“do you remember the time…”
yes michael, i remember the day as if it happened five minutes ago… somehow, it all came back to me, on this second ‘observance’ of your transcendence. from the moment i saw those three words they forever became stamped in my consciousness. i still cannot see them without breaking down. as you know though, the word ‘death’ holds a different meaning for me; as death represents a finality. ultimately i don’t think it’s your transcendence in and of itself which is the most painful to deal with… it’s mainly how it occurred. it’s the acknowledgement of the state of war we continue to live in. even if you were not shot down or beaten, you still left this earth violently.
in light of your transcendence we still do not acknowledge the interconnectivity of events. of course, interconnectivity is not always positive, since the root of interconnectivity is connection. i refuse to look at what happened to you as an individual case, since in my studies relating to this whole situation, there are many branches attached to the roots of the tree of darkness. that tree is the industry you were reared in. and the seeds from that tree continue to pollinate to the point where very few even bother to notice the visuals anymore.
we got so used to having you around, we took advantage. you became so sick that your roots began to dry out, and we didn’t even notice. you made that ultimate decision to relinquish much of that connection to the tree, and allowed the wind to blow you in whatever direction the wind saw fit. we thought you were crazy for doing that. we thought your art suffered because of it. but we didn’t acknowledge that once the connection to that tree dissipated, was when the teachings truly had an opportunity to shine.
i’ve studied you for so long, michael… but for some reason it’s all come back- the grief, the pain. the things which give most people joy bring me despair. “time has made promises… death… promises…”
it’s as if when you left, the tree became stronger. that tree which brings nothing but spiritual/psychic death. that tree which encourages us to only look at a certain image of you they want to sell. that tree which discourages self-reflection. you were like a dead branch to them. they work over time, using financial resources to encapsulate you in a certain era. you are but a glove, concealing the fingerprints of intergenerational-ism. you are but a jacket, camouflaging the heart.
the first thing i did when i got home from work last night was put on moonwalker. the moment the film began- with the echo of your steps walking across the stage, the light following your loafers. as the jingling and shimmering increase in sound, we see animated glitter coming from your socks. you stand still for a second, then the glitter shoots sparks unto your legs, giving you the power to spin and stand on your toes… this is just in the first 16 seconds, before the world is then presented with your name…. and the title.
“michael jackson… moonwalker.”
that first 17 seconds defined how you wanted us to view you as a popular culture figure; you were alone on this stage, and yet you produced magic which was larger than life. to be able to stand on your toes and ‘moonwalk’ are the illusions not many have been able to accomplish as well as you. but that is all they are- illusions. with that, i think the next 93 minutes examined your state as a man.
‘man in the mirror’ was the cinematic bookend of the life of michael jackson (the man) in this film; ultimately though we were shown the journey in how you got there, by way of being ‘michael jackson ™’. this is about exposing and examining the roots: to reflect in order to move forward. ‘man in the mirror’ was a perfect introduction of, not only personal self-reflection, but it displayed a crucial skill in educating while assuming the role of ‘entertainer’. in watching this clip i often wonder if people are actually listening to the words you sing, amongst their screams.
i noticed earlier today, when you sang the chorus of ‘man in the mirror’ you emphasized the word ‘no’, in the line “and no message could have been any clearer”. my hope, again, is that your message, your teachings… have not been left unheard by those who love you. and even those who don’t. as the song continued to play, and footage of protests and starving children were juxtaposed with images of you and the thousands of fortunate fans, i began to cry. it’s still taking some getting used to that you. are. not. here. perhaps you are the fortunate one, since you are no longer here to physically observe the roots from the tree of darkness expand and colonize.
as ‘moonwalker’ continues its cinematic journey, we are shown the charisma; the work ethic; the talents which afforded you the success to be able to present the teachings to the world on the level you did. from the moments with your brothers, to your achievements as a young adult, up until the time of the film’s release- this is where we begin to see the mind of the man.
and where the film becomes a bit troubling. the interview you did with shmuley boteach a number of years towards the end of your physical life is one of the lenses through which i see this film:
I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That’s all. That’s the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved.
I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look in their eyes and say it.
i have discussed this before, michael; but yes, it’s pretty easy to tell this is the purpose for this film. despite all of the adulation there’s a lot of pain in each frame. what i saw was not you necessarily even dealing with self-love… it was about working through interpersonal issues… particularly with your father.
i look at ‘moonwalker’ from the lens of someone who also dealt with childhood abuse/trauma. there are parts of the film i cannot watch because of it. i cannot watch ‘the way you make me feel’ because it conjures up images of a gang rape fantasy; i cannot watch portions of the centerpiece of the film, ‘smooth criminal’, because it involves violence against both women and children. and you.
despite this, i also see the film through a lens of cultural critique. ‘speed demon’ (my favourite segment in the film, directed by will vinton) is indeed indicative of your desire to be loved, but it’s also, in many ways, a constructive look at how you view yourself through celebrity culture. it’s a look at how empty this culture actually is, when we value status above all else. everything melds together when you are able to morph into a dozen celebrities. you no longer become a being of substance. when you’re racing against the gazes of cameras and autograph hounds, there has to be something more substantial in life than that.
