Telling it like it is

The Compass - - OPINION - Ed­i­tor’s note: the fol­low­ing let­ter also ap­peared in the July 12, 2012 print edition of The Tele­gram.

As I fol­low the on­go­ing furor over the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act, I’m won­der­ing why our gov­ern­ment didn’t just come right out and call it what it re­ally is: the Pro­vin­cial Se­crets Act.

Ev­ery or­ga­ni­za­tion has its se­crets.

Western civ­i­liza­tion would un­doubt­edly have col­lapsed with­out Colonel San­ders’ se­cret spices and Coca-Cola’s se­cret for­mula. And look at the se­crecy sur­round­ing each new ver­sion of the iPad.

The British gov­ern­ment has its Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act, as did most Western coun­tries, in­clud­ing Canada — un­til our politi­cians be­came all mealy-mouthed and re­named it the Se­cu­rity of In­for­ma­tion Act.

Tidy­ing lan­guage

But, un­for­tu­nately, that’s what hap­pens when bu­reau­crats and politi­cians get hold of the lan­guage: they like to san­i­tize and soften it un­til they’ve trans­formed it into mean­ing­less pap, all in a mis­guided ef­fort to avoid of­fend­ing some group (or, more to the point, to avoid the scru­tiny of self-ap­pointed spokesper­sons for all man­ner of po­ten­tially of­fended groups).

And so the lazy are mo­ti­va­tion­ally chal­lenged, liars have cred­i­bil­ity is­sues and the lost are (pre­sum­ably) di­rec­tion­ally chal­lenged, while hos­pi­tals are called “health cen­tres,” de­spite the fact that most of their oc­cu­pants are far from healthy, and pa­tients are called “clients,” which is some­how meant to “em­power” them.

This kind of talk doesn’t em­power any­one — it is much more likely to numb us all into com­pla­cency.

I chal­lenge any­one to make sense of the drivel that em­anates from gov­ern­ment and man­age­rial cir­cles these days.

Trans­lat­ing the bull

Much to my de­light, there is now a free down­load­able soft­ware pack­age called Bull­fighter that can cri­tique and an­a­lyze the kind of BS we are sub­jected to al­most daily.

Just copy a pas­sage from the lat­est of­fice memo, busi­ness re­port or gov­ern­ment man­i­festo, and paste it into Bull­fighter and you’ll see how lit­tle sub­stance there is to any of this non­sense.

When asked what he thought about Western civ­i­liza­tion, Gandhi said he thought it would be a good idea.

I won­der what he would think of our present “civ­i­liza­tion” 70 years af­ter he ut­tered those words.

He’d cer­tainly never get a straight an­swer to any of the ques­tions he might want to ask to­day.

On the topic of se­crecy, I ’m re­minded of the football game be­tween the Knights of Colum­bus and the Freema­sons.

A spec­ta­tor, ar­riv­ing late, asked “what’s the score?”

“It’s a se­cret,” said the man next to him. Tony Rockel writes from


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