Hitch: “Up With This We Shall Not Put”
One of my intellectual idols is, according to his own admission, near death. This is a sad realization that only some of us are fortunate enough to come to before the end. Many people die without any chance for reflection, much less the opportunity to reflect publicly on the matter. But I believe it a true blessing, a bonafide secular miracle, that Christopher Hitchens has that opportunity, because the perspective he has leant to all of us through his battle with cancer has provided an invaluable model for atheists and skeptics on how to face the end with grace and clarity.
As thousands take to the streets to demand a better future for themselves and others, we must be exceedingly aware of any calls for unfounded hope, rage-based panacea and all manner of totalitarian solutions to our troubles, whether personal or political. We must not allow ourselves to be suckered in by would-be leaders who would have us follow blindly, requiring us to shut out reason or inquiry in order to stifle dissent or moral and intellectual confusion. Any movement guided, or any life lived according to dogma is doomed to a diminished meaning to itself and others. We have to think for ourselves.
As always, Hitch puts it best:
“In the meantime, we have the same job we always had. To say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no Supreme Leader, there is no totalitarian solution that says ‘if you will just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you will simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss will be yours. You will certainly lose the faculties, and you may not know as a result, that the idiotic bliss is even more idiotic than it looks. But we have to begin by repudiating all such claims, grand rabbis, chief ayatollahs, infallible popes, peddlers of a surrogate and mutant quasi-political religion and worship of the Dear Leader – we have no need of any of this.”