Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Join me on an exciting journey of discovery to sort out the bullshit from the bollocks (part 1)

An occasional series (part 1) of those weasel words and phrases which insinuate their way into all our lives, but tend to mean rather less than they claim to. It has been sparked by an email I’ve just received from Adobe Systems urging me to sign up for a seminar where they will be trotting out their newest products and, I should imagine, hope that I shall part with some of my hard-earned shekels to become the proud owner of  one of them. So pride of place and top of my list comes the phrase Adobe used:

1 Get the inside track - No, not really. When you join a gaggle of several tens of thousands worldwide who also received an invitation to ‘get the inside track’, you aren’t getting the
‘inside track’ on anything. You’re just becoming one of a very large and very amorphous herd. If I were being charitable, I might concede that ‘to get the inside track’ could be taken to mean ‘get more details on’, but I’m not feeling charitable and, anyway, I’m 99pc certain Adobe and others use the phrase to make you think you’re one of a select and exclusive few.
A related phrase is ‘sneak preview’. A preview it most certainly is, but when it is a ‘sneak preview’ of, say, the latest EastEnders plotline (US, Brazilian, German and readers from other countries, please fill in you own soap), you are doing nothing more sneaky than joining several million other morons who have nothing better to do with their time.

2 Exciting - Yes, that one, when what is described at ‘exciting’ is usually less ‘exciting’ than a bad wank. One of the silliest uses I have come across was in the Daily Mail, several times in fact, which billed an ‘exciting dry cleaning offer’.  I think you paid for the dry-cleaning of your clothes, but buttons were dry-cleaned gratis. This one is very popular with ‘financial institutions’ PR operatives and civil servants: banks will simply re-package existing rip-off savings products, call them ‘exciting’ and hope you won’t notice it’s the same old cack. Civil servants are addicted to announcing, for example, and ‘exciting new health service initiative’ and an ‘exciting development in sewage disposal’. Often the ‘exciting development’ is also ‘a departure’. A real departure would be if for once the didn’t resort to bullshit.

3 Going on a journey of discovery - This one is much loved by ‘life coaches’, any number of lifestyle gurus, self-help charlatans, psycho drama instructors and a great many of their aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. The only thing you discover once you have completed the journey - and not always immediately, as these folk are adept at tapping into our infinite capacity for self-delusion - is that your wallet is now considerably lighter.

4 Find your inner [whatever] - This one is rather like being invited to go on a journey, in this case self-discovery. This is another favourite of self-help gurus and other cynics who prey on your unhappiness with any number of imaginative ways to turn it into hard cash, which, naturally ends up in their bank accounts. By far the most pernicious I know of are those crooks from The Church of Scientology. I you walk in off the street and fill in one of their personality profiles (as I once did out of interest - I wasn’t at all unhappy at the time), you will always be told that you are a complete psychological mess and that - for a price, of course - they can help you ‘find yourself’ and become happier. The very sad thing is there are many, many people out there who are unhappy - in fact, all of us at some point in our lives have been deeply unhappy - and what they need is true understanding, help, good advice, sometimes medication and some way to resurrect their feelings of self-worth. What they don’t need is for some Scientology fuck to reinforce their low-esteem in order to turn a fast buck or ten.

Incidentally, I shall not, as some might expect, launch into a wholesale and ineffably silly condemnation of counselling, whether it is provided by a medically trained counsellor (trained in psychology and psychotherapy) or someone properly and responsibly trained. Certainly, there are charlatans out there, but, I suspect, rather fewer than your average Daily Mail reader would appreciate. There are many who do excellent work, and are worth their weight in gold. I know from personal experience. It is always difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff and, as a rule of thumb, it would be most sensible first to contact your GP or doctor and get a recommendation. But if you are low, don’t just grin and bear it. Remember that statistically (I think I have this figure right) one in three or four of us suffers from depression or a related condition at some point in our lives. Don’t ignore it. You can always be helped in some way. But please don’t mix it with the fucking Church of Scientology.

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