[[ Free ]] ⇴ Letters to a Young Contrarian ⇥ PDF eBook or Kindle ePUB free
Have you ever conceived of a lean epistolary work on the pugnacious pursuit of truth and the importance of descaling your cherished ideals as often as possible in an effort to avoid gestating a stilted intellect that ossifies with time like sun baked avian offal? That was very prescient of you, as the late master of melee most mouthful produced one such work, and now reaches out across time to steady you by your tender morsels, and shotgun, past your trembling lips, the hot second hand vapors of wisdom tirelessly sought Until you’re shouting: “Kiss me hard on the mouth you disagreeable asshole I wish to learn the pressure points of conventional wisdom, so that I might subdue those who advocate it using only a bottle of absinthe and my thumbs.”Have you ever thought to yourself that education’s primary concern shouldn’t be ladling the gruel of context divorced particulates into the squiggly cortical topologies of curiosity until it all resembles a coagulated mass of stultifying minutiae and rancid chicken stock, but instead should be committed to equipping students with the tools necessary to innervate these channels with stagnation battering, tidal currents? Producing people who are not easily affronted People who do not avoid verbal conflict in matters that are serious to them People who find consensus to be insufficient in matters of policy and what they should value People who are not easily taken in by the emotional appeals of demagogues, charlatans, and wankers Who, in short, are capable of thinking for themselves Then let me tell you, those sentiments are well expressed in this svelte correspondence between Hitchens and the prospective gadfly which seeks his counsel.This book examines what it means to gird your loins for intellectual battle while wielding the exotic weaponry of unpopular opinions This book teaches, much like the chain whip and threesection staff I happened upon in kung fu class, which disincentivize their misuse by mangling your knobby bits when flailed wildly, that you should unsheathe your contrarian objections with great care, and never in the service of calling attention to your asinine shenanigans It invites you to question authority (not at the expense of allowing your kidney stones to go unpulverized) in its many forms: Political affiliations with prepackaged, highly processed beliefs which masquerade as perfectly coherent and self evident, but sport nutritional information that is incomprehensible when examined Fundamentalist religious indoctrination which seeks to stigmatize the act of reasoning itself as an unforgivable act of high treason The media which promulgate falsehoods of extraordinary omission in order to pander to their viewership, obfuscating substantive debate in favor of the comforting atavistic narratives of us versus them, tribe versus tribe, good versus evil And finally; you Your self assurance in matters you are deeply ignorant of The halo of all those unchallenged presuppositions, gaslighting your drunkards walk through the dark spaces between true knowledge and puffed up pretensions to it.I recommend this book to everyone, without reservation So lets poor a little Johnnie Walker Black in memory of Hitch and go out with a quote which he was fond of.As Mill said in Chapter II of On Liberty: “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, stillthan those who hold it If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
[[ Free ]] ⇬ Letters to a Young Contrarian ☔ In the book that he was born to write, provocateur and bestselling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, angry young women, and dissidents Who better to speak to that person who finds him or herself in a contrarian position than Hitchens, who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining waysThis book explores the entire range of contrary positionsfrom noble dissident to gratuitous pain in the butt In an age of overly polite debate bending over backward to reach a happy consensus within an increasingly centrist political dialogue, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast He bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society He understands the importance of disagreementto personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progressheck, to democracy itself Epigrammatic, spunky, witty, in your face, timeless and timely, this book is everything you would expect from a mentoring contrarian Christopher Hitchens was my 5star author hero Everything he wrote I had to ration how much I read at a time so I could savour his writing, his pronouncements, his humour and his wisdom This book was but a pale shadow of his others and I couldn't finish it I may one day pick it up again.Although Hitchens is often the star of his own books, he is able to put himself to one side to concentrate on the subject Unfortunately in this one he is not just the star, but the elevated hero, and great as a writer he might have been, as a person he was no less flawed than the rest of us Perhapsso, perhaps that is what made him so interesting. It is curious to see how Hitchens ended up being with Harris, Dawkins and Dennett in one camp, at least in the public imagination I think it is crucial to flesh out the difference between the other three figures on one hand and Hitchens on the other While the three champion (though it is arguable how much they