Lady Slatternly’s Lover

March is coming and with it the trial of Conrad Black. Racketeering, fraud, embezzelment, money laundering, insider trading – it promises to be a fascinating trial, due to the size of the crimes and the even bigger size of Black’s ego. Conrad Black is a Canadian icon, a man people love to hate. His fall from grace will thus garner much media attention. But there is more to this than just his Lordship.

This is a trial about someone who had more than most people could ever dream possible, and yet it was still not enough. It is a trial about a sense of entitlement and privilege that is so detached from the day-to-day reality of the masses. It is a trial of a common attitude among the rich that they are so much better than everyone else. This is reflected in the lavish and conspicuous consumption that has wrapped up pre-trial media coverage. For the wealthy, there is always a more expensive watch, handbag or piece of jewelry to be had, a more upscale house to be lived in, and a fancier party to be had. And it not so much about lording that over the servants or the middle class, but over peers who are also rich but perhaps not rich enough.

At least, that is the perception I got from attending Upper Canada College (on scholarship), and hanging around with my rich uncle’s family (the uncle has recently had his own fall from grace). I have had the experience of seeing wealth up close and it is much less pretty than it looks from the outside. Black, I should note, is also a UCC Old Boy, but one who did not graduate, as he has expelled for selling preview copies of an exam paper; an early indicator of both his entrepreneurial spirit and ease is taking that extra step over the line.

Policy suggestion: these people need to pay way more in taxes than they currently do. They would fiercely resist but I doubt a major hike in taxes would change their “work ethic” or their lifestyles one bit.

As a prologue to the trial, Black lashed out last week with an $11 million law suit against a biographer. Among other things, Black charges that:

… Mr. Bower’s book depicts his wife, Barbara Amiel Black, as “grasping, hectoring, slatternly, extravagant, shrill and a harridan.”

Slatternly? Harridan? How can it be libel if educated people do not understand the terms of accusation? Going to my Oxford Concise dictionary, “slatternly” basically means “slutty” though it sounds more upscale to me. A “harridan” is a haggard or ill-tempered old woman. Better keep the dictionary handy; the trail promises to boost my vocabulary even more.

Here’s another passage from the Globe story that shows the ego and the erudition:

Lord Black claims Mr. Bower “concocted a pre-conceived thesis that [Lord Black] is a criminal sociopath who, throughout his whole business career sought to enrich himself, in breach of the law, at the expense of his shareholders. [Lord Black], who has been regarded as one of the world’s most distinguished and successful newspaper publishers and respected financier, writer and historian, in recognition of which he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, a Privy Councillor of Canada, a life Baron of the United Kingdom and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (Holy See); is represented by [Mr. Bower] as having been incorrigibly and notoriously corrupt and dishonest, psychiatrically maladjusted, unrelievedly odious, in fact evil and devoid of any redeeming or even mitigating qualities.”

One comment

  • Black certainly sounds like a sociopath, which I think is the common ailment among these money and power-grubbers. And the “old money” types? They are just totally disconnected from the reality of 99% of the population, so are living in a fantasy world.

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