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Envy, defeat, scadenfreude, revenge and redemption

Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel are pictured in June 1996 at a party at the Cafe Royal



Barbara Amiel retorts today in the pages of the Daily Mail.

“At times I was suicidal, but Conrad’s intuition and business skills had not deserted him. Incredibly, my husband raised a cash income of around half a million a year. Then he was on to a new business venture in Europe.

He was back in the game. Each week he looked irritatingly younger. For Conrad, the best revenge really was to enjoy life.

For me — soon to be 80 — the only revenge would be to see our persecutors guillotined. I have worked out 1,001 ways to see them die, beginning with injecting them with the Ebola virus and watching.

I do think the legal profession — and my experience of this was greatest in Canada — is a deplorable profession. If it were possible to have a society of laws without lawyers, I’d recommend disbarment for 90 per cent of them and the strangulation at birth of any infant whose parents wish the baby to go in that direction. An impossible dream.”


“Everyone counsels against revenge, even Saddam Hussein.”


Saddam Hussein talked to the young man whose father Saddam  had had killed. He said to the young man: “Do something else with your life. The line-up of people who want me dead is a million people long. Don’t waste your life standing in that line.” The kid took his advice, emigrated from Iraq and became a success. Saddam only died once.

“Revenge is barren of itself: it is the dreadful food it feeds on; its delight is murder, and its end is despair.”

Friedrich Schiller

“We should forgive our enemies, but not before they are hanged”
― Heinrich Heine

“When you begin a journey of revenge, start by digging two graves: one for your enemy, and one for yourself.”
― Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes


Why Quebec drives liberals bonkers

Most English Canadians find aspects of Quebec’s political culture to be tribalist. Here I would like to insinuate a subversive thought. Maybe Quebec is on its way to solving problems of identity and belonging in a way that is direct and effective. Moreover I think its policies are designed to establish a state based on values rather than ethnic identification. In a curious way, Quebec may be handling its problems of declining birthrate by telling people who wish to immigrate that democratic behaviour and attitudes is part of the deal.

Quebec’s decision to impose a values test on immigrants is a sign that intends to ensure that every immigrant is on notice that democratic and peaceful behaviour is expected. Sure, people can cheat on the test. They can fake attitudes they do not have. Any such test is open to guessing the right answer and giving what the immigrant thinks the government wants to hear. But what is so bad about that?

Denmark has tests for immigrants. The United States has tests for immigrants. Moreover, as states move way from unity through ethnic uniformity to unity through shared values, there is no way to escape the question of values. The United States is a country founded on shared values, not shared ethnicity. As other societies move from kinship to common values as the basis of adhesion, they too have to start talking about a language of values, rather than assume belonging through kinship.

And then the old Quebec rears its ugly head. “Bonjour- hi”, which is the practical response to serving the customer in his language, is condemned by politicians. Quebec is open and tolerant, as long as the issue is not about the use of English. The shared values are expected to include a measure of adhesion to the French language. This is the source of English Canada’s eternal disagreement with Quebec, because it does not respect Quebec’s pretensions to control the language of public discourse. Quebec has won every legal battle in its drive to suppress the use of English and, by inevitable consequence, the number of people living in Quebec who identify as English-speaking Quebecers. While Quebec is right to insist on a values test, the language conflict colours English Canada’s interpretation of what Quebec does.