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Desc:Short documentary by Christopher Hitchens from 1994.
Category:News & Politics
Tags:religion, Hitchens, christians, christopher hitchens, mother teresa
Submitted:StanleyPain
Date:02/15/10
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Comment count is 26
StanleyPain
Part 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKkcDgeYBdk

Part 3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGuzFUeDDgY

This is effectively a visual summary of his book "The Missionary Position" which is far more damning and goes into much more detail.
Bort
It could be that Mother Teresa was a monster, but I'll be damned if I'm going to turn to Christopher Hitchens for intellectual honesty or moral guidance. It's a given that the Catholic Church has done any number of indefensible things, but Hitchens' enthusiastic support for the Iraq War calls his basic respect for humanity into question, as well as the reliability of his facts.

And of course, any time an Englishman rails against the Catholic Church, it's fair to wonder how much of it is national prejudice. The Catholic Church certainly has a lot to answer for, but where's the denunciation of all that the Church of England endorsed under the British imperial flag? Both churches deserve to come under scrutiny, not just the one that wouldn't grant Henry VIII a divorce.
yeahjim
He may be a chubby, old-empire hypocrite, but he's often right.

DrVital
You forgot to mention misanthrope and raging alcoholic.

Ocyrus
Perhaps, but you are missing the point. Name for me, if you will, one single prominent 20th Century Anglican missionary that had anywhere near the publicity that Mother Theresa received.
I'm hearing crickets.
Hitchens attacked what was in plain sight. He went for an obvious and recognizable target. Now, if there were an Anglican analog, I might give your assertions more credibility, I'll wait for your response.
Also, you seem to question the validity of any of Hitchens' asserted facts simply upon the basis that he made certain calculations given the publicly accessible information on WMDs in Iraq. Was he somehow supposed to come to the same conclusion that you seek with a set of data points that begged for a contrarian position to your own, in light of your own beliefs about the set of facts?
Finally, Hitchens doesn't promote himself as a beacon of morality, he simply points out the recognizable and blatant contradiction between expressed faith and beliefs and the reality of the material situation at the heart of the matter.

Bort
Hitchens goes after the Catholic Church and its various representatives pretty often; his going after Mother Teresa is consistent with that. The fact that her role in things was specifically to be a missionary has little to do with anything, and I don't think it's important to identify an exact counterpart in the CoE to observe that Hitchens tends to give the CoE a pass.

Yes, I question the validity of any of Hitchens' asserted facts, not just because he supported the invasion of Iraq before it began but also because he kept stumping for the war long after it was revealed to be a mistake based on lies. He went along with the shifting rationalizations, rather than reject the war like an honest man would upon realizing he had been duped (or, to give him more benefit of the doubt than he deserves, upon realizing he was 100% mistaken). Of course the rat did finally flee the sinking ship years later, and in a showy fashion to give his heel-turn a veneer of credibility, by arranging a water-boarding so that he could play the sincere seeker of truth. I call bullshit.

Finally, whatever Hitchens promotes himself as, he plays fast and loose with the facts when it suits him. There's no reason to trust him even when he says the sky is blue; maybe he's right and it is blue, but then again maybe it's nighttime, or perhaps the day is overcast. But there's no point in believing a damn word Hitchens says; far better to ignore everything he says and ask someone who will give you an honest answer.

yeahjim
To be honest, Bort, I'd never considered that the waterboarding incident might be part of a well-conceived and utterly false public image shift. Maybe you're right. The more I think about it, the more I think it makes sense. Honestly.

And also it irked me that the guy was so armchair gung-ho about civilizing the Rest of Them without taking any real responsibility for all the irreparable damage done in the doing.

That said, regarding the war etc., I appreciated that he served as a rhetorical counterpoint to the radically progressive notion that all positive change from a demographic must come from within that demographic, by which I mean the notion that all outsiders to the Islamic world (a gross generalization in itself, but forgive me for the sake of brevity) must adopt an eternally patient, eternally supportive role to progressive elements within the Islam itself, while never directly intervening at the risk of imperialism. To me, this point of view smacks of the same kind of indifference to consequences which makes the Christian crusaders so terrifying - far more benign, but kinda the same absolutist, separatist methodology.

As to the Catholic thing, I don't even know what to say. Outside of the bible belt cults, Catholicism transforms cultures like no other flavor of Christianity. Some of that transformation amounts to laudable humanitarian work or something downright heroic. Some of it is horrible, backwards, and cruel; and it's ultimately on the heads of the people who do the propagating. God notwithstanding. You can't just take one element and shrug away the other.

