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Rozmowy z Historią: Christopher Hitchens

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Conversations with History Presents A Dissenting Voice: Christpher Hitchens, Writer. April 25, 2002. Presented by The Institute of International Studies, The University of California at Berkeley. Series Host: Harry Kreisler. Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Christopher Hitchens a man of letters He writes a regular column for Vanity Fair and for The Nation. He's the author of numerous books. Most recently, "Letters to a Young Contrarian," and "Unaknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere." He is the 2002 Sanford Elberg lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. Christopher, welcome back. Thanks for having me and nice to be back. Where were you educated? Well, first at a series of boarding schools for boys I was sent off when I was about seven to boarding school. That was because our family kept moving around. The first place I remember actually is [MORTON ?], when the British Navy still had a big base in [VALETTA ?] Powerfully influenced me, I think. My first memory is the grand harbor at Valetta because I've always spent a lot of time in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and always felt kind of happy there. And maybe it's because of this first memory. But anyway, we kept shifting. so boarding school was the solution in those days. I was the first member of my family to go to a private school. One of these was a school basically for children of officers of Navy and Army people. On [DARTHMORE ?] Then I went to another boarding school, a methodist one, in Cambridge between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. And then I got [...] to Oxford University to read Philosophy. In England this is called a conventional education I think for the reason that it applies to only about one-and-a-half percent of the population. You've called yourself a rooted cosmopolitan. and you speak of a potentially democratic and cosmopolitan patriotism This in a way hearkens back to this background you've just described. Yes, I can't believe, especially when you put it like that, that it does not in some way, because if you're partly English Well, I suppose in a way I'm wholly English One of the things about that is you don't have much of an identity crisis. I don't know why it is but we don't. In fact, the term is thought rather laughable in English life. But if you have an admixture of refugee rootless cosmopolitans in your life and in your family background and if main your impulse, as mine was, - I discovered quite young - to move to the United States. Somehow, I always knew I wanted to do that I felt I had been born in the wrong country even though I love it and feel at home there. Yeah, this is having both roots and cosmopolitanism. I think, by the way, everyone should be so lucky. That's how I hope Globalization plays out That everyone knows where they come from and are secure in that knowledge but nobody has to stay put if they don't want to. Can you tell us about any politically formative experiences? Early in your life, whether before you went to college or after you were at university, that really pointed you on the trajectory that your politics took? Well, the background noise to my childhood was the collapsing scenery of the British Empire The last stages of it And the subsequent defeat in 1964 when I would have been, I suppose, fifteen. I'm born in '49. of the long, long reign of the postwar conservative party and the way I approached that was as follows: My parents have been, especially my father, ...very conservative, but as far as I can see they got nothing out of being conservative. It's rather as if they were being taken for a bit of a ride by the monarchy, the empire, the Tory party and so on. ..cast system. I couldn't see where they got their share of it. So I had a rather pitying attitude to their party, I suppose. And I think that, therefore, must have influenced me in looking as soon as I was old enough to make any inquiries. to the left, for company and for solutions. And, on the whole, finding them. Particularly reading the novels of George Orwell about the lower middle class and I remember it impressing me very much. This guy knows what it feels like in my family and he sees the contradiction. But there wasn't a formative moment when a damascus moment, I don't think. I can't remember deciding after reading a book by Arthur [KOERSTLER?] when I was quite young about capital punishment, that I was very much opposed to the death penalty. That's my first conscious political decision. And, I didn't realize, but that was going to put me at odds with the milieu in which I've been put up. You, in your new book, you call yourself a contrarian Well, my publisher does. Your publisher does, OK, but in accepting that label you seem to be saying you're born to it. It's in you, to be that way. Is that true? I mean, do you feel that about yourself? Forgive me a moment of vanity; Part of that book .... consist of an argument with my publisher about why I still think the title sucks. Because I think the word 'contrarian' has something cringe-making about it. It's a bit like being a licensed jester, or permitted awkward customer, bad boy, loose cannon. Although we have an interesting wealth - interesting to me- a profusion of condescenting terms. We do have for dissent. But as I also point out, if you say you're a dissident you're claiming a term of honor that you can't just claim, you have to earn. However, yes, the oppositional character I'm certain is innate in some people. I'm not sure if it's innate originally in all people and only manifest in some. I couldn't say. But I do know for certain that it was innate in me. And that I seem to have found going through life; I naturally meet other people who feel the same. It's very difficult to explain. But you [?] symptoms of a fellow sufferer when you encounter one. I know you don't like to be put in a political generation. So let me ask you, How do you think you were affected by the '60s? I think I have no choice but to put myself in a political generation. But I'm glad you say the '60s because I've always thought that I whish I could find out the name of the person that said that of all the kinds of human solidarity the generational is the lowest. Because what do you have to do except have a [?] of birth? I mean, to be a '60s person, all you have to do is be born in a certain year. Like [?] wine, except not as good. To be a sixty-eighter, a [Soison vitare?] you have to be someone who somehow felt or saw the '68 crisis coming was in some way ready for it, or was totally swept up in it; realized that here was a crux moment, a hinge year.

Video Details

Duration: 58 minutes and 9 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 117
Posted by: sixfootpole on Sep 1, 2009

W tym wydaniu Rozmów z Historią Harry Kreisler z UC Berkley rozmawia z pisarzem Christopher Hitchens o pisaniu, opozycji, i wyzwaniach sprzeciwiania się ikonom kultury.
Seria: "Conversations with History" [8/2002] [Public Affairs] [Humanities] [Show ID: 6725]

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