Kids playing touch football on the playground are likely to yell out the names of their favorite players when something particularly good happens. “Montana to Rice!” in my era and, if such things as touch football are still allowed at recess now, it’s probably “Rodgers to Jennings!”. Even as a kid, though, you know you’re dreaming, that the most active imagination is not sufficient to really put yourself there in front of 60,000 fans. It is among the most innocent, productive kinds of hero worship.
At that age, going to class is a constant reminder of the outside world and what will be expected of you, but for me and my friends “real life” truly started when we realized that we would not play professional sports. At 10 years old, or twelve or, (if you were really lucky) seventeen, came the realization that you were not, in Palahniuk’s words, “a beautiful and unique snowflake” and were destined to toil away without endorsement contracts and thousands of adoring fans. Far from a sob story, this is merely a part of growing up experienced by 99.99% of the population.
These were the type of thoughts in my mind when deciding to write Interloper. Who the fuck was I to write opinions and expect anyone to read them? The downside risk, while emotionally higher than you might think, was small enough to write anyway, but still, I consistently struggle from the same fear of conceit as on day one when I wrote the first post:
To construct your own corner of the Internet in blog form is to profess some knowledge or perspective that you believe unique – we must not hide from this. I have figuratively wailed and gnashed my teeth at this inherent self-indulgence but have, as you can see, come to terms with it. My conclusion in the end was that walking around with the conceit of a unique combination of experiences and thought process, and not testing this hypothesis by opening the results to virtual ridicule, represented a degree of ego defensiveness bordering on cowardice.
If Montana and Rice were the gods of 1980s touch football, Christopher Hitchens was the colossus of opinion writing. And if as a kid I played for the pure joy of sports and emulated its heroes, the blog could be an adult version of the same thing, with the delusions of grandeur largely rubbed away but with the same will to competence and competition. I can’t say that Hitchens was a particularly conscious influence, my blogging Joe Montana, although I avidly read and generally loved all of his essays that I came across. Even though I frequently disagreed with him in the same way I hated the 49ers, there was the same respect for an artist in their prime that superseded the exasperation. In hindsight, his writing must have had some effect, or at least provided support for a bias towards skewering popular falsehood and announcing the Emperor’s nudity. It is almost impossible to believe that the decision to attempt something is completely separate from exposure to its greatest living practitioner.
There are structures and theologies (to use the term loosely) within finance that deserve the torrent of ridicule Hitchens reserved for the hypocritically religious, Islamofascists and intellectually obtuse. The conceit that what hurts the financial industry by definition hurts America is a big one as are specific utopian parables like EMH and Modern Portfolio Theory. The many ways in which the finance industry manipulates its alleged clients by encouraging their “predictable irrationality” should be enough to keep me busy on their own.
In looking back at previous posts, the only similarity Interloper can claim with Hitchens’ work is that it is more against conventional financial wisdom and practices than for anything beyond looking at issues in a different way (a new realization that distresses me, btw). If at some future date I can do this with 20% of the master’s intellectual energy and erudition, I hope I remember to throw up my hands and yell “Hitchens!” no matter who’s watching. Whenever I consider patting myself on the back for successful contrarianism, I will try and remember that Hitchens spent a few hundred hours writing a book lambasting Mother Theresa. (I mean….DAAAMMNNN.)
Today is not the day to enumerate them, but I am well aware that Christopher Hitchens the person encompassed numerous flaws and excesses, as did his belief system. As someone who deeply respects the discipline of the devout, it was never a consideration to holistically adopt his philosophy anyway. But above everything else, from even this distant vantage point it was clear that he was a man bulldogging his way in search of objective truth, or his version of it, and truly did not give a fuck who’s feelings got hurt. That kind of courage, and more importantly the background labor necessary to develop it, is definitely something to aspire to.