How to Avoid Thinking


Thinking is a very bad idea.

You go for a walk in the countryside looking at the baa lambs on the rolling green hills and wondering whether you are going to bump into Princess Di when you suddenly start thinking.

'The only reasons these sheep are here,' you think, 'Is so that someone can herd them into vans, slit their throats, hang them upside down so the blood drains out, cut out their kidneys, and put them into that pie I had last night.' It quite spoils your walk

Or, you are feeling pleasantly pleased with yourself because your scientists have perfected the Martian Solution and you are about to assemble a landing crew with plasma blasters to go up against whatever end-of-level-guardian is waiting on Cydonia when you start thinking:

'I have just spent a summer evening staring at a computer screen, and what do I have to show for it but a vague desire to try it again at moderate difficulty level.'

If I were a dumb animal or a member of the working classes, this would not be a problem. I would be so contented with my lot (until they came and ripped out my kidney) that I would not have time for idle reverie. I would live in the here-and-now, and thoughts would never intrude to make me discontented. But for those of us cursed with working brains, it is hard to reach this happy state.

God knows, I've tried. I'm told that some people manage to keep soap-operas on for six or seven hours a day. I've never achieved this, but I do watch Babylon 5. For 55 precious minutes vast vistas of space craft, cod-mysticism and non-existent politics drive all coherent thoughts out of my brain. I achieve a state of blissful mindlessness, much like that of the programme's writers.

I once even put on a CD of the strange music which my workmates listen to. Ambient techno-funk, I think they call it. Apparently, records now have the name of the disc-jocky who mixed them, rather than the band who recorded them, on the cover. They consist of rather pleasant twinkly-twangly lift music, with a thudding synthesised drum beat, and occasional barely audible, spoken phrases. The phrases are quasi-political slogans: 'Organised religions are only out for your money,' or 'We are all brothers under the skin'. I'm sure that most of the listeners were on the point of signing their life-savings over to Rev. Moon and/or beating up the next Frenchman they bumped into, and I'm equally sure these messages returned them to the straight-and-narrow. My headphones were still on ten minutes after the CD ended. The music was so relaxing that I didn't notice that it had stopped. I guess this is the point. I could plug it in, turn it up really, really loud and let the dull thumping hypnotise me into a sort of meditative state. All conscious thought would slowly slip away. I'd probably sit down next to myself on the tube, too.

But not all thoughts are this innocent. Some are downright dangerous. It's one thing to be wandering in the Cotswalds wondering about maybe ordering the cheese salad rather than the lamb cutlets at the pub tonight: its quite another to be listening to the Archbishop of Canterbury and find yourself thinking 'What does he mean by spirituality, and why is it a good thing, exactly?' It's one thing to think "Maybe I'll read a book rather than play X-Com tonight"; quite another to think 'Just remind me—I'm sure I'm being stupid here—but just what is shoving fine-defaulters in gaol supposed to achieve?' Thoughts such as these represent a serious threat to the spiritual and political fabric of our nation. And it takes damn site more than a quick burst of Chuwagowogz Techno Fluff to get you out of it.

Readers will probably not be terribly surprised to learn that I have discovered a solution to this problem. Every morning, after I have cleared the nightmares out of my brain, I just pop an Anti-Thought into my head.

An Anti-Thought is shaped like a thought. It tastes and smells like a Thought. It cleverly fools my brain into thinking that it is a Thought. An as long as my brain thinks that it already has a Thought in its thought-space, it won't think of creating a new one. It's a kind of mantra. I seem to recall from my 90 minutes of sex education in the fifth form that some of the messier methods of contraception work along similar lines.

Experts believe that they are not far from producing a single, universal Anti-Thought which will be able to destroy all thoughts of all kinds. Until this happens, it is necessary to use specialist Anti-Thoughts in order to inoculate you against particular subjects.

A few of the most popular brand-names follow:

1: 'Rising tide of crime', 'Young people today aren't as well behaved as we were'

Obliterates all thoughts about the psychology or social causes of bad behaviour. Makes rational thought about prison-reform impossible. Causes MPs to become hysterical when you use words like 'human rights'. Causes ideas about justice, mercy, forgiveness and original sin to vanish from the minds of even the strongest professing Christians. In extreme cases, can cause people to say things like 'Children are murdering other children. And the solution to this is smarter school uniforms.'

