The firing of columnist Rick Salutin by the Globe and Mail is disturbing for many reasons not least of which is there was no reason given. And that, of course, is the nature of power -- it doesn't have to give any reasons. Those with power use it because they can. Full stop. (I've always wondered about that popular slogan -- Speak truth to power. We've been doing that for years and they don't give a shit. That's what power means -- they don't have to listen).
Not many columnists in this country have achieved icon status but Rick Salutin is one of them. There are also not many touchstones for progressive Canadians still intact -- things that give us some comfort that the world hasn't completely fallen apart, at least not yet. Every time I hear the theme music to As it Happens, I get that feeling -- or when I go to the doctor and don't have to pay and he doesn't get a bonus for denying me service.
Rick's column was like that. He may well be the best in the country. Each time I saw that column in the Globe -- a hard-line neo-liberal paper in most ways -- it allowed me to believe progressive voices were still part of the mainstream debate -- a place at the table that we might be able to expand. The sheer breadth of his commentary is amazing -- economics, politics, culture, cities, philosophy, the nation. And in all of it he was an original thinker -- not "derivative of anyone" as some else said today. He challenged, provoked us into thinking beyond conventional progressive ideas and ways of seeing. He was tough but never shrill and rarely really angry -- just dead on the money. When you read Rick Salutin you feel like you still live in Canada.
That the Globe would fire him is indicative of the final stage of the Canadian political and economic elite's betrayal of the country's traditions and values. It's all just business now and anything that isn't business -- certainly anything that questions it's "natural" dominance -- is simply dispensable. I can just imagine the suits at the Globe having a brief conversation about Rick's column: "By the way, why are still publishing Rick Salutin?" Long silence. "Rick who?" I wonder if any of these guys ever even read him. It reminds me of a Star Trek episode where a representative of a race completely dedicated to trade and commerce, looks at Captain Picard who is trying to engage him in civilized conversation and says "Why are we speaking?"
Indeed, why are we speaking?
Our elites are now so far gone that even the total discrediting of their ideology -- that which gives meaning to their power -- has no moderating effect. It is a Quisling elite and though I can't say with any knowledge that it is the worst in the Western World, I can't imagine any other that is so casually complicit in the dismantling of their own country. As that process goes on apace (the imminent sell-off the Saskatchewan Potash Corporation being one example) dissenting voices with a passion for community and caring and democracy seem irrelevant. Only in a nation does a diversity of views actually matter. For the suits, the deal was signed long ago -- it's just taking a while to implement it down to the last remaining article.
We should demand the Globe reinstate Rick Salutin. Some of us are still speaking.
[The Globe's Editor in Chief is John Stackhouse: ]
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