His Honesty

“His honesty about this paradox or contradiction is what determined him to write Nineteen Eighty-Four as an admonitory parable or fantasy in which ‘Ingsoc’–English Socialism–was the Newspeak term for the ruling ideology. It would have been perfectly easy for him to have avoided this crux. In the late 1940s, a dystopian novel based on the notorious horrors of ‘National Socialism’ would probably have been very well-received. But it would have done nothing to shake the complacency of Western intellectuals concerning the system of state terror for which, at the time, so many of them had either a blind spot or a soft spot.”

-Why Orwell Matters, Christopher Hitchens

Pilgrams And Pirates

“Pilgrims had sailed to ‘The Americas’ to establish doctrinal purity, and pirates had made the same voyage in search of treasure and slaves. In Paine’s time, however, the New World of ‘the United States of America’ (a name he may have coined) was an actual and concrete achievement; not an imaginary Utopia but a home for liberty and the conscious first stage of a world revolution.” -Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Paine

Hitch On Chomsky

Naom Chomsky, a most distinguished intellectual and moral dissident, once wrote that the old motto about “speaking truth to power” is overrated. Power, as he points out, quite probably knows the truth already, and is mainly interested in suppressing or limiting or distorting it. -Christopher Hitchens, Letters To A Young Contrarian

Doing Good

No greater cruelty will be devised than by those who are sure, or are assured, that they are doing good. -Christopher Hitchens, Arguably

Skip The Buck

Where does the buck stop? Does it stop with the lie or with a truth? Or does it stop when both lie and truth are made to merge? Enter Christopher Hitchens. The grand debunker of lies and grandest debunker of truths dictated by religious nut-bags (which are ultimately lies). What is it that makes me so happy having read The Hitch? Is it the ammunition he’s given me? Is it the heads-up on my America–where he has a unique perspective based on his birth and education from the staunchness of Britain? Nomatter. The thing is. I haven’t read everything by Hitchens, but five of his books are on my shelf. The Hitch, my man. What a writer, what a journalist, what a critic, what a speaker–what a hot-damn thinker! And when he went off on the lies of Jerry Falwell, I loved him for it–especially after Falwell, as Hitch puts it, dropped dead with a grand belch and fell right over his desk in his office where he concocted so many lies and took advantage of so many inept Americans. I mean, is there a better choice to ridicule and spot than any of the money-hungry religious nut-bags that have first-hand partaken in the ruin of America at the beginning of the twenty-first century? Just search youtube for Hitchens and Falwell and you too can get a luscious ear full of The Hitch taking apart not only Falwell but all the nut-bag money-hungry religious followers–and he takes care of most other zealous political conservatives, as well. But I suppose, as usual, I’m off subject. For I only want to worst-link to an article that was initially written in 2013 that I stopped reading because it was the wrong angle. I finally broke down and read in full this morn. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps out of boredom–it’s a rainy day at the beach. Anywho. It is indeed an essay. It is also a grand attempt to nullify, or is it, justify, ridiculing The Hitch. Obviously the author doesn’t like The Hitch. And that’s ok. He even does a pretty good job of holding his own when it comes to breaking down–or is it breaking-up–Hitchens’ idears regarding all the lies of the bible (&Co.). And then there’s the idear that he does to Hitchens what Hitchens did to others, especially Falwell. Ridicule them after they die. Oh well. If you can’t be original then I suppose it’s best to copy others. Speaking of others. Or other than that. This article is useless if you are a skeptic and wish to expand your skeptic mind. If, on the other hand, you want to follow the crowd, then go for it. And have a laugh or three at The Hitch’s death while you’re at it. I’m sure, unlike the disgust of people like Falwell, who will whisk his magic wand from his pulpit out of spite (if you believe in that sort of thing), The Hitch will just laugh with you.

