Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conrad Black and Canadian hospitality

The Harper government may be asked to grant Conrad Black permanent resident status in Canada after serving another eight months in a US prison. Black has said he’ll not apply to renew his Canadian citizenship as well.

Accommodating this one wish will not be an easy for Harper to do.

Black is not popular and likely never will be. Many leave Canada for more rewarding career opportunities in the United States. That’s part of the Canadian narrative, validating the self-denying virtues of those left behind. Black, among other things, surrendered his Canadian citizenship for a chance to be a more conspicuous snob – abandoning a country with a great future for the greater pleasure of dressing up in medieval costumes and mingling with the privileged in the British House of Lords.

But, supporting his request would be the right thing for Harper to do.

Black may be finished as a force in business but his mind is still an asset to the world of words. He not only tackles important ideas, he can drop one and pick up others. Taking him back would make Canada a little more interesting.

It would reflect well on Harper despite the cheap innuendos about patronage that have already been aired in a cheap column by The Globe and Mail’s Lawrence Martin. Click on:

Martin doesn’t venture to take a position personally. He simply tries to make it vastly more difficult for Harper to oblige.

“The Tories should welcome back Conrad Black,” he argues, because Black helped make the Conservative Party the success it is today. Tories may not like him or defend him in private, but they owe him big time.

This is underhanded and largely untrue.

Creating the National Post and, thereby, providing a platform for himself and many young conservative intellectuals helped establish a stronger place in Canadian journalism for public intellectuals, both of the left and the right. However, the improved capacity of right-wing intellectuals to challenge left-wing intellectuals has had little positive influence on the partisan fortunes of conservative politics in Canada.

Indeed, if anyone in the Nineties benefited from the higher profile of conservative thinkers like Black and his acolytes at the National Post it was Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Conrad Black’s exotic vocabulary, belittling lectures and Yankee flag-waving, in fact, made it sexy for Jean Chretien to have no serious idea at all.

By the time Black left Canada to become a British citizen in 1999—nearly five years before Harper became leader of the new Conservative Party and seven years before he became Prime Minister—Parliamentary conservatives had been branded as un-Canadian yahoo Republican extremists.

In the crass partisan terms Lawrence relies on to anticipate Harper’s every move, it is Chretien who should invite Black back.

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