“If there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it” [Yvonne Hitchens] Hitch 22, A Memoir, Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens was a middle class Brit, but received an upper class education. Perhaps this explains his ‘contradictions’. A part of him would be unable to forget that everyday people want what his upper class Oxford friends take for granted: security, freedom, prosperity, and leisure. He would know the merits of the bourgeoise.
He is a life-long Leftist, a champion of international socialism, a former Trotskyite, now a ‘conservative’ Marxist (his words), a professed agnostic. He holds Henry Kissinger guilty of war crimes, wants the Pope brought before a grand jury, considers Bill Clinton a fraud, and supports a purge of Religion from society. He is a celebrated ‘public intellectual’.
But, . . . but, contradictions: he has supported the forceful overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraq War of George W. Bush, a near unpardonable sin amongst his brethren.
“I can identify the moment when I decided to come off the fence and to admit that I felt that I had been cheating on my dues”
“I thank whatever powers there may be for the power of the United states of America. Without that reserve strength, the sheer mass of its arsenal in combination with the innovative maneuvers of its special forces, the tyrants and riffraff of the world would possess an undeserved sense of impunity.”
An engaging, entertaining wit, an erudite and humorous conversationalist with a John Lennon voice, Hitchens is an honest intellectual, following integrity. . . even when it leads to self-refutation. Christopher Lasch comes to mind. One is just never sure how much the self-refutation is realized.
Contradictions, well stated, but held, side by side, by an incisive mind are puzzling, but also informative. One is pushed to think deeper. Hitchens seems to have an awareness of the imperative of having convictions, of believing in something, and of being steadfast. He has come to admire the American soldier. He seems to realize, rare perhaps among his compatriots, how principled Leftism is utterly dependent on strongly defended civil freedoms, and that those liberties require not just legal and domestic protection, but also, in the larger world, military protection.
His friends are obsessed with the errors of colonialism, and imperialism, and inequality, but Hitchens seems able to say: compared to what?
He owns up that his leftist friends haven’t much admired his hero George Orwell, didn’t much rally (and still do not) to the defense of his friend Salman Rushdie, that even Susan Sontag had to emphasize that communism was ‘itself a variant‘ of fascism, and that the Reader’s Digest has been a more useful guide to communist reality than the Nation. . !
Alas, with his book God is not Great he has aligned himself with prominent, avowed atheists. How can someone as thoughtful and well-read as he find that religion causes tribalism instead of vice versa? Hasn’t he read The Lord of the Flies?