There can be few people who have personified Dylan Thomas’s direction not “to go gentle into that good night” more than Christopher Hitchens. Indeed, that whole poem might have been written for him, since no-one raged, raved and burned more brilliantly or unsettlingly than he did.
My admiration for Hitchens is unstinting, notwithstanding that on so many important matters I disagreed with him with the same burning passion that I agreed with him on others. That, I think, is the mark of the man. There would be few I suspect who, on reading his work, would come away not having a clue whether they agreed with him or not. He had that ability to concentrate the issues into an almost unbearable vice, demanding a response, be it passionate agreement, or ferocious antagonism.
It takes courage to do that. It opens one up to conflict, to ridicule, to the sudden losing of friends, and the gaining of enemies. In my own pathetic and inadequate way, I try in this blog to take on issues that in one way or another I’d rather leave alone, but which I cannot. Whether it’s my faith despite my inherent scepticism; my unswerving belief that racism is at the heart of our civil society now just as much as in the 1960s; my refusal to toe any party line; or my conviction that we are rushing headlong towards environmental catastrophe, fiddling whilst the planet burns – I want to set out the issues, and demand of myself, and of you the reader, that we put up or shut up.
I cannot even get close to Hitchen’s ability, but his inspiration flows through these posts like a hidden river. Thank you, Christopher, for not going gently into that good night.