My Conversation with Margaret Atwood

She requires no introduction, this conversation involved a bit of slapstick, so unlike many of the others it is better heard than read.  Here is the audio and transcript.  Here is the opening:

COWEN: Just to start with some basic questions about Canada, which you’ve written on for decades — what defines the Canadian sense of humor?

MARGARET ATWOOD: Wow. [laughs] What defines the Canadian sense of humor? I think it’s a bit Scottish.

COWEN: How so?

ATWOOD: Well, it’s kind of ironic. It depends on what part of Canada you’re in. I think the further west you go, the less of a sense of humor they have.


ATWOOD: But that’s just my own personal opinion. My family’s from Nova Scotia, so that’s as far east as you can get. And they go in for deadpan lying.


COWEN: In 1974, you wrote, “The Canadian sense of humor was often obsessed with the issue of being provincial versus being cosmopolitan.”


COWEN: You think that’s still true?

ATWOOD: Depends again. You know, Canada’s really big. In fact, there’s a song called “Canada’s Really Big.” You can find it on the internet. It’s by a group called the Arrogant Worms. That kind of sums up Canada right there for you.

The burden of the song is that all of these other countries have got all of these other things, but what Canada has is, it’s really big. It is, in fact, very big. Therefore, it’s very hard to say what is particularly Canadian. It’s a bit like the US. Which part of the US is the US? What is the most US thing —

COWEN: Maybe it’s Knoxville, Tennessee, right now. Right? The Southeast.

ATWOOD: You think?

COWEN: But it used to be Cleveland, Ohio.

ATWOOD: Did it?

COWEN: Center of manufacturing.

ATWOOD: When was that? [laughs] When was that?

COWEN: If you look at where the baseball teams are, you see what the US —

And from her:

ATWOOD: Yeah, so what is the most Canadian thing about Canada? The most Canadian thing about Canada is that when they ran a contest that went “Finish this sentence. As American as apple pie. As Canadian as blank,” the winning answer was “As Canadian as plausible under the circumstances.”

And a question from me:

COWEN: But you’ve spoken out in favor of the cultural exception being part of the NAFTA treaty that protects Canadian cultural industries. Is it strange to think that having more than half the [Toronto] population being foreign born is not a threat to Canadian culture, but that being able to buy a copy of the New York Times in Canada is a threat?

In addition to Canada, we talk about the Bible, Shakespeare, ghosts, her work habits, Afghanistan, academia, Peter the Great, writing for the future, H.G. Wells, her heretical feminism, and much much more.


Wonder how many faculty ca. 1972 wanted to stage a softball interview with the man who wrote the screenplay for Jud Suss.

Are you comparing 'The Handmaid's Tale' to Nazi propaganda?
Who do you imagine are the Jews in this analogy?

Who do you think, Hazel? This isn't that difficult.

Having never read the book or seen the show, who is the group that is treated as property to be disposed of as the state/its rulers desire?

hey malcom gladwell
you went to harvard!
we are confused!
who wrote the "lodestar" letter that the nytimes printed?

That is not the question. The question is which group is the subject of a libelous social and political fantasy. This isn't that difficult.

Thanks for letting us know that 'The question is which group is the subject of a libelous social and political fantasy.' Are any groups subjected to that? To be honest, my main awareness of the Handmaid's Tale comes from the massive disdain it earned from the science fiction community decades ago (with Atwood's own comments concerning SF adding more fuel to that fire). Mainly because its dystopian theocratic state seemed banal and unrealistic, at least in the U.S. (ISIS demonstrated she was not all that far off the mark in a broader sense, admittedly).

Does Hawthorne pass muster in terms of his depiction of a theocratic New England state, or was he too indulging in a ' libelous social and political fantasy'?

I've only read the book, 25 years ago when it was assigned in school, and never seen the show. But yeah, substitute the Jewish for the Christians and it would be called hate literature. I'm sort of surprised it's skated by all these years.

I'm not a Christian, so maybe I didn't pick up on everything, but it's not a subtle work.

The basic plot is that a deus ex machina puts the hated group in power, and then all the hated group's stereotypical characteristics come-to-the-fore and cause challenges for the lovable protagonist to outwit and outlast.