Christopher Hitchens’ Lies Do Atheists No Favors | Salon.com

Hitched

Hitch 22 – A Memoir by Christopher Hitchens

This worst-post is supposed to be an explanation of my experience with Hitch 22. But something happened as I started to write. First. I’m a big Christopher Hitchens fan. I really admire him and his work. Although I’ve only read five of his books so far, I plan to read many more. Second. Hitch 22 is my fourth Hitch book. And I do not like it. In fact, I’ve had a hard time reading it. I think I started reading it in December 2012 and it took me until March 2013 to finish it. But finish it I did. And it’s also taken me until May 2013 to write something about it. (Yes, this post is back-dated.) Nomatter. The thing about Hitch 22 is this. According to the title this is supposed to be a memoir. But I’m not sure that’s true. And if it is true than it can only be partly a memoir. Instead this book proves, especially in the case of Christopher Hitchens, that the man and his life is nowhere near as exciting as the man and his work.

With that in mind. I met someone in NCY once and her name was Thalia Hitch. So let’s not let this worst-post go to waste.

—————

Back in the day I would travel regularly to places like NYC and London for business. Usually if I worked till Friday then I would hook the weekend and stay. I had a pretty cool boss and she would allow the extension as long as it was at my own expense, didn’t make the company sponsored flight more expensive, and didn’t get in the way of work. The company I worked for had a reputation for off-hour frolicking and mischief, especially when traveling to world class cities. And my boss was trying to nip all that in the bud. Of course, my boss knew I was different because I was the one to go to my hotel room early or seek other venues of entertainment after seminars and conventions. And when I was in NYC there was only one thing I wanted to do. Go to the theatre. My boss even teased me about it. Before one trip she demanded that I show her playbills from the shows I attended. After that visit I gave her three playbills from Saturday and two from Sunday. I’ll never forget that Sunday because I barely made my flight back from JFK to FRA.

It was late afternoon, our seminar ended on-time. I dodged across Midtown never looking up to admire the sunshine. I was on a tight schedule for my weekend. I headed to a quaint little grocery store between 6th and 7th avenue to get some essentials for the evening that I would take back to my hotel and then get on with theatre hopping. So I was in kind of a hurry because, the evening before, scoping the town for what show to see, I scalped two tickets from a guy that wouldn’t sell just one. It was a Shepard play and would be worth it, no matter what. Anywho. As I approached the grocery store cashier I noticed the girl behind the counter and she was easy on the eye and her name tag read “Thalia”. Beside her name, not unlike stewardesses on airplanes, were flags indicating the languages she spoke. There were four flags. One was a French flag, another Italian, then the stars & stripes, and, oddly, the fourth flag was the Union Jack. The moment I was about to pay for my goods one of her colleagues approached and relieved her at the register. Tough luck, I thought. But then again she is getting off, I presumed.

I paid for my essentials with the new cashier using my Lufthansa credit card. When he gave me the receipt he turned to me with out a smile and said “Danke sehr. Haben Sie ein schönen Tag.” A bag boy put my bottle of Shiraz, some crackers, cherry tomatoes and some spicy cheddar from up-state NY into a paper bag and I tipped him a dollar. As I grabbed the bag to leave, turning around abruptly, I bumped into something that jostled my groceries and through the bottom of the bag fell the bottle of Shiraz, crashing and bursting on the floor. Wine went all over my shoes and socks and my lower pants leg. When I finally looked up, Thalia was standing there with her shoes and pants legs drenched too. She apologised and the bag boy immediately started cleaning up the mess. Another store clerk came around the corner and asked which bottle of wine had broke and he said as though it wasn’t the first time. The cashier was teasing Thalia about her clumsiness. Thalia told the other clerk what wine I had purchased and he turned to grab me a replacement. The bag boy brought paper towels to wipe up the mess and gave both Thalia and me a few towels to dry ourselves. Thalia offered to pay for my dry cleaning and out of frustration I accepted but added that I had to get going and that she could do it next time. The other clerk repacked all my essentials, after doubling-up two paper bags and as I carefully turned around, looking before hand, I began to exit the store. Then I realised that Thalia had a British accent. I turned around again and approached her as she was still being teased and whipping wine of her socks.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I have to ask you. Why do you have a British flag on your name tag?”

“Because I am British,” she said.

“Yes, I can hear that. And I don’t want to be splitting hairs here, but isn’t it redundant to have two flags that represent the same language?”

