long goodbye to an era

As Tony Blair retires, there is just so much to read about him -- good and bad.

It's difficult, as a Canadian, to judge his legacy fairly. When I was still a university student, he seemed something of a political hero for the lefties in the crowd. Or perhaps those who longed for principles in politics, rather than back-room fights over when the prime minister of the day would retire and whether his finance minister could push him out. Little did we know the exact same fight was happening in the United Kingdom, with totally different accents. When Blair was scheduled to visit Ottawa, hipsters and politicos, young and old, genuinely looked forward to his arrival. What would he say? What would he do?

But then, there was Iraq. Why did he do it? What did he see that we couldn't?

For months now, I've been carrying around Our Common Interest, a 151-page argument for Africa -- including recommendations -- written by a commission of Western and African politicians.

It reads like a Blair speech, the kind that gives you hope rather than making you look under the bed for weapons of mass destruction.

At once enlightening (did you know the United States will get 25 per cent of its oil from Africa in the next decade? or daily subsidies for cows in Japan are quadruple the average earnings of an African citizen?), the book also reads really well. Yes, there are moments one feels like she is reading a particularly engrossing political science term paper. But it's worth it.

Read this:

Africa's journalists have a crucial role in holding the government to account and exposing corruption and inefficiency. But at present its journalists are not sufficiently free or professional. They need more training, in both journalistic techniques and professional ethics. African governments can assist media independence by granting commercial licences for radio stations to compete with the state-owned stations from which most Africans get their news. Journalists and editors in other countries could assist here too. (p. 42)

  • Speaking of politicians who could make you believe once upon a time, whether you were politico or hipster, two months ago Douglas&McIntyre released an updated version of Pierre Trudeau and Jacques Hebert's Two Innocents in China. I've yet to read it. But this review, written seven years ago, certainly bears consideration.

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