By Dmitri Prieto
Michael Jackson has died.
I remember the debates about him and his art when we were younger. It was the talk of Havana schools as to whether he was a homosexual or not, if there was or wasn’t racism in his decision to radically give up his phenotype of a Black man, or if the type of pop music that he produced almost industrially at that time was or wasn’t art.
I remember the images from his video “Thriller” when it came out, and his unsurpassable “moonwalk” – a new type of movement on the scene. I find it hard to remember the lyrics of his songs; the only one that comes to mind is the refrain from “Smooth Criminal”: “Annie, are you ok? Are you ok? Are you ok, Annie?”
Obviously Michael Jackson was not John Lennon. He was not a spirit in search of making sense of the world; he did not have that ethical-political commitment that engendered love and sometimes fanaticism from his admirers.
Although the figure of Lennon was and is not exempt from the stains of various scandals – as much in life as after his death – in Jackson’s biography it seems that these scandals ended up displacing his artistic creations as such.
However, there is in Michael Jackson spirituality and sense. I’m not speaking of his musical innovations, which have now established that even a second-rate artist must first learn how to move on stage, to the point of becoming a professional dancer, without caring about what they sing (this applies to all of them, from Britney and Shakira to the Cuban reggaeton group Gente D´Zona). I’m referring to the spirituality of consumerism as a goal, that sign of the era in which we live, that ideal of happiness based on acquiring material things.
Fifteen years ago I read a book saying that Michael Jackson, as a “self-made man,” represents a certain ideal of “United States post-modernism”: neither man, nor woman, neither black, nor white. With irony, some contemporary ideologue of the establishment might say his was “queer.” In no manner, would the queer ideologues respond…
Michael Jackson’s death is the disappearance of a cult figure representing a certain way of life, a mode of life based on the potential of technique to change human deeds; on the potential of money to invoke the magic powers of technique; on the potential of public success to serve as the basis for obtaining fame and money; on the potential of talent to be the point of departure for achieving public success, but not in any other sphere.
But is this the formula of spirituality? When that spirituality was embodied, its name on planet Earth was Michael Jackson. I will never forget “Thriller,” with one image after another guarded in my mind during my Soviet childhood; other people will probably remember different videos and songs by the great Michael Jackson.
There have already been several suicides among his fans. Some people will surely take these as yardsticks in their own phenomenal ascent in the pop world. There will appear scandalous revelations, official and tell-all biographies, photos, maybe one or another of his unpublished works, efforts at his resurrection, tons of web posts and millions of flowers.
But the solitariness of that artist at the time of his death will be more than the symbol for a legend. We can imagine that, if we don’t allow our hearts to be overpowered by the trappings of an icon of consumerism.
It would be blasphemy to grant full power to the dominance and authority of post-modernity, which on closer inspection reveals itself as a klippot: an entity without essence. We must remember that the power of these paradigms is not absolute, that they are creations – dehumanized products – of flesh and blood beings.
There – in the depth of a body undone by the hi-technology of the arrogance of a way of life that can potentially consume us all – had beaten a human heart.
May God have pity on his soul!