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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, uncensored Add to ...

Mr. Geiger: Do you have any views in respect to this government's cultural policies?

Ms. Atwood: Its what? Well they don't like it, we know that.

Mr. Geiger: Well, the Prime Minister plays Beatles songs quite well.

Ms. Atwood: I think he had to withdraw one of those ads because he ripped off the copyright. We know kind of where they stand on copyright. I actually beamed in from Dubai in a video conference to the committee on copyright and got yelled at by [Conservative MP Dean del Mastro]

But I wasn't yelled at nearly as much as the guy representing musicians because [Mr. del Mastro]thought it was fit and right that radio stations play people's music without paying them anything. Everybody likes a nice artist. In the subway, on the streetcar. As long as it doesn't cost anything, they like it.

Andrew Gorham, Arts Editor: I find the selection terribly boring. And most of my friends I talk to aren't media find it boring. And the voter turnout is probably going to be low.

Ms. Atwood: I wonder if that's true. Is the bor-ed-ess of your friends the most pertinent indicator?

Mr. Gorham: 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.

You have a choice from these people from the party, and these other people from the party. I lived in Berlin in 1984. I visited Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two very different experiences, and East Berlin. The most thoroughly locked-down were East Berlin and Czechoslovakia. Poland, because it had a counter-power, which was the Roman Catholic Church, was relatively open.

And it was Poland where the whole fall-down of the curtain began. So I know how people behave in those societies. I know the kinds of pressures that they feel. I know the kinds of hoops and jumps you have to go through to talk to people under those circumstances. Out in the middle of the park, away from the microphones. That wouldn't avail you now. They've got directional mikes. They can pick up what you're saying.

I think we're now reduced to the little piece of paper with the message on it, which you then burn.

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