'substitute the Jewish for the Christians '

Here I was, possibly incorrectly, thinking the book hated the theocratic rulers.

Yes, the book is all about hating Christians and their stereotypical flaws. There's a crisis in the beginning that thrusts them into power.

It does not surprise me that you would miss this particular point. If the book were about the Jewish, the crisis would involve money and conspiracy. It's about the Christians, so it involves reproduction.

It's, in many ways, vile. But it targets a group that could not be less loved in artistic circles, and so it endures.

'Yes, the book is all about hating Christians and their stereotypical flaws.'

Again, not having read the book, but since when is theocracy as an objectionable style of ruling a populace exclusively about Christians? As demonstrated by ISIS in the very recent past. And one would have to be pretty ignorant to think that criticizing the theocracy represented by ISIS, most definitely including its brutal enslavement of women, would be the same as criticizing all forms of Islam.

'If the book were about the Jewish, the crisis would involve money and conspiracy. It's about the Christians, so it involves reproduction.'

So, Children of Men hates Christians? I missed that particular point too, it seems. Or possibly, this reproduction trope is real common in SF, something that Atwood apparently used to deny ever writing. Don't get me wrong - she certainly could have written a book that provides a blanket condemnation of Christianity.

I don't know, I haven't read Children of Men. I can't argue about a book I didn't read. I guess I know the basics of the plot, but didn't have the impression that it was a book that really slanders an out-group.

But Atwood's book is over-the-top hate. It's bad sci-fi. Pick a hated group, exaggerate every negative thing you can allege about them, make them the villain and the basis of a dystopian society, and voila! Lazy writing and hate speech rolled into one.

It's something we'll regret honoring in 100 years when all the fire has died down.

" I can't argue about a book I didn't read. "

That certainly doesn't stop clockwork_prior.

Definitely not - I know what the Republic of Gilead means, for example, and there was plenty of heated commentary about the book as part of the Reagan era culture wars. Well, overheated commentary, as noted by the very first comment.

As SF, it was generally considered utterly laughable by SF fans. But it is fascinating to see how the creation of a fictional theocratic state (in Hawthorne's region, no less) is seen as an attack on Christianity as a whole.

Maybe someone can provide a couple of quotes - shouldn't be hard if the book is so hate filled.

Just saw the movie myself.

'It's bad sci-fi.'

Exceedingly bad, at least if all the more than 3 decades old discussion about it is to be considered a good guide. Though some in the science fiction community were eager to gain increased respectability by highlighting a literary work.

'Pick a hated group, exaggerate every negative thing you can allege about them, make them the villain and the basis of a dystopian society, and voila! Lazy writing and hate speech rolled into one.'

You do know that is also an accurate summation of 1984, right? However, I doubt that we will ever regret honoring Orwell in 100 years. Seems like I was lucky - old enough to never have to read it in school, and young enough to not care about a book's depiction of an apparent theocratic state being considered as an insult to Christianity.

Oddly, no one ever seems to care much about the book or TV series in Germany. Wonder how people in the UK feel about it?

I was going to say the same thing. Every dystopian sci-fi is based on taking someone's ideological or religious beliefs and then taking them to an extreme. Nazi propaganda was about portraying Jewish people, as they existed at the time in Nazi Germany, as a threat to the German people. Not some hypothetical future Jews that only exist in the context of a post-apocalyptic scenario.

I read 1984 in school. A socialist writing about socialism and the ways it could go wrong struck me as much less morally questionable. Atwood, in comparison, went off the reservation. She picked an unpopular minority and caricatured it to create her villain.

But I do generally argue that dystopian sci-fi is (1) lazy writing, and (2) unrealistic. Things get better with time, at least on average. That didn't make me like The Handmaid's Tale any more.

But dystopian sci-fi and hate are not synonymous. There's a ton of dystopian sci-fi that doesn't rely on this crutch to create a villain, just as there's a ton of murder mysteries that don't rely on the murderer's race or religion or sexuality or what-have-you to make him seem more evil to a vaguely bigoted audience, like Atwood did. The Silence of the Lambs comes to mind as something that did this, although even then the author had the courtesy to hedge a little.

