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  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 4, No. 4, 2005
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Robert J. Lewis
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Charles Lewis
John Lavery
David Solway
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein





He’s such an easy target, Michael Jackson. By comparison, the weirdest of the weird get to feel normal. But unlike them, Jackson doesn’t try to hide the fact that he is easily one of the most messed up beings on the planet. Every time he checks in for yet another surgery, he is announcing to the world that he doesn’t know who he is, where he is going, and that he thoroughly loathes himself – at least the adult version. And for his remarkable honesty, his most unprivate confessions, he is subjected to one public humiliation after another. Who among us rock throwers would have the courage to reveal about ourselves what Michael has revealed about himself? Next to the towering monument that the unedited Michael Jackson is we are telephone booths; next to his guilelessness and candor, we are the great dissimulators, the pusillanimous.

Everything Michael has done and said during the past 20 years has been against his own apparent self-interest, beginning with unrelenting surgical assaults on his erstwhile good looks, to hanging his child (and crotch for that matter) out to dry, to entering details of his bedroom antics into the public domain. Like a typical Dostoievksy character, we cannot account for the behavior if it weren't for an apparently overriding need to confess and proclaim -- over and against what the outside world wants to believe -- the truth of who we are. The on-going spectacle of Michael’s increasingly bizarre conduct is his confession to the world that he is one spectacularly psychologically-challenged dude.

Like children who are incapable of dissimulating their basic wants and needs, Michael’s manner of being in the world is uncensored and spontaneous, and to such an unsuspected extent I propose he deserves to be considered one of the most authentic beings of this or any other century, and quite properly belongs to that exceptional society of authenticity-questers that would include Saint Augustine, Pascal and Heidegger.

The facts of Michael’s life have been well documented. We know that by the age of 25 he was on top of the world. Thriller had sold an unprecedented 50 million copies and Billie Jean had become the musical drug of choice in every corner of the world. Not only was the song’s momentum and tension brilliantly crafted and fused, Michael’s riveting, counterpoint choreography – which remains unsurpassed -- revolutionized the way we simultaneously look at and listen to music. Before disbelieving eyes, his torso, head and limbs supplied never-before-seen anatomical rejoinders to the notes -- like a guitarist filling in between the lyrics.

But from here on in, it would be downhill for the genre’s quintessential messenger, for Michael could no longer sustain the ‘great lie’ he was living. The child’s ‘tin drum’ was beating ever louder in his head and he intuitively understood that he was developmentally under-equipped to handle the adult pressures of stardom. Far more compelling than the promise of even greater fame and fortune was the example of Oskar, from Gunther Grass’ The Tin Drum (1959), which tells the story of a boy who refuses to grow up, who, through his drumming, rejects the adult world and the horrors taking place in Nazi Germany. Like Oskar, Michael had witnessed firsthand the abominations of adult behaviour and refused to sign up.

From his earliest years, Michael Jackson was subjected to both extreme psychological and physical abuse at the hands of his status-obsessed father, who designated Michael as the vessel into which he would mercilessly pour the acid of his unrealized ambitions. To this single end, Joe Jackson was ruthlessly single-minded. Michael was terrified of him, whose mere presence could induce nausea. At the age of 5, the father yanked the son from his pail and sandbox existence and made him run Hollywood’s grimmest gauntlets. The little mouse that Michael was suddenly found himself in the rat race and quickly learned to hate it, and like Oskar, who found respite in the beating of his tin drum, Michael found solace on stage, performing his music.

But the stage could not provide Michael immunity against the constant encroachment of the adult world. Listen to his rapid breathing in especially Off the Wall and Thriller: the panting staccato of a stalked animal, the jerky breathlessness that characterizes human panic, and his small boy’s voice hiding behind the mesmerizing slash and blur of arms and legs fending off an invisible attack. From one track to the next, the lyrics aren’t so much sung as frantically whispered, the vowels cut short to the quick.

Cryptically, through original music and dance the world took to like a drug, Michael announced that he could no longer follow the course Father and Hollywood had staked out for him, that the disparity between his real self and the role he was thrust into had reached unsustainable incommensurability. Only the child within could save the defenseless adult from the depredations of the adult world, and from this point on, Michael would reduce the project of his life to letting the world know the truth of who he was: a confused, fragile, lost soul in search of understanding and love. By the time Michael had attained mythic status, he was so far removed and alienated from himself, he would have to shed, over a period of 20 years and still counting, one skin after another before his true self could begin to emerge. As we might expect from someone so radically self-estranged, the result has been nothing less than a metamorphosis. Michael’s journey of self-discovery is a work in progress like no other because it increasingly depends on the accommodation of two irreconcilables: the child and adult as one. .

More revealing of itself than its favourite target, public opinion has not seen fit to grant Michael the inalienable right to his confused mental state and ‘off the wall’ comportment. If most people subscribe to the notion that black and white are not only skin colours but states of mind, why are we baffled or offended when Michael, who was introduced to the white ways of Hollywood at the age of five, tells us that he isn’t sure what his true colour is? Robbed of his childhood, abused by a psychotic father and then prematurely subjected to the adult pressures of the entertainment world, why are we surprised to learn that Michael doesn’t want to grow up, that he prefers the non-judgmental company and community of children with whom he can be himself in search of himself. Every time the androgynous Jackson goes under the knife he is crying out that he doesn’t know if he is man or woman, child or adult, black or white. As if we would have done otherwise in his situation.

And to the never-ending suspicion that Michael is a child abuser, what crime has been committed when two experimenting 11-year-olds fool around sexually? If you believe that Michael has the mentality of an 11-year-old, (and there hasn’t been much evidence to the contrary during the past 20 years) he should not have had to defend himself against accusations of child molestation. Was it in defense of perversity or his incorrigible innocence that convinced him that it was OK to reveal that he shared his bed with children? More questionable, even criminal, than Michael’s alleged fooling around with other kids, were the parents who allowed, even encouraged their children to sleep over and perhaps share the same bed with someone whose sexual predilections have been suspect since 1991.

On June 13, 2005, the courts found Michael not guilty of the charges brought against him. However, those whose minds were decided on his guilt before the trial will not be changed by the verdict, just as Michael’s essential nature will not have changed. Mahatma Gandhi writes that "There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience." Only Michael knows if he is sexually attracted to children, and beyond that, if he has ever acted on those feelings. And if we grant him the mental age of an 11-year-old, who has nonetheless conventionally fathered two children, Michael is then a child trapped in an adult body. Which means the crowning act in his quest for authenticity awaits one final operation.

What does a man do when he feels, acts and responds like a woman trapped in a man’s body? He undergoes sexual reassignment surgery and hormone therapy in order to become who ‘she’ is. There remains one final procedure that will totally liberate the child that Michael is. When Michael finds the courage to act on what his duty toward other children demands -- submit to voluntary neutering, which will be tantamount to his final confession -- the saving grace and glory that is his Neverland will become his forever land.

Reader feedback HERE .

Related Article:
The Awe and the Aw
Michael Jackson - Another Seduction

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