Richard Ingrams' Week: Nowhere to hide when the thetans are on your tail

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The Independent Online

Not content with ID cards, the authorities are now talking of a national DNA database. As if it was not bad enough having all kinds of personal details being made available, I now find I must be on my guard against other more dangerous incursions into my rapidly shrinking private environment.

The threat comes from our old friends the Scientologists, and I am grateful to The Sunday Telegraph for making me aware of it and therefore able to take appropriate steps. According to a long report in a recent issue of that newspaper, an internal memo was circulated to British Scientologists instructing them if not to exterminate me with gamma rays, then to make my name mud. "Ingrams," says the memo, "has a much publicised divorce history. He admits to being gay but then has a love affair with a 20 years his junior woman at his Berkshire home."

The memo goes on to order local Scientologists to interview my opponents and "to find, investigate and document scandals he is for sure part of". Dealing with such a threat is difficult because it is not so easy to identify the Scientologists who may well be spying on me.

Following the teachings of their founder Mr L Ron Hubbard, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Cecil Rhodes, Scientologists believe that they are in their inner selves omniscient beings known as thetans, millions of years old and originating somewhere in outer space.

But to the outward eye they may appear superficially no different from the rest of us. Even so, I think I already spotted one or two of them following me down Tottenham Court Road where they have a base. My gay friend accused me of being more than a little paranoid. They may well be right but faced with thetans you cannot be too careful.

A rather depressing reality

"Depression drugs don't work" was the headline this week to worry more than a few sufferers – but perhaps to please other, more important sections of the population.

One would be the Government, which at present has to foot a huge annual bill amounting to millions of pounds to meet the demands from the medical profession. If it can be shown that these drugs have no value, then they could save a great deal of money.

Equally pleased will have been large numbers of psychiatrists who have traditionally felt threatened by the increased prescribing of antidepressants by doctors. Psychiatrists after all, earn their living by talking to patients, hopefully over a very long period. For this they may charge a considerable fee. But if the idea becomes widely accepted, as it has been, that many cases of depression can be cured or kept under control with the help of a course of pills, then they are going to be done out of a job.

Depression, for whatever reason, is nowadays such a common affliction that most of us are well aware of it either through personal experience or that of friends and relations. We are also well aware of the effectiveness of antidepressants and the often sensational improvement that can result from their use. We also know the danger to patients if they stop taking those pills, under the illusion that they are now cured.

This week's report given headline publicity suggesting that the pills are ineffectual may have encouraged some sufferers to take this step. If so, it could have done a lot of harm.

Luckily, fewer and fewer people nowadays pay much attention to what they read in the press. It is the headlines, not the antidepressants, that don't work.

* Thanks to the generosity of a so-called philanthropist, the British public will now be able to view a piece of contemporary sculpture by the German artist Joseph Beuys. It is called Fat Chair, pictured above, and consists of a wooden chair covered with a layer of fat and contained in a glass cabinet.

I call him so-called philanthropist because the art dealer Mr Anthony D'Offay has not give the Fat Chair to the grateful nation. He has sold it along with many other works for its cost price. He is quoted saying: "I thought it would be ideal in the public domain. It will get people to ask the question, 'what does it mean?'."

It is a risky approach. Because, like the famous little boy who said that the emperor had no clothes, the people looking at the Fat Chair (including, Mr D'Offay hopes, parties of school children) might decide that it didn't mean anything much more than a chair with fat on it in a glass case. They might then go on to question what it was doing in an art gallery in the first place and why we were all supposed to be so grateful to Mr D'Offay for selling it to Tate Modern for a fraction of its supposed value.

Mr D'Offay might reply that if we failed to appreciate the beauties of the Fat Chair, then there are at least 100 more sculptures by Mr Beuys in his collection which might help to enlighten us.

The difficulty with that is that there isn't really enough room to put all this stuff on show. So presumably most of it will have to be kept in storage.

We come back to Mr D'Offay's question. What does it mean? It means, if you hadn't grasped it already, that we live in a mad, mad world.