Friday, May 24, 2013

Honest, practical lessons about cutting the BS

A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

I should preface this by saying that the problem I am going to describe involves a bad word -- not the worst word, but a bad word -- though I've made sure that I only have to say it now and then one more time at the end. So if you want to distract any little kids for a second, please do so. One of the greatest threats we face is, simply put, bullshit. We are drowning in it. We are drowning in partisan rhetoric that is just true enough not to be a lie; in industry-sponsored research; in social media's imitation of human connection; in legalese and corporate double-speak. It infects every facet of public life, corrupting our discourse, wrecking our trust in major institutions, lowering our standards for the truth, making it harder to achieve anything.

And it wends its way into our private lives as well, changing even how we interact with one another: the way casual acquaintances will say "I love you"; the way we describe whatever thing as "the best thing ever"; the way we are blurring the lines between friends and strangers. And we know that. There have been books written about the proliferation of malarkey, empty talk, baloney, claptrap, hot air, balderdash, bunk. One book was aptly named "Your Call is Important to Us."

But this is not only a challenge to our society; it's a challenge we all face as individuals. Life tests our willingness, in ways large and small, to tell the truth. And I believe that so much of your future and our collective future depends on your doing so. So I'm going to give you three honest, practical lessons about cutting the BS.

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself.

Harvey Fierstein

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You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison