What Made Hitchens So Cool

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) Source: The Times

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)
Source: The Times

In one word what made Christopher Hitchens so cool was his courage.

It’s a word easily taken for granted, often involving violent connotations. But in Hitchens’ case, the courage was far more relevant and greater than any soldier with a gun could ever muster.

I speak as one who did not admire Hitchens for his politics and warmongering, becoming an advocate of the American war machine in the latter years. But as a great admirer of him for his eloquence, oratory and his clarity of thought and action on freedom of speech, secularism and raising arguments that no one would dare go near to. The kind of single-minded commitment which looked even like fanaticism to some, and at times, probably rightly so, I don’t know.

In his journalistic career, I consider his work on Mother Teresa to be probably the most important one. Well everybody knows how peace loving Henry Kissinger is, but questioning the moral integrity of Mother Teresa was really something unheard of. If I ever would have met Hitchens, I would most certainly have sincerely congratulated him on that effort.

But not only that. Christopher Hitchens was one of the most outspoken British journalists to have supported author Salman Rushdie during the Satanic Verses fatwa affair in 1988. As a matter of fact, he was one of the leading names to offer him support when everyone was reluctant. While that may not sound unpleasant to the Western ears, his support for controversial British historian David Irving which attracted much criticism.

While Holocaust Denial, a ridiculous history view which nevertheless deserves independent inquiry from scientific minds, is associated with Antisemitism, Hitchens, who supported David Irving’s right to his opinion is said to have some part of Jewish ancestry himself.

Now these are the opinions which would earn you a lot of enemies, let alone followers and admirers, but at the same time it was what he thought was right in consistency with the principles of freedom of speech. Why shut certain people up and if there claims are so ridiculous, why not scrutinize them and let them be humiliated. And boy, was Hitchens great at the art of humiliating, aka the hitchslap.

As a matter of fact, we do need people who must stand up for freedom of speech no matter how politically incorrect or offending it may sound. The kind of freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is the one that is the natural right of every human being. It’s pretty much physics as you cannot prevent someone from thinking and speaking in a certain way.

Probably that is why humans feel empowered by trying to repress the rights of others like them. Now that is power. That is control. That is government. Challenging existing accepted moral standards and dogma was what made Christopher Hitchens so cool. And we all know his views on religion. He called himself an antitheist.

It’s all outrageous to many, but well, that is what is different and most unique about him. The idea behind “God is not Great” is certainly not his originally, as he himself and other New Age Atheist scholars would acknowledge that it has been around for centuries, but his battle with the conventions certainly was. This is what made him stand out, for better or for worse. For not apologizing to those who called him an apologist.

The most important lesson from Christopher Hitchens is to question everything. And that nothing is sacred enough, if at all, to be immune to it.

So what is that one thing that you would have said to Christopher Hitchens on his birthday had he been alive?

Not sure about all of you, but I would have suggested him to smoke cigars instead of cigarettes.

Perhaps he would have lived longer had that been the case.


Here’s Christopher Hitchens on Freedom of Speech

Christopher Hitchens on Freedom of Speech, again

Look, Don’t Smoke!

Isn’t this image absolutely charming?

How do you feel looking at it?

Really makes you feel disgusted, doesn’t it? That is precisely what it is meant to do.

One of the greatest trouble with lawmakers is that they make laws for a living.

This pretty much means trouble for everyone else. You know, for people.

This is probably the most repulsive post that I have ever added and I want it to give precisely the kind of feeling that anyone looking at this image would have if it appeared on something that they consumed on a regular basis.

It appears on every cigarette pack in Pakistan. Required by law.

Just take a look at this picture. Why would anyone in their right mind would place such disgusting and horrific pictures on a commodity meant to be consumed.

Alright, before some of you start with all the self-righteous health rhetoric, I know that tobacco is a cancer risk factor. So are several other things like alcohol and maybe mobile phone electromagnetic microwaves and nuclear radiation. Well we hear about it all, don’t ask me for scientific evidence. You are supposed to follow what they recommend.

