Friday, July 03, 2009

Michael Jackson and the Superiority Complex of Ordinary People

Michael Jackson is with Elvis Presley now by Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald July 3, 2009

Michael Jackson: the unthinking man's eccentric, by Tabatha Southey, The Globe and Mail, Jul. 03, 2009

Update: Dear Boomers - Love, Gen X, Pink Manhattan blog, July 5th, 2009

I know, I know, it's been a week and I'm still harping on Michael Jackson, but I promise I'll make a somewhat substantial social commentary here, and then, get on with it. This is what's eating me about the aftermath of the death - it's the people who have nothing better to do than to deride his accomplishments as a musician. Whether it's in commentaries like the one I posted above, or the one I linked to a week ago on Huff Post, that somehow, entertainers don't deserve success and fame because they aren't the real heroes of our world, hit below the belt. It doesn't matter if entertainers do anything humanitarian with their work in their lifetimes - it's still going to be misunderstood because most people, particularly if they don't care for the type of music the entertainers created, will compare them to someone - Martin Luther King, Jr., a firefighter, or anyone - to make the point that their accomplishment was nothing more than a show, nothing to respect as a life-changing force. I smell some envy in posts like these, because, let's face it, only people with low self-esteem would diminish the accomplishments of others to attempt to make more ordinary people like themselves appear, not equal, but actually superior. Now that that's out of the way, I'll move on to the more important point I want to make.

Music doesn't change the world? They're wrong. If Martin Luther King, Jr. had sung his sermons, he'd still be a great leader, but then, people who don't understand that art is a form of communication would take him for a clown. The message is somehow lost when it's turned into song and dance, because, let's face it, these people think it can't be that hard to sing and dance, or make music, or any art for that matter. They believe art not only isn't but shouldn't be that important. They come from a cognitive bias, a judgmental perspective closed off to any new or different information. It's not like these entertainers do any sort of real work, they say. Obviously, these people have never had the blessing to know what it is to touch people with a God-given talent that somehow gets messages of a higher love across to people when mere words fail. If music didn't have worthy social impact, John Lennon, Bob Marley and Bono wouldn't be considered important, either, but they are, for more reasons than for their music alone.

Another way people have derided Michael Jackson's accomplishments this week is by comparing him to Elvis or other rock icons, to say any King of Pop couldn't possibly be as important as Kings of Rock, Classical, or other genres that didn't include dancing. You have to love comments like "Michael Jackson was essentially deeply middle class" by Tabatha Southey, another one who's clearly high above the lowly genre of Pop music. Like most non-musicians ignorant about musicianship, she can only vapidly make value judgments based on style. Basically, this is veiled racism, saying any form of African music is in and of itself beneath other more true forms of music. People who denigrate Pop music don't create music at the level of Michael Jackson (and they forget rock music is black music; it came from blues). If people like these are an indication, Michael Jackson was killed by the snark of his peers. Then again, I shouldn't use a word like "peers" loosely; as someone wise commented on my Facebook earlier, "I would never consider these critics to be one of Michael Jackson's peers. Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, James Brown, The Beatles or The Stones are people who may have elevated to that category. You would never hear such evil crap coming from these mouths." Amen.

But for those people who argue that music itself is something without any real merit or power to be a positive force in people's lives, they miss the point of songs like Man in the Mirror, We Are the World, Wanna Be Startin' Somethin', Black or White, even Beat It. It doesn't matter if these songs aren't in their taste. It doesn't change the fact that these songs continue to impact people in the same ways as other forms of communication do - and sometimes, in even stronger, more impactful ways. When a person who decides to do better owes that inspiration to a pop song, it doesn't matter if that song sounds silly to you. All you see might be a dumb video of a guy doing a moonwalk and hitting all the right notes. You may not have the ears to hear, but still many more people in our great shared world understood, that this entertainer gave the sermon of his life.

Lift Your Head Up High
And Scream Out To The World
I Know I Am Someone
And Let The Truth Unfurl
No One Can Hurt You Now
Because You Know What's True
Yes, I Believe In Me
So You Believe In You
Help Me Sing It, Ma Ma Se,
Ma Ma Sa, Ma Ma Coo Sa
Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa,
Ma Ma Coo Sa