If I remember correctly, Lecter makes the point that Buffalo Bill doesn't want to be a woman, he wants to be his mother. Still, his sexuality was used for a specific purpose in the story.

Maybe Diamonds are Forever is a better example, with its super-creepy gay assassin couple.

This sort of stuff isn't going to age well. And Atwood made it the focus of her book.

'Atwood, in comparison, went off the reservation. She picked an unpopular minority and caricatured it to create her villain.'

Not if the quote below is to be trusted.

But sure, a lot of dystopian fiction is lazy writing. As for unrealistic - let us wait for our first major nuclear conflict to see how unrealistic books like Alas Babylon really were (if not necessarily in terms of the U.S.) And it is truly utopian to think we will avoid a major nuclear conflict in the future by believing that war will somehow die out. (For that matter, as can be seen in Syria, chemical warfare has started to come back into fashion, starting to erase a fairly long held taboo.)

You seem to have skipped right over the fact that the ideology of the Christian extremists in The Handmaid's Tale actually kind of makes sense as a response to the fertility crisis they face. IF very few women were fertile, it would make sense to ban abortion. It would make sense to mandate that every fertile woman bear children. I don't know how you see this as anti-Christian, because it's not about Christianity at all, it's about how totalitarian systems arise in response to existential threats. And it makes sense that the response to this particular existential threat takes the form of a Christian theocracy.

Somebody could write a little dystopian story, a la that Aldous Huxley chestnut that used to be in the school anthologies, "Young Archimedes" - only instead of a would-be mathematician (if memory serves, I don't want to look it up) - there's a female Canadian novelist that is never born, and so never writes her fable warning about the very chilling, of-the-moment danger of women being forced to reproduce, because she was one of the, I dunno, 100 million babies aborted in the 20th century. But I can't think of what would happen next, when she wasn't born. Plot is hard. Is her book well-plotted?

Yes, the "crisis at the beginning" is the collapse in fertility resulting in the catestrophic threat of depopulation.
In a society facing demographic extinction, an extreme form of Christianity comes to power, based on forcing the remaining fertile women to bear children, claiming that the crash in fertility is divine punishment for failing to obey God's commands and liver according to traditional ways.

an extreme form of Christianity comes to power,

No, Margaret Atwood's fantasy Christianity. It bore no relationship to the sort of provincial evangelicalism which was providing the labor for political activity back then, much less old-school Catholicism.

It was pointed out at the time that the most eccentric Biblical-literalist writing on the political order was that of RJ Rushdoony, but there was no indication Atwood consulted Rushdoony.

It's indicative of how shallow and stupid our intelligentsia is that this woman has an honored position within it.

Well, yeah, it's a fantasy Christianity, for a fantasy scenario that is not about Christianity. If it is was accurate it would make it *more* like "hate speech" not less.
This is like complaining the the clown in "IT" is not a fair description of clowns because that's not really what real clowns act like. Real clowns don't eat children!

It's a dystopian sci-fi, based on the premise of a collapse in fertility rates. It's rather well explained that the rise of the extremist right-wing Christian conservatives in the story is caused by the need to conscript every fertile women possible into child-bearing. Hence the ban on abortions etc. None of this is allegorical to any contemporary political group because we don't live in a world in which only 1 in 100 women can bear children.

The central idea is not "Christian conservative want to enslave women". It is "In a society in which only a small percentage of women were fertile, fertile women would become slaves."

Atwood herself has said:

"“I don’t consider these people to be Christians because they do not have at the core of their behavior and ideologies what I, in my feeble Canadian way, would consider to be the core of Christianity … and that would be not only love your neighbors but love your enemies.
So it is not a question of religion making people behave badly. It is a question of human beings getting power and then wanting more of it.”

So Lord Action was wrong when he wrote 'Yes, the book is all about hating Christians and their stereotypical flaws.'?

Always good to have quotes to buttress a discussion.

She can say what she wants in retrospect. Read the book and judge for yourself.

But please find it in a library and don't pay money for it.

I've been ignoring the book for years in a library - and still have no plans to read it (or watch the series), since it seems to be pretty much a waste of time.

