Letters to a Young Contrarian eBook ´ Letters to


Letters to a Young Contrarian ❮KINDLE❯ ➛ Letters to a Young Contrarian ❥ Author Christopher Hitchens – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk In the book that he was possibly born to write provocateur and bestselling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals gadflies mavericks rebels angry young women and dissident In the book that he was possibly born a Young ePUB ´ 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 pitched at an angle of passionate disagreement against the lazy consensus than Hitchens who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining waysThis book explores the entire range of contrary positions invoking mentors such as Emile Zola Rosa Parks and Václav Havel What they have in common is a commitment to living and thinking right now in a Letters to eBook è society not as it is but as it might be Hitchens bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society and the sacrifice of true irony satire and other forms of critical style He understands the importance of disagreement—to personal integrity to informed discussion to true progress—to democracy itself Letters to a Young Contrarian is part of the series The Art of Mentoring based on Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet Like the text it emulates the series invites leaders of the arts vocations professions obsessions and missions to contribute a to a Young Epub à text meant to shape the future of their disciplines and to inspire the careers of the next generation and generations after that.


10 thoughts on “Letters to a Young Contrarian

  1. Jakob J. Jakob J. says:

    Death hath wrought a pernicious dent in the erudite and intellectual world; Hitchens will not be one to be soon forgotten nor ever replaced but emulated definitely Let me stop you before you roll your eyes Yes I am providing my belated unasked for and pedantic tribute to the late Hitch but this is as appropriate of a forum as any to do so right? Indeed I read this magnificent little collection of letters of advice written to no one in particular but everyone in modest and solemn remembrance I listen to Hitchens’ lectures and debates as if they were my favorite records Instead of singing along to the Bad Romances and the Mmmbopies or whatever you kids are listening to nowadays I am obdurately testifying along “what matters most the pursuit of liberty freedom And that these things are incompatible completely incompatible with the worship of an unalterable celestial dictator; someone who can watch you while you sleep and convict you of thought crime and whose rule cannot be challenged” “It’s not moral to lie to children It’s not moral to lie to ignorant uneducated people and tell them that if they only believe nonsense they can be saved” “Bear in mind that you are only dust as the Christian book says or you are only fashioned from a clot of blood as the uran says; bear in mind that you were convicted and found guilty before you were conceived of crimes in which you couldn’t possibly have been involved and you have all the burden of proof in your own defense and you’ve been found guilty But to make up for that rather horrible indictment you can be reassured that the entire cosmos is designed with you in mind False consolation And that he has a plan for you on the condition that you agree to be a serf Forever“ I imitate these and many other lines in my best terrible British accent with as much seemingly effortless acumen as I can muster for an audience of my two dogs both of whom are now atheists and contrarians as well However this is not strictly an anti religious polemic like his acerbic if slightly inferior god is Not Great but a multifaceted deconstruction of conventional wisdom and reverence There are fringe views that deserve to be marginalized and then there are dissenting views which need to be heeded or at least considered Nothing Hitchens says can be shrugged off and if one tries they will end up looking even dumber than they did when they became recipients of his critical wit in the first place Happily the intellectual public mostly embraced this public intellectual and realized his worth in a miscellany of areas As much as I love his railings against religion around which most of his debates are centered it is too bad that some people think that was the sole domain of his brilliance or according to his detractors his calumnymisguidedness His reflections on literature specific pieces or in general history travels and encounters are absolute treasures One should envy the experiences of this man; well most experiences Among the things to admire in him is his lack of hypocrisy One cannot suggest that he ‘dishes it out but can’t take it’ As he states in the preface “I attack and criticize people myself; I have no right to expect lenience in return” He prepares for and anticipates attacks on himself; and throughout his career and life he has addressed them head on The day of his death I heard about his being known for his assailment of Mother Teresa than anything else in his distinguished career from the major cable news networks Luckily the likes of Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity don’t get to determine the legacy of this man; at least not for anyone who knew him or followed his workFormatMr X the student ie us is allowed the privilege of absorbing all the knowledge and nuance that only Hitch could articulate to this effect How happy I am that these letters were not exclusive to his students but how sad am I that I was not among them Several brief correspondences with a hypothetical representative student whose responses are assumed or left out advise on what it is to be a contrarian It is not a matter of being the stand out dissenter but the nuanced thinker At least that’s what I gathered Don’t accept anything because someone tells you it is so Take advantage of your faculties and seek the truth out for yourselfThe Advice In Conjunction With My OwnConsensus isn’t always trustworthy Appealing to experts has its values I feel and I don’t think Hitchens disagrees with that insofar as dispassionate research reveals the evidence but in matters of say policy and pertinent to this third letter idolatry the arguments from authority and consensus are not sufficient nor are they particularly helpful Disputations are an essential part of crawling toward truth but let us not get caught up in tautology It does no good to say either something is true or it is not true Both of those possibilities are true and each