The awful news that Christopher Hitchens has cancer is still a shock to me. I've not really come to terms with it. All I can do is write a little blog post pointing out how important his influence has been on me.
If you've never heard of him go on YouTube and consume hours of his stuff, it'll change you. Listening to his defence of the war in Iraq changed me. I still do not support the UK's role in it but I do understand the issues more than I used to. It's an abrasive experience hearing someone who is clearly intelligent, articulate and an out and out atheist arguing a point with which you disagree. It first happened to me when I stumbled upon Hitchens debating with George Galloway and, at the time, I think I was more inclined to agree with Galloway. The problem though is that it became clear during the debate that Hitchens was relying upon facts and presenting clear reasons for why he thought what he thought. Galloway on the other hand was relying on cliches, ones which I'd started to become tired of. Calling Bush a terrorist and a war criminal and then blaming America for the 9/11 attacks starts to wither in the light of a logical appraisal of why you've arrived at those conclusions and where those thoughts lead you.
At the time I was using some of the above cliches in my day to day life. However that debate between those two, which you can find on youtube, started to make me question how true they were. Did they stand up to close analysis and if not, why use them so frequently? What does it say about your own mind if, without any real knowledge of international law, you announce on a regular basis that Bush is a war criminal? Or, without any proof, declare that Blair lied about weapons of mass destruction? These are assertions you can only come to if you rely upon the reasoning of another. It's a sign you might be having your strings pulled for you.
For instance, how would your position change were the UN to rule on the matter and declare once and for all Bush was not a war criminal, would that mean you suddenly agreed with the war? Is global government the one you look towards for a sense of moral authority? What about if it became clear to you that Blair had in fact been misled with dodgy intelligence and therefore not lied about WMD's, does that mean it's all ok?
I realised that if I was to remain of the opinion that the war in Iraq was a bad idea I'd better understand why I thought that and stick to those principles rather than get dragged along in the mire of group think and petty sloganeering represented by Galloway and his like.
This led me to watch more videos of Christoper Hitchens. His frank and occasionally rude style makes for amusing viewing but above anything else he's made me think.