Generally, I don't care much about people attacking religion, and I don't care much about people defending religion, at least in terms of thinking that such people affect me.

Theocracy as a despicable form of government is another subject, however.

It's not really a great book.
It's just not "hate speech" on the level of nazi propaganda.
She probably uses a few too many stereotypical tropes about Christian conservatives, but it's sort of beside the point because the main purpose is exploring this concept about what would happen in a world where only a tiny percentage of women are fertile. And the people who think the show is some sort of American political allegory are bonkers too. The show is more like ISIS. Atwood even says in the above interview that she was partly influenced by a visit to Afghanistan. So both book and show actually make more sense if you think of Christians as allegorical Muslims. Not everything is supposed to be taken as a literal representative of what it appears to represent.

I mean the Christians extremists in the show/book are allegorical Muslim extremists. It wouldn't be very subtle if they were actually Muslims would it?

+1, while I think Atwood probably did intend it as a side swipe at the Religious Right when the book was written in the 1980's, it's far more rational to consider it as an allegory to Muslim extremists today.

Oh is that the premise? It might happen (as would be the case for men in an opposed scenario), but that it would happen through Christian ideology is a bit of a nuts idea - the monogamous partnership uber alles religion is gonna be the instrument for female sex slaves for the preservation of the species? Pull the other one.

It would probably happen through a form of atheistic material collectivism, if at all. "Consider Her Ways" is probably the superior story on that scenario.

Christianity, like its Abrahamic siblings, hasn't always been a monogamy religion. A Christian man in Nigeria can hold more than one wife. In 2019, today. So anything's possible. Atwood's fiction is based on fact.

Maybe, for the purposes of the story they can't in the USA, other than the questionably Christian LDS, under any form of Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic Christianity, or really any form of Protestant Christianity.

"Anything's possible" certainly, but that's a pretty weak defense of the premises as supposedly plausible(ish) social science fiction. Perhaps it's possible that all Jews worldwide will suddenly decide that Hong Xiuquan really was the Messiah or that cannibalism is demanded as service to God - it's 'possible' that these could happen but the lack of likelihood seems it not a very interesting premise for hard(ish) social science fiction.

The fact that it contradicts monogamy is actually pretty central to the book. They have to go through all sorts of theological contortions to come up with a justification, i.e. the bibilcal story of Sarah and her offering her "handmaid" to Abraham, from whom he fathered Ishmael. In the show it is made more clear that the underlying motivation is for the elite men at the top of the government to keep concubines. I.e. power corrupts.

If you think you can do better, why don't you start your own podcast?

Did you ask her about all those Chinese billionaires and children of Chinese billionaires in the western part of Canada (Vancouver) and the change it has made to the culture there?

No, you hateful old bigot. People don't make countries; lines on a map and administrative designations make countries.

Speaking of people, this was my favourite bit:

"But you know, essentially women are people, just like other people."

It's pretty hilarious watching neo-Marxists go through their intellectual contortions on the premise that women are an ethnicity.

Half the population being foreign born is a bit of a stretch... 20% is more than the USA's 13% for sure, but it's hardly half the country.

+1, that struck me as horribly off base.

That is of Toronto, see the whole context.

And not simply read what is highlighted, though why one seemingly confuses Toronto with all of a very big country is hard to explain.

That particular confusion reaches peak levels in Toronto itself.

Well, people from Ontario generally seem to think they are the one and true Canadians. A fact generally highlighted as delusional by everybody who is not from Ontario pointing out that Canada is a very big country. (Never knew Atwood was from Nova Scotia - just might explain why the Republic of Gilead is in Hawthorne's neck of the woods, so to speak, which never seemed to make much sense from an American perspective.)

"That is of Toronto, see the whole context."

Thanks for the clarification.

Wherever they were born, today is a dark day for Torontoans of all stripes.

I've seen better softball played by 3rd grader pansexual-polka-dotted pyro-foxes.

Throw me an easy one coach...the slow ones are too hard to hit!

They were all so hard to hit! And one probably needed glasses, and probably had for years; but always healthy, you never went to the doctor, so that when at long last they finally issued you some glasses, your vision had grown so bad, you said, in wonderment, why, look, I never knew that people could see leaves on trees!

