It is the making of a great tragic story. The son of a wealthy industrialist uses his privilege and his father’s vast amounts of capital to create an even larger corporate empire. He lives lavishly, jet setting around the world, and becomes a media mogul. Then in a twist of fate he is sent to jail. He then somehow emerges a victim of injustice. Television shows around the world air his grievances. The problem isn’t of his guilt although he might as well be guilty. The tragedy isn’t his circumstance. When millions of poor African Americans lay in prison in the U.S, tens of thousands of poor First Nations in Canada, a rich white male becomes the poster boy for a broken justice system.
Trained at the finest schools in Canada, never knowing hunger or insecurity, Black could do very little to jeopardize his future successes. His access to capital and his Upper Canada College, white male Tory pedigree gave him a fast track to the upper echelons of society. He never knew anything else, only entitlement and extravagance.
His politics followed his money and status. He would guide his media empire to support Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic as they ordered austerity on government services; sentencing millions to crushing poverty while increasing criminal sentences for poverty related offenses. He would even attack his own lower middle class workers, ripping away their relatively meager pension surpluses and putting them in his pocket.
In our Anglo-Atlantic context, he is a tragic figure. His success and power, unscathed and unchallenged by what little justice there is, represents the great inequality our society is built upon. He is not crippled by unpardoned criminal convictions like 3 million Canadians who, leaving jail poor, can also count on not getting a good job. The contrast between the poor millions of people; fathers, sons, daughters and mothers jailed for stealing to survive with their unheard stories of suffering, hardship, resistance and resilience, and Conrad Black parading on international news networks is sickening. Black represents everything wrong with society.
And it must be admired. It cannot be fathomed how someone who interacted so intimately with poverty could emerge so unchanged and so uncritical. It is mind boggling while he speaks about court injustice he can simply ignore inadequate social services and the cruelty of minimum sentences and diminished pardons. His exuberant resuscitation as a celluloid hero proves nothing of him as it does to our own decay.