Bort
I'm not in favor of shrugging away the harm that Catholicism does. But I don't trust Christopher Hitchens to impartially name the good and bad the Catholic Church does, and I wouldn't put it past him at all to do a hatchet job on Mother Teresa just because it suits him to do so.

My own (largely uninformed) take on Mother Teresa is that she was trying to do good in a part of the world that needed good done, but her Catholic frame of reference left her unable to see that the greatest amount of good can be done with birth control. I don't think that makes her a monster.

As for Hitchens, I don't believe he served as a rhetorical counterpoint to anyone except strawmen. If one wanted to talk about helping improve the condition of Iraq in 2002, the first thing to do was take a second look at sanctions: while the UN had the (sane) attitude that sanctions need to be applied until Iraq demonstrated weapons compliance, the US imposed the additional (insane) demand that sanctions would be applied until Saddam was out of power. This was through GHBush's and Clinton's terms, incidentally, and by 1995 or so the estimate was that sanctions had killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I think the most common progressive notion prior to the war was that, if we truly want to help the people of Iraq, the first thing to do is reassess sanctions so they wouldn't be simply a mechanism to brutalize another nation, and would maybe even give Saddam a little incentive to be more transparent. You don't on the one hand forcibly keep a country in the grip of poverty, and on the other hand claim you want them to thrive.

baleen

Mother Theresa's only goal was to give dignity to people who were literally rotting to death in the streets. If you've ever been to a 3rd world country and seen children sitting in their own piss covered rags with bloated bellies, slowly dying on the sidewalk, covered in flies, you might appreciate the sentiment.

Hitchens' only goal is to drink 12 year scotch and make $10,000 for every speaking gig he attends with the employment of butch casuistry and masterfully executed equivocation. If you follow Hitchens closely (I did for years before he began to make me ill) you will find that he often contradicts himself over time. He finds any way possible to avoid admitting that he has been wrong, and he has made a name for himself by lambasting sacred cows of all stripes. I often agree with him on many things (his attitude toward Noam Chomsky for one) which makes my disgust of him sort of tragic.

He's everything an intellectual shouldn't be.


Baron_Von_Bad_Beaver
When I was in Iraq back in 2008 I was stationed in the town of Ar Rutbah in the western Al Anbar province. The place was a definite third world kind of town with open sewage, piles of trash and packs of stray dogs lying near naked children who were throwing rocks at our patrol for not giving them candy.
The place was an honest to god shithole, most of their public utilities were in disrepair, brownouts and blackouts were almost routine and filthy, unfiltered water was carried into the city via trucks by private enterprises.
While I was there I got the feeling like we were simply trying to tidy the place up, keeping insurgents out and restoring a lot of the facilities that were probably operational before the invasion--it was as if the main policy was and still is a kind of 'peace with honor' approach, since our main task to bring the Iraqi police up to speed and then get the hell out of dodge and retreat into our camps, only coming out to do a task the police themselves couldn't do.
Anyway, what the fuck does this have to with Mother Teresa?

Camonk
Well, honestly, if any organization on Earth deserves to have baseless accusations flung at it by a drunk misanthrope fatty, it's the Catholic Church.

Bort
"The place was an honest to god shithole, most of their public utilities were in disrepair, brownouts and blackouts were almost routine and filthy, unfiltered water was carried into the city via trucks by private enterprises.
While I was there I got the feeling like we were simply trying to tidy the place up, keeping insurgents out and restoring a lot of the facilities that were probably operational before the invasion"

Iraq was fucked to hell and back by an invasion that Hitchens was a cheerleader for, yet he'll rail against a woman who tried to tend to the destitute in India (whatever flaws in her efforts we secular hippie types may detect). So you see what a reprehensible human being Hitchens is.

BTW, lots of utilities and public services were fucked in Iraq long before the invasion. Go sanctions!

lucienpsinger
I love Indian Roger Ebert at 4:58.
phalsebob
They're right, those destitute would be better off dying alone in a gutter. How dare she give them a cot and whatever pain meds she can scrounge up.
Rum Revenge
She could scrounge up a lot more if she wasn't spending all her donations on churches.

pastorofmuppets
I didn't think he could offend worse than with "the problem with female comediennes is they're all dykes and Jews," but goddamn him, he found a way.
StanleyPain
IN reference to some of the comments here:

1.) Attacking the messenger in this case seems to prove a lot of what Hitchens has said, at length, about the cult-ifictation of Teresa and critical attacks on religion in general. IN other words, there's lots of strawman attacks against Hitchens as a person, but very little in the way of trying to deny what he says is true. This is about Hitchens. IRAQ WAR HURGH BLURGH doesn't have anything to do with this. At all.