Excuses, excuses. Still, I'm amazed to find I'm almost nostalgic for the way they didn't coddle us back then. When at crucial moments, I came up to bat (and generally strike out), my teammates' parents actually bellowed, "OH NOOO, not her!"

Still interesting to wonder how much it costs to rent space at GMU's Founders Hall so that Margaret Atwood, author and activist, could join Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series.

Might help with ensuring an adequate flow of donations, after all.

You don't have to wonder; that information is easily found online:

“As Canadian as plausible under the circumstances.”

Which is brilliant, of course, because it appears to me that the most Canadian thing ever is worrying about whether or not, culturally, being Canadian is really much of a thing at all. Which speaks to the cultural protection laws. Canadians aren't worried about their culture being transformed by immigration, they're worried about it being barely distinguishable from American culture. To which I say -- stop worrying! Canada has about as much cultural influence on the North American Anglosphere Conglomeration as you'd expect from it's population (probably a bit more).

Conversely, perhaps the most American thing ever is not spending time worry about what it means to be American. Whatever culture we ingest becomes (annoyingly) considered ours (by Americans anyway). And, no, we're never, ever going to recognize your regional appellations. Maybe changing 'As American as apple pie' to 'As American as pizza, cappuccino, and tacos' captures a bit of the idea.

Even among anti-immigrant conservatives, I really don't think I've ever seen complaints along the lines of, "We have to keep them out because they're selling us strange new kinds of food". In any case, you don't have to have immigration to adopt and co-opt cultural ideas. Why is Starbucks an American company and not an Italian one? Why is there New York, Chicago, Detroit, and even New Haven style pizza, but not (AFAIK) Paris or Berlin or London-style pizza? And why did the craft brew movement start in the U.S. and not Germany, the UK, or Belgium?

It might seem funny now, but the moment did earn it's own wiki page.

So would you describe yourself has having TDS?

I would think it a much bigger problem if I thought real things that really happened were in some way dangerous or disruptive.

I would hate to be the kind of person that hand-waved over real things that really happened.

The kind of person who found truths dangerous.

You are the kind of person that attempts to turn a thread about a Canadian author into yet another Trump thread.

Nope, Slocum and I were talking tacos, and a real thing that really happened.

Stop lying. You weren't talking about tacos. You wrote:

" you get "taco trucks on every corner" as a scare tactic."

That's not about tacos. It's about your TDS causing you to turn every thread into yet another Chicken Little parable.

Ah, there you are almost back on Slocum's topic. Let's go with that.

He wrote "Maybe changing 'As American as apple pie' to 'As American as pizza, cappuccino, and tacos' captures a bit of the idea."

I agreed with that, but reminded him that in the short term there can be push back, even against things as wonderful as tacos.

This is a true fact.

What is your problem again?

By the way, I called you a rat trapped in Putin's maze. Isn't it a bit rich to keep using it now that Mr. Mueller has asserted on the very first page of his report that the Russian government “interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”

Speaking of real things that really happened.

'And why did the craft brew movement start in the U.S. and not Germany, the UK, or Belgium?'

Because in Germany or Belgium, there was no (and still isn't any) need to have 'craft' placed in front of a locally brewed quality beer? As for the UK, the 'craft' beer movement started in the 70s, more or less.

OK, being British, it was called this - 'The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is an independent voluntary consumer organisation headquartered in St Albans, England, which promotes real ale, real cider and the traditional British pub. With over 191,000 members, it is now the largest single-issue consumer group in the UK, and is a founding member of the European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU)

The organisation was founded in 1971 in Kruger's bar in Dunquin, Kerry, Ireland by Michael Hardman, Graham Lees, Jim Makin, and Bill Mellor, who were opposed to the growing mass production of beer and the homogenisation of the British brewing industry.'

No way. German and Belgian beers have been imported in the US for decades. If they were any good, there'd have been no impetus for the craft brewing explosion, but they weren't, and instead we get the sad spectacle of Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, to take but one example, kicking the ass of every Belgian beer that's actually made in Belgium.

