Saturday, 7 August 2010
Christopher Hitchens - A tribute unworthy...
Where do you start? Where do you start, in attempting to write (!) a tribute to a literary and intellectual giant? Do you borrow a quote from Shakespeare or Wilde? Do you attempt to make a comparison between the man you are honouring and other masters in similar fields? Or do you, as the old ridiculous expression goes, write "from the heart"?
Well, I shan't do either. I am just not worthy to write a tribute to Christopher Hitchens, nor do I possess the eloquence and linguistic talent it would require to do such a tribute justice. But I will still attempt to write one, just because I couldn't look myself in the mirror if I didn't.
You see, my dear reader, Christopher Hitchens is one of those rare human beings that comes around only once in any generation, if you're lucky. Someone who refuses to accepts the norms. Someone who doesn't stand up for his cause because it is the right thing to do, but because he inhabits and lives by all those principles that make the cause right in the first place. A man who doesn't stand up against oppression or the rule of majority because it is the brave thing to do, but because he wouldn't deem himself worthy of the air he breathes if he didn't.
Hitchens has at times spoken of his regret of not having fought in a just war, like his father or George Orwell, an inspiration of his, once had. This is the only time in my life I will ever be able to write this sentence: How wrong you are, Mr. Hitchens! You have fought against that most unholy of wars, The Holy Wars. You have been a general in the fight against religious dictatorship, fascism, oppression, despotism, subjugation and tyranny. You have been a commander for those of us who wanted to fight, but lacked the weapons and ammunitions to take the beast of religion on. And you have been the inspiration for our courage. Don't ever doubt it or degrade it.
I always thought that if I ever had the ability to write a book, my first one would be titled: "Why Hitchens matters". I used to think of what I would say to Christopher if I would ever have the chance to see him in real life. My first initial thought was perhaps the best one, and the one I would opt for: "It's a privilege to be alive in the same era as you, Sir."
Last night, I saw Anderson Coopers interview with the cancer-sick Hitchens. And I broke down and wept. For the first time in many years. I didn't even know how much the man had meant to me, and how much he had given me, whether it'd be verbal ammunition, rhetorical strategy or, probably most importantly, unquenchable, uncompromising, unequivocal sense of duty to stand up for what I believe in. And how do you write a tribute to a person who has given you such a gift?
Christopher Hitchens, you have been my Orwell, my Spinoza, my Jefferson. And I am as grateful to you for your achievements as you are to them. And I hope with all my heart science will defeat the ruthless alien inhabiting your body. The world is a better place with you in it.