A map of the world that does not include Utopia, said Oscar Wilde, is not worth glancing at. A noble sentiment, and a good thrust at the Gradgrinds and utilitarians. Bear in mind that Utopia itself was a tyranny and that much of the talk about the analgesic and conflict-free ideal is likewise more menacing than it may appear…. It is only those who hope to transform humans that end up burning them, like the waste product of a failed experiment.
..only an open conflict of ideas and principles can produce any clarity. Conflict may be painful, but the painless solution does not exist and the pursuit of it leads to the painful outcome of mindlessness and pointlessness..
Perfectionists and zealots can break but not bend; in my experience they are subject to burnout from diminishing returns or else, to borrow Santayana’s definition of the fanatic , they redouble their efforts just when they have lost sight of their ends.
For the dissenter, the skeptical mentality is at least as important as any armor of principle.
Disjointed excerpts from Christopher Hitchens Letters to a Young Contrarian
HKO comment: Hitchens notes that calls for unity and non partisan approaches are naïve and nonproductive. It is the conflict that clarifies and illuminates . Political correctness that effectively forbids speech that offends does little to further clarity. It is often in the defense of one’s position that one is able to clarify it.
But much of what passes for today’s political discourse is just cheap shots seeking to damage rather than clarify. Opposing views rarely engage each other because they rarely occupy the same intellectual space. Liberals talk to each other in their media and conservatives in theirs. They seek to confirm their existing biases rather than to challenge them. Missions are rarely clear and assumptions are rarely questioned. They both get so enamored with the fight that they forget that winning is the objective.
Hitchens notes that some opinions are condemned as generating “more heat than light”, but without heat there is no light.