Saturday 27 November 2010

Christopher Hitchens

I swear I wasn't going to do this and that I even started to write, but thought I'd be boring all three of you shitless so I canned it originally. However everything being seemingly connected I have to come back to it because Christopher Hitchens is in the news for debating Tony Blair on religion, so if you can indulge me, I'll just throw in those few thoughts on Christopher Hitchens that I fretted about at first.

I think he's a complicated man. I first became aware of him as a supporter of the Neocons when I was trawling through the Project for a new American Century's archives, and building my personal shit-list of people who I think are deeply venal. That also included Francis Fukuyama who added his name to the cosigners of PNAC fan boys, though it's now probably evident that it's more a case of the end of Fukuyama than the 'End of History' as he originally claimed, although to be fair Zizek think's we're all Fukuyamaists now if seen through the lens of neo-liberal economics. That point is debatable, though getting back on topic I find it hard to be totally binary on Hitchens because he's clearly an educated and interesting guy and unlike most British thinkers, is easy on the eye.

So I was schmoozing around on Youtube earlier, and the highest viewed clip on a search of his name, is the one of Hitchens going through the waterboarding torture process. That's when I realised I wanted to write about the man. Whatever I may think of his jumping ship to the right when in his earlier days he was a staunch socialists/leftist I admire a person who takes the trouble to find out for himself what something actually feels like rather than the armchair theologian debates on what constitutes torture by people who are mainlining on corn syrup and day trading in their pyjamas. 

I was particularly shocked to observe and later watch Hitchins describe the overwhelming sensation of the amygdala's adrenalin-release of fight or flight kick-in. You should watch at least the first 30 seconds of the video if you want to hear a pro Iraq invasion supporter articulate why water boarding is in no way fucking around. Then if you really want to dig into the obnoxious but moral relativism details of the act I'd read Fox News explaining why Khalid Sheik Mohammed was not actually waterboarded 183 times, but was mostly put through dummy runs of it even though Hitchens explains above that he had nightmares of the experience after only one girlyman waterboarding session in the film above. It's extraordinarily sobering.

So even though I think Christopher was somewhat ungallant when he debated Tariq Ali over here just last year, by resorting more to mild calumny than debating, it seems evident that the two men are of a similar generation and seemingly rely on an independence of thought which often finds them with more in common than not. That's a good thing.

So I think I can let Hitchens slide a little there. I also can't condemn a man for changing his political ideology when if you were to ask my Mr Carter, my physics Teacher at St. George Roman Catholic School if I were a solid socialist he'd laugh in your face and explain I was the most annoying of Conservative pupils he probably ever had. 

I was young, what can I say. 

That old trope about being a socialist when young and a conservative when older is for people who stopped evolving intellectually. Even though I have some unorthodox ideas on infrequent uses of hard core sandboxed capitalism to give the State sector a kick in the junk once in a while.

Then there's religion and Hitchens. The man is practically Richard Dawkin's atheist rottweiller security. Don't get me wrong, I'm particularly despairing of pretty much all religions but I find the absence of the awareness of God particularly troubling in lots of people when for me that subject is both not up for debate and yet at the same time is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. Or to quote James Ellroy; "If you're still an atheist when you get to my age then you don't know shit". Not that Elroy and I have all that much in common. But really, if the educated world are debating the subject what the fuck are we thinking of doing with the illiterate poor. Think about that one.

But I can let Hitchens slide on that one too. All in all it's probably that Neocon thing, though I definitely would like to paint the town red with the guy and score some tail if I were up for that kind of hedonistic life..wait a minute.

Anyway, on a more sombre three chord guitar riff, Hitchens is now afflicted with cancer and unlike say the Bush family and the rest of the war profiteers I wish him only the best of health and yes, a miraculous recovery as I think the world is a better place...generally speaking. But getting back to the second reason for this post, his debate earlier against Tony Blair about religion had him saying a line I'm very glad to know because it's a simple but scientific point for any of us interested in a better world for the impoverished and hungry. He said:

It's for this reason I felt compelled to come back against the far less important topic of waterboarding which I thought was a good one in the first place. But I didn't want to get too political.