party in a disagreement can infer as much Not everything is up for debate however as observational evidence cannot be reasonably misconstrued as falsehood unless we disagree on what observation and evidence are And around we goMore to the point at hand is the inauspicious concept of Nirvana; sheer nothingness or mindless ‘bliss’ which renders discovery and thought useless or at the very least unnecessary We shouldn’t I don’t think desire suspension or termination of the intellect regardless of the ease it may bring us “And the pleasures and rewards of the intellect are inseparable from the angst uncertainty conflict and even despair” This shouldn’t come off as an anti existential way of thinking I don’t think Moss can be existential in practice Rocks may very well be experiencing Nirvana I’ll keep my intellect as long as I am able to in the service of existential thought of course Thinking may cause discomfort or unease even unhappiness but that is no excuse to eschew it in favor of becoming a breathing inanimate objectThe evasion of verbal conflict is a silly thing I thought trying to solve problems with words was a good thing but now even that makes the tender hearted cry and plead for peace and compromise My own bit of advice would be do not ever agree to disagree Always state your case if you have one and if you are serious about it When one engages in combative dialogue I say combative because vehemence in debate is no vice either it is important to know exactly whom with one is engaging Go find a sparring partner Go on Play devil’s advocate if you’d like or just rant and rave with a like minded cohortI’ll waitWasn’t that refreshing? If not tell me why I am wrong in thinking that argumentation is a common good Nuance or Obfuscation?Some Improvised Examples He burned a uran what did he expect? He knew there would be violent reaction and he did it anyway This implicates him in the subseuent riots and murders He should be sensitive and show respect to the sacredness of people’s beliefs I’m not anti gay I’m pro family Providing abortion services is akin to murder I sympathize with victims of rape but we shouldn’t punish an innocent unborn child for the actions of their father said actions being conception of the child through non consensual intercourse We already have one victim of rape Let’s not add another victim of in utero murder When such stances are being taken it may be an apt time to whip out Occam’s Razor and do some slicing and dicing in the name of common sense Force them to say what they really mean and deflate false gradations with the art of “simple elementary principles”Out of Context and Incorrect CitationLike Karl Marx’s famous Religion is the opium of the people statement often assumed to have appeared in his Communist Manifesto when it really appears in A Critiue of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right Hitchens’ Antitheism remarks are very poorly understood and unjustly used to discredit him as a credible critic of religion The word antitheism smacks of a shaking ones fist at the sky uality and Hitchens’ detractors are uick to point this out The problem is that much different than rebellion for its own sake Hitchens backs it all up with historical and anecdotal proof Seek out and criticize each example on its own terms sure but don’t bring up the old dross of ‘he is just angry at God’ Admittedly you’d think a statement like ‘I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth but I hold that the influence of churches and the effect of religious belief is positively harmful’ to be contained in a histrionically titled book like ‘god is Not Great How Religion Poisons Everything’ but like those who would talk about Marx’s opium uote as if it were some kind of Communist slogan we can confront those who talk about Hitchens’ antitheist uote as if it were a way to ride on the coattails of other recent popular critics of religion because it was written years before and his later book on the subject was an extrapolation of this point in that respect I must say it is not much like Marx’s uoteSelf criticismI am told that my neutral face is a pissed off face I often appear uninterested often enough I am in what other people are saying to me or I am insufferable and condescending So like Hitchens whose face apparently forms an unintended sneer I don’t fit the old description of a gentleman one who is never rude except on purpose So be it But when I am talking especially to someone who may very well know than me about any given subject I go over each sentence that may escape my lips in my head this also depends on my blood alcohol level I have been proven wrong before and I have changed my mind about things of which I have not been proven wrong There is no shame in this and nobody needs me to reassure them of that What is shameful though is holding a minority viewpoint and conceding to your detractors on that basis In this area I am not as confident as the man who wrote “Have I ever thought I might be wrong? Yes sometimes and briefly” but I hope I am wrong in thinking I will never beAnticipated if Unlikely Outside Criticism “This isn’t a review You uote Hitchens too much If I wanted to read Hitchens uotes I’d buy a book of Hitchens’ uotes” to which I respond as Hitchens says “You noticed that I make liberal use of extracts and uotations not just to show off my reading but also to enlighten my text and make use of those who can express my thoughts better than I am able to”Bonus For Those Who Have Made it This Far “The ability to discriminate is a precious faculty; by judging all members of one ‘race’ to be the same the racist precisely shows himself incapable of discrimination” Let this be a voice in the back of your head whenever you or someone else describes someone or himself first and foremost in terms of ‘racial identity’ or when ‘identity politics’ is brought upI Now Leave You With This “Beware the irrational however seductive Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish Picture all experts as if they were mammals 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 Suspect your own motives and all excuses Do not live for others any than you would expect them to live for you” I am not sure if I would ever wholly embrace any ‘words to live by’ but if I did the words above wouldn’t be a poor choice I am saddened only in that there can be no contributions to the world from the pen of the man who wrote them Methinks it is time to pour myself some Johnnie Walker Black neat in his dignified honor not to be construed as worshipCheers Hitch


