The hard way

New Criterion links to a San Francisco Chronicle interview with Christopher Hitchens in which he answers the question, “What kind of world do you want your children to inherit?” Hitchens replies:

Struggle. I think most people want their friends or family to have a peaceful future. I don’t think that’s possible or desirable. Far too much work is done to make children feel their world is safe and reassuring. That’s a tremendous waste of time for teachers, who should be spending time teaching poetry, history and science. For Valentine’s Day at school, my youngest daughter, who is 12, sends a Valentine and gets one. When I was a kid, it was a day of extreme anxiety and tension, as it can only be and should be. One: Will you get a Valentine at all? Second, will you know who it is from? Because it would mean someone had or hadn’t made an effort, and yours had already been sent. These anxieties are important. They prepare you for life. She gets a Valentine from the entire class. They might as well e-mail one from the headmaster to everyone. It’s painless. Excitement-free. Risk-free.

By turning against the left-liberal consensus, Hitchens has ensured plenty of struggle in his own life.

About Joanne


  1. Peter Bickford says:

    Whenever I see one of those “Celebrate Diversity” bumper stickers, I find myself thinking that “Celebrate Adversity” might be a more useful slogan…

  2. BadaBing says:

    Whenever I see one of those bumper stickers, I feel like pulling the pin on a grenade.

  3. I reserve the right to decide what is best for me, and that includes the amount of “excitement” in my life. I heard all these “suffering is great” pep-talks from William Shatner anyway, and it sounded better coming from him, than from Hitchens. Funny that most of the rajahs who tell that to their subjects live pretty comfortably themselves.

    Celebrate Neuroadversity Week

  4. Well…there’s struggle and then there’s struggle.

    I would not consider the whole Valentine’s day stressful “Am I going to get any Valentines” thing a major struggle in life (Although, I know it would have been a painful situation when I was a kid – I mean, I already knew I was Not Popular and that would have just kind of emphasized it, but still).

    I do think pampering kids too much, insulating them too much from “bad feelings” leads to adults with super-over-developed senses of entitlement and offense, people that aren’t particularly fun to be around.

    I would, however, consider the “struggle” one of my brother’s friends faced as the sort of struggle I would like to protect everyone from:

    Fled ethnic violence in his home country – doesn’t know to this day if his parents are still alive

    Wound up in a refugee camp

    Contracted malaria

    Suffered “mistreatment” (he didn’t go into details but I have my assumptions..) at the hands of bigger boys

    Got shipped off to a country where he didn’t speak the language

    Finally found a relative (his brother) and got “sponsored” to come to the US

    Attended high school here. (You think high school is stressful? Try it as an ESL person who’s been through trauma and is unfamiliar with the culture)

    Wound up working in a meat-packing plant to help put his brother through college…hopefully his brother will return the favor once he graduates.

  5. I agree with Riki,

    Besides, if students don’t have some struggle in their life, they’ll have nothing to write about on their college application essays.

  6. Yes, we do have to have some common sense about “struggle”. As Ricki has pointed out, there are a good many people who had it much worse, in other parts of the world.