Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deliver us from thinking

If there is one thing all sensible people agree upon it is that things were a lot better back in the good old days. One of the best things about the good old days was that people knew where they stood, especially when it came to thinking. In the good old days, normal people didn't go around thinking that their thoughts were worth anything. They knew that thinking was a task for professionals, people with specially trained minds who would think their hardest before letting everybody else know what they'd been thinking, usually via newspapers or mainstream publishers, media that were - and remain - devoted to disseminating the thoughts of only the very best thinkers. Normal people rejoiced in this, because not only did they not have to think for themselves, they knew that the thoughts they were thinking could be relied upon because the people who originally thought these thoughts were paid to think them, and only people who are paid to do something can really be trusted.

Then, one day, normal people started doing their own thinking and the two-tiered system of thinkers and thinkees began to crumble. At first professional thinkers laughed at these "amateurs"; non-professional thinking was "just a fad", they reassured one another, and besides, people aren't stupid, they know that when it comes to thinking you can only rely on the professionals. But the professional thinkers were wrong, and now non-professional thinking is threatening the status quo - and we professional thinkers don't think much of that at all.

I must confess that until recently I had barely given non-professional thinkers a second thought. Lately, however, I have been thinking about non-professional thinkers a good deal, and what I have been thinking about them is that they have no right to be thinking. I came to this conclusion after spending an entire day thinking about the thoughts of non-professional thinkers. It was not an edifying - or even interesting - experience, and I really, really love thinking.

There are a lot of truly bad thinkers out there, brimming over with muddled, confused, or just plain wrong thoughts. Of the better known non-professional thinkers, many are clearly enthusiastic about thinking but unfortunately they think in a manner that I disapprove of. This is no idle criticism: as a professional thinker I have thought a lot about how I would like people to think, and I think the way these people are thinking is inappropriate and even irresponsible. As mentioned above, there are appropriate outlets for thinking, such as the mainstream media, and it seems to me that all thought conducted through other outlets is by definition inferior. In my entire day of thinking about non-professional thoughts - actually closer to twenty-minutes, because I had squash that afternoon - I didn't come across a single thought that was a zillionth as good as anything in The Polycerebrallic Spree, Nick Hornby's recently published diary of "an exasperated but ever hopeful thinker". Why? Because his thoughts are measured, rather than spewed out, he is professional in approach - knows what to think, when to think it, and who to think it for - and what is more he gets paid for his thoughts. If you're a non-professional thinker you are probably thinking - for it is the kind of thing you think, in my experience - that Hornby gets paid for his thoughts because of his celebrity status rather than the intrinsic value of his thoughts. I'm sorry to say that I think you are wrong, and since I too am a professional thinker my thoughts out-think yours and I win.

Look, I think it's great that people are thinking and I'm glad it makes them happy. But those who pine for the end of professional thinking should be careful what they wish for. Would they really be without the likes of Nick Hornby or myself? If so, how on earth would they know what to think?

Cross-posted at Sarsaparilla.

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