The following statement by Margaret Atwood appeared on our “speak out against the cuts” page several weeks ago. Apologies if you have already seen it, but for those who haven’t, we’re re-running a few of the statements from prominent Canadians and British Columbians on our new blog. Margaret Atwood is the recipient of the Order of Canada and is author of many internationally-renowned books including The Handmaid’s Tale and Year of the Flood.
“Could it be true – as Denis Dutton argues in The Art Instinct – that art of all kinds, including narrative art, is an evolved adaptation that gave those that had it an edge over those that did not during the 80,000 generations we spent in the Pleistocene? Did their art unify groups, inspire them, teach them survival methods they needed to know, whether material or spiritual? If so, it’s not a question of whether people do art or don’t do it – they will anyway. It’s only a question of what kind of art they do, or whether someone else does it for them. Our stories are us, on a national and international level, as well as on a personal one.
Which sets the political hostility to the arts in a new light. What is it that power-hungry politicians want from artists? Control over the story through the annihilation of the former story-tellers? Is this the agenda behind the recent decapitation of arts funding in British Columbia, while mega-millions are poured into the Olympics? The BC arts community will retaliate, of course. Over the past 50 years they’ve put BC on the map, and now they’re being told that their sorts of contributions are without value. They’ve always been a scrappy lot: Watch that energy bite back at Mr. Campbell – that would be my guess.”