bullshit quotient

Placards for Nuclear Hearings

I’ve attended too many hearings of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (an oxymoron of a title if ever there was one; geez, I guess even Homer Simpson would know better than to put the words nuclear & safety in the same phrase!) & now most recently the opening sessions of the “Darlington New Nuclear Plant Project” being presided over by the Joint Review Panel (JRP).

** Note: if you go here, you can find hearing info such as the public hearing schedule, transcripts, Webcasts, etc.

The setting is always very formal &, frankly, more than a little intimidating for the average human being (I’d hazard a guess that this is deliberate, btw).

The bigshots are seated “up high” at the front of the room, with all their supporting staff to their right & left, while we mere “peasants” sit obediently down lower, in front of their greatnesses.

I invariably wind up wishing things would get a little rowdier. People in kangaroo suits. Maybe a Mad Hatter or two walking around, uttering nonsensical things. (Attending one of these gatherings is very much like going down a rabbit hole, à la Alice In Wonderland; hence my rabbit hole reference & my frequent internal “Off with their heads!!” thoughts…)

Here are just a few placards I’d love to see the “peasants” hold up when the bullshit quotient goes right over the top (which is most of the time, anytime the current nuclear “proponent” has the floor):

  • Bafflegab!
  • (or, less politely, Bullshit!! Not to mention WTF???????)
  • Obfuscation Alert!!
  • I can’t believe you just said that!!!!!!
  • How's about turning off the lie machine?
  • Let’s not forget the uranium, eh??
  • It’s the WASTE, Stooooopid!!


P.S. I say, all future such gatherings should be conducted with everyone sitting around in a circle. No fancy suits allowed. Attire? Jeans & T-shirts. It would very soon become apparent who the real “experts” are, hmmm?


*** Before I could get these 2 postings up, I heard about the Greenpeace protesters who stopped the hearing this morning. Good onya, dudes!! Wish I was there with you. Extraordinary nonsense like nuclear energy & its phoney hearing process absolutely require extraordinary means to get public attention!!!



<Jan. 19/10>

Yikes! Hard to know where to begin with this one, hmm? There’s so darn much bullshit (B.S.) on the planet, we’re practically drowning in the stuff…

I was relating to a friend of mine the other night my concept of the BQ – the Bullshit Quotient. I came up with this idea in a corporate environment I worked in some years ago (actually, the only corporate environment in which I’ve ever worked, & maybe there’s some connection between my articulation of the BQ & my very short corporate “career,” but let’s leave that for another day, shall we?)

Barb & I had a pretty good laugh about “The BQ,” & about the whole idea of bullshit. We even came up with a concept for a very not chicken-soup-for-the-soul kind of book which, we decided, would be very un-circumspect, & I said something very rude about circumspect-ness, since I am fatally tired of being circumspect (although anyone reading this who knows me at all well is saying “Janet? Circumspect?!@?^? Not...).


24 hours later, crazily enough, didn’t my daughter hand me the gift of a teeny-tiny book called On Bullshit (by Harry G. Frankfurt, “renowned moral philosopher” & Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton, no less) that opens up with these lines:

“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.

In consequence, we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves.”(1)

And so on.

Quelle coincidence!!

This morning, an amusing & wonderful thought occurred to me: Wouldn’t it be grand if, when confronted with one instance or another of bullshit (our society/culture/civilization (using the term rather loosely) & working lives/personal lives are just plain chockfull of it, are they not??), we just said firmly & clearly,


And developed a zero tolerance policy for the stuff.

Goodness me, isn’t this a marvelous idea??

You see, another thought I’d come up with this morning – with respect to relationships & how they work (& more importantly how they often falter) is that, like compost (always a fertile metaphor), relationships need aerating. They need air. Air & space & opening.

Appreciation, acceptance & apologies are, to my way of thinking, excellent, awesome, necessary methods of keeping relationships aerated.

Without acceptance, appreciation & occasional apologies, our relations with people can grow stale & dark, cramped & dull. Maybe even hostile.

And maybe, just maybe, if we all instituted a zero tolerance policy toward bullshit, & started calling out “Bullshit!” every time we encountered some (or “Bullshit Alert!!” or even “Modam [said in a very snooty British tone], I am vedy vedy sorry, but the BQ has already been exceeded here today,” we could transform our relationships – & our society – and surely to goodness, wouldn’t that be a wonderfully welcome development?

Okay, okay, I know. Silly old me. But you have to admit, it is a rather fun idea, isn’t it?


'Quote of the day' with this post: “Why should we all use our creative power? … Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money.” ~ Brenda Ueland (American writer, 1891-1985)

p.s. 2 years + later: Friend has told me about a book called Your Call Is Important to Us - The Truth About Bullshit, by Laura Penny. Published 2005. Sounds like one to check out!!


(1) Frankfurt’s essay, btw, was originally published in the Raritan Review. Most of it is a little dry & overly philosophical for my taste, but it sure does open up in a hilarious, slam-dunk kind of way!!

