Hitchens Dismissed Bermuda Proposal

December 16, 2011

“Vanity Fair” columnist, essayist and best-selling author Christopher Hitchens [pictured] — who has died at the age of 62 – once took exception to a suggestion from one of his mentors that Bermuda become the headquarters of a post-Commonwealth political and economic union of the world’s English-speaking countries.

Political commentator Robert Conquest — renowned for detailing the horrors of Stalinism to a largely oblivious Western world in the 1960s — said Bermuda would be the ideal host for such a new international body.

Hoover Institution scholar Mr. Conquest suggested such an organisation could better disseminate Anglo-American democratic and civic principles to the rest of the English-speaking world in his 2006 book “The Dragons Of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History,.”

“… He offers a detailed proposal for a broad Anglosphere alliance among the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean, with the multiethnic English-speaking island of Bermuda as the enterprise’s headquarters,” said Mr. Hitchens in a 2007 essay on the growing dominance of the English language as the international lingua fraca.

“Though he unfortunately does not include India, he does find it ‘perfectly conceivable that other countries particularly close to our condition might also accede — for example Norway and Gambia, in each of which English is widely understood and in each of which the political and civic structure is close to that of the rest of the states’.

“Quixotic as all this may sound, it probably understates the growing influence of English as a world language — the language of business and the Internet and air-traffic control, as well as of literature [or of literatures, given the emergence, first predicted by Orwell, of a distinct English written by Indians].”

While Mr. Hitchens agreed English was likely to remain the dominant international language of the 21st century and Anglo-American civic ideals would likely spread along with the language, he did not believe a global body based in Bermuda would accelerate either process.

“I myself doubt that a council of the Anglosphere will ever convene in the agreeable purlieus of postcolonial Bermuda, and the prospect of a formal reunion does not entice me in any case,” he said. “It seems too close to the model on which France gravely convenes its own former possessions under the narrow banner of ‘La Francophonie’.

“It may not be too much to hope, though, that, along with soccer and a famously pungent [swear word], some of the better ideas of [democracy] will continue to spread in diffuse, and ironic, ways.”

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