05 July 2011

The story of a fanatic or why Alice Walker is sailing to Gaza

I have spent some time since reading Alice Walker's article in The Guardian Why I'm joining the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza attempting to get my head around it. I was trying to understand her motives and her justification in joining the travesty of what, in effect, was unabashedly confirmed by its leaders to be a political provocation, having nothing to do with the mythical and largely unnecessary "humanitarian assistance". The problem with Ms Walker's article is that, filled by so many slogans and buzzwords, it's a veritable jumble of frequently contradictory emotions, bereft of logic and, eventually, of common sense. To borrow from a much better writer than I, Howard Jacobson:

That Alice Walker believes it is right to join the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza I do not have the slightest doubt. But beyond associating her decision with Gandhi, Martin Luther King and very nearly, when she talks about the preciousness of children, Jesus Christ, she fails to give a single convincing reason for it.
It is easy to dismiss Alice Walker's stance as a case of useful idiocy, as my good friends of CiF Watch rightly diagnose. And, especially when you read the full version of Walker's article on her blog, her obsession with Israelis=Nazis imagery certainly justifies what they say:
To equate the democratic Jewish state with Nazi Germany is more than stupid, its unimaginably cruel – a simply grotesque moral inversion of the worst order.
But somehow it wasn't satisfactory. Here we have a case of a supposedly very intelligent person, author of highly esteemed books, champion of many worthy causes. A black woman who suffered from both the racial injustice and male chauvinism, who knows a lot about Jews, being herself married to one: how could a person like this display some traits that rightfully belong to someone stupid and bigoted? How could she be so blind and deaf to suffering of one of the warring sides, choosing not only to support so ferociously the other side, but going over the top when blaming one side only? When saying "One child must never be set above another child", how could she then totally dismiss one child and focus on suffering of another in the same breath? How, to continue this line of questioning, could a person lay a claim to sanity of her thought process, after producing what she calls "a small book: OVERCOMING SPEECHLESSNESS: A POET ENCOUNTERS THE HORROR IN RWANDA, EASTERN CONGO, AND PALESTINE/ISRAEL" (capitals by Ms Walker)?

I was especially riled by her invocation of Gandhi's name. Distance between Gandhi and the racist, misogynistic, murderous leaders of today's Gaza and the easy way Alice Walker overlooks the chasm, shows that she is not exactly in touch with reality. Joining the team that supports everything she fought against once is beyond understanding of mere mortal.

So I have started to look elsewhere for the cues. Mainly looking for Alice Walker the person behind the incomprehensible rhetoric of her article. You can say that this is equivalent to killing the messenger, but sometimes the message is the messenger and there is no way to separate the two. During different periods of her life Ms Walker undertook different causes, mostly righteous I have to say. Her courage and tenacity are worthy of admiration. But... her courage and tenacity are accompanied by selective blindness and a typical black and white vision of the world - the vision of many an extremist. This bothersome trait comes through loud and clear in the memoirs of her daughter, Rebecca, the fruit of Alice Walker's marriage to Melvyn Roseman Leventhal, a Jewish civil rights lawyer. The linked above article is tellingly titled How my mother's fanatical views tore us apart. And it shows very well the inordinate fervor and ferocity that characterize Ms Walker way to carry a torch for a cause:
You see, my mum taught me that children enslave women. I grew up believing that children are millstones around your neck, and the idea that motherhood can make you blissfully happy is a complete fairytale.
I was raised to believe that women need men like a fish needs a bicycle.
As a little girl, I wasn't even allowed to play with dolls or stuffed toys in case they brought out a maternal instinct. It was drummed into me that being a mother, raising children and running a home were a form of slavery.
I love my mother very much, but I haven't seen her or spoken to her since I became pregnant. She has never seen my son - her only grandchild. My crime? Daring to question her ideology.
Ironically, my mother regards herself as a hugely maternal woman. Believing that women are suppressed, she has campaigned for their rights around the world and set up organisations to aid women abandoned in Africa - offering herself up as a mother figure.
I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers.
And I don't know what can top this:
Although I knew what my mother felt about babies, I still hoped that when I told her I was pregnant, she would be excited for me. Instead, when I called her one morning in the spring of 2004, while I was at one of her homes housesitting, and told her my news and that I'd never been happier, she went very quiet. All she could say was that she was shocked. Then she asked if I could check on her garden.
After reading this, I believe that Rebecca put her finger on the central point of Ms Walker "activism". Yes, Ms Walker is a fanatic of any cause she chooses to support, and this explains all and answers the questions I have tried to ask in the beginning of this post. Her selective blindness and deafness, her black and white vision, her inability to face objections, her Nazi=Israeli tune, her extremism - all this and more becomes clear when you consider the way of life and behavior patterns of any out-of-the-box fanatic.

