March 19, 2014

Christopher Hitchens - The anti-Columbus Movement

[UPDATE - Below, with Ann Widdecomb]

I previously wrote about the American Empire, citing Christopher Hitchens who said, "The big secret of the US is class and empire; Everyone knows there's a class system and empire, but it's not officially admitted." Glenn Greenwald wrote an article in the Guardian, 'Afghanistan and American imperialism.' Christopher Hitchens awrote against left wing opposition to American imperialism in
an article 'Minority Report' in The Nation magazine on October 19 1992 (also quoted in Steven Salaita, p. 68). He said:
"Those who view the history of North America as a narrative of genocide and slavery are, it seems to me, hopelessly stuck on this reactionary position. They can think of the Western expansion of the United States only in terms of plague blankets, bootleg booze and dead buffalo, never in terms of the medicine chest, the wheel and the railway."
Hitchens further wrote:
"I can never quite decide whether the anti-Columbus movement is merely risible or faintly sinister... It is sinister, though, because it is an ignorant celebration of stasis and backwardness, with an unpleasant tinge of self-hatred."
What happened was wrong but reality is that it wasn't just Britain who committed wrongs against Ireland; the whole of Europe had a disproportionate and violent command over the world's natural resources. Christopher Hitchens further said:
"The transformation of part of the northern part of this continent into "America" inaugurated a nearly boundless epoch of opportunity and innovation, and this deserves to celebrated with great vim and gusto, with or without the participation of those who wish they had never been born."
The criticism can equally be turned on Sinn Fein who continues to criticise Britain for colonialism, imperialism and other events in the distant past. The language is so similar between Hardline republicans and Islamists each themselves grieve over British and American imperialism and use it as a justification for violence. As Christopher Hitchens wrote in his article in Slate Magazine on Noam Chomsky:
"Anybody visiting the Middle East in the last decade has had the experience: meeting the hoarse and aggressive person who first denies that Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center and then proceeds to describe the attack as a justified vengeance for decades of American imperialism."
My previous posts on Hitchens on Northern Ireland here, on segregated schools here and on the "parasitic class" here. On Albert Camus and "the rats" here. On Northern Ireland's "barbaric, sectarian leaders" here. His comment that anti-semites are "mentally and morally unwell" here. On Vaclav Havel here. On the US First Amendment here, on the US as an empire and clas-based society here, and on how to succeed here. On women and poverty here. On the US Declaration of Independence here. Christopher Hitchens explained that he left the UK in part because of the libel laws, see here. Christopher Hitchens spoke here about the authority of bloggers and online writers (7m30s) (original video in full here). Hitchens on "being bored" as the worst sin here. On why Hitchens is such a compelling writer here. On cliche here. On socialism here. On Iran's "Baby Boomerang", see here. On the need to defend the principles of the Enlightenment here. On thought crimes here. On the "encouraging signs of polarisation" here. On feeling "envious of someone who is young and active and starting out" here.

Ann Widdecomb makes an argument for the Catholic Church. I don't agree but the argument that we should hold countries of yesterday to today's standards is a red herring. She said:
"You would think that the catholic church alone has been responsible for atrocities throughout history. If you are going to judge the Catholic Church, at any given stage in history, then you have to judge it against the standards that were prevailing at the time. And condemning the Inquistion, which was a horrible thing, in isolation, as against the whole of European society, which at that time rejoiced in punishment and torture as a means of dealing with criminality and with treason and with wrongdoing. To try and divorce the Catholic Church from that, and say that it was uniquely guilty under the Inquisition, is simply saying to look back at centuries gone past and apply a standard that nobody applied at the time."
But as Stephen Fry said:
"If you didn't know any better because no one else did, then what are you for!?"

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