A friend who knows him once told me a story about the actor and director Alan Rickman. He is so upper middle class that when he was filming “The Winter Guest” (an excellent wee film - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120521/ ) in Fife, he went to a local fish and chip shop with some of the actors and crew and ordered “Salmon and Salad”. He couldn’t understand why those behind the counter looked at him in disbelief and why his friends were laughing. The fact that he assisted in the editing of a collection of Rachel Corrie’s writings has surprised me and made me reassess my opinion of the actor.
Rachel Corrie was 23 when she died trying to defend a family home from bulldozers. Rachel was from Olympia, Washington, USA. “My Name is Rachel Corrie” is a collection of her writings, edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner. The edited writings were presented as a one woman play at the Royal Court Theatre, London, with the actor, Megan Dodds in the lead role as Rachel.
Rachel wasn’t killed by a renegade dozer driver in the US, but by an armoured dozer with gun mounts, driven by an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2003.
This is a play about a young girl growing up in a comfortable middle class home who decided after years of political development that she wants to join the international fight against poverty and exploitation. She joins the International Solidarity Movement before finishing her College degree at the Evergreen State College in Olympia. She, along with people from all over the world, flies out to Palestine to engage in the “Gandhian non-violent resistance” the majority of Palestinians eschew and enact every day.
Her writings show the development of a caring, naïve, ordinary girl who worries about friends, family, clothes, boys, writing, painting and how she fits in to middle America.
Rachel is rebellious, like all healthy young people should be. She dreams of returning to her hometown after years of nomadic travel and drive past her former High School, “I’ll lean out the window when I pass my old high school and scream, Ha Ha Ha! ‘Fuck You! Fuck you!’ just for old times’ sake.” Her rebellion, however, goes further than the, “Fuck you, I’m alright” attitude today’s neo-liberal, corporate world encourages. She feels a need to connect with the world outside her small town; to connect to the world she has been campaigning for – the 2/3rds world we take for granted as we wear, eat and play with the products they have created so cheaply to their detriment and a westerners profit.
She comes to the conclusion that the differences between people are situational . she wrote when she was ten, “We have got to understand that people in the Third World countries think and care and smile and cry like us. ~We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs. We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.” Later as an adult she says, “privilege shelters people from the consequences of their actions.” She questions the US funding of Israel’s armed forces (see - http://www.ccmep.org/hotnews2/usforeignaid041402.html ), “It is my own selfishness and will to optimism that wants to believe that even people with a great deal of privilege don’t just sit by and watch. What we are paying for here is truly evil. Maybe the general growing class imbalance in the world and consequent devastation of working people’s lives is a bigger evil.” Rachel explains in letters to her parents about the imbalance between the Palestinian violence and the violence and destruction meted out by one of the worlds largest and modern equipped army. She tells her parents that she has seen people’s livelihoods and communities stripped and destroyed and she asks, “do you not think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could?” She criticises the Israeli state and ensures her parents know that it is the state and not the Jewish people, she is criticising.
Not everyone can travel to centres of conflict and place ourselves in positions to protect one violated people from another; but this wonderful, poignant piece of writing should be read by everyone of us who enjoy the trappings of a comfortable western life. Every time we spend our money or pay our taxes, we inadvertently support the kind of violations against women, men and children that are described in the play. People should be aware of what the corporate world does to enrich the few people at the top of the pile. Palestine is a small part in the huge jigsaw of exploitation and violence needed to support the present status quo. Rachel Corrie was one of millions of victims.