Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Payback: Margaret Atwood on Debt

The prolific Canadian writer Margaret Atwood reads excerpts from her new book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth on NPR's Book Tour. With this collection of essays, Atwood proves once again her versatility as an author: from a poet and a novelist to a nonfiction writer and a philosopher providing timely commentary on perilous economic situations. When you say "Hello" or "Good morning" to someone, when you open the door for someone, they owe you back something - at least a "Thank you", explains the basics of the debtor-creditor relationship Atwood. She muses on the different types of debts and the synonyms that debt has developed in modern Western culture. Forgiveness, according to the author, is often a type of debt. When Nelson Mandela was leaving the prison, for example, he wanted to forgive for all they have done to him right at this point so that he will not suffer later with the memories.

Debt is related to memory, says Atwood. Also, there is a story and a plot connected to every debt. Even in the animal world, the economic system works in a similar way: when a chimpanzee scratches another one, the receiver of the favor owes him a scratch back (they remember the debt), unless there is a hierarchical structure in which the scratched chimp is above the others and therefore exempt from paying back the favor. Very much like in politics - remarks Atwood. My favorite example that she gives concerns silver fish: when the male silver fish does a dance for the female silver fish, if she appreciates the dance, he then gives to her something called "sperm package"!

Thinking about creditor-debtor relationship, when someone reads your blog, don't they owe you something? Perhaps just a comment, or maybe a copy of a recently reviewed book! Come on, don't be stingy!

1 comment:

Marsha said...

I've just discovered your blog, and it was because of your comment about Margaret Atwood's Payback. I was following up on learning more about what she had said about Nelson Mandella. His ability to forgive has been such an example to me and has helped to heal his nation.

And yes, I believe all blog readers to have an obligation to least an opportunity. Thanks for your stimulating posts.