adhere to) empiricism, rationality and the spirit of science in general, Hitchens is in a different camp He makes bold claims which are based on personal experience, opinion, speculations and sometimes even hearsay These could be easily called unfounded by anyone who truly understands how science works (let alone claim that it is the only solution to all our troubles) and Hitchens doesn't seem to have anything to say let alone care to reply He knows it very well himself though I'm not sure most of those who lump him with Dawkins or Harris do The reason I enjoy reading Hitchens is not that he demonstrates rationally or empirically how the good life must be lived or what values are justifiable His is apassionate and somewhat biased reply to every manmade despicable woe in life This feelsvivid and most importantlyhonest, to me This is my third read of this book and I really won't be exaggerating when I say that I look forward to many future readings There's just too much to be taken away from this little gem of a book. The book I've probably readtimes than any other I consistently go back to it when in times of crisis or when I need a mental recharging The thing I love about Hitchens is the fact that no matter what you think about him, he has lived a full life There's no stone unturned intellectually, verbally, hell geographically He truly has read and seen and pretty much done it all.Nobody's going to agree with him 100% I don't, and I'm one of his biggest fans but what you take away from his work and this book in particular is a challenge As well as countless insights Flip to any random page and you'll find: * something which you either haven't thought about in very much detail before, and suddenly feel compelled to investigate* something that you vehemently disagree with and are forced to re defend with an able and powerfully eloquent opponent (which of course is great in its own respect) * something you have always thought but alas haven't heard articulated as well as this There's probably a lotto this list, but that's enough to be going on with.He can be pretentious (stop quoting shit in random languages I don't speak!) or off the mark (i.e his position on the Iraq war which he doesn't get to at all in this book) or just plain windbaggy However, I promise you that if you take him at his word, at eye level, and come at it honestly, your thinking is going to be much richer for it In short, here's a guy who has seenthan you or your most well traveled friend ever will and has everything to say about it Tell me that's not something worth looking into Style, wit, learning, and worldliness The mark of a great writer, even if only a writer, at that. Herein, Hitchens composes a series of 'letters' to those of us who would seek his advice and counsel Inspired by his students in New York, and by hundreds of others on campuses where he spoke and lectured, 'Letters to a Young Contrarian' reads like a commencement address to a graduating class at Berkley or NYU This could have easily been titled 'So You Want To Be A Dissident?' or 'Roadmap To Radical,' or maybe 'The HitchLiker's Guide To The Galaxy.'Like every Hitchens book I've ever read (this is my fifth), it is loaded with little pearls of worldly wisdom Here are but a few of my favorites:• the forces of piety have always and everywhere been the sworn enemy of the open mind and the open book.• consider for a moment what their heaven looks like Endless praise and adoration, limitless abnegation and abjection of self; a celestial North Korea.• Many are the works of genius now in public libraries that would have been incinerated if a roll of opinion had been called.• Be evensuspicious than I was just telling you to be, of all those who employ the term we or us without your permission Always ask who this we is; as often as not it's an attempt to smuggle tribalism through customs.• I want to urge you very strongly to travel as much as you can, and to evolve yourself as an internationalist It's as important a part of your education as a radical as the reading of any book.• It especially annoys me when racists are accused of discrimination The ability to discriminate is a precious facility; by judging all members of one race to be the same, the racist precisely shows himself incapable of discrimination.• every time a Bastille falls one is always pleasantly surprised by how many sane and decent people were there all along.• Radicalism is humanism or it is nothing• The literal mind is baffled by the ironic one, demanding explanations that only intensify the joke.And my favorite bit:Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.Sage advice. Through the years reading Christopher Hitchens has been hit or miss for me Mortality was amazing, but many other works basically unaccessible to me perhaps because they are all too cerebral and the subjects fail to interest me I remember Hitchens on a Bill Maher show on HBO where he was a guest and argued with the audience for almost the entire program I did not appreciate that behavior then, but do so now after reading this book I cannothighly recommend this book to any person who wants to think for themselves and stand apart from the crowd Hitchens was courageous in both life and death He is sorely missed. I loved reading this book There's probably no political commentary I enjoy reading (or watching, for that matter)than that of Christopher Hitchens No one is quite as good at being