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.