2: 'If it just saves one life...'

Are you troubled when people propose some curtailment of your liberty? Does it worry you that the Government wants to ban peanuts (because some people are allergic to them); bacon sandwiches (because so many people die of heart attacks) and Cadburys Creme Eggs (because our children are overweight and have bad teeth). Do troublesome thoughts about 'fairness', 'appropriateness' and 'liberty' leap into your head? Do you ever think that changing the way we do business would better help the poor than buying a charity record? Chant the Anti-Thought mantra 'If it saves just one life it will be worthwhile' and feel all thoughts drain away.

3: 'Put the children first', 'Put the victim first'

Discussion of the psychological causes and cures of sexual perversions have become a thing of the past since the 'Put the children first' Anti-Thought has been fitted to the brains of all political chat-show hosts. There have been sightings of politicians saying things like 'Victims would like the perpetrators to be roasted alive in a vat of warm marmalade so that is what we must do'.

4: 'Politically correct'

Our original intention was that the 'Politically correct' Anti-Thought would make unpleasant, intolerant thoughts impossible. People who thought, 'It's good to hit children,' or 'Foreigners are spoiling our culture,' would be infected by the 'That's not politically correct', counter-thought, and instantly metamorphosise into social workers. It has worked on experimental subjects for periods of up to twenty minutes. Regrettably, they always seem to come across something like a Boots advert which describes make-up for black people as 'Cosmetics for ladies with darker complexions'. This causes their brains to create Anti-Anti Thoughts, destroying the inoculation's efficacy.

Some of these Anti-Anti-Thoughts evolve into new strains of full-blown Anti-Thought. Thus, we have been able to breed an Anti-Political-Correctness vaccine which destroys pleasant, tolerant thoughts. People who used to think 'It's not very nice to hit children', or 'Don't all the Asian shops and Mosques make Tooting an interesting place?' notice that these thoughts are politically correct and instantly metamorphosis into skinheads.

There is some evidence that Michael Portillo may have been infected with an Anti-Anti-Anti-Thought.

5: 'Never trust experts' 'Never trust intellectuals' 'You can prove anything you like with statistics'

The beauty of these is that they actually make the weakness of an argument, or the strength of the opponent's a virtue: it is almost as good as saying 'All wrong arguments are right, all right arguments are wrong.' Closely related to:

6: 'I'm only an ignorant artist...' 'I'm only an ignorant scientist...'

Because these Anti-Thoughts fool the specialist into thinking he is being humble, they effectively keeps all thoughts outside his field from entering his brain. Whole generations of people with computer degrees make a virtue of never having read a book; departments full of literary scholars and historians regard the most elementary knowledge of physics or computers as rather quaint and geekish.

7: 'Trendy', 'Fashionable'

Many people believe it, so it must be false.

8: 'Vast majority' 'I think the people of this country want'

Many people believe it, so it must be true.

9: 'For the millennium'

Everything said, written or created before 1995 is devoid of value by virtue of belonging to the 20th century. Everything said or written after 1996 (however stupid) is valuable because it is 'part of the new millennium'.

If this virus fully takes root in your brain you start to enter a delusional state in which you think that the Spice Girls tunes are better than the Beatles because they are "a group of the new millennium"; and that any government which happens to be in power during a year with a lot of naughts on the end has some special influence over the next thousand years of history. Particularly severe casualties wander around scattering large and pointless buildings over the landscape. There is a danger that this will infect the whole of society; cause us to ditch everything invented in the past (literature, religion, indoor toilets) and start again from scratch. This is known as 'the millennium bug'.

If, even after a dose of these Anti-Thoughts, you still find yourself thinking, something stronger may be required.

But caution should be exercised. The state of no-thought may be the Nirvana which Buddhists seek after, but approached by those who are not spiritually prepared, it can be difficult to cope with. One can see these acid-victims every day, lobotomised, more-or-less happy zombies, unable to function in society and with an obsessive compulsion to contribute to the Ceefax Letters page and Call Nick Ross.

For those determined to try, however, we offer the following Seven Words of Power.

Just as the ancients cast out demons in the name of holy men and prophets, so the most powerful Anti-Thoughts are proper nouns. The mere uttering of them causes all rational thought to leave the room for at least 5 years. Use with care:

NOTE: The application of the above to the conference speeches of Messers Hague and Blair is left as an exercise for the reader.