“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.”
That’s Christopher Hitchens in Letters to a Young Contrarian.
I agree with Hitchens on many things, but not everything. Distrust compassion? Compassion and empathy are what make us human. I am sure that he is confusing two distinct emotions: perhaps he meant pity. Distrust pity; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Then there’s the very strange “Picture all experts as if they were mammals.” Actually, all experts are mammals. Unless of course that there are experts who are birds or reptiles. Anyway, the man was a brilliant polemicist, amazing writer and a debater par excellence. He was not a deep thinker. But then you cannot be reading & writing thousands of words a day, drinking scotch by the gallons, chain-smoking, debating, speaking at conferences, appearing on TV, making documentaries, reporting from war zones, teaching, traveling the world, promoting books — and also find the time and energy to think deeply. The bottom line: good guy who lived life king sized and mostly poured derision on the pretentious and the fake.
This is an excerpt from a debate on the proposition “The Catholic Church is a force for good in the world”. The debate sponsor is The Intelligence2 Debate. (For the full version, go to Youtube.) Below the fold is the excerpt which is a must watch.
Goodbye Christopher. I am glad that you lived and I have had the pleasure of meeting you a couple of times — once at the Berkeley Repertoire Theater in the 1997 and once at a book release in 1999. I am certainly going to miss your incisive writing. The world is going to be a poorer place for your departure.
Christopher Hitchens writing in Slate:
The very name Pakistan inscribes the nature of the problem. It is not a real country or nation but an acronym devised in the 1930s by a Muslim propagandist for partition named Chaudhary Rahmat Ali. It stands for Punjab, Afghania, Kashmir, and Indus-Sind. The stan suffix merely means “land.” In the Urdu language, the resulting acronym means “land of the pure.” It can be easily seen that this very name expresses expansionist tendencies and also conceals discriminatory ones. Kashmir, for example, is part of India. The Afghans are Muslim but not part of Pakistan. Most of Punjab is also in India. Interestingly, too, there is no B in this cobbled-together name, despite the fact that the country originally included the eastern part of Bengal (now Bangladesh, after fighting a war of independence against genocidal Pakistani repression) and still includes Baluchistan, a restive and neglected province that has been fighting a low-level secessionist struggle for decades. The P comes first only because Pakistan is essentially the property of the Punjabi military caste (which hated Benazir Bhutto, for example, because she came from Sind). As I once wrote, the country’s name “might as easily be rendered as ‘Akpistan’ or ‘Kapistan,’ depending on whether the battle to take over Afghanistan or Kashmir is to the fore.”
Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–1809), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. [Wikipedia]
Happy birthday, Mr Jefferson.
Here’s something that Jefferson insisted upon that the Indian government would do well to adopt. In the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, Jefferson wrote:
Religious insanity should be ridiculed as strenuously and as frequently as one can. Here I am talking about the recent demand by the Pastafarians that since their religion forbids the eating of pasta without meatballs, all vegetarian pasta dishes be banned. It offends the Pastafarians that people can even contemplate the eating of pasta without the required half a dozen meatballs.
My distaste for poverty is only exceeded by my utter contempt for those who nurture that awful monster of poverty that chews up living human beings and spits them out like so much garbage. True evil to me is that impulse that disregards human suffering, and more often than not, that evil force emanates from ideology and dogma. Communism is one such evil; the other horror is organized religious dogma mostly represented by the monotheistic religions. The richer the organized religion, the more powerful it is, and has the will and the means to wreak havoc and cause misery. The Catholic Church is exhibit A. It has a shining history of centuries of wholesale murder and it has not deviated one bit from that unholy crusade to this day. Its most celebrated foot-soldier — nay, general — in its war against decency and humanity was Mother Teresa. Christopher Hitchens called her (among other things) the Ghoul of Calcutta. I call her Teresa, the Merciless.
Here’s Hitchens (from one of his live debates): Continue reading