Alice Walker starts her article with the following passage:
Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: what else would I do? I am in my 67th year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content.
I cannot be an adviser to Ms Walker, of course. But I know what I would do in her situation. To start with, I would do my best to heal the rift with my kid. And to do this, I would want to examine myself - just to see what are the root causes of the unbearable situation I brought myself to, my blindness to my own follies and my fanaticism.

To start with...

Hat tip: Francis Sedgemore. Thanks for background info: Dick Stanley.

Cross-posted on Yourish.com


Pisa said...

The article in the Guardian is not much to sink my teeth in, as you already pointed out the fallacy regarding "the preciousness of children", so I tried to read the post on her blog. I forced myself to read almost all of it, and it left me typeless.

Alice Walker is obviously reality challenged, not because she's not smart enough or lost in some far-left ideology, but because she's so self-centered she can't see over the fence she built herself all around and within herself. It's quite ironic that she finds the Israeli fence oppresive and offensive, while she kept her own child outside the fence.

Alice Walker belongs to the sad species of people who love to hate because they don't know how not to hate.

Dick Stanley said...

Has yet to see her only grandchild? Good grief. I didn't know she was that screwed up. Her troubles apparently began with "The Color Purple," which was made into a movie and later a musical. I have avoided all three for years and now have an even better reason than its treacly feminism.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I'm not sure it's about hate. Some people are always looking for a "cause". It could be religion, ideology, something else that will seem to them worthy of undivided loyalty. This is the way fanaticism starts. Making everything else (including own children) irrelevant. Cause uber alles.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I was quite shocked reading that article.

Francis Sedgemore said...

I'm surprised at how charitable you are toward Ms Walker, whose bourgeois-leftist indulgence irritated me intensely. It must have been a particularly agreeable bottle that you sampled before settling down to write this piece. I would tip my hat to you, sir, if I were wearing one.

With her final words - "That is why I sail." - I wanted to slap the silly woman around the head with a large wet Mediterranean bass.

Pisa said...

I think fanaticism starts out of hate, maybe self-pity too. The fanatic's desire to change the world steam from a deep conviction that the world is guilty of his/her/its own misery, hence this particular world has to be punished by extinction. The fanatic builds his own imaginary world where everything is perfect and everybody is either happy or dead, a world in wihich he will be finally allowed to experience the love the real world "refused" him. This is crystal clear in Alice Walker's case, if you think about her personal relationship (or lack thereof) with her daughter.

Basically, the devotion and mutual care that should be an integral part of any relationship based on love are seen by Walker as slavery, which leaves her with the one other option for her sentimental life: hate.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I would say that other people have already sufficiently ripped her into shreds. Besides, after reading her daughter's piece, I gathered that she has already punished herself so cruelly and stupidly (even if she doesn't get it for now) that there is no more need...

As for Mediterranean bass: there is so little left that it would be a pity to waste another one.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Besides hate and love there is one other state that seems to be more fitting to describe AW mentality: emptiness. To me it seems that she is feverishly trying to fill herself with something that may be (or seem) worthy for the moment. Thus her passion for causes.

But I could be wrong.

Pisa said...

A vast emptiness waiting to be filled with the cries of Israelis hit by weapons she would enable Hamas to get if her nightmarish dream comes true.

A bit dramatic, isn't it?

But people like Walker never think  thoroughly about the consequences of their actions - it's the action that matters, like you said.

Strangely enough, it seems to me that there's a strong resemblance between Alice Walker and Obama.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

One other thing I forgot to mention: she has done some good in earlier times, so one should take it into consideration.

Noga said...

I wrote abour Walker's lurch into lachrymose, verbose, pathos a few times in the past. This is one of them:


I hope you don't mind. It seems, from her recent appearance in the media, that I sort of got her measure correctly even then, and I want to trumpet my wonderful insight into that kind of self-delusional hermetic smugness.

 " The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.'

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, whatever works. Like compassion of JFK etc.