It is shocking how that one facet of our species that has enabled us to rise above all other, is the one that is hardly appreciated. Christopher Hitchens died on the 15th of December, 2011. As the news spread across the world, I was deeply disappointed that none of my friends, bar one or two, even cared. I have seen lesser people get far more profuse eulogies. Far more comments on social media websites. Hitchens was one of the finest minds of our generation. But nobody cares.
Christopher Hitchens was a man of reason. He was brilliant; he was courageous. When I first heard the news of his death, I was devastated. I had hoped he would get better. That I would, one day, be able to watch him speak, shake his hand and tell him what an inspiration he had been to me. Alas, that day will never come. But to show respect to the man, it would not do for me to mourn his passing. Rather, I must do my best to celebrate his life and carry on his vision. As CNN International Senior Editor David Clinch tweeted, "Christopher Hitchens is probably saying all this RIP stuff is bulls---..something like "I'm not resting...I'm dead!".
His trenchant comments and acerbic wit delighted me. He made me think. He made me laugh. Hitchens had an extraordinary mind - he was able to pull quotes and incidents out of his memory at the drop of a hat. Everything he ever read or saw or heard, he remembered and he could use them in conversation as easily as a 'how do you do'. Highly opinionated, he infuriated and inspired at the same time. Never one to back down from a challenge, Hitchens was like a raging river. He could drag opponents down into the current of his rhetoric. He could snap their spines like twigs. Jeff Jarvis tweeted, "If there is a God, I'm not sure who I'm more frightened for: Him or Hitch." Such was his aura. Many Christians were hoping, rather nastily, for a death bed conversion. I daresay, if there was a priest at his bedside, Hitch would have converted him.
He was a prodigious writer, and an excellent one at that. Even if you don't agree with him, his works are worth a read. His effortless wit coupled with his rational clarity and biting opinions made him a great writer. A genius linguist, he was one of the best of our generation. A reviewer of his book, God Is Not Great, wrote "Hitchens often delivers his ideas like he's trying to splash his martini across your face at a party". He was provocative. His book was sub-titled, 'How Religion Poisons Everything'. The chapters include, 'Religion Kills', 'Is Religion Child Abuse?'. Yet, those were not merely cries for attention. He dissected religion and god with clear, crisp facts. He made god tuck tail and run. He had the courage to speak his mind. There was nothing diplomatic about him. Nothing was half-baked. Hitchens was not afraid to offend, and he did that with vitriol and panache.
"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."
Hitch was a champion of free speech. He abhorred censorship of any kind. When a fatwa calling for the death of his dear friend, Salman Rushdie was issued by that excuse for a human being, the ayatollah of Iran, Hitch defended Rushdie through and through. If the Satanic Verses was offensive to Muslims, then the Quran is offensive to atheists and homosexuals. Why not ban that as well? He hated the double standards of the religious right. I remember watching a video of his debate about the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed. Muslims raised a hue and cry over that, yet in Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim nations, any artifact from other religions are desecrated without a second thought. Such was the kind of double standards he so detested.
Last night, the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat was trending on Twitter. There were religious nutbags threatening violence on whoever started that hashtag. Those people just proved the point of his book by the same name. Such was the irony that Hitchens would have loved. Unfortunately that hashtag didn't trend very long. It seems that Twitter pulled it off the worldwide trending list because it was offensive to god believers. Yet they still allowed #ReasonsToBeatYourGirlfriend to trend. I'm ashamed, Twitter.
Christopher Hitchens stood for reason and truth. He believed in a less oppressive world, a world where we are not subject to the whims of lunatics from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. He will be sorely missed. His heart may have stopped, his voice may have fallen silent, but his words still live on. Here's to you Hitch, a glass of Johnnie Walker Black.