Telling the Truth: Too Many ‘Elephants in the Room?’

<June 17/09>

I suppose anyone who’s been reading this blog has already clued in to the fact that I’m a truth-teller. I can’t tell you why I’m a truth-teller, ‘cause I really haven’t any idea – except that I don’t know any other way to be. It’s the way I’m wired.

There seem to be a whole lot of truths we don’t want to tell in our culture. It starts in our families, when we’re very young & the great roller coaster of life is just getting underway.

Truths we don’t want to tell take in things like “Oops! My family appears to be a great big MESS” to sexual abuse by people we ought to be able to trust, to realizing our parents (gods & goddesses to us when we’re little, by the way) don’t love or affirm us or treat us fairly, to “Daddy/Mommy doesn’t love me” to “Mommy tells a lot of lies” to “Mommy/Daddy seems to love So-&-So better/more than s/he loves me” to “Mommy/Daddy sure isn’t around much!” etc., etc., etc.

But it’s crystal clear to us from a pretty early age that these truths we’ve figured out (& let’s face it, we’re darn smart even when we’re only four years old) are not supposed to be coughed up at the dinner table.

We start on our careers of truth-stuffing pretty darn young, hmm?

It keeps building as we get older, of course. More & more truth gets stuffed & more & more lies get told. It’s probably a miracle any of us can tell the truth at all – & of course, largely we don’t.

Our culture is founded on lies & half-truths.

There are a lot of “elephants in the room” – in our families of origin, with our partners/spouses, in our families, & in our world at large.

The fact that our species is headed for a gigantic “Kerpluie” experience (to put it rather politely) is a pretty closely-guarded secret, for example, & it’s an elephant no one really wants to acknowledge. It is not considered, shall we say, a fit topic for cocktail party conversation.

I think the roots of our loss of truth-telling probably go back to when we moved away from tribal life & into so-called “nuclear” family units (for most of human history, we lived in small social groupings in which we were highly interdependent & had a very strong sense of community).

I don’t mean to suggest life was perfect or smooth or “easy” when we lived communally as gatherers/hunters – but I’m also willing to bet the B.Q. (bullshit quotient)(1) was a whole lot lower back in those days…

Me, I think it’s very, very likely we would not be poised on the edge of “Kerpluie” if we had not made that choice 10,000 years ago to move away from interdependence & community & onto a path involving the worship of technology & patriarchy & a passionate embrace of so-called “progress” – leading us inevitably, it seems, to the mess we now find ourselves in.

But hey! Here we now are, hmm? For good or ill.

What are we to do??

Do we keep tiptoeing around all these damn elephants – or do we start acknowledging their presence?

As a dyed-in-the-wool truth-teller (& a great admirer of truth-telling writers of all description & especially of Anne Lamott & Elizabeth Lesser & Joanna Macy)(2), I’d like to suggest we try out some serious truth-telling…for a change.

At this point, I’m not at all sure that all the truth-telling in the world can save our butts – but I'm pretty sure it will make us all feel a whole lot lighter – & I suspect it will help us feel a whole lot more authentic, too. Authenticity has a very nice ring to it, I always think…(3)

If we’re going to go down as a species – & this seems increasingly possible/probable (I’m not trying to be depressing here, okay? Just honest) – let’s at least do so with our eyes (& minds) open, & keep the BQ to a minimum.

This is still, I hasten to point out, a very, very stunningly beautiful world here, this Earth of ours. And friendship & love & lovemaking & singing & service & the countless beauties of Nature and …oh, lots & lots of things…are still utterly grand & wondrous & wonderful.

This life – all the way along – should always have been more like a party, & less like the joyless dirge too many of us have made of it.

It isn’t too late. Let’s start telling the truth!

And let’s enjoy the party!! And each other…


P.S. I recently attended a Joanna Macy speaking engagement in Toronto. She was awesome… One of the things she said was that telling the truth is like making oxygen. Ah……I needed to hear that! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joanna Macy…for that, & for so much else…

P.P.S. The truth can be a little scary, of course. That’s one of the reasons we avoid it so strenuously. There are two items on this blog that speak to the topic of our fear & despair – our despair & our fear that we cannot handle telling & living with the truth. They’re called “Despair and Empowerment,” & "Despair & Empowerment: The Movie."

(1) A fun term I came up with in my one corporate work environment, where often the BQ was already off the charts by 10 am…

(2) There are tons of other truth-telling writers; far too many to try & list here. Feel free to check out 2 lists of recommended reading under the ‘Recommended’ tab on this blog.

(3) It seems only fair that I acknowledge the Landmark Forum here for the many lessons I took from my own LMF weekend. Authenticity is a key concept in the LMF experience. You can see more about my LMF experience in 2 places on this blog: under the ‘Recommended’ tab, in the item '3 Great Opportunities for Personal Growth' & also one entitled 'Landmark Experience'.