I wonder how Hitch would respond to today’s conundrum of social justice, atheism, and social obnoxiousness. Hitch was clearly willing to interfere in other countries for humanitarian reasons. It was almost as if he were gleeful in the desire of personal harm for the right cause, even his own, up to the point of actually joining an army. But he was unafraid to ask for a kosher menu in an antisemitic restaurant and painted a mustache on an Islamist poster incurring a beating up for it. He tried water boarding to comment on it. In this sense unlike other atheists wishing to focus on big issues Hitch was willing to tackle any and all, and willing to interrupt when offended.
Nor was he afraid to shoot himself in the foot with his own kind’s disapproval by saying things like he didn’t think women should work unless they wanted to. He really did think child rearing was best done by a parent and women were best suited to it but not if they didn’t want to. He also thought women because of their biology and circumstances didn’t have a sense of humor. They have menses, they experience difficult child birth and breast feeding, they are usually smaller and less able to defend themselves, and they are the brunt of rampant sexism and rape culture–which to these days is denied on so many levels as to be laughable if you don’t see it. His point was women should be pissed off all of the time because they are so oppressed by nature and society. This of course was too close to the old jewish nastiness of women being cursed. Indeed his habit of kissing a woman on the hand did not seem gallant to most. It seemed a return to women on a pedestal and noble men fighting for their favor. In Hitch’s case it was a clinging sexism and the desire to correct the evils done to women. He kissed their hands to show he was a philogynist. He was like a little boy that hadn’t quite grown up but cared deeply.
Like most older atheists he was caught between generations, unable to flex a salient muscle to a current liberal audience. He also could alienate the moderates by saying religion poisons everything because even if you are doing the right behavior it is entirely for the wrong reasons. Belief in belief was really no better than just being the conservative asshole that says no heaven for you. Further he bashed Churchill for being the random willy nilly hawk he was–basically just a good voice. On that line Hitch hated that he sounded like Richard Burton because he disliked him intensely. In this sense he embodied integrity. It was not behavior, belief, or both but both, and activism.
Nevertheless he did not like political correctness as it seemed entirely disingenuous and inconsistent to him. But this was belied by his willingness to prod and provoke on any level for just causes. His sexism was of the kind that he would fight for justice but not be obsequious to it. Being politically correct was not a pass for open fighting. This was his antiquated and Don Quixote inability to let things go that were important to others but not to him and then shut up about it. In this sense his actions were more like a drunken focus that yields a strong dialog but a more narrow appeal.
He bashed at Clinton for not being honest and being far too political. Indeed the draconian drug laws, started by Clinton, are the source of the paramilitary mobility and dressage of police today. The duplicity of saying he didn’t inhale, just ate the brownies, showed just how slimy he thought Clinton to be and how important to have integrity even if it might mean political suicide. He always assumed his words would save him as they often did by their sheer cleverness.
He was requested by the pope to make an opinion on the miracles of sainthood. Why he accepted that can only be so he could laugh at the absurdity of asking an atheist their opinion on miracles and sainthood. His bashing of Mother Theresa, that “bitch”, was premised on his hatred of the sanctimonious saying the poor will be rich if only they trust in Jesus, and suffer, preferable out of sight, and in silence–no actually openly and with pride. Further that she sat on money instead of spending it because she preferred a life of poverty, which if you have no money is fine, I guess, but if you do believe that and you do have it you should give all of it away to remedy poverty. Worse her assumption that the poor she maintained didn’t want the money and preferred to be poor.
His pugnacious political nature was softened by his gentleness in personal relations. Rick Warren, Franklin Graham, and other political opponents claimed him as a friend simply because he knew how to time his bombastics and could be sufficiently charming as to maintain an uneasy friendship. Indeed, he loved being paid attention to and sought that often. In this sense his damning curse was the desire to be relevant in a political scene that changes faster than imaginable, with unfriendly attacks from angles you can’t predict. It was likely amusing to know that those who thought he was going to hell liked him after all. A dissonance that would fight the hellish sacred texts on a level deeper than debate.
Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com