Murakami on Hitchens

February 12, 2012

Not really.  Murakami has never written on Hitchens, as far as I know.  That would be exciting though, wouldn’t it?  For me.

But I’m reading The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, and when I read the following passage on one of the characters, Noboru Wataya (the man, not the cat – it’ll makes sense if you read the book), I immediately thought of Hitchens.

“He knew how to knock his opponent down quickly and effectively with the fewest possible words.  He had an animal instinct for sensing the direction of the wind.  But if you paid close attention to what he was saying or what he had written, you knew that his words lacked consistency.  They reflected no single worldview based on profound conviction.  His was a world that he had fabricated by combining several one-dimensional systems of thought.  He could rearrange the the combination in an instant, as needed.  These were ingenious – even artistic – intellectual permutations and combinations.  But to me they amounted to nothing more than a gam.  If there was any consistency in his opinions, it was the consistent lack of consistency, and if he had a worldview, it was a view that proclaimed his lack of a worldview.  But these very absences were what constituted his intellectual assets.  Consistency and an established worldview were excess baggage in the intellectual mobile warfare that flared up in the mass media’s tiny time segments, and it was his great advantage to be free of such things.”

“He had nothing to protect, which meant that he could concentrate all his attention on pure acts of combat. He needed only to attack, to knock his enemy down.  Noboru Wataya was an intellectual chameleon, changing his colour in accordance with his opponent’s, ab-libbing his logic for maximum effectiveness, mobilising all the rhetoric at his command.  I had no idea how he had acquired these techniques, but he clearly had the knack of appealing directly to the feelings of the mass audience.  He knew how to use the kind of logic that moved the majority.  Nor did it even have to be logic: it only had to appear so, as long as it aroused the feelings of the masses.”

Too harsh?

PS Does an extended quote count as a blog post?

PPS Murakami uses alot of redundant sentences, huh?  It’s all about the rhythm, though.


God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens

January 26, 2012

image courtesy of The Guardian

Describe it

The late, great contrarian Christopher Hitchens’ informed and impassioned attack on religion.

What I loved

Hitchens is at his most likable when he is gushing over his political, scientific and literary heroes and their legacies.

“We [Atheists] are not immune to the lure of wonder and mystery and awe: we have music and art and literature, and find that the serious ethical dilemmas are better handled by Shakespeare and Tolstoy and Schiller and Dostoyevsky and George Eliot than in the mythical morality tales of the holy books.  Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and – since there is no other metaphor – also the soul.”

The breadth of knowledge that he brings to bear on his argument is impressive and exhilarating.

His most convincing argument is that societies have become more just and equal due to secular reforms.  In times and places where religious institutions hold significant power, there is greater repression, especially of minorities, and more atrocities are committed to supress the diversity of human nature.  The more tolerant approach displayed by religious institutions in developed cultures is a strategic reaction to their diminished influence. Read the rest of this entry »