Hitchens: ‘What does not kill us makes us weaker’

Since Christopher Hitchens’ death was announced last Thursday, fellow wordsmiths have been chronicling every word he wrote and said.

Whether you liked or detested the polemicist it would be foolhardy to deny his great literary and journalistic talents.

This afternoon I chose to reread “Trial of the Will” – the Vanity Fair article in which he positively rips to shreds Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

When I was a student and “part-time” activist the famous quote easily rolled of my tongue in company when the discourse turned to the great feats historical figures had achieved despite being severely disadvantaged.

I was also quick to repeat it like a nervous tick when friends would confide in me about a traumatic event they had experienced.

Looking back, I don’t think I actually believed the German philosopher’s claim.

It was more I wanted to believe human beings – including me – could triumph over any adversity.

Hitchens questions why he always thought Nietzsche’s saying was “profound”.

He is brutally honest about the indescribable pain he continues to suffer because of his esophageal cancer and the medical treatment administered to inhibit its march.

The 62-year-old notes that in this harsh world we live in harrowing experiences can “leave you considerably weaker”.


Labour needs less rhetoric and more policy


I have to say I was completely underwhelmed by Ed Miliband’s Labour Party Conference speech on Merseyside.


What was I expecting? Well, my first editor always repeated over and over again: “The devil is in the detail.”


Rhetoric is not what this country needs now. Job creation and a buoyant economy are at the forefront of people’s minds.


Only strong policies that deliver results will give him the prime ministerial air he desperately seeks.


Heather Stewart hit the nail on the head in her Guardian piece on big business, entitled: “End fast-buck culture? First, Miliband needs a revolution in business values”


She pointed out that Britain’s business model needed to be re-worked and “Miliband will need to translate his rhetoric into a detailed policy programme”.


Alistair Darling reveals all

Bitterness is so very unseemly.

This weekend Alistair Darling has managed to personify this most unpleasant characteristic.

Extracts from his memoirs on his time as Gordon Brown’s chancellor which are being serialised in the Sunday Times reveal just how much opprobrium he has been harbouring against the former Labour prime minister since he left office.

And, just in case anybody failed to get the message Brutus, sorry, Mr Darling ensured the blade penetrated as deep as possible by articulating how “hurt” he was to Andrew Marr this morning.

If his intention was to humiliate Mr Brown and provide the Tories with ammunition they can dine out on for a while, then he has succeeded.

Norwegian slaughter ‘reality check’

A week today 77 people – most of them teenagers – were slain in Norway.

The youngest was Sharidyn Svebakk-Boehn, who turned 14 just five days before the massacre.

Some of these victims were killed during a bomb blast in the country’s capital Oslo, the others were shot to death attending a youth camp run by the ruling Labour Party on the nearby island of Utoya.

The Norwegian right-wing extremist behind this atrocity Anders Behring Breivik has been described as probably insane by his defence lawyer.

I had BBC News 24 on in the background while doing some research when a breaking news flash revealed the drama that was unfolding in the oil-rich Christian country that is home to a population of 4.9 million people.

My body was instantly gripped by a visceral feeling of dread that I had experienced only twice before – 9/11 and 7/7.

When I sat down in front of the plasma screen, I spluttered: “Oh, no, not again.

Norway, why Norway?”

As it turns out, my utterances were not unique.

We are so programmed to assume that any incident of this nature has been carried out by islamic extremists.

As I watched television transfixed, I was overcome by feelings of sadness and helplessness.

Only at times like these does one realise that death is truly random.

It may be me or it may be you next.

Nationality, birthright, money, power and religion have absolutely no bearing at all when it comes to the randomness of life and death.

May they all rest in peace.