I know smoking can possibly cause mouth cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, hypertension and whatnot. Pretty much everyone knows that by now, but I seriously think somebody really needs to draw a line.

Before I continue, and before you make any judgments about my views, I would like to give the irritating disclaimer that I do not support smoking in public places and that there is no harm in enforcing laws that protect the rights of people who want a smoking-free environment, whether for security, health or comfort and convenience. However, smoking, or consuming any other drug for that matter, is a choice that every adult must be free to make.

Of course it gives you a different feeling altogether if you see this image like it is presented on a cigarette pack. It simply offers you a completely different perspective of it. Doesn’t it?

Well, for someone who smokes, the feeling is just like seeing this image on something else that they consume. Such as, say a bottle of juice, or a loaf of bread or just about anything you could think of. I know it sort of sounds sickening to everyone else, but hey, stand in their shoes for a second.

I understand that the requirement of printing such repulsive images on cigarette packs are supposed to make people stop. But is anyone stopping because of these images? Not sure. I hope at least some would have.

However, it only goes to show how sick is the reasoning and thought process behind putting such hideous images on commodities of consumption. It is also unscientific and exaggerated because not everyone who smokes ends up with the condition portrayed in the image above and other conditions that are portrayed around the world.

The idiotic law which created this eye-candy image was probably Statutory Order 1219(I)/2008 dated 25 September 2008, as per Wikipedia. I can’t find the precise Gazette of Pakistan copy online.

Tomorrow, July 1, 2012, marks the third birthday of this lovely image.

Here, take a look at some more perversions from all around Asia.

Well. congratulations dear lawmakers, you have really eradicated every trace of smoking from the world. I hope that makes you feel very good about yourselves.

Speaking of Pakistan, well. we already know how much health is a priority for Pakistani legislators. But I won’t use their lack of enthusiasm about providing healthcare facilities to the public as an argument against this law. That would be wrong.

I would just like to request the honorable parliament members to reconsider the choice of warning images. I am perfectly fine with the text. And I agree smoking must be discouraged through education and awareness.

Actually, I am pretty thankful to them actually for not having tobacco banned already because we seem to be gradually moving towards that direction and it is horrifying. I am really thankful to the legislators for still allowing the people access to the drug that they are so badly hooked to.

Also, I am also thankful to them for meticulously and religiously increasing the duty on cigarette packs in the fiscal budget every year. It particularly helps the poor people who have absolutely no access to the kind of drugs that they can afford. Expensive, imported, duty-free and high quality alcohol, for example. It really helps their way of living, ensuring a healthier, more pious, more fulfilling and a much happier life.

I was wondering that they could also consider printing warnings on a bottle of Coke, which must cause diseases in the long run in its own right, or maybe on the packaging of a Big Mac, or maybe on the favorite and most acceptable source of drugs for Pakistanis, tea.

Yeah, they should also print warnings on tea packs. It contains caffeine, the most widely accepted and silently loud drug in the business. It is an addiction after all.

But I am sure caffeine must have a lot of health benefits.

Alright, alright, I accept. We should have at least some sort of graphical representation of the consequences of smoking on a cigarette pack. Not every smoker can read, right?

So by that rationale, please also print images and graphical representations of all the side effects caused by every prescription drug used for whatever purpose. Not everyone can read the name of the drug.

So that people should know what this “substance” could possibly do to them.

I know smoking is bad, evil. Prescriptions drugs are great, necessary, healing.

But hey, a drug is a drug. Disease is disease. Horrible consequences are horrible consequences.

Why ignore them for one substance and cry about them for others?

Why not inform people about them by printing photographs of them all over the place?

People really need to know, isn’t it? And what is a better medium of conveying information than images? Especially those who don’t even know how to read the brand name of their cigarettes or how to pronounce or even spell the deliberately confusing name of their prescription drugs.

It’s a service to humanity indeed.

(This post is dedicated to Faine Greenwood)