I'm guessing that the point of 'locally brewed quality beer' was missed. Cannot speak for the last 15 years particularly, but most of the local beers I am thinking of in this region are not available in the U.S. For example, from Vogelbräu in Ettlingen - (not available in stores either, for that matter) These people aren't bad either - Or this brewery - Tastes vary, of course, but fresh brewed unpasteuerized beer is not exactly hard to find around this region. And never has been.

Canada, like America, was a British imperial territory consisting mostly of Anglos and Celts. The only difference between the two peoples was political. It would be perfectly natural for them to merge.

And both have never shaken the Imperial mindset, but it's kind of a passive-aggressive imperialism. Instead of going out to conquer the wogs, you just bring the wogs here.

There's a lot of talk about American neo-imperialism but if we were real imperialists, we'd give out land and war-brides to the imperial troops.

'Canada, like America, was a British imperial territory consisting mostly of Anglos and Celts.'

To think that those in the French imperial territories - Quebec or New Orleans or Detroit or St. Louis, would object to that characterization of both Canada and the U.S. as being accurate. The Dutch in New York and the Spanish in a number of places might also have a few objections.

But victors write the history books.

(Though honestly, if you think that the Virginia tobacco planters had anything much to do with the Nova Scotian Acadians or the Spanish in St. Augustine culturally or politically, well, this is the MR comments section.)

Who cares about Quebec? The French Empire didn't.

Then there were the Germans, who were heavily represented in many parts of the U.S. But the Anglos and Celts tended to be pretty tolerant of minorities, with George Washington even welcoming the Jews (that took a bit of chutzpah, something GW possessed in abundance).

Bad edit, Tyler.

You really did reject a true thing.

Wow - who knew that talking about craft beer, in the springtime when there is not really any danger of freezing due to capillary dilation, would be objectionable here.

Or was it someone mentioning 'New York, Chicago, Detroit, and even New Haven style pizza' without mentioning anything connected to pizza in NJ?

Yeah, WTH? From memory it seems like it was a perfectly on-topic comment (what's the most Canadian thing, what's the most American thing -- with the proposed most American thing being promiscuous, shameless cultural appropriation). And is there really a unique Jersey-style pizza?

Not that I know of, but unlike Prof. Cowen, I am not a native of NJ.

The actual quote is "As Canadian as possible under the circumstances". In the audio Margaret Atwood quotes it correctly but the transcript gets it wrong.

Fixed, thanks.

Always nice to have a name to attach to the people working behind the scenes here.

And it makes it so much easier to demonstrate that this web site is not merely the work of two GMU professors.

I like it better as "plausible". It add this note of pretense to the thing. Canadians are just *pretending* to have their own culture by deliberately acting just different enough that it's plausible to an American that they actually came up with it organically, and not just to differentiate themselves from America.

First time I read about her and I love her grumpy old person personality =)

Cowen: Do you sometimes even think of yourself as a 19th century novelist?

Atwood: No. You can write historical fiction, but it’s always going to be of the time in which you’re writing it because you don’t have a choice...

Atwood's The Handmaids Tale would have been a more interesting portrayal if it has been a radical Muslim theocratic state.

It would have seemed prescient with regards to ISIS.

No, it wouldn't. America/Saudi Arabia created ISIS.

The book just wasn't very convincing because it's extremely difficult to convince young men in a K-selected society to support a social order that hoards nubile women. That's why Mormonism abandoned polygamy and its practice has fallen off in Islamic countries as well. The trigger is actually in the other direction: it doesn't take much to convince young men to start murdering old men in front of their harems.

As I recall, Atwood's literary device for this hole in her sociology was a fertility crisis. But that would just enhance the female sexual gatekeeping role and make things even more chaotic on the male side. I think the men would slaughter each other pretty efficiently until the ratio of fertile females to virile males got to around 1:1.

This is where the red pill brigades lose me. Half of men between 21-30 were celibate last year in this country. Where is the outpouring of violence. Cheap flavorful food, video games, and porn on demand completely destroy this fever scape you are creating. It’s just embarrassing an it makes you look like a complete virgin nerd.

OK. Take away the hyper-abundant calories, the intoxicants, and the Internet. Then you get the Arab Spring and ISIS.

Aren't you really talking about a sub-demographic of flabby white men?

