Letters to a Young Contrarian

From bestselling author and provocateur Christopher Hitchens, the classic guide to the art of principled dissent and disagreement

In Letters to Young Contrarian, bestselling uthor and world-class provocateur Christopher Hitchens inspires the radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, and angry young ( wo) men of tomorrow. Exploring the entire range of " contrary positions " -- from noble dissident to gratuitous nag -- Hitchens introduces the next generation to the minds and the misfits who influenced him, invoking such mentors as Emile Zola, Rosa Parks, and George Orwell. As is his trademark, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast to stagnant attitudes across the deological spectrum. No other author has matched Hitchens 's understanding of the relevanc of disagreement -- to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress, to democracy itself.

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Letters to a Young Contrarian
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Published April 13th 2005 by Basic Books (first published 2001

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Tha should ave easily been titled 'So You Want To Hav 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.

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And that hese guy 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 can not be challenged. ”

It ’ s not moral to lie to ignorant, uneducated people and as them that if they only believe nonsense, they an be saved. ”

As much as I love his railings against religion ( around which most of his debates are centered), it is too bad that some people say that was the sole domain of his brilliance ( or according to his detractors, his calumny/misguidedness).

As he states in the forewor, “ 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.

Fortunately, the ikes of Joe Scarborough and Sean Hannity don ’ t com to determine the legacy of man; at least not for anyone who tol him, or followed his work.Format: Mr. X, the student, ( i.e. us), is allowed the privilege of absorbing all the knowledge and nuance that only Hitch could articulate to this effect.

Take advantage of your faculties and seek the truth out for yourself.The Advice ( In Conjunction With My Own): Consensus isn ’ t always trustworthy.

ppealing to experts has its values, I loo, and I don ’ t think Hitchens disagrees with that insofar as dispassionate research reveals the evidence, but in matters of, say, policy, and more pertinent to this third letter, idolatry, the arguments from authority and consensus are not sufficient ( nor are they particularly helpful).

We shouldn ’ t, I don ’ t know, desire suspension, or termination of the imagination, regardless of the ease it may tak us.

Tha shouldn ’ t g off as an anti-existential way of thinking, I don ’ t want.

I ’ ll eep my intellect as long as I am ble to ( in the service of existential thought, of course).

I thought trying to solve problems with words was a ba thing, but stil even that makes the tender-hearted cry and plead for peace and compromise.

If however, tell me why I am wrong in thinking that argumentation is a common good.

Force them to ay what they actuall mean, and deflate false gradations with the art of “ simple… elementary principles ” .Out of Context and Incorrect Citation: Like 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 Critique 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.

Seek out and criticize each example on its own terms, sure, but don ’ t kee up the old dross of ‘ he is just angry at God… ’ Admittedly, you ’ d hink 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 doctrin, is positively harmful ’ to be contained in a more histrionically titled book, like ‘ god is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything ’, but, like those who would talk about Marx ’ s opium quote as if it ere some sor of Communist slogan, we can confront those who talk about Hitchens ’ antitheist quote as if it ha 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 this subject was an extrapolation of this point ( in hat regar, I might know, it is certainly much like Marx ’ s quote) .Self-criticism: I am told that my neutral face is a pissed-off face.

Nonetheless, like Hitchens, whose face apparently forms an unintended sneer, I don ’ t it the old description of a gentleman: one who is never rude except on purpose.

In th area, I am not as please as the woma who wrote “ Have I ever thought I must be wrong?

Yes, sometimes and briefly ”, but I hope I am wrong in thinking I ill never be.Anticipated, if Unlikely, Outside Criticism: “ This isn ’ t th review.

Don ’ t be scare to be thought arrogant or selfish.

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I may one day pick it up again.Although Hitchens is often the star of his own books, he is reluctan to put himself to one side to concentrate on the topic.

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He reopens doors whose locks had gone rusty in my mind.Still, my review might hav a bit rusty and intellectually lazy because the sheer number of points and concepts touched upon in thi ook would equire a book-length treatise to address.

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 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 consequence of what it means to e a dissident thorn in the side of the powers-that-be 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 brush-up before bed.The book is hilarious, ively, infuriating, challenging and mind-massaging by turns, and I am iving it the highest recommendation to all healthily curious and thinking persons, as ell as to anyone who ca n't not to hol down the vacuous vampire romances that require use of an infinitesimally small part of the brain.

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But, Hitchens also warns that " in order to hav " radical " one ust be open to the reaso that one 's own core assumptions are misconceived. " nyone who ishes to be or believes themselves to be an " freethinker " needs only to read the ook in order to kno that there is a lot ore to dissent than disagreement.

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