I am a big admirer of the Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. He helped as much as anyone to make me a conservative. I read him, as a progressive, to be outraged by his opinions on gays and immigrants, and was taken aback to find a member of the hated outgroup opposing the Iraq War and defending civil liberties. As I read him more, as well as others on the right, I realised there was more to their opinions than I had assumed.
Some things frustrate me about his ideas. One is their pessimism. He thinks he is an “obituarist” of Britain for Britain will become “Hell” in a matter of decades. It will, in all likelihood, become an “Islamic country”. Young people should emigrate. “If I were young enough to seek a new life abroad,” he claims, “I would be busy doing so.”
I am not going to counsel optimism, but I think his despair is somewhat hyperbolic. Do we face an “unstoppable adaptation…to Islam”? Muslims are not even 10% of Britons. There is time for prominent columnists to oppose this “adaptation”. Even if there was no chance of salvaging value from Britain it would be noble to try. “Do not go gentle into that good night,” as Thomas wrote.
Yet what inspires the most energy from Hitchens? Marijuana. He is Britain’s lonely advocate for criminalisation. I do not smoke weed and am no expert on the consequences. It might trigger mental illness and that is a point worth making. But if Britain is going to be Hell is it a vital stand? If your country is doomed and you have no choice but to flee abroad you might as well get high. (That is a joke, yeah, but a small one.) Advocating war on drugs is just as much of a lost cause as any other Hitchens has. Why does he care so much?
Because drugs are his thing, I suppose. Because he has a lot of opportunities for arguments. Because he might convince a few young people not to hit the bong. There are worse things to do. But if one thinks one’s country faces its demise it is a peculiar hill to die on.