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"Whatever disunites man from God, also disunites man from man...When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
Edmund Burke


Prison Fails to Contain the Exceptional Aspirations of Our Land’s Most Illustrious Living Son

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Upon recently hearing the news that British Lord Conrad Black has been re-sentenced to thirteen months more in US prison after all but two to the charges he was convicted on have been dropped, I have decided to re-post this piece I wrote several years ago. The article is as a true today as it was when I wrote it.

Prison Fails to Contain the Exceptional Aspirations of Our Land’s Most Illustrious Living Son

Graham J. Sproule

[Posted on the Facebook Group 'Canadian Conservatives' on November 23rd 2008]

"My son, seek thee out a kingdom equal to thyself; Macedonia has not room for thee." - Plutarch, The Parallel Lives, The Life of Alexander

His fellow inmates content themselves with the daily regimen prescribed for prison life, but Canadian-born Baron Black of Crossharbour has resolved that his current life in prison will be as extraordinary as the life he has always led. And while most of his fellow inmates don’t think far beyond when they will eat for their next meal, he considers his time by using his talents for writing and teaching history. Even back in his grade school while most of his peers were content to follow the established guidelines, Lord Black the student was exceptional for crossing these boundaries with the sheer breadth and scope of his aspirations. Later in life he would cast some light on his intransigence in stating that "The destructive fixation of the envious English-Canadian mind requires that the highest, happiest most agile flyers be laid low. [It is] a sadistic desire corroded by soul-destroying envy, to intimidate all those who might aspire to anything the slightest exceptional."

Having been thus set above his peers so early in life, he firmly resolved that no man impede the illustrious stature to be afforded him by destiny. This resolution proved to be prophetic when he found his path to peerage in the British House of Lords obstructed by a man who also happened to be the Prime Minister of Canada. The Prime Minister’ bitter refusal made the country with the second largest land mass in the world a prison for Lord Black. So like a great Macedonian before him, he left across the sea one day to forge a greater empire for himself. Lord Black would later recall that "[Leaving Canada has been] my gesture against the condition Irving Layton described 35 years ago as the Canadian political and intellectual communities' tendency to regard ‘cowardice as wisdom, philistinism as Olympian serenity and the spitefulness of the weak as moral indignation. Surely we, or as I must now say, with some regret, you, can do better than this."

How Lord Black fell from grace as chief executive officer of Hollinger Inc, the world’s third largest media empire in its day, to prisoner at home in Florida Federal Correction Complex within the span of four years has all the makings of a Shakespearean drama. Once deriding media journalists as “ignorant, lazy, opinionated, intellectually dishonest, and inadequately supervised”, it is little wonder that the recent news that he’s filed for clemency from President Bush has elicited a profligacy of outrage by media punditry across both sides of the Atlantic. And not unlike an old feudal baron from whom his title derives, Lord Black prefers to expand his estate by relying on his own wits rather than any pretense or augmentation of good will. Contemptuous of modern public relations gimmicks like corporate governance, he nonetheless concedes a prison of his own making, stating: "I have no doubt that mothers in America use my name to frighten their children into finishing their vegetables."

Hearing the recent statements from his former company, now renamed The Sun-Times Media Group, one can detect the apparent surprise from the baron’s foes that he has not acquiesced to the confines of his imprisonment. Their surprise betrays their profound ignorance of a man for whom the numerical strength of his adversaries is surpassed only by his extraordinary life accomplishments. As it has been all his life, his exceptional aspirations have only been illuminated and not darkened by imprisonment. Indeed, if the envy of the world cannot contain these aspirations of Lord Black, there is absolutely no reason to believe that our land will contain anything more than the coffin of her most illustrious living son. As he has said, "It will startle and disappoint an entire burgeoning industry of pundits, eulogists and curio-vendors, but I'm far from dead….When everyone is finished dancing on my grave, they may be disconcerted to find I am not in it." 


Read this excellent article by my favourite columnist, David Warren: Guilty of Being Conrad Black