The boy who danced and sang his way into countless hearts from all cultures anywhere is no more. Michael Jackson.
There’s a yawning MJ-shaped chasm in the universe at this post-Jacksonian moment. Michael’s death wrenched the spotlight away from Iran and refocused it on a lost boy who was led astray everytime he tried to find his way home. Now he never will. I think the pressure of having to prove he was human to a world that suddenly seemed to turn hostile and scornful proved too much for this extraordinary boy-man to bear.
PROVE YOU’RE HUMAN demand the spambot busters when you try to leave a comment on blogposts or Facebook discussions. You then have to correctly type two distorted-looking words into a box, an action that apparently will instantly expose a spambot (which pretend to be users but actually want to harvest your email and other useful info about you) incapable of deciphering the letters.
Could MJ possibly have realized just how many fans and well-wishers he has all over the world? Michael Jackson dies and nearly takes internet with him announced one headline referring to the volume of cybertraffic trying to verify his death on the afternoon of June 25th, resulting in an overload which nearly crashed the Net the day he died. The media, snarling and vicious only a few years ago has been obsessively adulating him in death.
looklikemoney09 crazy how this nigga #michaeljackson got respect when he died an aint have none when he was alive was how one tweep roughly and eloquently summed it up. A commenter (sharon p) on a blog called Can’t Stop Won’t Stop poignantly asked: “how will i remember him? as the person who bought the elephant man’s bones just so he could bury them. who will he remind me of? Zora Neale Hurston, who was also accused of child molestation in 1948 — an accusation that caused her to leave the “community” she had dedicated her life to.”
The accusations of child molestation made against MJ in 2005 and the resulting media frenzy must have left a malingering but fatal wound on his already bruised and battered psyche. We seem to overlook the fact that everything Michael did was a scream for help. MJ enacted on his body the aggression he faced from his father & by extension society, and he flaunted his wounds in our face– that etiolated Geisha mask and his mutilated nose were pleas for the unconditional love he always desired.
Yet the media demanded that Michael act ‘normal’ and policed his departures from the norm with a vengeance that verged on violence. Hyena-like they were expressing the deep violence that underlies the social contract, a violence that had also consumed his erstwhile friend Diana, Princess of Wales, a decade or so ago.
Well, the mainstream media has limited credibility for me now, particularly in the wake of the Iraq War which they triumphantly and confidently led us into. If i’m going to believe anyone on the Michael Jackson saga it will be his close friends and family (see Deepak Chopra in the Huffington Post) who all testify to his innate goodness and compassion and not some journalist riding a moral high horse and instructing me on what is normal and what isn’t. For a good article on the subject i recommend Andrew Sullivan’s Thinking about Michael.
Jackson’s profound influence on global popular culture can be measured in the numerous song-and-dance routines of Bollywood films. Indian choreographers have yet to recover from the Thriller effect, which informs a good three quarters of all Bollywood dance numbers. Jai ho MJ said AR Rahman in his tribute. In the Caribbean the Jackson Brothers came to both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Mark Lyndersay has written a memorable account in the Trinidad Guardian of his encounter with MJ on that 1978 visit. Here he describes accompanying MJ to Laventille:
The lanky young black man, his hair a massive puff that swayed in the evening breeze, walked along the road, waving, shaking hands and chatting with surprised people relaxing in their verandahs on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon. I photographed the entire encounter for what I was told were his scrapbooks, memoirs he gathered of his travels.
Another area Michael may have been surprised to know he impacted on was the Middle East. In an article called “He meant so much to Arabs” the author detailed the region’s love affair with the singer:
As most of his admirers in the Middle East got pirated or smuggled copies of his music in the 1980s and 1990s, I don’t think MJ knew just how much his music shaped a whole generation of Arabs, just how many fans he had here and just how devoted they remained throughout his ordeals.
We might not have heard of the Beatles or Elvis Presley, but we sure knew Michael Jackson
There was just something about him and his songs that rang true. When we were teenagers, we would often smuggle music by MJ into our school in Saudi Arabia and share it among us by putting the cassettes into generic plastic covers to hide the fact that we were listening to his music.
There were fears among the religious police about his “influence” on the young mind, particularly as songs such as Bad and Beat It were copied and sung, and even dubbed into Arabic, by the young and the rebellious.
We didn’t care about his personal life, it didn’t matter. What was important were the songs. We identified with the themes of loneliness and rejection in his lyrics.
After the first Gulf War, the young in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait listened to his songs for strength and inspiration. I know I did – even if I didn’t understand all of the words back then.
In many ways – and despite reservations about Washington’s recent foreign policy – he was a symbol of America as a land of opportunity, especially for a generation of Arabs that had grown up in conflict.
People named their cars after him, not to mention their pets – my own white-and-black cat is called MJ.
The 1985 song We are the World, which MJ co-wrote, is a regular at school parties. Even his more recent albums strike a chord with his Middle Eastern fans, while a song like Scream, for example, is often played among young groupings who feel frustrated, pressurised, and suppressed by the establishment, whether it be official or cultural.
MJ performing live in Bucharest
As #Michaeljackson replaced #iranelection overnight as the top trending subject on Twitter a bitter Iranelection tweep reflected on the rapid shift in the public’s attention: “amazing how quickly interests shift from the plight of an entire country and its people to the death of a washed up pedophile #iranelection”. I wondered if this person so contemptuously dismissing Jackson realized that, just as in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Middle East, it was probably this ‘washed-up pedophile’ who was responsible for exposing Iranian youth to the seductive, permissive culture of the West and indirectly to the rebellious spirit we saw erupt in Tehran last week.
And for a great deconstruction of how news systems work the death of ‘famous persons’ have a look at this cartoon from the Stereotypist (a comic written and poorly drawn by john campbell. updated entirely without warning. e-mail wtfwjd ‘at’ gmail dot com) below. In the meantime i prefer to think of Michael as a friend on Facebook visualized him:
Sonjah Stanley Niaah MJ: The moonwalker who dwelled on earth for a while and left a luminous musical legacy!