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Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 23: Don’t Even Think About It!

“Don’t even think about it!”

How many times have you heard that line in a movie or on TV? Has it been used on you? By a parent? A teacher? A police officer?

Anyone who says that to you considers himself the boss of you.

Anyone who says this to you has in that moment expressed his unmistakable intention to treat you as his property.

Anyone who says that deserves to be told — if you have the wherewithal to say it — “How would you even know? What are you, a fucking mind reader?”

Not even think about it?

Thinking is what makes us human.

Thinking is what makes us conscious.

Thinking is what makes us — in an existence so big that even trying to think about it makes me dizzy — that we’re worth the trouble to raise us up.

Telling you not to even think is the worst thing one person can say to another person. It’s worse than all two hundred words you can’t say television put together. It’s worse than “I hate you.”

Yet parents do it. Older brothers and sisters do it. Priests and preachers do it. Teachers do it. Coaches do it. Cops do it. Marine Drill Instructors do it. Gangsters do it. Prison Guards do it. Judges do it. And TV game-show hosts pretending to be Judges do it.

“Don’t even think about it” are the definitive words used to bully. There is always an “Or else” attached to that sentence, even if it’s not said aloud.

“Don’t even think about it, or else there will be no TV for a month!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll tell!” “Don’t even think about it, or you’ll go to Hell!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll see you in Detention!” “Don’t even think about it, or you’ll spend the next game on the bench!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll drop you!” “Don’t even think about it, or you can clean the latrine with a toothbrush!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll whack you!” “Don’t even think about it, or it’s solitary for you!” “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll find you in contempt!” And “Don’t even think about it, or I’ll go to commercial!”

George Orwell — in his novel Nineteen-eighty-four — expressed “Don’t Even Think About It!” as “thought crime.” He may have made up the phrase “thought crime” but he didn’t make up the idea behind it, because “Don’t Even Think About It!” is the signature of every dictator and every cult leader.

If there’s a standard interpretation of any Biblical passage that I despise more than any other, it’s interpreting Matthew 5:7:28 — “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” — as saying if you think something you’re already guilty of it.

That interpretation is a monstrous engine for unearned guilt. That interpretation is the genesis of thought crime. I reject the notion that anyone as savvy as Jesus ever meant anything close to that. Here’s one clear reason why if I don’t consider the Bible itself full of errors, certainly many common interpretations are.

I’ll go a hard step in the other direction. If a man has never looked on a woman with lust in his heart, he’s either gay or a eunuch, and there’s no virtue whatsoever in his not trying to fuck her. You give me a man who looks on a woman and vividly imagines her naked and straddling him, in his mind smells her musk, and shudders imagining what her skin would feel like on his — then he resists fucking her because he’s made a vow to another, or she has — now you’re talking about real character, Matty boy!

So it is with multiplying the guilt for an offense on a theory of amplified mens rea. If a driver chains another man to the back of his car and drags him through the street until he’s dead, the driver is a monster. I do not need to add the idea of his bigotry — because the man he dragged had different skin color — to justify whatever will be done to him in return. Put him in a dark hole for life — strap him down and put him down like a dog — adding “hate crime” to the charge of First Degree Murder does nothing to make his crime any worse that the act itself did.

The legal concept of mens rea — the guilty mind — is about proving a person capable of forming a conscious intention to commit a crime, being capable of understanding the evil consequences and doing it anyway. Beyond that test for criminal culpability law must never be about what people think about doing. Law — both criminal and civil — must always be about what people have done.

For where would it end? Even saints have a thousand evil thoughts a day, and I doubt either of us has ever known a saint.

You ever wished someone was dead, maybe even plotted their murder? There’s a great 1965 movie written by George Axelrod called How To Murder Your Wife where Jack Lemmon plays a confirmed bachelor — a syndicated cartoonist — who wakes up one morning and finds himself married to the spectacularly beautiful Verna Lisi, a wedding performed — and a marriage consummated — while he was drunk. Now, speaking for myself, I’d be patting myself on the back for a catch like Verna Lisi when I’m not even on my best game; but this idiot doesn’t want to be married to her and starts plotting her murder with the help of his butler, played by Terry Thomas. And he tries out his plot with a dummy, using the cover that he always tries everything out for his comic strip.

The movie is 45 years old so I’m not worried about the spoiler here: no, he doesn’t kill her, and even though she figures out he was thinking about it, she forgives him and they live happily ever after.

That’s as close as you can come to committing a thought crime without going through with it — and I still say you get a complete pass.

Pointing a gun at someone is a threat, a crime in and of itself if it’s done other than in self defense. But to read someone’s mind and charge them with attempted murder if they lower the gun without being forced to would be a classic example of charging someone with a thought crime — a crime that never happened.

Much of conspiracy law today attempts to attribute an intent to commit a crime when ultimately the crime is never committed. A society can destroy respect for law, itself, if it punishes people for the crimes they thought of committing, but repented of before they did it.

And if someone will be punished for commiting a crime even if they don’t go through with it, where’s the incentive to stop?

The phrase “wannabe” refers to the desire — the fantasy — to accomplish something exalted, whether it’s to gain popularity and wealth, or accomplish some great task.

Conversely, there are all sorts of things people fantasize about doing which are not benevolent, everything from revenge plots to suicide.

Sexual fantasies — no matter how repellent you may find them — are harmless until and unless overtly acted upon in such a way as to cause harm to another.

A 1961 Twilight Zone episode written by George Clayton Johnson — “A Penny for Your Thoughts” — tells the story of a bank employee (a pre-Bewitched role for Dick York) who develops mind-reading ability, and reads the thoughts of an older bank employee whom he “hears” thinking about embezzling money from the bank. But it turns out that the older gentleman fantasizes his plot all the time, and never has any intention of doing it for real.

Even God is reported to have evil thoughts and to have drawn back from them. Jonah 3:10: “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.”

So unless you’re going to charge God with thought crime per Matthew 5:7:28, thinking something isn’t reason to feel guilty when you ultimately don’t do it.

Anyone who has held a loaded gun in his hand with his finger inside the trigger guard knows the difference between pulling the trigger and not pulling the trigger.

In life, the movies we play in our mind until we pull the trigger are thoughts that we may or may never turn into action.

God, himself, does not judge our thoughts unless we have already used them to make a choice to commit an action. God doesn’t make the mistake Dick York’s character made in a Twilight Zone episode.

This is both the power of the free human being and our inescapable curse, for with this freedom comes responsibility for what we do.

This is not to suggest that developing wholesome thinking is unimportant. Bad thoughts — especially when you make a habit of it — can lead to bad actions, even obsessions.

But freedom of thought is what makes us human, and possibly — someday — more than that.

I promised you that by the end of this book I’d tell you what was in my left hand.

It’s this.

The left-hand path is the road of self-determination. You choose what you love. You choose what you’re passionate about. You choose what will make you happy.

You may choose wrongly and have to choose again.

We call that learning. It’s something only a free mind can do. It’s why the Biblical image of God changing his mind makes him human, and why existence has meaning.

But the right-hand path is the path of being a puppet, a chump, a slave, a draftee, a machine. Letting someone else think for you and push you around is the path to the destruction of your soul.

Let no one do it — not President, nor Pope, nor Rabbi, nor Pastor, nor Ayatollah, nor Parent, nor Brother, nor Professor, nor Scoutmaster, nor Radio or TV Pundit, nor Drill Instructor, nor Scientist, nor even Writer.

Freedom is necessary for any of your loves or passions to take wing.

Fight for your freedom as hard as you can.

And if you’re not ready to fight, you can at least think about it.

–J. Neil Schulman, January 9, 2010


Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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