Close to a Cult

Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, is admired and revered by all sorts of left-wing progressive people. Unfortunately, her daughter Rebecca isn’t one of them. There’s an interesting article in the Sunday Times (of London) on the breakdown of the relationship that’s informative reading if you care for this sort of thing.

Having been raised to believe that “it’s not nature, it’s nurture”, she was not prepared for the strength of her feelings for her baby. “I adore him,” she says. “He’s really into running and jumping and he’s very attached to me. It’s all, ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy’, and it’s very difficult to leave him.”

People she meets constantly express surprise at what’s happened — surely having a child should have brought her closer to her mother, rather than splitting them asunder? She agrees.

“People don’t really understand how strong ideology can be,” she says. “I think sometimes of that group and that feminism as being close to a cult. I feel I had to de-programme myself in order to have independent thought. It’s been an ongoing struggle. When you have a cult, you have a cult leader who demands a certain conformity . . . And when you have a celebrity who has cultural-icon status, economic power beyond what you can imagine, you can’t resist that person — if you want to stay in their realm. Because once you start challenging them, they kick you out.”

That’s the trouble with ideological movements, they lose the ability for self-critical reflection on their efficiency in translating ideals into practice, invariably preferring the consistency of the ideals to the messiness of reality.

As bad a parent as Alice Walker was, she doesn’t hold a candle to Austrian engineer Josef Fritzl, of course. Don’t click through unless you’re prepared to be completely revolted; this dude imprisoned his daughter in an underground dungeon for 24 years, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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