Thursday, December 23, 2010

Notes from "Letters to a Young Contrarian", Letter I

In lethargy of the holiday season, I find myself reading "Letters to a Young Contrarian" by Christopher Hitchens.

Usually I keep notes on every book I read. I've decided to make those notes public instead of keeping them private. There are passages in every book that make me feel guilty if I don't share them, because (in my biased opinion) I think they have an original insight that might as well spark someone else's inspiration, wrath, enlightenment or thought. Thus, here we go.

Letter I

The noble title of "dissident" must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement, and it has been consecrated by many exemplary and courageous men and women.

I myself hope the live long enough to graduate, from being a "bad boy" --- which I once was --- to becoming "a curmudgeon".

From amateur to professional!

[T]here are in all periods people who feel themselves in some fashion to be apart. And it is not too much to say that humanity is very much in debt to such people, whether it chooses to acknowledge the debt or not.

The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.

There is a saying from Roman antiquity: Fiat justitia---ruat caelum. "Do justice, and let the skies fall."

Another observation from antiquity has it that, while courage is not in itself one of the primary virtues, it is the quality that makes the excercise of the virtues possible.

[T]he determination of one individual [is] enough to dishearten those whose courage [is] mob-derived.

Quite often, the "baptism" of a future dissenter occurs in something unplanned, such as a spontaneous resistance to an episode of bullying or bigotry, or a challenge to some piece of pedagogical stupidity. There is good reason to think that such reactions arise from something innate rather than something inculcated."
I love this one. I remember a few such episodes of "pedagogical stupidity"...

To be in opposition is not to be a nihilist. And there is no decent or charted way of making a living at it. It is something you are, and not something you do.
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