Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hitchens on cancer- "it's just boring"

It was terrible to read Christopher Hitchens' announcement of 30 June in Vanity Fair that he had developed esophageal cancer. He advised his regret at having to cancel many of his engagements, presumably in the promotion of his new memoir, 'Hitch 22'. (He shouldn't worry about these engagements- upon hearing of his illness, I bought a copy as soon as I could, and I'm sure his fans around the world are doing the same).

I've known about Christopher Hitchens for about one year now, firstly by the informal discussion he arranged with Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins called 'The Four Horsemen'.

Sometime after this I saw him at work in the (somewhat pompously-titled) Intelligence-Squared debate on whether the Catholic Church is a force for good, alongside Stephen Fry. They carried out a demolition job of the highest order, swinging a huge chunk of the audience vote for a resounding victory. One almost felt empathy for Conservative MP Anne Widdecombe (who Dylan Moran once descibed as having the voice of a Stegasaurus) when they confront her about the church's attitude to condoms.

The final piece I will mention is perhaps that which represents him best. In a relaxed Q+A, standing in an open-necked shirt, with a drink and a cigarette, he shows his complete confidence, and his contempt for the status quo, in exposing the greatest moral fraud of the religious world.

In the absence of other engagements, the discovery of a recent interview- as recent as last Saturday- was of great interest. In it, he wishes he could go out with a bang, perhaps by assassinating "the horrific pimp and runner of prostitutes in America, and later recruiter of bachelor virgin suicide killers, Sheik Awlaki, now in Yemen".

CH: In fact, if I had a wish, if what I’ve got turns out to be terminal, I wouldn’t mind my last act being an interview with him, followed by a nasty surprise. That would be, I’d feel then I was dying in a good cause.
HH: How much time are you spending on that thought, Christopher Hitchens?
CH: As little as I can, because it’s morbid and mock heroic.
HH: All right. I want to…
CH: But it avoids the boring thought that one is suffering, in effect, for no reason. I mean, I’m not suffering in a good cause, or witnessing for any, you know, great idea or anything or principle. It’s just boring.

[Read the full interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt]

It's a bit macho, but really contains the sentiment: don't worry about me.


[image from Virus Comix]

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