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Preston Dirges and the Infinite Everythink

Orwell was a pussy. Anybody could manage doublethink. A politician, a Nazi soldier, a customer services representative, a spouse. They all engage in doublethink as a matter of course. At some time approximately halfway through the twentieth century, doublethink became the new think. It has been the new think ever since. Orwell was wrong; there was no need for doublethink to be encouraged by the state. Doublethink arose out of a natural desire to be liked, and to prosper. The only change was that people had more information. More information meant more choice of inconsistent beliefs to simultaneously believe in. Meanwhile, regular singlethinking had become the new unthinking. And unthinking had become the exclusive preserve of those few religious adherents still blissfully ignorant of what their priests really doublethought (and doubledid). Orwell had only been documenting the new orthodoxy, whilst softening the blow by implying it had not yet arrived. What a pussy. Preston looked out of the window of his new office on the 33rd floor. He was working, by thinking about anything but work, whilst looking out of the window.

Preston mentally surmised that, to succeed in business, you needed to engage in treblethink, at the very least. Quadruplethink was better, and quintuplethink was certainly viable. Preston had lost count of which layer of n-think he now inhabited. He mused that infinity-think might well be possible. It just required courage. To do it, he had to dismiss the fear of insanity. Sanity was another kind of orthodoxy, imposed by doublethinkers on each other. It required belief in what people said, irrespective of it being obviously false. Children are inherently insane, though forgiven because they do not know enough to engage in more than singlethink. They retain a mischievous capacity to see the world exactly as it is. They also have the cheek to describe it accurately. Education is designed to instill sanity, which means persuading kids to say what they should, and not what they know. The aim of education is to teach people to say what others want to hear. This training is ruthlessly inculcated through examinations and coursework, both of which seek to demonstrate a proficiency in communicating exactly what the audience wants to hear.

Preston sipped at his coffee, which was nearly cold. He had been looking out of the window for a long while. He thought about how to communicate. Communication was the only visible output of his daily work, so it mattered to him. There are only two alternatives to telling people what they want to hear. Tell them what they think they do not want to hear but really do want to hear, or tell them what they really do not want to hear but think they want to hear. To tell them anything else is pointless; they will be unable to comprehend it. Or rather, they will comprehend it perfectly at first, but will soon doublethink themselves into complete incomprehension.

What you should tell people depends on how much n-think you think is good for them. Generally the idea is to talk one layer of n-think above or below the layer of n-think that the listener is already comfortable with. Or you could just stick to the base case, and tell people what they already think. This is safe, but often boring, even for the listener. It is more daring, and interesting, to tell people what they might think if they thought one level above, or below, their current level of n-think. But creeping into n+2 or n-2 would only upset people. And when people had their brains upset they naturally reacted with accusations of madness, or stupidity. Hence sanity and intelligence were now grossly overrated, in an n-think kind of way.

None of the supposedly sane knew why they did what they did. Animal passions and human language had led to slide packs just as machine code and office productivity had led to Microsoft Powerpoint. We all know there is a route that connects them, but the journey is too long for a single mind to complete stepwise. So we buy suits in the hopes of getting laid, and we donate to charity in the hopes of getting laid, and we devise marketing strategies for our employers with the eventual hope that our children will get laid by better, richer, more beautiful people than we did. N-think can take you to that realization. But it also got in the way of creating the slide pack that Preston was supposed to be working on.

Preston’s diseased mind had long since lost respect for those peers stuck in strict doublethought. There was something wrong with a business that rewarded employees only capable of sustaining one contradiction at a time. The Queen of Wonderland could believe six impossible things before breakfast. It was no wonder that she was in charge. To be fair to the strict doublethinkers, they got where they did by being somebody’s friend. Or somebody’s gay lover. Or both. That meant they were honorary treblethinkers, not only believing the contradictions between what they did and what they were supposed to achieve, but also believing their success stemmed from their merits as doublethinkers.

It was time for Preston to alert his diseased mind to the slide pack’s incomplete state. Only one slide had been finished out of the thirty required, and that was the title slide.

Preston: I like looking out of the window, but one of us needs to finish this slide pack.

Diseased Mind: Don’t manythink me. I’m your mind. I know you’re lying. We don’t have to finish this slide pack.

Preston: It’s not a lie if I believe it.

Diseased Mind: Now don’t start rationalizing manythink either.

Preston: I want to get paid so I can get a suit so I’ll get paid more and more rapidly accumulate capital so I will be attractive to women who want capital to improve the life chances of their offspring. And that means we have to finish the slide pack.

Diseased Mind: But you don’t want kids.

Preston: My motivation doesn’t have to be rational.

Diseased Mind: So what are you saying – that you want to support somebody else’s kids?

Preston: Granted, that wouldn’t be rational, but that’s not my point either.

Diseased Mind: Why don’t you just jizz into a cup at the sperm bank, if you want to reproduce? You don’t need capital for that.

Preston: Four reasons. First, I don’t know where the sperm bank is. Second, I’m afraid to google the location of the nearest sperm bank whilst at work, in case they’re spying on my computer. Third, I doubt I’ll be able to go to the sperm bank during work hours. Fourth, when outside of work, I’m too busy to go to the sperm bank.

Diseased Mind: But not too busy to wank.

Preston: There’s always time for that.

Diseased Mind: If you don’t want kids, then why not ‘forget’ to do the slide pack and wait to see if you get fired?

Preston: Money pays for other useful things, as well as other people’s kids. For example, it pays for food.

Diseased Mind: And what’s your motivation for eating?

Preston: Now you’re just being silly. It’s an animal desire. I may not humour you, but I have to humour my rumbling stomach.

Diseased Mind: True. But I don’t want to do the slide pack. And your rumbling stomach is hidden under wads of fat. It’s easier to give up eating than to take up exercise.

Preston: Look on the bright side. Nobody’s going to read the slide pack. We can have some fun writing silly things in it.

Writing the slide pack consumed the whole of a miserable afternoon, barely improved by the feeble in-jokes contributed by Preston’s diseased mind. When finished, Preston spent a further half hour looking out of the window. He was waiting for the right moment to email the pack to his boss. He emailed it at 5.01pm, and he had left the building by 5.06pm. At some time after 6pm, Preston was arriving home whilst his diseased mind contemplated several ways in which business performance could be improved.

Preston: Don’t do that, we’re not at work any more.

Diseased Mind: Sorry. It’s so hard to think to a schedule.

Preston: If you can’t think at the right time, then don’t think at all.

Diseased Mind: I’m not sure if that’s the best way of going about things. But I’ll try not to think about it.

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