“It’s the store owner,” she said. “He’s from Connecticut. He thinks there’s a difference in British and American English so he ordered my name tag this way. It’s a bit superficial since I’m only working here for a few months. But like I said. He’s from Connecticut.”

“Listen. I was thinking. Maybe there is a way you can help me with my pants.”

Everybody in the store was staring now.

“I mean. Since you can’t pay for my dry cleaning,” I continued. “Would you like to go to the theatre with me this evening?”

I pulled out two tickets and waved them at the audience of skepticism staring down my true intentions. The cashier was ogling Thalia on and the bag boy was staring at me as though he would like to stick a knife in my neck. Even though I left the store with only my essentials, Thalia did tell me that she would try to come and I even trusted her with one of the tickets. I waved goodbye with a hand and a confident smile to my audience of skeptics.

Just before curtain rise Thalia sat next to me in the small theatre. During a short pause I asked her name. “Thalia Hitch,” she said. After the show we drank a bottle of wine somewhere near Soho and she asked to see my hotel room. The next morning I asked her if she would like to join me theatre hopping and she did. After our third show on Saturday, we drank another bottle of wine somewhere near Stuyvsent Square. That night I realised a made a mistake. Between show 2 and three on Saturday I had purchased two more tickets for shows on Sunday. The problem was, after Saturday night with Thalia, I spent all of Sunday, until it was time to fly back to FRA, in bed with her. Luckily I had also been able to acquire the playbills for the Sunday shows to show my boss once I got back to work on Monday morning. Yeah, luckily.

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Links:

 

Rant on.

-tgs-

 

Hitch And Paine

Thoughts on Christopher Hitchens and Thomas Paine

Three Brits did a job on my head. One was a great thinker, one was a great writer and the other didn’t bother to tell me, after we had done the dirty deed a whole bunch, that she was married. But I’ll get to all that in a sec. As an American’t I’ve always felt obliged to get out in the world and not spread any message but instead absorb the message. At times the message I absorbed is not hospitable. In fact, I’ll go as far as admitting that, depending on where I’m traveling, I’ll kind of duck my head as I show my passport around airports, hotels and embassies. I know that sounds disgraceful, but hear me out.

Today it is time to admit two things. One, I will never fully understand politics, although I’ve spent the majority of my life trying and thereby turning it into both a hobby and a form of entertainment. Two, one of the first things acquired in the process of becoming an autodidact is learning that answers can sometimes take a backseat to questions. If there is anything proven by the western world’s obsession with wasteful higher education, it is that diplomas and other academic accreditation are not what they appear to be. In order to find truth in that all one has to do is look at the individuals running corporations and governments?

It became clear to me early on that in order to learn something it would be solely up to me to do so. One of the ways I’ve gone about educating myself is to not find answer but to search for questions. And there is one question that I’ve been playing around with for many years. It goes something like this: What’s the difference between Left and Right? I’m referring, of course, not to the direction of your thumbs but instead the direction of your politics.

I will forever be ashamed of the fact that when I was a child I never read anything. The reason for that isn’t worth going into here but it does have something to do with where I’m from. That’s why I should give my mother some credit for at least trying to get me to read. She did so by forcing me into our special living room. Most middle-class American’t homes have these useless and tradition filling rooms. Rarely does anyone use this room unless special occasions warrant it. It’s also the room in the American’t household that didn’t have a television. That in and of itself says a lot about where American’t family culture has been and where it’s evolved. Nonetheless, I was forced into this room and commanded to pick two full pages of the Sunday newspaper and read them in an hour. I was not allowed to read the comics, the classifieds or the obituaries. That left the front page, the community section, sports and politics. I’m proud to say that by the time I was twelve I was a master at reading the first paragraph of most articles in the politics section of the Sunday edition of the Washington Post.

You would think, after being reared in the Washington DC metropolitan area and avoiding the meat of every article on the first two pages of the Politics section of the Sunday newspaper, that at least a minimal knowledge of politics would somehow be ingrained in me. Laugh as you may at my ability to fudge my way around Mother’s attempt to educate me, but one good thing did come of it all. Unable to talk deeper than a headline vocabulary warrants, I did gain what I like to call a nugget education about practically everything. Combine that with an indoctrinating, fail-upwards public school system that is full of teachers who were better at babysitting – the stage is set for a once great country to give-in to its worst enemy: political apathy.

