier to treat a fearful
person as an enemy than it is to understand them and to calm their
I wonder, for example, how afraid of everyone else Adolf Hitler was. He
was short, lacked a pleasing personality and had little to offer the
world. He covered his fear by treating others as inferior. It was easier
to gain their respect by conquering them and subjecting them to brutal
treatment through military force that it would have been to earn their
respect. As a fearful person (albeit one with sociopathic tendencies),
Hitler was treated as an enemy in his early days because it was easier
than to befriend him and make him part of a social group.
Merton believed that if people knew we were capable of loving them they
might not see us as enemies. While this thought is charming, it is not
People who are capable of loving treat others as if they are also
capable of loving, whether they are or not. Many people today lack that
ability or skill. They don't understand or appreciate love because
it has never been taught to them. They don't know what love is
because they have never experienced it. Too many people fit into this
category, though we would like to believe otherwise.
If they believe we are capable of loving them, they may treat us as
enemies. Worse, they may abuse us. What's to be gained there?
An adult who has never experienced real love will have difficulty
understanding love offered to them, will have problems receiving it and
appreciating it. And most certainly will have great trouble returning
But the wall can be scaled, the problem overcome. Someone who
experiences love for the first time as an adult will always have
difficulty returning it consistently. Like a recovering addict, the
recovering loveless will try and fail repeatedly, will always be a
recovering loveless. But he will try again.
If we believe that an addict deserves to be given a chance to recover,
then a person who has not experienced love should be given a chance to
love and to be loved, a chance we would offer any addict. As with any
kind of addiction, the recovering loveless needs consistent support from
someone who understands. Someone who knows that he or she will "fall off
the wagon," like any addict, but will try to get back on again if given
You, as someone who knows love, can give that opportunity.
We already have too many people in the world who do not know and have
never known love. We need those who know love to share theirs before the
loveless ones multiply.
And they will. Just look at how many people believe that war is the only
way to achieve peace. They don't know any other way.
You can show them.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social
Problems, a book about how to avoid loveless and brutal adults by
teaching children what they need before they grow up.
Learn more at http://billallin.com <http://billallin.com/>
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Keeping Kids "Innocent" is Wrong, Ultimately Harmful
"Now I really suspect that Grandma is hiding [the newspapers with news about the Great War]. That would mean the news was so bad she did not want me to read it. But knowing the truth is better than imagining the worst."
- Jean Little, If I Die Before I Wake: The Flu Epidemic Diary of Fiona Macgregor, part of the Dear Canada series that teaches history and culture to children through story telling
They grow up so quickly, don't they? How often have you heard that? Or maybe you have said it yourself.
Too many parents try to protect their children from the "cruel world out there" by hiding truth and reality from them. "There will be time for them to learn that later, when they are old enough and mature enough to handle it."
The trouble is, by the time the parents believe their kids are old enough to handle the bad news about life, the kids have usually already experienced the bad part. They are past the time when they needed the input. The parents failed in their most important function, to raise their children to know how to handle what they face in their lives.
Compared with most mammals and primates, humans have an extremely long period of childhood. Nature has accommodated this by allowing for the slow development of a child's body. Girls don't begin to become fertile (able to procreate) until they are old enough that their prehistoric female ancestors were ready to be mothers. Similarly with boys becoming sexually mature.
The frontal lobes of the brain, the parts that help us tell right from wrong, good from bad, and that help us to think our way through serious problems do not fully develop until well on into the teen years.
By the age that adolescents become sexually mature, most of them know almost nothing about what is happening inside their bodies (how the hormones will affect them, not just the mechanics of reproduction as studied in school), how the same is affecting those of the opposite sex and how they can and should manage their strong feelings of sexual attraction toward others.
A recent study in the United States showed that fully half the college students surveyed knew almost nothing about how to avoid pregnancy. Does that seem unbelievable? It isn't to those college students.
At the adolescent age of their kids, many parents are saying to other parents that "Kids are interested in sex too young these days," and "I don't want my kid to be having sex until he (or she) is much older and can handle the responsibility." That age is not 12 years. But kids (about 15%) have their first sexual experiences by that age. By age 14 or 15, virtually half of them have had sex at least once. Parents are in denial, unless a daughter becomes pregnant. Then they blame the daughter, or TV, or movies, or their family doctor, just about anyone.
There is no such thing as an age when a child is too young to learn about matters of adulthood. That's the whole purpose of childhood, for them to learn about being adults before they actually get there and have to live it.
However, there is a secret about conveying adult information and knowledge to children. It's not what you tell them so much as how you tell them. Like any kind of communication, the message must be formed in such as way that the receiver understands it and can absorb it. Preferably that the young person has understood the message enough that he or she can process how to incorporate it somehow into his or her life.
A child can know the intricacies of sex without actually feeling the need to have it with another person. There are consequences. One is pregnancy and that includes becoming a parent long before the adolescent is ready to become a parent, to raise, provide for and protect a child.
Teens have learned how to avoid having intercourse by having sex in such a way that pregnancy is not possible. One method for each gender is cunnilingus (for the female) or fellatio (for the male). These do open the possibilities for STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), including HPV infection, even throat cancer or HIV. The answer is not to hide these possibilities, but to discuss them so the adolescent has a chance to understand the risks.
Those who do not know make the most mistakes. The consequences of those mistakes often affect a person for the rest of his or her life. The knowledge young people need is not just about sex. It's about everything they may be exposed to in their lives, including at school, on the streets, on televison and on the internet.
Innocence in childhood becomes ignorance in adulthood. Innocent children suffer great disadvantages. Ignorant adults become victims of all kinds of problems. To make life worse, ignorant adults who received little help from their parents tend to be shy about asking for help from others when they are adults. In other words, ignorant adults tend to remain ignorant, often to the extent of refusing to learn when they have the opportunity.
There are no advantages for a child to remain innocent. There are huge and harmful disadvantages for an adult to be ignorant about the realities of life. One of those disadvantages is that ignorant adults tend to be more fearful of more different things than those who are knowledgeable. They also tend to lack empathy and often find it hard to be sympathetic. These are critically important characteristics we want in the generation that will soon run our country.
If you want a child who never grows up, get a dog or cat. If you are the parent of a child, help that child become a well balanced and responsible adult. It's the primary life responsibility of every parent. Talk about it.
Bill Allin is the author of Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a book of easy and inexpensive solutions to seemingly impossible problems. He gives advice through his web site and his internet group. To learn more about these go to index