This report of traumatic life experiences and how they affect people’s ability to cope is ripe for misinterpretation. Traumatic Experiences May Make You Tough
Your parents were right: Hard experiences may indeed make you tough. Psychological scientists have found that, while going through many experiences like assault, hurricanes, and bereavement can be psychologically damaging, small amounts of trauma may help people develop resilience.
“Of course, everybody’s heard the aphorism, ‘Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger,’” says Mark D. Seery of the University at Buffalo. His paper on adversity and resilience appears in the December issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. But in psychology, he says, a lot of ideas that seem like common sense aren’t supported by scientific evidence.
Indeed, a lot of solid psychology research shows that having miserable life experiences is bad for you. Serious events, like the death of a child or parent, a natural disaster, being physically attacked, experiencing sexual abuse, or being forcibly separated from your family, can cause psychological problems. In fact, some research has suggested that the best way to go through life is having nothing ever happen to you. But not only is that unrealistic, it’s not necessarily healthy, Seery says.
In one study, Seery and his colleagues found that people who experienced many traumatic life events were more distressed in general—but they also found that people who had experienced no negative life events had similar problems. The people with the best outcomes were those who had experienced some negative events.
The Goldilocks threshold for life experience is best. I can see well, and not so well meaning parents or older siblings creating hardships for children because they need them in order to properly develop psychologically. That is not necessary, while I had the unfortunate experience of working or going to school with people who have had remarkably sheltered lives – to such an extent that anything negative that happens becomes a big drama – life just has built in trauma. A friend or family member will get very sick or die. A pet’s illness is sometimes a child’s first introduction to the realities of mortality. While back in the hazy days of post WW II America people worked for forty years for the same company and retired, modern times have a built in economic uncertainty. While ye good old days had their issues – see Death of a Salesman, too many people with too much uncertainty about providing oneself with the basic necessities can rob a society of its hopes and dreams. Even my chain smoking crankiest acquaintances have hopes of some kind for the future.
Artificially creating rough experiences seems like piling on, as one enters school and the world of work there seems to be a plentiful supply of people who will do their best to bring out the insecurities of others. As coworkers and classmates they can be a nuisance, as supervisors and teachers they can be hell. When other people are not in the mix, nature by way of illness and natural disasters will tend to take up any lack. So those people who manage to have arrived, at say, to their late twenties with very little experience in the way of life’s hard knocks are very lucky and very unprepared.
It was my impression that Christopher Hitchens wanted to be his generation’s George Orwell. Both in terms of intellectual depth and influence. With goals such as that one’s work is more likely to fall more on the side of failure than success. Even with what appeared to have been some very sincere efforts at seriousness and possessing the knowledge of where his beliefs might fall on history’s grand scale, Hitchens could not quite make the climb. When Hitch was wrong – He was disastrously wrong
The late Christopher Hitchens had the professional contrarian’s fixation on attacking sacred cows, and rather soon after his cancer diagnosis, he became one himself. I think he would’ve been disgusted to see too much worshipful treacle being written about him upon his untimely death, so let’s remember that in addition to being a zingy writer and masterful debater, he was also a bellicose warmongering misogynist.
Upon the death of the unlamented Earl Butz, Hitchens excoriated editors who published sanitized obituaries of a man remembered solely for a vulgar racist remark made in public. Hitchens leaves a rather more varied legacy, but it’s just as important not to whitewash his role in recent history.
There was no more forceful intellectual voice in support of the Iraq War than Hitchens. There were others who were more prominent, more influential or more persuasive, but Hitchens was the perfect shill for an administration looking to cast its half-baked invasion plans as a morally righteous intervention, because only he could call upon a career of denunciations of totalitarianism and defenses of human rights. (The fact that the war was supposed to be justified by weapons Saddam was supposedly developing didn’t really matter to Hitchens.)
Hitchens was ideed not Orwell. Not even Orwell could push a nation to war. That is not how it works and Hitchen’s fans are feigning a terrible case of naivete to think otherwise. Hitchens was part of a chorus of voices. When he was part of the chorus his followers thought he was tremendously important and many are now claiming that what he said hardly mattered. It is true that for many people, like myself, nothing that Hitchens said mattered, even when I somewhat agreed with something he wrote. he was all over the place from being a Trotskyite and Bill Clinton hater to kissing George W. Bush’s ass so often we’ll probably find the lip prints when Bush kicks off. One of his most lauded pieces by the Right was for the far Right Weekly Standard ( Bill Kristol’s yellow rag) called A War to Be Proud Of. Hitchens was a far better prose stylists then I’ll ever be, but for an intellectual so could someone make so many variably false statements about Iraq in one column. Throw in a couple wacky urban conspiracy theories to boot. In disgusting Mitchens and how we’re supposed to talk about the death and legacy of public figures Glenn Greenwald writes in Christopher Hitchens and the protocol for public figure deaths
Corey Robin wrote that “on the announcement of his death, I think it’s fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most: speak for himself,” and then assembled two representative passages from Hitchens’ post-9/11 writings. In the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket (“those steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side and through somebody else. So they won’t be able to say, ‘Ah, I was bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway through.’ No way, ’cause it’ll go straight through that as well. They’ll be dead, in other words”), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his reaction to the 9/11 attack was “exhilaration” because it would unleash an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call “Islamofascism”: “I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost.”
