Literally speaking bullshit is a rather useful material. In the hands of someone who knows what to do with it bullshit can be placed in beneficial association with other materials to be cooked down to a humus rich environment perfectly conducive to the proliferation of beneficial soil life. If you are a food producer, then it is worth your while to pay careful attention in its treatment so you might increase your productivity. As Alex Podolinsky said ‘the cow is an extremely important animal’, a good part of that observation being attributable to the quality of bulls’ shit. Besides being great for soil health you can cook with it, turn it into electricity, or, in a pinch, build a house with it. It is an appreciation of its usefulness that is in large part responsible for the cow’s sacredness amongst a considerable proportion of the world’s population.
But unfortunately this is not the type of bullshit I need to talk about. I would prefer to write essays on the usefulness of bullshit, the stuff, but I’m afraid our civilisation has devolved to the point where the concepts would be lost on most readers. The bullshit I am interested in here emerges, not from the rear end of a bull, but from the pens and mouths of a vast number of people kept in fine style to produce it.
Of course I am talking about bullshit of the figurative variety. It is a non-substance worse than useless and is the most common pseudo-material found in the fields of politics, economics and marketing. In fact, people who work in these fields are referred to as bullshit artists. Bullshit art is about making ideas that are not true or worth anything appear meaningful and useful.
It has become an imperative of modern life that we learn to identify figurative bullshit and avoid contact with it. Having been exposed to much of it I assert that even though you may know something is bullshit you are powerless to prevent it effecting you. Studies have shown (an oft quoted phrase of bullshit traffickers) that even though one may be aware of bullshit they still heed it! Beware the subliminal power of bullshit.
So where do we find this insidious stuff.
Well we've mentioned politics, economics and marketing but these tend to reach out to us through the television and the mainline press. Here are the stats (plucked straight out of the bullshit ether) – it’s about 90% marketing of people, games, moulded plastic, questionable morality, bullshit ideas, 2% important fact suffocated by bullshit opinions, 7.5% useless fact (man dies in car accident, Tiger Woods likes blonde girls) and .5% undetermined.
The salaried expert. If you put bullshit on a refinement scale you have Joyce Mayne ads up one end and the purveyor of fine bullshit at the other. Both are equally offensive in terms of their lack of substance but one makes more of an effort at image. This character will say anything it is told to say. It usually doesn’t understand what it’s talking about and if it does it certainly wouldn’t be honest about it if it went against the paying agenda. This being the case it is pretty well assured it doesn’t stray far from the teleprompt or the paperwork it was given the moment before addressing any sort of audience. This fatuous gob is often attached to some bullshit centre dedicated to the advancement of mass confusion and is given a title like Dr, Prof, Minister for the Interior, honourable, Commissioner etc. because it’s credibility is not otherwise obvious. You know who I’m talking about. I knew a guy aspiring to one of these positions. He was an intellectual clean slate and apparently committed to remaining one, took voice lessons and had wonderful teeth. Born bullshit artist.
Conventional economics is bullshit. We’ve committed some energy into helping people understand that.
Popular culture is bullshit. If you didn’t know that already you may be beyond helping.
Generally speaking unsolicited information is bullshit. It might be that people who try to deal honestly with reality can’t be bothered with people who watch the news ‘to find out what’s going on in the world’ and certainly those who program the news will avoid those who deal with reality. The advice ‘ask and you will receive’ is good, but we should keep in mind that pressing a button or buying a paper is not a question. It requires some effort, and more than likely it will be effort that does not result in payment by the hour which means, for a lot of people who have been led to believe that time is money, is wasted effort - straight back to economics again.
Before suspending this rant, I must make an effort to derail the most pernicious bullshit circulating. It seems that everywhere we turn we are being encouraged to suspend judgement. To insist on the suspension of judgement would be to deprive a person of their mind and to degrade an individual to an animated bag of flesh or, in bullshit terms, a human resource. Unless the reasonable public object to such measures as those found in the Racial Discrimination Act that forbids a person to say something which may ‘offend’ somebody else then I’m afraid the thin edge of that wedge may open up for the bullshit army unbounded opportunity for stupidity, mismanagement and self-congratulation.