Hi all, it’s been a while.
Death is a funny thing. When faced with mortality, people seem obliged to speak up, to take note and pay tribute to the recently deceased’s short time as a person on this planet. I’m guilty of this as well and today has been a perfect example. Last night the world lost a great man. I loved, admired, and revered Christopher Hitchens, but have never really expressed it in words, until now, which is of course a few fleeting moments too late for him to appreciate. Of course he knew he was appreciated by many people like me, and I highly doubt that he would ever have stumbled upon this little article had I written it when he was alive, but it seems a shame that it is only after we have lost someone that we truly appreciate their contribution to our lives.
He was beloved by atheists for his extraordinary and highly entertaining ability to leave his religious debate opponents floundering within minutes, (even if some were ever so slightly too deluded to pick up on it (*cough* Tony Blair *cough*)), but let us not forget the other causes he held dear. An outspoken political campaigner, his relentless fight for a better world was motivating and courageous, and words were his ultimate weapon. It is rare nowadays to encounter such daring eloquence which forces people, blinking, into the harsh light of reality, and pushes them to take action. His unforgiving character dissections of various respected public figures were a much needed second opinion, and often showed that the prevailing view if subject to a bit of scrutiny, is not always accurate.
With the power of his writing, I was convinced that Mother Teresa was a fraud. Please do not think I am easily led. Alas, I had a lifetime of hearing nothing but praise for her saintliness; certainly for a long time I believed that anyone devoting their life to helping the poor was a good person. In an instant, Hitch changed my mind. After all, he explained so succinctly; she cared not for the suffering of the poor, or for trying to stop the vicious cycle of poverty. He made me comprehend that the religiously motivated charity work was a mere plaster on a wound; hiding a problem away when what it really needs is some fresh air, a fresh approach: ‘the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction’.
‘The Topic of Cancer’ was by far one of the most moving and raw essays I’ve ever read. Even when first diagnosed with cancer, his words did not fail him as they would (understandably) fail so many others. In fact with their rawness, they became stronger and more compelling than ever, as he ever-so-elegantly and valiantly described the process of coming to terms with his newly-stricken state.
More recently, and bravely as ever, Hitch gave a his acceptance speech for the Richard Dawkins award at The Texas Freethought Convention. Whilst clearly weaker in body, with his voice quieter than before but never silenced, his mind was as sharp as ever, and his words still rung true.
At the very foundation of it all, he made me love words and realise their might. He made me want to take action and speak out; he was one of the people who encouraged me to write in the first place. What an exciting life he must have lived. I hope to narrate my own life even half as well.