  2. Jen Jen says:

    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 suiggly cortical topologies of curiosity until it all resembles a coagulated mass of stultifying minutiae and rancid chicken stock but instead should be committed to euipping 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 counselThis 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 three section 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 uestion authority not at the expense of allowing your kidney stones to go unpulverized in its many forms Political affiliations with pre packaged highly processed beliefs which masuerade 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 itI recommend this book to everyone without reservation So lets poor a little Johnnie Walker Black in memory of Hitch and go out with a uote which he was fond ofAs 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 still than 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”


  3. Petra-Eggs Sunny Side Up Petra-Eggs Sunny Side Up says:

    Christopher Hitchens was my 5 star 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 againAlthough 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 Perhaps so perhaps that is what made him so interesting


  4. Karl-O Karl-O says:

    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 a passionate and somewhat biased reply to every man made despicable woe in life This feels vivid and most importantly honest 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


  5. Matt Matt says:

    The book I've probably read times 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 allNobody'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 elouent 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 lot to this list but that's enough to be going on withHe can be pretentious stop uoting shit in random languages I don't speak or off the mark ie his position on the Ira 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 seen than 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


  6. Kevin Shepherd Kevin Shepherd says:

    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 Hitch Liker'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 even suspicious 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 jokeAnd my favorite bitNever be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silenceSage advice


  7. M. Sarki M. Sarki says:

    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 cannot highly 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


  8. Sam Sam says:

    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 uite as good at being condescending and disagreeable and intelligent and hilarious all at once His talent for making people look stupid is enviable


  9. Evan Evan says:

    Every once in awhile one's brain gets a kick start and sometimes the resulting vibration opens a stubbornly closed door Revelations ensueIt happened many years ago when I was a college freshman under the tutelage of philosophy 101 professor Gary Boelkins at Maruette 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 illuminatedHitchens prompts this same thing in this wide ranging impeccably argued series of pseudo epistolary treatises about what it means to be an independent thinker He reopens doors whose locks had gone rusty in my mindStill my review will be a bit rusty and intellectually lazy because the sheer number of points and concepts touched upon in the book would reuire a book length treatise to address By the time I wrote about the book you could have read it yourself It's very shortLiberals and conservatives have variously laid claim to Christopher Hitchens but neither can Hitchens was his own manThis slim but lively book of ideas by this resistant to pigeonholing intellectual contemplates what it means to hold unpopular opinions and take unpopular stances and to argue with informed intelligence while living with the conseuences of one's positionsbeliefs Hitchens examines the fine points of uestioning 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 ownHitchens 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 uestion 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 powers that be as well as to the easily affronted massesIt might easily be titled Hitchens' Little Book of Big Ideas and to do it justice might reuire at minimum keeping it on your nightstand for a brush up before bedThe book is funny lively infuriating challenging and mind massaging 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 reuire 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 top notch insight If I had a shelf named that this book would be on itKevinRKy re posted with slight fixes in 2016


  10. A.J. A.J. says:

    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 anti religious attractions phaseIn 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 lot of But lost between the vague self serving references and the almost indiscernible pieces of advice one is or less forced to conclude that being a contrarian is either innate or it isn't uestion 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 uasi historyphilosophy Put simply finding the point in many chapter letters 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 is concerned 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 his focussed books


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