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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Greatness Passes, But Its Impact Remains: A Farewell to Christopher Hitchens

So another eventful year has passed, it was both mundane and predictable, but not without its own hints of the unexpected. Anyway, I would like to address one of the expected but personally saddening events: the passing of Christopher Hitchens at age 62 from pneumonia brought on by his cancer. It's funny since just days before his passing on the 15th of December, 2011, I was contemplating the idea of doing a short review of his book, “The Portable Atheist”, of which I had some things to say, but now that train of thought has been halted in its tracks. The great man with an even greater voice and piercing intellectual capacity is no longer among those present, but perhaps his legacy will speak otherwise, and so I will discuss that briefly.

I vividly recall bringing up his name in a discussion just a few months back when others commented about his physical decline in recent years due to cancer. Now despite how much the man had changed physically as a result of his physical affliction, I still continued to see him as an immortal – a titan in his own right. The man's sheer command of language, and his extremely uncompromising wit committed to his rationalistic, atheistic ideological views, will leave his voice infinitely echoing through the annals of the literary sphere. Sure, he looked ill, and I could tell that his time was short; he seemed to be running on pure fumes and passion in his last months, but I know that like most great individuals, his name and his words would continue to live on, shape and influence greater than most monoliths of our age and the ages of yore.

Despite having the urge to do so, I simply won't deify this man, since that'd be ironic. Nevertheless, if atheism and pursuit for objective knowledge and reason were – for one moment – collectivised as a single and quaintly counter-theological movement, then Christopher Hitchens could be considered the pioneering prophet of such a movement. I honestly do feel that individuals such as myself, and others who're like-minded, have lost a great source of inspiration, and a great voice for a hidden generation of critical thinkers and philosophers. The world today lost one of its most unapologetic, humane, and yet honest humanists, and it also lost one of its poignant writers – fortunately, since he was such an amazing, eloquent yet brashly articulate individual, his everlasting contributions and words have immortalised his presence.

Christopher Hitchens was a phenomenal individual, and will remain in such light for times eternal. I highly doubt that this man, who epitomised the intellectual forefront of reason and championed its every crucial fight, can ever truly become a passage of the past. He may have died, but there is no grave, nor state of finite mortality that can entomb this man's invaluable essence, arrogance and humility as a human and an atheist, and his literary contributions as a philosophical icon of all human ages.

Having considered all of the above, and also having fully appreciated what has happened, I bid this my farewell to Christopher Hitchens. I think now I will get back to finishing The Portable Atheist again, and then proceed to do a straight forward critique of just how unportable a joy it has been to read, even including some brief thoughts on the satisfying pissed off looks I garnered from random onlookers and fellow commuters who already have a hard time digesting my evil demeanour, let alone that demeanour with a thought provoking contrarian book. Heh. We've all got a pretentious side to play up on occasion; sporting that book made my 2011 moment, which I'll discuss later. At this point, I'd gladly carry all of Hitchens' books on my person, for public display, in their full verbose – such is the value of literary greatness; the man may have passed, but his impact will forever remain.

-- Kade


Callysto Calaveras said...

Hitchens was very antagonistic. However I believe his confrontational style overshadowed some very legit points and arguments he brought to teh table.

Something like Alex Jones. A guy with logical questions and concern and opinions but is often overshadowed by his antics that cause people in his field to write him off as Tsoukalosian.

Kade (Storm) said...

Hitchens is indeed a very antagonistic character, and he's also shown himself to be a political opportunist. Nevertheless, I think these were very much intentional qualities that he kept at the forefront of his persona. I doubt I would've ever managed to sink my own teeth into his particular brand of antitheism, had it not been for that trait. Why? Because I'm not that different myself, which is why I appreciate the paradox here because – once again – it limits the marketability of the message and those important questions. However, I also find that certain philosophical discourse, is probably just not suited to large-scale marketing because then it can fall prey to confirmation biases and flawed interpretations for more heinous agendas. This has happened in the past to other rationalists, one of them being used as a fallen prophet for the far-right movement in the states. . . I don't think I need to name her.

In an ideal equation, the readers, and audiences alike, would serve the best role by playing mediators between niche artists such as Hitchens and his ilk, and their extreme opposition. I hypothesis that the goal here isn't necessarily to sway everyone on to one side. . . or the other, but rather, to keep them well grounded in the middle.

It is exactly that kind of playing in the middle that'd have an audience member -- such as my self -- actually finding good points of reconciliation with an individual such as Alex Jones, despite my natural opposition to that kind of overly-emphatic individualistic culture that comprises his political alignment.

Anonymous said...

Alex Jones??!

Duuude WTF! What a joke! there is no comparison between the controversy spawned by that bovine shit-head jones and his conspriacy vomits and the great work of Chris Hitchens. People just have an issue with Hitchens because literally being an atheist means that he represents the thinking of a very marginal minority against a largely puritanical nut-job American religious status quo.

Theres not one illogical or bloated hysterical inconsistency or shenanigan in Hitchens works. The man tells it like it is and makes no apologies. Alex Jones just repeats the same conspiracy crap and is full of shit.

Kade Storm said...


Ha! Ha! Ha!

To be fair, there was no such comparison at play. All that's being discussed is the idea that when opinions -- no matter how valid or ridiculous -- are shrouded in antagonisms, then they rarely get treated seriously. There's no real intellectual comparison between a well-grounded and classical critical thinker such as Hitchens who doesn't make compromises in this rhetoric, and a typical simpleton such as Alex Jones.

Now on the subject of Alex Jones. Well, he's the classic American constitutional fanatic -- naively thinks all that all the answers exist between that and the Bible. Whatever.

However, fact remains that he does ask some important questions. Then again, many others do as well -- it doesn't take magical levels of intellect. I just like to give credit to the valid questions, despite his other issues. The question to ask is this: just because Alex Jones is full of substantial shit, do we take it to mean that even some of his valid questions he brings up are absolute shit? No. However, neither do we need to hold him up as some paragon of critical thinking for sometimes observing the obvious.

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