Several times in the book he expresses his loathing of fanaticism, especially religious fanaticism, which in his account is a tautology. As a typical example he cites the Japanese suicide pilots at the end of World War II. In fact, many were not so much fanatical as in despair about a corrupt society going under in a catastrophic war. But if modern Japanese history must serve as a guide to our own times, Hitchens might have mentioned a different category of misguided figures: the often Marxist or formerly Marxist intellectuals who sincerely believed that Japan was duty-bound to go to war to liberate Asia from wicked Western capitalism and imperialism. They saw 1941 as their finest hour, the moment when men were separated from boys, when principle had to be defended, when those who didn’t share their militancy were disloyal weaklings. These journalists, academics, politicians, and writers were not all emperor-worshipers or Shintoists, but they were believers nonetheless. The man who emerges from this memoir is a bit like them: clearly intelligent, often principled, and often deeply wrongheaded, but above all, a man of faith.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Amid the hype over Christopher Hitchens' 'memoir,' Hitch 22, I think Ian Buruma's review in the New York Review of Books nails it. Entitled "The Believer," Buruma's rightly notes the provincialism of Hitchens' supposedly contrarian and cosmopolitan perspective. But most importantly, he points out the fundamentalist irrationalism lurking behind Hitchens' black-and-white universe wherein anything "religious" is ipso facto evil. Thus Buruma concludes: