In the book that he was born to write, provocateur and best-selling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, angry young (wo)men, and dissidents. Who better to speak to that person who finds him or herself in a contrarian position than Hitchens, who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining ways.This book explores the entire range of “contrary positions”-from noble dissident to gratuitous pain in the butt. In an age of overly polite debate bending over backward to reach a happy consensus within an increasingly centrist political dialogue, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast. He bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society. He understands the importance of disagreement-to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress-heck, to democracy itself. Epigrammatic, spunky, witty, in your face, timeless and timely, this book is everything you would expect from a mentoring contrarian.
Forthright, erudite and outspoken, agree with his views or not Hitch is required reading for all, a brilliant orator, thinker and writer, full of wit and intelligence, logical and uncompromising. A welcome nod to Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, this is the first book in the ‘Letters to a Young…’ series which gives short guides om ways to live life or pursue careers.
I have spent whole days watching videos of the author on YouTube and not considered the time wasted one bit, now in book form, not only do I find that he once again incisively gets to the heart of whichever matter he chooses to turn his attention to but he also invokes such a wide range of reading material that my book list has been sufficiently topped up for a few more years.
“Be … suspicious … of all those who employ the term ‘we’ or ‘us’ without your permission. This is [a] form of surreptitious conscription … Always ask who this ‘we’ is; as often as not it’s an attempt to smuggle tribalism through the customs.”
A wide range of subjects are tackled with Hitchens’ immense talent and intellect, from faith, the under reported horrors of the Balkans war, The Dreyfuss Affair, Henry Kissinger, the less than palatable side of Mother Teresa, the manipulation of language, socialism, humour and plenty more. Each chapter is refreshingly honest, nothing is held back, it’s refreshing and clear and applies literature, history, logic and considered persuasive arguments.
His espousing of the courage to question, to not accept at face value what we are told and to confront what we assume to be true by looking at the sources we gained the knowledge from is spot on. To better oneself and not accept the status quo at face value, to refine your thoughts and embrace contrary opinion and arguments and to challenge yourself and clarify your thoughts. To never compromise your faculties, keep evolving, be skeptical and never let others do your thinking. Only in this way can anybody seek to make rationally informed decisions and see the fraudsters for what they are.
“And the pleasures and rewards of the intellect are inseparable from angst, uncertainty, conflict and even despair.”
Its hard not to be effusive of the man with his precise use of language who fights for the freedoms of women, their rights and education, a more equal society for all and one that encourages free thought and does not censor contrary opinions but encourages debate and clear thinking.
It occurs to me that if our politicians were as interesting and intelligent as the author, well read and versed in history, literature and logic, who could also hold an audience’s attention (without the need of the media obsession with sound bites) then perhaps the world would be a better place, a safer place arguably. This book has left me hungry to read more of his works and the enthusiasm shown for his chosen subjects also fuels the need to read and learn and be informed.
If you have a spare nine minutes, here is a typically outspoken snippet of the man who I am sure you will find thought-provoking, whether you agree or not.