BE NOT AFRAID OF WEIRDNESS: Michael Jackson’s Power, Part 2

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Michael Jackson by RaPour
Michael Jackson by
RaPour

 

Difference is power.

This is one of the greatest lessons Michael Jackson tried to teach us. And we need to understand it if we are going to fix anything in this crazy world.

The media threw the worst kind of insults at Michael—they criticized his color, his face, his love of nature, his lack of a lover, his falling in love, his vulnerability and tenderness, his off-stage shyness, his confident advertising, the time he spent with children, the way he parented his own children, his voice, his fame and his fans. Much of it was mean-spirited, racist, homophobic crap.

Yet Michael stood strong—he rarely changed his behavior. The attacks clearly stung, and at times they left his career in tatters, but he refused to back down and become “normal”.

Indeed, once he was cast out of acceptable society he used his “outsider” status to reach out to others feeling like outsiders—and that means almost everyone on the planet. Literally.

If you’ve never watched the “Stranger in Moscow” video, pull it up on YouTube—you are in for a treat. Michael wrote the song shortly after the first set of false child abuse allegations, when he was abandoned by countless “friends”.

This is some of the most compelling work of his career. Spare and haunting, it explores the alienation and loneliness Michael was feeling at the time.

 

I was wandering in the rain,

Mask of life; feeling insane

Swift and sudden fall from grace

Sunny days seem far away…

Here abandoned in my fame

Armageddon of the brain.

 

(I love that last line. I can’t think of a better description for the times when my world has fallen apart.)

The video links his own heartache to that of other lost souls in a city, including a lonely man looking over the street from his apartment, a homeless man, a stunned woman sitting at a café, a friendless youth and a business man.

 

How does it feel

When you are all alone and you’re cold inside?

Like a stranger in Moscow …

I’m talkin’ dangerous

 

In slow motion, a baseball flies through a window. The fear and desolation in Michael’s voice says that loneliness feels like shattering glass—it’s life-threatening.

Yet even in this city of strangers, nature pays attention to the lost folk. A bee checks in on the homeless guy, and when a downpour begins, the lost souls step out into the rain, soaking in its attention, captivated and entranced by the way it touches them and connects them to Source, to the Earth, and in some way to each other. In the rain, they are not alone.

While other adults hurry past under umbrellas, excited children run through the rain, yelling for Michael to join them. He eventually does step into the rain, and at the video’s close, he flings his wet hair over his head in slow motion. He stands in the rain, eyes closed, mouth open, receiving grace. Connected to life.

I spent hours replaying this video. It reached deep inside me to touch the parts of me hidden from the world . . . the parts who felt a crushing difference from others. I was healed in some way, receiving that grace and caring and connection.

In 3 beautiful minutes, Michael exposes the myth that we are all separate, and gives us a way to experience connection and community. In addition, we get to see ourselves in and through his loving eyes, and we get an appreciation for the healing power of nature—something Michael was intimately familiar with.

In other words, Michael used the differences the media ridiculed (his voice, his love of nature and children, and his connection to Source) to encourage authentic expression. He gathered more power by reaching out to other lost souls, and empowered us at the same time.

Difference is Power

In Otherness and Power, Susan Woodward documents how journalists who were harshly critical of Michael saw him as tremendously powerful because he was different.

That’s because difference is the source of our power.

Think about it… The elite draw the cultural boxes in which we are allowed to function. They convince us that what is good and healthy and moral lies inside the box, but in reality they’ve dumped everything that gives us power outside the box.

Anything that could be a serious threat to them is over the line, untouchable. Ultimately, this has become a prison. Michael was slipping between the bars.

The ridicule was an attempt to contain his inspiration … to police the boundaries of acceptable behavior, to make us afraid of stepping outside the box.

But what’s on the other side of that line? All of our authentic selves!

Outside the box is intense emotion; deep sensitivity; authentic expressions of sexuality; moving art; vibrant self-esteem; powerful and supportive community; healing; personal and communal responsibility for our lives, our health, all our relations, and the Earth.

Inside the box? Blame and shame. Repressed emotion. Boredom. Stagnant, watered-down and abusive sexuality. Masks. Laughing at and humiliating others. Using and abusing others. Loneliness. A broken Earth.