I liked Heinlein's take in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". In that book, the society evolved from a penal colony, and so women are greatly outnumbered by men. A lesser writer might have written that society as one where the women are therefore powerless and just another oppressed minority, but in Heinlein's society the men have to compete for the women, and women have essentially all the power. The social adaptation to this fact is the creation of different marriage types - ones where there is one woman and multiple men. It's essentially a hyper-chivalrous society in which all men see themselves as the protectors of women and women call all the shots when it comes to marriage, children, and sex.

I found that a lot more believable than the notion that women would become the property of men. That would be unstable in a world where the value of fertile women increases, either due to numerical shortages or because of mass infertility.

"but in Heinlein's society the men have to compete for the women, and women have essentially all the power"

No, you overstate the case. Women have a larger than normal share of power but they don't have all the power. Heinlein was a great writer and thus he presented the society as giving a substantially larger share of power to women when it came to marriage, sex and politeness. But it wasn't a matriarchy by any stretch of the imagination.

Mormonism abandoned polygamy solely to achieve US statehood, and did so as the US army was literally marching into Utah to take down the State of Deseret.

Polygamy is one of three not-even-onces for advancing, prosperous civilization. The other two are Islam and cousin-marriage.

There is no proof of that. Brazil allows cousin marriage. And Solomon had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines.

Mr. Thiago:

Brazil has such high levels of dysfunction they had to elect their own President-Captain-Sir to deal with it.

Israel is the Apostate Nation.

Brazil has no dysfunction whatsoever. That is the exact reason why we were able to choose President Captain Bolsonaro, who is a national hero. Meanwhile dysfunctional America elected Dishonest Donald, a conamn, and almost elected Crooked Clinton.
"Israel is the Apostate Nation."
No, it is not. It has been written, "Salvation is from the Jews". Brazil supports the Zionist Entity, and President Captain Bolsonaro rw
recognizes Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Zionist Entity.

Thank you for your support!

You are welcome.

Ironically, I knew a bunch of mormon neighbors who had married their cousins when I was growing up in Utah. So it was actually 2 out of 3 for the mormons, although this cuts against the pro-mormon narrative of this blog.

And when I compare my childhood experiences to those of my friends who were born in muslim-majority countries, it's more like 3 out of 3.

I kind of agree about the premise. I don't think fertile women would actually end up enslaved. However in the TV show things sort of evolve in that direction, that the "Handmaids" wield a secret power, because nobody can really touch them - they are fertile women, they can't be killed, and if they are pregnant they can't be tortured either. This makes it difficult to punish them, and therefore to control them. That's the direction the show is heading anyway, that the Handmaids form the backbone of the resistance because they are untouchable, and moreover live in the homes of top government officials and thus can spy on them. It departed from the book at the end of the first season and now is way off the map.

Michel Houellebecq just won the Légion d'honneur, if you're into that.

Funny how little crossover there is between his and Atwood's literary followings, though. Neither group seems to give the other enough credit. I have no idea what Atwood thinks of Houellebecq and wish that it had come up in Tyler's conversation with her.

That was actually interesting, particularly how Margaret Atwood had the conversation she wanted to have, not the one you wanted. Especially when slipping in a knife with a comment like this one - '... except because you’ve done a lot more massacres than we had, you had fewer people left to be reconciled with.' The work habits discussion was even more subtle. And this manages to combine both, if one knows what many of the GMU PR pictures highlight - 'because they hadn’t yet realized what a tremendous cash cow creative writing courses were.'

Here is the youtube link for those unable to use the proper search terms -

What would be really entertaining is seeing Atwood and Peterson have the conversation they want to have. And being from Nova Scotia, Atwood probably knows more about lobsters than Peterson.

ATWOOD: Depends again. You know, Canada’s really big. In fact, there’s a song called “Canada’s Really Big.” You can find it on the internet. It’s by a group called the Arrogant Worms. That kind of sums up Canada right there for you.

The burden of the song is that all of these other countries have got all of these other things, but what Canada has is, it’s really big. It is, in fact, very big. Therefore, it’s very hard to say what is particularly Canadian. It’s a bit like the US. Which part of the US is the US? What is the most US thing —

COWEN: Maybe it’s Knoxville, Tennessee, right now. Right? The Southeast.