‘speed demon’ giving way to ‘leave me alone’ (my other favourite segment, directed by jim blashfield) is an absolutely stunning reflection of the vapidness of celebrity culture. interestingly enough, this was around the time when you wrote the letter in 1987 stating you “cry very often because it hurts and (you) worry about the children…”
being that you had to ‘ok’ everything you worked on before it was officially released, the fact this film exists is amazing. the song, on a naked listen, does indeed talk about a relationship between a man and a woman. of course, like in many cases the ‘girl’ is used as a metaphor- in your case, it’s the press. why this short film amazes me so is your basic acknowledgement of your working with the press to create a certain image of yourself. “there was a time i used to say… i need you…” even the dig on the rhinoplasty had me chuckling a bit; the nose flying in the air with the scalpel. i don’t know about anyone else, but i think the fact you let that slide in the film does show your humorous side.
and of course, the result of this film is to show your dissatisfaction with the way the relationship with the press turned out. it’s no longer reciprocal. the film is like a little joke to yourself- but you let us all in a little bit. blashfield and crew did study your life carefully (or at least worked closely with you), since they captured the relics perfectly- the peacock, the elephant, the llama… the cover of the dangerous album (done by mark ryden) captured a little of what this film did, but with darker imagery.
‘leave me alone’ was a battle between humanity and the roles which limit and imprison us. for all the adulation you desired, it came with a price. the film is a clear nod to swift’s ‘gulliver’s travels’ and the satire it entails; however, the ‘shipwreck’ in this case is indeed celebrity culture (and the focus on the external), and the lilliput residents are the people and institutions which see you as larger-than-life, but ultimately entrap you, keeping you around for a show. in order to keep the interest of the people, a little manipulation is used, by way of creating spectacular stories.
and keeping with the journey of ‘moonwalker’, you have committed treason by speaking out against your life of relative comfort… by speaking openly of your suffocation. to see you in that wonderland of ‘circus’ attractions was fun for sure; but it was simultaneously suffocating, to know the one thing you loved (the amusement park) was allegorical for the trappings created by man for our pleasure. it was incredibly satisfying and freeing to see the last scene, where you broke free from your body being used as a moral playground by others. amidst all the destruction you looked up at the sky and said ‘i. am. a. man.’
in my mind, ‘leave me alone’ was the centerpiece, as it was the one which merged between your private and public selves. ‘smooth criminal’ was a much darker aspect of your mind. it was a study in the repercussions of abuse, be it familial or societal. it also was the other bookend of your life as a man- the belief that one person can take steps to change societal wrongdoings.
aside from the obvious odes to certain films, i can’t help but wonder if you are openly processing and reflecting on your childhood by showing the violence, not just with the guns, but the type inflicted on yourself, one of the women in ‘club 30s’ slapped around by what is most likely a pimp, and on katie (played by kellie parker). watching these scenes trigger a lot for me, in relation to my own childhood; so it is difficult for me to sit through these scenes (as i mentioned). i also wonder if the reference to frankie lideo (played by joe pesci and an obvious play on frank dileo- michael’s manager at the time’s name) has to do anything with the government placing drugs in various communities. for lideo to run an army is pretty significant; for lideo to order that army to hunt down one man for discovering their operation is even more significant.
to bring your point home about your constant recognition of roots; ladysmith black mambazo conclude the film with ‘the moon is walking’. it’s about a man, reflecting upon where he comes from… it’s the rhythms of the body which contain truth. i love watching the combination of sounds with the choreography of both ladysmith black mambazo and scenes from the film. with all of the paranoia, violence, sadness and destruction in the film, it’s comforting to have the film close with the sounds of the motherland, just as the film opened with the spirit of the motherland.
needless to say, watching that film took a lot out of me, and so it was really difficult for me to watch anything else, without breaking down.
which is what i ended up doing all day, on the 2nd observance of your transcendence… i spent the day reflecting on what your teachings mean to me, and it really did hurt to know you were not here to have those teachings coming from you right now. i cannot interpret them in the way you did, and i don’t even know if i’m doing them any justice. i don’t want to seem selfish for breaking down two years later… i just want the grief to be over.
i stayed in bed a bit later, got up, cleaned my room a little bit, and broke down crying several times. i don’t apologize too much (unless i actually did something to hurt someone) but i found myself saying out loud, “i’m sorry michael, i don’t want you to see me like this.” i don’t know why i feel like i am hurting you. i can’t explain it. i cannot explain why I am hurting.
i figured i’d go and ride my bicycle… blast your teachings on the little speaker. i won’t cry then, there’ll be people around…
of course i was wrong. i cried, particularly when ‘heal the world’ was on… the line “if you care enough for the living” triggered my tears… you may be physically gone, but your light lives on. i know this.