I suppose one can’t blame all of American’t for the reactionary stupidity of its political ways. It did try to edumacate its people. Most American’t automatons go through superficial “civic” classes in high school. I can even remember the teacher gently explaining the structure of the executive, the legislative and the judicial. I’m wondering to this day if teaching kids the mechanics of government is the root problem of why so many vehemently grow up hating something that they really cannot comprehend. Let’s face it. Understanding that you are part of a machine isn’t the same as understanding what that machine actually does. And so, it took until my early twenties and my fledging nugget education to finally realize it was time to stop being stupid. It was time to figure things out in earnest.

By my late twenties I knew I wouldn’t be living in American’t for much longer. One of the reasons for that was the political direction the country had assumed in the 1980s. For me, understanding the Right was easy because I was so negatively effected by it. Reagan and his gluttonous freak show came to pass. He and the powers-that-be had turned to posturing the Right into a godsend and placing it at the forefront of a political and subsequently fail upwards system. You would think people could easily catch on to being manipulated so candidly and easily counter it. It was truly a sight to behold how such political ideology could spread like an addiction. To actually say to someone in the early 90s that conservatism was subverting the original idears of the Constitution was like talking to one of those machines at a fun park where you put in a quarter to have your fortune told.

For someone of my generation who had the luxury of wars-of-choice and believing unabashedly in the lie of the American’t Dream, I was amused and heartbroken by the time the 90s rolled around. So, for the sake of survival and moving beyond my nugget edumacation, I jumped ship and entered the “real” world. This could only be done outside of the bubble that is The United Mistakes. Part of that journey was trying to understand what reared me. This culminated in the question: What’s the difference between Right and Left? For me, and if you follow elections and the policies that ensue, it’s hard to see a difference. Most politicians are automatons and are only allowed to speak as though both their constituency and their opponent’s constituency have a 3rd grade aptitude. Books are everywhere about politics but answers were only available by the questions those books posed. Obviously the difficulty of my search might have been due to my question, but I held to it all the same because it was simple and it was precise and it was hard to give up on something that had been with me for so long.

The fact is, through out my twenties and most of my thirties, I dabbled in finding answers. Heck, when the moment was right, I even posed the question to everyone I met. As a bartender in Washington DC during the mid to late 1980s I was audience to daily discourse over highball glasses, Sunday morning Presbyterians (the drink) and a few well-heated political arguments. Later when I got my first “real” job I would do the politically incorrect thing and try and talk about politics with colleagues and bosses. There were plenty of suggestions on how to find answers but it all lead to trying my patience and causing me to resort to unpleasantness. (FYI. There was one thread that connected all the answers I ever received. If a liberal thinking person answered my question she or he would always start by talking about what conservatives are. If a conservative answered my question she or he would always start by talking about being conservative.) Beyond all that, in my limited and indoctrinated mind, there was really nothing that separated the two sides of American’t politics. No wonder so many are disenfranchised from the political process. Right and Left politics in American’t was/is the same-difference. Would I ever overcome such cynicism?

Long into this expatriation journey the question still followed me (or was it haunting me). Oddly the answers I got even while living in Eurowasteland were not that far from the answers I got from back home. Bored of the human part of all this, there had to be another way. I had to understand what reared me and what was it that ultimately ruled my world. Now let me backtrack a bit and try to be clear about where I’m from. I was raised by the idear that is a country. Frankly, I do not have a clue as to what “parenting” even means. Although I praise my mother for her gallant efforts, that praise can only go so far for she had many hurdles to overcome, the main one being a female in this world. The concept of “family” only works for me if it’s attached to broken. And so, once discarded and left on my own – and allowing my mother to at least live a small part of her life – I eventually reached the point where in order to stop the 44 magnum from entering through my lower jaw and exiting through the top of my cranium, it was time to start moving beyond the lackadaisical nugget education and figuring out in earnest the madness of being American’t. It was time to change some of my habits, the most important one being what my mother tried and obviously succeeding in teaching me, reading. It took a while but I eventually and systematically inculcated non-fiction into my regular reading. Up to my mid-thirties, other than technology books or business management books, I had read only a handful of non-fiction books. And that’s not all.

