The following was posted on Mar 3rd, 2008 by Martha
It's embarrasing to admit that I've managed to live for 54 years and only this week learned the difference between lies and bullshit. But this insight has been liberating, so I'd like to share it with you guys, because maybe there's someone else out there who hasn't thought about it like this either.
Bullshit is different than lies. Lies are things that are totally untrue. Like if you tell me you checked the tire pressure, but you really didn't. Of course, I could say, "That's bullshit! You never checked the tires!" And grammatically I'd be correct. But bullshit can be a really liberating concept when used in a somewhat different way.
Now, I'm going to pick on my Dad here, which is something I never do. I truly owe my Dad my life in many ways, and wherever he is, he knows how very much I love him. And in that same sense, he knows that when I quote him as I'm now going to do, it's not lies and it's not bullshit, but rather a chance to clear up some ancient bullshit that needs cleaning up. At least from my point of view.
OK, I think I was about five, and we were talking about radio. Like how it works and where the sound comes from. And Dad says to me, "There will never be women announcers on the radio." And I asked, "Why not?" And he said, "Because radio catches a certain range of the human voice, and because of that women's voices sound harsh and grating on the radio. They don't sound pleasant, and nobody enjoys listening to them."
I thought about that for a minute, and then I said, "But women sing on the radio all the time. And they sing with women's voices, and those sounds are on the radio, and people like it. So if a woman's singing voice can be on the radio, then why not a woman's talking voice?"
"Talking voices are different than singing voices," he answered. "Women sound fine singing on the radio, but their speaking voices are grating."
"But women talk to little babies all the time," I objected. "And if their voices were so bad, wouldn't they make babies cry? But they don't. Women's voices are good at soothing babies."
"Well soothing babies is one thing, and reading the news or announcing songs is something else. Nobody wants to listen to a woman read the news."
Well, sorry to say, I took his word for it. I stopped critically thinking, and I stopped asking questions, and I just filed it away under, "People don't like to hear women's speaking voices on the radio." But what I had just done was I had swallowed a line of bullshit.
The difference is that my Dad wasn't lying to me. He was sharing his convictions in a true and open manner, but his convictions were simply a collection of biases, baseless judgments and red herrings. It's just that he had managed to convince himself of them (the regrettable situation of believing your own bullshit), and then use them to overwhelm my still tender bullshit detectors.
But now I've finally got my eyes open and I'm watching for bullshit everywhere!
And it's not that I haven't been aware of bullshit, it's just that I never had a name for it
before, because within my interior lexicon, I was wasting the term on garden variety lies.
It's too bad that kids often grow up in entire family nets of bullshit and lies.
It makes it very hard not to have some fairly hefty issues.