Hitchens, of course, never “prosecuted” the “exhilarating” war by actually fighting in it, but confined his “prosecution” to cheering for it and persuading others to support it. As one of Hitchens’ heroes, George Orwell, put it perfectly in Homage to Catalonia about the anti-fascist, tough-guy war writers of his time:
As late as October 1937 the New Statesman was treating us to tales of Fascist barricades made of the bodies of living children (a most unhandy thing to make barricades with), and Mr Arthur Bryant was declaring that ‘the sawing-off of a Conservative tradesman’s legs’ was ‘a commonplace’ in Loyalist Spain.
The people who write that kind of stuff never fight; possibly they believe that to write it is a substitute for fighting. It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front-line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda-tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.
I rarely wrote about Hitchens because, at least for the time that I’ve been writing about politics (since late 2005), there was nothing particularly notable about him.
I understand the attraction to people who are lose cannons. They just fire off stuff from their laptops that manages to piss off just about everyone. Some people that do it obviously revel in it – note Bill O’Reilly’s almost perennial snide smirk. Its not even an expression anymore, it has become part of his facial structure. The same is true to a large extent for Hitchens. He became more addicted to the reaction of what he wrote than to the substance. he wrote early on in his American career for The Nation ( who has a collection of his old essays up). Hitchens may end up staking out some memorable ground in the history of poltics. I doubt it. Others have written better and stood up more consistantly for the values that Hitchens started out with and lost.
Much of Greenwalds’ post is obviously about the protocol for writings about the dead. he differentiates between public and private figures. It is hardly surprising that Hitchens apologists are trying to use some very hypocritical shame to defend Hitchens. This is one of Hitchens pieces on the death of a friend – Farewell to Flashman, The singular creation of George MacDonald Fraser, 1925-2008.
In later years, and partly for purposes of tax exile, Fraser withdrew to the Isle of Man: one of the better-preserved of the British Isles and a place which reminded him, as he said, of England as it used to be. I talked to him by phone on his 80th birthday–“Same day as Charlemagne, Casanova, Hans Christian Andersen, and Kenneth Tynan,” as he stoutly told me–and found him suitably reactionary. In 1969, when Flashy first stepped onto the page (or should I say back onto the page where Thomas Hughes had left him?), it would have been well-nigh impossible to imagine that British soldiers would be again in action in the historic battle-honor territories of Afghanistan and Mesopotamia. But now that they were back, George MacDonald Fraser was not in the least bit delighted: “Tony Blair is not just the worst prime minister we’ve ever had, but by far the worst prime minister we’ve ever had. It makes my blood boil to think of the British soldiers who’ve died for that little liar.”
It is an illustration of historic irony, and of the bizarre operations of fortune’s wheel, that that very tone of voice should now be an indicator of the outlook of the British Right.
In an otherwise fairly complimentary piece about the passing of a friend Hitchens could not resist taking a dig at him for not agreeing with Hitchens about Iraq. Hitchens lived by the cynical, dishonest and petty obsession with having the last word; Hitchens should have expected that some people would notice such when he died. Christopher Hitchens’ Unforgivable Mistake ( several Hitchens acolytes in the comments section)
It was something else for 113,000 civilians who died in the chaos unleashed. The great tragedy of Hitchens’ life was that, toward its end, he aligned himself so stridently with the very fools, cowards, and charlatans who most desperately invited exposure by his prodigious skills as butcher. How can someone who devoted so much of his life to as noble a cause as destroying the reputation of Henry Kissinger blithely stand shoulder to shoulder with Rumsfeld?
People make mistakes. What’s horrible about Hitchens’ ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made.
All of Hitchens – frequently bizarre defenses of the invasion of Iraq – can be condensed to the burn down the house theory of humanitarian intervention: Sure we burned down the house, everything in it, including half the family, but dammit we killed those two rats. Cost versus benefit was apparently more math than Hitchens could handle.