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   On Bullshit
Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
30 Jun 2012

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Why is it in plenty?

Did you notice that we have plenty of it and yet it keeps coming! Since our attitude towards it is more benign, the television and the internet keep on serving it endlessly. Without doubt, bullshit has become an essential component of modern culture. Bullshit, according to moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt, is defined as non-sense or some foolish exaggerated talk. Play your memory back by couple of hours or if possible by a few days and you realize how much of it you have voluntarily savoured in recent times.

In the absence of it being clearly defined, we tend to take it for granted although many among us will vouch that 'they have been able to recognize bullshit'. In reality, however, much before its existence gets realized it is already upon us. With philosophical acuity, Frankfurt argues that 'we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves'.

From outrageous political debates to dubious cine awards, bullshit is relentlessly served throughout the day. If this isn't enough, the media-market nexus almost always chooses a glib ignoramus over an expert to further the concept of bullshit. These bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. By virtue of serving bullshit 24x7, some of the newspapers and television channels could be respectfully re-named Bullshit Times and Bullshit TV in that order.

The contemporary proliferation of bullshit may have deeper sources, which not only restrict any reliable access to an objective reality but do reject the possibility of knowing how things truly are. Though most people pretend confidence in their ability to recognize bullshit, they lack collective courage to unmask the bullshitters. No wonder, bullshitters are gaining increased social recognition as a species. Unless, bullshit is put to sustained inquiry it is bound to grow in a society that cares less-and-less about more-and-more.

Entertaining and outrageous at the same time, this powerful small book makes a big bold statement: bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt
Princeton University Press, Oxford
63 pages, US$ 9.95.

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

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Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

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Spoiling Tibet

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