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Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of the Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
Author Margaret Atwood meets with members of the Globe and Mail's editorial board to talk about culture and upcoming federal election. (Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

At the editorial board

Margaret Atwood at the editorial board Add to ...

I'm actually working on a Dictate-o-meter. It will have an arrow and be like a clock. People think it's from here to there, you know, that screaming anarchy is on one end and total lockdown state is on the other, and some are in the middle as liberal democracy.

But it's actually not linear. It's a circle. So Koestler later wrote a book called The Yogi and the Commissar in which he pointed this out. Ever come across that one? It goes like this, it's not a line, that it's a circle. Because the extreme-left and the extreme-right actually curve around and meet at the bottom. And that's when you get total lockdown - no matter what it calls itself.

So, I'm not very interested in labels. I'm not very interested in what they're calling themselves. I'm interested in what they're doing. So, in the Dictate-o-meter, on the road to total lockdown, the place you don't want to be. And you don't want to be in screaming anarchy either, it's the war of all against all, and that soon precipitates into gangs and warlords and out of that eventually will come Henry VIII. Because we all watch The Tudors. Why didn't he ever get fat? What is his secret? You could sell that.

Sean Fine, Editorial Writer: What scares you the most about him?

Ms. Atwood: What scares me the most about him? I don't know whether scared is entirely the right word yet. Worries. Causes one to become anxious.

The initial platform was actually quite good, some years ago. And I would like to hear what Preston Manning has to say about all of this. Because, squeaky though his voice may have been, he made some good points. He made some respectable, good points that we all agree with.

And we all agree that government should be more open. We all agree that government should be more accountable. And this government came in on that platform. That's why people voted for them. They've gone back on it completely. This is the most opaque and secretive government, and unaccountable government that we've had in some time. By unaccountable I mean not telling the real price.

Mr. Fine: Unfortunately though, Preston Manning is in our paper today.

Ms. Atwood: ...saying these guys are just great. So what happened to his integrity? I mean if he really believes in openness and accountability how can he support this government?

That was my point: was he lying all along, or has he had a conversion experience?

Andrew Gorham, Arts Editor: You evoke formidable names - Hitler, etc. And you would think - and I would think - disrespect for the Parliament by Harper, and whatbrought down the government would have incited huge interest. And it hasn't. It's failed.

Ms. Atwood: We do not do very good civic education in this country. So that people can go all the way through school without actually understanding why they should vote. In Australia, it's the vote that you have to vote. unless you get a note from the doctor. You actually have to vote. Even if you spoil your ballot, you have to be there to actually put a piece of paper in the box.

I think we're very complacent in this country. We think that things will go along the same way and that we'll all be okay. And as long as we see some pictures of the Rockies and some hockey and some flags, then everything is as it should be. And that will be fine, until it's your turn, and you suddenly wake up and you realize that you have no recourse. You know? Something really unjust has happened to you and actually have no recourse.

There's a big lawsuit going on right now from the people in the centre of Toronto who had everything smashed up by the G20. Do you think they're going to get any money back? Probably not. What about all the people who were arrested as they're walking down the street? Do you think they will have any recourse? Probably not. So you say we're not living in a police state. Have a think.

Mr. Gorham: Have you ever not voted?

Ms. Atwood: I've never not voted.

Mr. Gorham: Municipal, provincial, federal?

Ms. Atwood: Municipal, provincial, federal...I probably missed. Well I was out of the country.

Mr. Gorham: Well, yeah, with circumstances preventing otherwise...

Ms. Atwood: Otherwise, I tend to vote. I tend to be a voting type of person. And the reason I tend to be a voting type of person is that I have been in enough countries where people couldn't. And I've been in enough countries where they could, but it was rigged. It's always very rigged.

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