2.) If you think Teresa's organization is about giving dignity to dying poor people, you would be very wrong. One of her life-long obsessions was, effectively, giving souls to God. She believed that by harvesting up dying people and then allowing them to die in her Houses after having been given Catholic last rites and baptism (regardless of the religion of the person or whether or not they refused, this is well documented), she was upping the tally of souls in Heaven. This has NOTHING to do with actually giving anything to the poor, but rather in using them as a vessel for her beliefs that what she was doing was enabling God's work, etc.

pastorofmuppets
Hitchens is a professional troll. He gets paid to say and write things that will insult people and get him negative attention. Not only is he not above criticism, but the only thing that's consistent about his shtick is that he's unfair to his targets and doesn't check his facts.

Mother Teresa was not responsible for the problems with the Catholic Church, past or present. Mainly because she wasn't male, but also because she was too busy helping the poor and fucking needy.

Bort
That's a nice racket Hitchens has going: anyone who calls him on being factually unreliable must actually be a drone-like devotee of whatever target he's going after. And the logical fallacy you're searching for is "ad hominem", not "strawman". Although, in this case, it's not a fallacy: a man who is known to to stretch the truth and outright lie in order to support his pet conclusions, should be considered suspect as a source of information. Calling a liar a liar isn't ad hominem, it's just good sense.

I am willing to entertain the notion that Mother Teresa was a heartless monster, provided someone reliable (not Christopher Hitchens) brings the information forward. And yes, it wouldn't surprise me at all that Mother Teresa's ultimate goal was to bring souls to God so they could enjoy an eternity of happiness in heaven rather than roasting in hell ... that BITCH! (Imagine that, a nun being a devout Catholic. Maybe she should have worn a necklace or something to let people know she was religious.) That said, you cannot legitimately deny that her ministry also tried to offer material comfort even as it tried to bring spiritual salvation.

memedumpster
I want to see the Hitchens documentary about how that enlightened bastion of doctors who were only a cab ride away and possessed the powers of life and death just sort of let all that happen, even though people apparently knew about it. Where were they? Did Teresa have some kind alien forcefield technology around her hospice that doctors could not penetrate? Are doctors deathly allergic to outside and are thus trapped, godking-like, in their hospital fortresses?

Hitchens seems to cherry pick and isolate blame in a broad spectrum of powerful mistreatment of the poor. Apparently, the only ones to blame are Teresa and anyone with power Teresa ever talked to. I'm not saying he's wrong, only that his view of this is very myopic. I wish he had gone more into the history of poverty in the regions Teresa worked in relation to the modern class divisions which perpetuate them, but I can see how this could be problematic, because Teresa would have then been another victim of historical forces and not an intentionally monstrous hell-beast.
garcet71283
Are we all so far gone in modern society that the moment there is a shred of decency and good in the world we have to find a way to discredit it thereby making our own shallow and pointless existences a little more meaningful?
IrishWhiskey
Have we gone so far in our society that we can't acknowledge basic facts about flawed people for fear of tearing down false idols?

Having stumbled onto the video, I'm really surprised at the comments. I know lots of people aren't fans of Hitchens, but I was expecting "He's a jerk with a point" or "Even people who do good have flaws", not just flat denialism and name calling.

Mother Theresa withheld pain medicine from patients, because she thought suffering brought them closer to God. She counciled abused women to return to their husbands as God intended. She supported and endorsed brutal dictators in exchange for their money, much of which went to promotion of herself and the church rather than medicine. We don't condone doctors who negligently treat patience simply because it's better than them dying on the street, nor does Mother Theresa escape criticism for her actions. She called her hospices "Houses of the Dying", for good reason. Medical care wasn't the priority, missionary work was.

Bort
Can you source the thing about pain medications? I think I've found one anecdote from one doctor, that's it. While it's possible Mother Teresa was some sort of wild-eyed religious fanatic who had no regard for the suffering of the dying, that sure flies in the face of the fact that she was there at all, trying to tend to the suffering and the dying. Sounds more like the lurid gossip of people who love to demonize the religious ... but show me a good source and I'll consider it.

Syd Midnight
Lots of people are motivated to do good things because they expect some kind of reward after they die, if they didn't have that we'd probably have to lock them up. So just fucking deal with it, and be glad someone tricked them into not being 100% evil.
Syd Midnight
+2 stars because I forgot to 3 star it

William Burns
I will kiss Christopher Hitchens on the lips. Feel free to argue w/ me.
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