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A collection of thoughts ... from a[n exploding] boy in Toronto.

About: A collection of thoughts ... from a[n exploding] boy in Toronto.
On Christopher Hitchens[' Political Apostasy/Sell Out]

(A very timely piece for me.  For a while now, I have had little desire to be wealthy or powerful, but I had recently watched this trailer for an upcoming movie, and I must admit, I was kind of compelled by these hot, powerful, vampire girls who were leading these elite lives of luxury.  I kind of wanted to be of their world.  This is half serious, too.  But, to be a bit more serious, upon reflection, I don’t think I could live that life; knowing that in my flamboyantly luxurious existence, I was contributing to the suffering of others; if not directly through vampire related organized crime.)

if, in public life, the “signifier” is “I’m no longer a Marxist,” then the “signified” usually is, “I’m selling out.”  No doubt one can, in light of further study and life experience, come to repudiate past convictions.  One might also decide that youthful ideals, especially when the responsibilities of family kick in and the prospects for radical change dim while the certainty of one’s finitude sharpens, are too heavy a burden to bear; although it might be hoped that this accommodation, however understandable (if disappointing), were accomplished with candor and an appropriate degree of humility rather than, what’s usually the case, scorn for those who keep plugging away. … 
Depending on where along the political spectrum power is situated, apostates almost always make their corrective leap in that direction, discovering the virtues of the status quo. … If apostasy weren’t conditioned by power considerations, one would anticipate roughly equal movements in both directions.  But that’s never been the case.  The would-be apostate almost always pulls towards power’s magnetic field, rarely away.  However elaborate the testimonials on how one came to “see the light,” the impetus behind political apostasy is – pardon my cynicism – a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated affair: to cash in, or keep cashing in, on earthly pleasures.  

A rite of passage for apostates peculiar to U.S. political culture is bashing Noam Chomsky.  It’s the political equivalent of a bar mitzvah, a ritual signaling that one has “grown up” – i.e., grown out of one’s “childish” past. …Chomsky mirrors their idealistic past as well as sordid present, an obstinate reminder that they once had principles but no longer do, that they sold out but he didn’t.  Hating to be reminded, they keep trying to shatter the glass.  He’s the demon from the past that, after recantation, no amount of incantation can exorcise.  

The famous aphorism quoted by him that nations have no permanent allies, only permanent interests, might be said to apply, mutatis mutandis, to himself as well.  Indeed, his description of a psychopath – “incapable of conceiving an interest other than his own and perhaps genuinely indifferent to the well-being of others” – comes perilously close to a self-portrait.  To discover our true human nature, Freud once wrote, just reverse society’s moral exhortations: if the Commandment says not to commit adultery, it’s because we all want to.  This simple game can be played with Hitchens as well: when he avows, “I attempt to write as if I did not care what reviewers said, what peers thought, or what prevailing opinion might be,” one should read, “My every word is calculated for its public effect.

Bearing witness to his own bravery, Hitchens reports in March 2003 that, although even the wife of New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is having doubts about going to war, “I am fighting to keep my nerve” – truly a profile in courage, as he exiles himself in the political wilderness, alongside the Bush administration, Congress, a majority of U.S. public opinion, and his employers in the major media.

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