Created 06/30/2009 ~ 10:57
By BAR columnist michael hureaux perez
The King of Pop is dead, and “you can hear the scavengers gnawing on bones all the way to the bank from any vantage point where you stand.” Michael Jackson succumbed to a peculiar Amurridan syndrome: TMTS, Too Much Too Soon.
“In United States capitalist culture, performing artists have to deal with a public pillorying that actually ought to be reserved for the war criminals and thieves who have always run and owned this society.”
"Jackson was able to surpass
someone else’s moves with his own,
and surpass his own moves
with someone else’s.”
Michael Jackson is dead, and we are told the cause of his death is a mystery. But there’s no mystery. This enormously gifted and sad man died of a lethal Amurrikan disease many call TMTS (Too Much Too Soon), and the terminal qualities of his chronic disorder began to manifest long before he actually passed.
Many who denied the immensity of the man’s talent will cry crocodile tears now, and many of those folks are people who, just a week ago, were more than eager to castigate his outwardly bizarre behavior, which, even at a glance from this far away, was clearly a symptom of an isolated emotional and mental illness which went untreated all the man’s days.
But that’s Amurrika. Amurrika has always set up its idols for a moment, only to make a public spectacle of their human frailty when Amurrika believes it can sell enough trash magazines and other forms of cultural offal.
Michael Jackson, like Freddie Prinze, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, and many others before him, fell into the workings of TMTS, and got ground up in the gears of the machine. Not that the machine really cares. You can hear the scavengers gnawing on bones all the way to the bank from any vantage point where you stand.
There are those who tell us that Michael’s fate came to him because he was just too powerful a figure on the cultural scene and too black to be allowed such power in Amurrika. There’s no denying the importance of these cultural factors, but they weren’t decisive in the end.
The fact of the matter is that Jackson, while at the top of his game as a performer, was as brilliant a talent as anyone who ever stood center stage in Amurrika. A lot of the artist’s most brilliant work with his brothers as lead for the Jackson 5, Off the Wall,Thriller, Bad, were bones in the throat of his most bile-ridden Amurrikan critics, and that’s why they hated him so.
“Whacko Jacko,” as the New York Post called him, my ass. Many people familiar with that style of journalism know what’s actually whack, jack.
"A lot of the artist’s most brilliant work
were bones in the throat
of his most bile-ridden Amurrikan critics.”
Jackson’s original contributions to choreography and dance were substantial. As is said of any prominent athlete, Michael Jackson was able to surpass someone else’s moves with his own, and surpass his own moves with someone else’s. We won’t see his like again for a long time.
By the same token, it must be remembered that for a brief period, Michael Jackson really tried to play the Amurrikan game of “superstar” and cultural impresario, and it turned and devoured him.
His pettier efforts, from the attempt to own all of the work of the Beatles to his efforts to shut down talents like Terence Trent Darby, were pathetic and created a lot of resentment towards him. But he had a lot of money and power, and I think it was Bob Dylan who said that sometimes, when you’ve got a lot of knives and forks, you’ve just got to cut something.
And face it, that’s how success is defined in Amurrika, having just for the sake of having. No rhyme, no reason.
There are some with far fewer abilities than Michael Jackson had who can thrive in such a place, because their stupidity allows them to believe they personally created sex or dance or the Kabala or Frida Kahlo or whichever human energy they’re trying to purchase this week.
Michael Jackson wasn’t stupid, but he never really had a childhood, and at some level, never figured out what his own reasons were for exploring the androgynous dimensions of dance that he pioneered and embraced, so he jumped through a window in his own head quite some time ago.
The arts pose some peculiar crossroads, and the Vaslav Nijinskis and the Michael Jacksons of this world often get jammed up in their experiments with form.
"Both Jackson and Presley were manipulated
by their personal ambitions,
the drive of others around them,
and the toxins of the Amurrikan spotlight.”
It was never surprising that Michael Jackson married into the Elvis Presley clan for a brief period, for there is no other figure in the history of pop culture whose career he so inversely mirrored. Both men were manipulated by their personal ambitions, the drive of others around them, and the toxins of the Amurrikan spotlight.
Presley was tormented by the ghost of his mother, Jackson was tormented by the living spirit of his father. Presley was never comfortable in his own skin, and was haunted by both the outward and the hidden injuries of southern rural class and race, in that order.
Michael Jackson was never comfortable in his own skin, and was haunted by both the outward and the hidden injuries of northern urban race and class, in that order.
Both men knew enormous success early in life dwelling in a revolutionary transformation of a popular music that would be irreversibly impacted by African American motif, changes that were much larger than either was allowed by circumstance to develop any holistic reckoning with.
And both men were haunted by the bitter memory of what once could have been.
In United States capitalist culture, performing artists have to deal with a public pillorying that actually ought to be reserved for the war criminals and thieves who have always run and owned this society.
But it’s not like that, only established forms of full-blown, batshit insanity are allowed license in Amurrika, the last few national elections and their immediate aftermath being the clearest proof of the game.
"Performing artists have to deal
with a public pillorying
that actually ought to be reserved
for the war criminals and thieves.”
Of course there’s no denying that much of what happened to and with Michael Jackson on a personal level was crazy, for want of a much better word. But mental illness is mental illness, it is an internalized disease, a dis-ease.
Unfortunately in the United States, you’re supposed to be impervious to old pain, especially if you’re rich and famous.“Success” in Amurrika is a cruel thing.
There is no mystery that a culture so steeped
in denial of the internal need for
emotional and psychic connection
above and beyond the definitions imposed
by the worship of the commodity is so violent
on both a personal and interpersonal level.
There is no wonder that it eats so many of its more “successful” children. Or at least there ought not to be any wonder at this sorry point, by god.
Well, Amurrika finished has chewing up the living body of Michael Jackson. It began devouring him inwardly a long time ago, and finally administered the death blow. Now we’ll all be treated to the spectacle of the Beast chewing on the bones of this fallen child-man. There’s money to be made selling off the body parts of the spectacular corpse, and it’s morning in Amurrika.
BAR columnist michael hureaux perez is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently. Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org