RIP Christopher Hitchens

When the embassies of Denmark were burning around the globe, Christopher Hitchens organized the only protest I ever wanted to attend:  a manifestation in support of the Mark.  I went, and he was there giving speeches and talking to the press about "solidarity."  The concept was one from his Trotsyite youth; by then he applied it to the defense of Western civilization instead.

His last piece was on Nietzsche, informed by his own intense suffering from the radiation cure that failed to save him.
In the brute physical world, and the one encompassed by medicine, there are all too many things that could kill you, don’t kill you, and then leave you considerably weaker. Nietzsche was destined to find this out in the hardest possible way, which makes it additionally perplexing that he chose to include the maxim in his 1889 anthology Twilight of the Idols. (In German this is rendered as Götzen-Dämmerung, which contains a clear echo of Wagner’s epic. Possibly his great quarrel with the composer, in which he recoiled with horror from Wagner’s repudiation of the classics in favor of German blood myths and legends, was one of the things that did lend Nietzsche moral strength and fortitude. Certainly the book’s subtitle—“How to Philosophize with a Hammer”—has plenty of bravado.) 
In the remainder of his life, however, Nietzsche seems to have caught an early dose of syphilis, very probably during his first-ever sexual encounter, which gave him crushing migraine headaches and attacks of blindness and metastasized into dementia and paralysis. This, while it did not kill him right away, certainly contributed to his death and cannot possibly, in the meanwhile, be said to have made him stronger.
In what follows he examined the intensity of his own suffering with a clear eye.  It is a powerful piece, and it underlies why this morning finds us reading tributes to him from people who disagreed with him sharply.  And that category includes almost everyone.  Catholics were outraged by his attacks on Mother Theresa.  Feminists hated his writings on women.  Capitalists grind their teeth at his kind words for Trotsky; Leftists, at his support of the Iraq war.

Wherever he planted his flag, he defended it fearlessly:  and in the vigor of his defense, even his enemies of the hour gained insight, and sharpened their steel.  We are told we ought to love our enemies; this is the sort it is easy to love.  Thus, not in spite but indeed because of his outrages, he has no want of men to mourn for him.


Texan99 said...

Count me among the people who disagreed with him sharply on many issues but passionately loved his writing and admired his character. I was just reading this piece on Nietzsche last week. I didn't realize he was so close to the end; God bless him.

Lars Walker said...

One of the last honest men. I pray he finds mercy where he asked for none.

Anonymous said...

May he find peace and (G-d willing) be surprised by grace. In an interview last winter he remarked that he was surprised and rather touched by how many Christians wrote him to say that they disagreed with him but they were praying for his recovery and hoped that things would go well with him. There were also those who cursed him, but he'd expected that. The good wishes caught him off guard: he had good foes and was one himself.

"For true comrades and true foemen, Madonna intercede!" as Kipling put it.