The power of the one percent depends on us being satisfied with the crumbs we get for staying in the box. Michael made people want more.

What do you want?

What are you afraid to express?

What power lies outside your box, waiting for you to step over the line and claim it?

 

For those who are wondering, my move to CA went well: the car with 278,576 miles and an engine light on lugged me and my stuff there without a hitch, and I was offered work the day I arrived. How’s that for miracles? Now I am in a better place to keep exploring MJ’s work and use his tools to do what I want to do: help heal the world by sharing Michael’s tools for change.

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Keely Meagan is a writer, activist, healer, rebel and visionary. She is eternally grateful to Michael Jackson for showing us ways to effectively transform the world by waging peace with love; cultivating spiritual power; healing trauma; speaking truth to power; standing firmly in our whole, beautiful, complex selves, and never ever giving up.

2 Responses

  1. Nina Fonoroff
    | Reply

    Thanks, Keely! I’m glad you’ve arrived in California, and I hope you’re settling in and really enjoying your new home!

    I agree that weirdness, and difference, can be powerful; and the non-normative should more often be celebrated. All the more so, hen that difference can’t easily be recuperated or monetized (as in those ads for Apple Computers: “think different,” featuring the image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono—or Albert Einstein). Our political and economic system, of course, comes up with ingenious ways to incorporate all kinds of difference and dissent, and translate these into a tepid consumerism that instantly drains the possibility of genuine resistance of any threat it may have once had, as people become distracted by the next commodity.

    I’m not convinced we even *have* such things as authentic selves—or, if we do, that we’ll ever be able to consciously find them. But I do think that our first step toward compassion would mean a self-honesty that many are resistant to, because of their fear of what they may discover about themselves.

    The strange thing about Michael Jackson is that he stood at the very cusp of a world where processes of globalization and neoliberal economic policies (now securely embedded within our social landscape) were about to envelop all of political life. He was not only influenced and guided by this “new order”; he himself played a decisive role in shaping at least one part of it, by making the business of recorded music and touring even *less* of a cottage industry than it already was, and *more* of a huge industrial enterprise. The winner-take-all system of rewards was one inevitable result.

    So, as an accomplished capitalist himself, how could he manage the kinds of contradictions he embodied? For that matter, how can we? How was Michael able to negotiate so many seemingly opposite poles, and in the process become a major threat to the very world he helped to create?

    The fact of racism, of course, goes a long way toward explaining why. But I’m interested in “unpacking” how this works, going back to the vital relationship between slavery and rise of industrial capitalism in the US centuries ago. There are some good sources out there. (Also, apart from ongoing problem of white supremacy in the U.S., there are other things that played a part in Michael’s displacement from the center to the periphery of cultural life.)

    On another site, I think I tried to talk about the idea of difference—-Michael’s, ours, or anybody’s. Much as people are calling for things like “unity,” “oneness,” and moving past “divisiveness,” I believe the process is a lot more complicated than that. There’s a great deal of struggle involved, as history amply shows.

    Anyway, I’m just jotting down my immediate thoughts here; I don’t want to “drone” on and on! Thanks for your post, and I look forward to more!

    • Keely Meagan
      | Reply

      Love your response Nina. You always give me so much more to think about. Particularly your comments on how Michael participated in the globalization process with his music. I think that surpasses the Pepsi commercial for support of corporate America and building empire.

      So he was an accomplished capitalist and simultaneously a major threat to that system. How he did this matters because we are faced with similar challenges: living lives of relative comfort and varying levels of privilege as we attempt to transform the profoundly unjust system that is built on slavery and slave-like conditions for others. He consciously used his privilege and wealth to change the world and lift up other voices. His example is moving me to do the same.

      Please tell me more about what you are unpacking…I’d love to hear your thoughts (or get resources) on the relationship between slavery and the rise of capitalism, and how that impacts Michael and his work.

      And yes, this call to oneness is complicated. It often means that people of color are expected to agree with white people, women are expected to accomodate men, queer people are supposed to act straight. Michael definitely called for us to recognize that we are one in spirit (perhaps another way to say that is “equals who are all connected”), but he also celebrated his rich cultural heritage. That’s what I want to do as well, celebrate our differences yet come to the table as equals, our voices “second to none”.

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