If Harper is Statesman of the Year, then it must be 1984

George Orwell taught us that sometimes, with the right reinforcement, war is peace.  This week, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation in New York proved that they were paying attention when they declared Stephen Harper World Statesman of the Year.

This announcement comes a few days after Canada decided to cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran. Regardless of what you may think of the Iranian regime (I for one think it’s rather shitty), such a bafflingly bold move is at best counterproductive and at worst a provocation.

No matter how you cut it, though, a deliberate decision to close all diplomatic channels is not very diplomatic. For me, a statesman (or stateswoman) should be a diplomat first and foremost.

To be fair, though, the foundation probably chose to give their award to Harper before his government announced its plans for Iran. That means they looked at the rest of his record.

And what a record it is. Let’s see, he formally pulled out of Kyoto, effectively backing out on Canada’s commitment to the international community. He also lost a bid for a seat on the UN Security Council, not a very proud day for Canada or something a statesman would want to put on his CV.

Beyond that, well, there really isn’t much to mention internationally, except maybe for how he annoyed a bunch of politicians in Europe. Harper’s record at home doesn’t help him either—an embarrassment actually.

A decade ago, American tourists were pinning the maple leaf to their backpacks when they travelled around Europe. Now, that’s not the case, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Canadians were now doing the opposite. That’s Harper’s record as a statesman.

And then there’s his unquestioning, unwavering support for Israel, no matter what their government does to the Palestinians. Oh wait, that’s exactly why Harper is getting this award.

New York rabbi Arthur Schneier, the foundation’s founder, admitted that it was a major factor in selecting Harper, while claiming that his organization was not a one trick pony. Given the rest they had to go on, or rather the lack of tangible reasons to pick Harper, I beg to differ with Schneider’s assertion.

So that explains why Harper is getting this award, but it doesn’t explain why he is accepting it, or rather when he is accepting it. He’ll grab his trophy when he heads to New York this month and skip out on a chance to speak to the UN general assembly to do so.

Call me old fashioned, but wouldn’t you think that a world statesman would rather spend his time speaking to a roomful of active players on the world stage than getting a pat on the back from a banquet hall full of former players and politically like-minded people? It seems like Harper is more interested in playing the statesman to his friends then actually being one for everybody.

While the headline that Harper will be named World Statesman of the Year smacks of 1984, the reality of his decision to accept the award the way he will is not so much Orwellian as it is very high school and kinda lame.

* Image by Sherwin Arnott

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  • Statesmen appeal to the best in their citizens. They pull society together, not set people against each other. One thinks of Churchill or FDR. Harper appeals to the most base (basist?) in our society. And that’s just at home, never mind on the world stage.

    • He is pulling Canadians together, it is just that it is opposition to his bully-boy tactics, not because of his leadership.

  • Repost from Chris Hedges (Pulitzer Prize winner and former war
    correspondent for the New York Times):

    Harper is a poster child for corporate malfeasance and
    corporate power, just sort of dismantling everything that’s good about Canada. So he’s the kind of species that rises to
    political power and is utterly subservient to corporate interests at the
    expense of the citizenry.

    Yeah, he’s a pretty venal figure.


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