Be more judicious about cutting off guests to inject your own opinions.

Listen to the audio. She was not cut off in mid-sentence. The transcript uses an em-dash after "thing", but it could have just as easily been a question mark.

Always good to see a Canadian giggling at the death of her own culture.

You really know how to pick 'em, Ty.

Trudeau's Glorious Revolution killed Canada's essentially Anglo-American culture, to the cheers of the Quebecois and neo-Canadians. Now, they have a vapid chief executive who goes to India and prances around with his family dressed even more lavishly Hindu than the tackiest, nouveau riche Hindu wedding.

No, television did that. English Canadians watch the exact same American shows as Americans do, on the exact same schedule. By contrast, Quebec watches its own home-grown shows because France is way too different in both dialect and culture.

Canadian culture is essentially a celebration of passive-aggression in all its forms, and it is thriving.

Yes, it's a mix of unspoken contempt and unspoken insecurity.

Just scanned the transcript and I'm already suppressing some laughs. TC brings out the best in his guest yet again. Looking forward to a full listen.

"My fear at the moment is essentially climate change driving droughts, floods, making places uninhabitable."

Probably the funniest line in the whole interview. There has been no warming in Canada for the past 25 years.

'There has been no warming in Canada for the past 25 years.'

Strange - these people seem to disagree But who cares about actual data collected over decades, especially when it is generally not over land. Especially when compared to this vast network of weather collecting stations - 'Over the past 25 years, since scientists began to warn that the planet was warming in earnest, there has not been any warming when one looks at the untampered data provided by the Japan meteorology Agency (JMA) that were measured by 9 different stations across Canada. These 9 stations have the data dating back to around 1983 or 1986, so I used their datasats.'

Dude, so you are a racist and want to cast aspersions on the Japanese temperature records. Fine. Just look at how white supremecist buddies up in the Great White North report their own temperature:

The chart clearly shows no warming trend since from the mid 90s and then 50 years previous of no warming trend. There is the mysterious one time shift to a higher average in the late 90s. And that is even after adjustment tampering. Looking at the whole record starting from the 50s, it is hilarious that someone would be worried about climate change in Canada.

'Dude, so you are a racist and want to cast aspersions on the Japanese temperature records.'

All 9 stations - very extensive network, certainly compared to the data collected and distributed by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). One assumes you are familiar with them with them, of course.

'it is hilarious that someone would be worried about climate change in Canada'

Strange how these people, who actually collect data from more than 9 stations, with records dating back before 1983-86, don't agree with your conclusion - 'The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) supports research into our world’s frozen realms: the snow, ice, glaciers, frozen ground, and climate interactions that make up Earth’s cryosphere. NSIDC manages and distributes scientific data, creates tools for data access, supports data users, performs scientific research, and educates the public about the cryosphere.' Admittedly, they are not concerned about land temperatures exclusively per se - they just keep track of the now decades long trend of decreasing Arctic ice, mainly sea ice, both in winter and summer. But really, what use is data when talking about the Arctic? Of which Canada, undoubtedly, has no connection to anyways, right?

One of my favourite interviews you've done. Really fun and enjoyable. I wish you've spoken about sci-fi more, but as you say ever episode "this is...".
Anyway, I listened to it twice in a row because I enjoyed it so much

The correct version has "possible" not "plausible".

This is the best edition of Conversations with Tyler, bar none.
Margaret Atwood is a thrilling intellect. Thank you!

+1 tremendous interview
but they didn't have time to talke about the anonymous lodestar letter published by the new york times?

hey david brooks you went to harvard
in light of all the misinformation going around lately
don't you think its a good time in the journey to
reenvision & socially deconstruct the lodestar letter
who wrote the lodestar
what was its purpose & why was it published?

then we are gonna have
some more questions about all the surveillance
we never agreed to
beware the yawpers

we have the amherst ($56,426/yr)common language guide here
and we are not afraid to read it out loud(here)
because it is pretty funny!
if you do not tell us who wrote the lodestar letter in the nyts.

was it harvard
was it yale
was it canada?

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