condescending and disagreeable and intelligent and hilarious all at once His talent for making people look stupid is enviable. Every once in awhile one's brain gets a kickstart and sometimes the resulting vibration opens a stubbornly closed door Revelations ensue.It happened many years ago when I was a college freshman, under the tutelage of philosophy 101 professor, Gary Boelkins, at Marquette University in Milwaukee, as I began to grasp the concepts of Plato One minute I was baffled, the next minute a light bulb (or fire, so as not to be anachronistic) went on and the cave was illuminated.Hitchens prompts this same thing in this wideranging, impeccably argued series of pseudoepistolary treatises about what it means to be an independent thinker He reopens doors whose locks had gone rusty in my mind.Still, my review will be a bit rusty and intellectually lazy because the sheer number of points and concepts touched upon in the book would require a booklength treatise to address By the time I wrote about the book you could have read it yourself It's very short.Liberals and conservatives have variously laid claim to Christopher Hitchens, but neither can Hitchens was his own man.This slim but lively book of ideas by this resistanttopigeonholing intellectual contemplates what it means to hold unpopular opinions and take unpopular stances and to argue with informed intelligence while living with the consequences of one's positions/beliefs Hitchens examines the fine points of questioning all authority, whether it be statist, political party, religious, the media, and the masses; no dogma goes unchallenged He mines a vast archive of historical and intellectual precedent in making his case and molding it all into original observations of his own.Hitchens takes the epistolary model of Rainer Maria Rilke's classic Letters to a Young Poet in structuring this, and Hitchens' fictional correspondent is asking the question of him, and after a slightly awkward preface of false modesty the author is off to the races, exploring the ramifications of what it means to be a dissident thorn in the side of the powersthatbe as well as to the easily affronted masses.It might easily be titled Hitchens' Little Book of Big Ideas and to do it justice might require, at minimum, keeping it on your nightstand for a brushup before bed.The book is funny, lively, infuriating, challenging and mindmassaging by turns, and I am giving it the highest recommendation to all healthily curious and thinking persons, as well as to anyone who can't seem to put down the vacuous vampire romances that require use of an infinitesimally small part of the brain One of my reading friends here on Goodreads has a book shelf that she has labeled topnotch insight If I had a shelf named that, this book would be on it.(KevinR@Ky, reposted with slight fixes in 2016) There are two basic ways to approach this book First, there's reading it as an inspirational tract on living a life of contrariness and dissent and all the baggage that comes with such a life Secondly, one could read this as a treatise on several of Christopher Hitchens' favorite topics, ranging from misspent socialist youth to his journalism days to the preview of coming antireligious attractions phase.In both cases, the book fails To the first option, I'm not sure anyone will walk away from this book with an inspired feeling Hitchens certainly makes a plethora of valid and insightful points about the type of person he is (and the type of person we could do with a lotof) But lost between the vague, selfserving references and the almost indiscernible pieces of advice, one isor less forced to conclude that being a contrarian is either innate or it isn't Question everything, don't let fear set up blockades, be informed––all these pieces of essentially valid advice are hedged by mountains of irrelevant and often times cloudy discussions of foreign affairs and quasihistory/philosophy Put simply, finding the point in many chapterletters is like finding a piece of glitter on the beach Regarding the second approach, here is where the one weakness of Hitchens' writing starts to glare through I don't know if it's pure snobbery or a simple disregard for his audience, but Hitchens seems to very much enjoy talking over people This can be as simple a thing as mentioning a name (or a list of them) nobody has heard of without an appropriate explanation, or an entire political upheaval which he was privy to but about which the rest of us are completely clueless (Let's remember that a 'young contrarian' in 2001––the book's publication date––probably would have no idea about the Bosnian war in the early 90s) The true mark of an educated man isn't in what he knows, but how well he's able to share it Sometimes this book lets off the impression that Hitchens isconcerned with appearing brilliant than informing his audience A shame, because with a skeptic like me such an approach appears neither informing or brilliant The two star rating is then perfect here It was okay And while this was by no means a chore to read, there were instances where I wished Hitchens would drop his academic facade and simply explain what the hell he was talking about The surface treatment of nearly everything can give the impression of hidden depth to the unwary, but the ultimate impression left by this book is one of shallowness Fans of his work may be riveted, but for newcomers I'd try one of hisfocussed books.