Saturday, July 04, 2009

today : On the death and life of Michael Jackson

And so that was it.

Michael Jackson died from what was effectively a heroin overdose. I cannot understand why some people seem so surprised. It was never going to end well was it?

I personally thought, at the time of his trial, that suicide would be a good way out for him. It's extremely cynical, but it would have been the PR coup of the century, upstaging everything and keeping the legend intact. As it was, he won the trial. And although people aren't talking about it now, the portrait painted was of a person who might not have done anything proven in court to be criminal, but certainly did things that were on the very edge of suspicion, and way over the line that reasonable people would draw
(Whatever my suspicions I have to assume that he didn't do anything illegal vis-a-vis any children, given that rumour was never proven legally)

I used to think that it was all too easy - to paint Jackson as a victim and use this victimhood to excuse his questionable behaviour. I used to think that if he really wanted, he could have bought anonymity, focus on working out his problems and forget about the spiral of fame and misfortune. I still think that to some extent. Part of this was predicated on my annoyance at the hype. Floating statues of yourself down the Thames and demanding to be called the King of Pop is one thing. Everyone seemingly following and thinking this was normal is another.

I never thought Jackson was, as an artist, as great as they told me. Out of his whole career you could probably squeeze a terrific single CD of music. And the show I saw of his at the height of his megastardom was quite overblown, remote and curiously unemotional. As if they assumed that just seeing him was enough. The crowd went mad, but mainly for the jet-packs, the disappearing tricks and the moment when, after teasing us for an hour, he finally did the moonwalk.

But I think his predicament was more complicated than I liked to believe. When you are the factory, the salesman and also the product it's a pressurised position. Everything depends on you. At the age of six this is hard to imagine. I could barely write my name at the age of six, never mind be the central figure in a huge money making organisation. For Jackson, this all happened before he had the chance to develop a personality and maybe this was why he never had the strength to stop the carousel and get off. And if all the stories and the evidence is to be believed Jackson was the classic case of someone with outstanding talent who suffered rock-bottom self esteem.

And this is the key. One of the main symptoms of low-self esteem is the desire to please others and get their validation. It's even more difficult to step off the carousel when your world is filled with people who make a very good living from what you do. But if you are also crippled with the desperate need to please them then you'd never take the chance of alienating those around you. Even if they are parasites whose opinions actually count for nothing. They know this and use it to trap and control their cash cow.

So, trapped in what is clearly an extremely pressurised and unhappy place - perhaps facing the daunting prospect of the public gaze, Jackson did what many millions of people do. He self medicated. We (the little people) take illegal drugs, drink too much, gamble and indulge in mindless hedonism. Anything for a high, an altered state, escaping our terrible, mundane lives. Some of us go to the doctor and get Valium or Prozac or Temazepam.

Jackson didn't go to a dodgy house in a seedy part of town or cruised the corners for a hit. No, he's no Bubba. With half a billion dollars in the bank you can afford a private doctor who'll prescribe you the drugs you want. But the effect is the same. If you don't learn to live without the medication then sooner or later it'll kill ya.

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