As is the case with most fairly good looking young men who know how to make chicks laugh before scaring them away, reading historical stuff went well with easy Eurosex and the time consuming effort that level of fun requires. (Seriously. Try reading Gogol or Dostoevsky and then taking a chick out on the town. Deep literature might impress them but talking about it with them will un-impress you.) So. While doing Marie in Amsterdam I studied The Constitution. While successfully flirting with Jana in Berlin I read the Bill of Rights. After sex on the beach with Sam in Normandy I read The Federalist Papers, etc. Indeed, meaningless sex doesn’t always have to lead to meaninglessness.

One morning while watching American’t news on Eurowasteland television, I realized that there was a purpose to the vast nugget education I had acquired since rebelling against my mother. I watched Noam Chomsky debate some nitwit conservative and what a mind opening experience that turned out to be. While Sabrina complained that I had promised and not delivered her breakfast, I started to realize that something had gone wrong in my quest for knowledge. By the mid 90s the de-constructing technique that I learned from Chomsky became my standard of learning. And it fit well with my nugget education. No longer did I actually have to find answers to my (ultimate) question but instead I had to just keep moving forward, keep reading, and as they say: the journey is the way.

On a bright night in the darkest of winter, right out of nowhere, I had an epiphany. At the time I was seeing Eliza from London who was teaching English to under grads and finishing her PhD in political science at the Uni Bonn. She thought it was cute that I called my home American’t. I told her that it was my take on Tennessee Williams who I think coined the words “United Mistakes”. During an argument about the cold war and the stationing of nuclear missiles in Eurowasteland in the 80s, I took the (somewhat) conservative position that the missiles eventually fulfilled their mission because the Soviets couldn’t keep up with such technology and all of the cracks and weaknesses of their failed system were then exposed. Even though we hadn’t known each other that long, she knew that I wasn’t conservative. So she pulled out one of the books she was reading for an upcoming lecture. It was a collection of Thomas Paine’s writings. She was concentrating on Paine’s activities before he wrote Rights of Man while he was in France during the revolution. When I told her that I read some of Paine but it had been a while she doubly pushed the book my way.

One thing lead to another, the tree of knowledge was growing at both ends, and by the time I got to the late, great Christopher Hitchens, questions and answers were good. Since I’ve been doing this for so long there is no way to actually claim completion, that is that I’m satisfied I’ve actually found the answer. The reason for that is simple. Why would I want to stop? Every time a new nugget is found another appears. I’ve long since given up on coinciding knowledge acquisition and that of carnal knowledge, which means I might be consuming more and even being more productive with learning, but it is good to reflect on those sweet days and nights gone by full of words and lust.

Thomas Paine, Christopher Hitchens and Eliza, the three Brits who turned my head. What a journey, eh! Some consider Paine a major inspiration for The Declaration of Independence. But more importantly, reading Paine’s work can help break through the conservative rigamarole that is ruining American’t today. Subsequently, reading Paine lead to the discovery of Christopher Hitchens. Hitch unfortunately died in 2011 after a bought with cancer but he will live long around me as I plan on reading everything he ever wrote, including all the articles I can pull up at Vanity Fair and Slate. Hitch is the author of numerous non-fiction works about politics and politicians and a master of witty contrarian deconstructing. Hitch will also help you get a better grasp on Paine with a short and intense biography that he wrote about Paine and “Rights of Man” in 2006.

Although I don’t really believe in the after-life thing, it’s a nice thought that maybe Hitch and Paine are together preparing another pamphlet that might change the world. While most American’ts are out there in the politics of the wild-west and shoot-first, ask-later that now self-perpetuates and can’t be stopped, I can finally feel comfortable in the fact that I might never find the one answer to my personal and ultimate question but at least I can see through the ignorance that so many cannot.

Turn me head, baby.

Links:

 

Rant on.

-tgs-