i remember singing loudly to ‘man in the mirror’… a truck drove past me, and a young adolescent boy stared at me, with his head out of the window. i could not tell if he was sympathetic, or if he thought i was strange. i smiled at him, and he just stared back. he didn’t frown, he didn’t smile… at another point in the ride, a woman looked back at me and said “that’s a good idea…” i can only think she was referring to this day of observance, and the speakers playing, and the little michael sitting on the miniature bicycle. yes, i was ‘observing’ this day; however, i wish there was a way to let people know i observe your teachings every day…
in the midst of all this i began to wonder about the actual reasonings behind your transcendence… this is the painful part. if indeed it was murder (which i believe it was) why would you be murdered? was it political? was it thievery? is it simple, is it complicated? how much of a hindrance were you really, enough to take you away from your children? at what point did you become a hindrance?
the patterns seem so clear… still, none of it SHOULD make sense. for all intents and purposes, ‘moonwalker’ is another example of ‘biting the hand that feeds you’- with the ‘bad’ album, you see an awareness begin to publicly bloom.
it was with ‘dangerous’ however, where the cracks became entirely evident to those who did not see them back in 1987.
listening to a radio show with min. paul scott, i heard a conversation about an ‘illuminati’ actually not existing… ‘illuminati’ is actually a title made into a reality by those who continue to use the name; ultimately it comprises of a series of groups such as the bilderbergers. i do concur with that to a point… we give too much power to these individuals by bestowing the title ‘illuminati’ upon them. they present the illusion of enlightenment when in fact those people in those organization are very dark individuals.
as you’ve studied extensively on egypt and the notion of the power of holding secrets and knowledge; i’m sure you knew that these people studied the same things as you, and flipped the energy around. people may have narrowly critiqued ‘liberian girl’ (originally composed around 1983) as holding the motherland up as some disney-fied concept (in some attempt to maintain a black audience); but when ‘remember the time’ premiered, black people of many interests stood up and paid attention to what you were trying to say. was the all-black cast another attempt (to the industry) of ‘biting the hand that feeds’? for a man who is publicized to be ‘non-threatening’ as a performer creates a scenario which is a direct challenge to the world in which your friend elizabeth taylor starred in…
you know where i am getting with this.
this is why ‘black or white’ is so powerful. the contradiction between the two parts of the film are powerful. after the first half which speaks to a sort of palatable ode against racism; for a (black) man publicly viewed as asexual and apolitical to transform from a black panther, to touch himself and simulate masturbation (come on, yes), and THEN to pull up the trouser zipper and smash things is indeed powerful. and threatening to the corporate and societal structures which opt to control black sexuality and anger. it is one of the most brilliant pieces of art you created.
you are certainly off to a great start in 1991, michael. with that, in 1993, they found you a threat to children. sexually. coincidentally.
back to the ‘illuminati’ thing for a moment. on min. paul scott’s show, there was a discussion of the critique of ‘illuminati’ actually being a critique of the white supremacist structure. again, this is something i concur with. and of course, with race being a fabricated structure in order to stabilize a failing economy (hence, the private prison industry, slavery, etc.), anyone who challenges the notion of white supremacy can never achieve long term success.
i’ll take that back- anyone who challenges the notion of white supremacy by creating solutions can never achieve long-term success. the clearest example i can give here is martin luther king, jr. he began to make connections between the government/taxpayer-funded war in vietnam, and what is happening to black and brown people in the states. he began to make calls for an autonomous black economic system; which meant not financially supporting white businesses which did not recognize the humanity in black people.
of course, many black people thought martin luther king was crazy to make connections, and to speak out against war. black people warned king to not speak out against the good president who made provisions for da black peepahls. and like many people before him, and many after him, martin luther king jr. didn’t want to represent massa no mo.
so he had to go. can i make comparisons between you and king in this case? i believe i can. because there have been so many black people who took a look at your externals, and they completely believed what the (white) press has said about you, concerning your relationship with children, and the relationship with yourself. there were many who believed you hated your blackness simply because of what you looked like, without hearing what you had to say, as well as taking a look at your actions.
there were those who warned you against saying what you had to say; to just simply shut up and be an entertainer and sing and dance. when they heard you speak about white supremacy, either through speech or through movement, people claimed it was just to get attention. people could not handle that a man who’s lost his pigment could actually represent the motherland, in word and in deed. that a man who spent his life dealing with self-esteem could actually love his people, beyond any personal issues he’s had with himself.
we just have a hard time with acknowledging that things may not be so- i will say it- black and white sometimes.
So you call it trust
But I say it’s just
In the devil’s game
Of greed and lust
You’re saluting the flag
Your country trusts you
Now you’re wearing a badge
You’re called the “Just Few”
And you’re fighting the wars
A soldier must do
I’ll never betray or deceive you my friend but…
If you show me the cash
Then I will take it
If you tell me to cry
Then I will fake it
If you give me a hand
Then I will shake it
You’ll do anything for money… Anything
Anything for money
Would lie for you
Would die for you
Even sell my soul to the devil
Want your pot of gold
Need the Midas touch
Bet you sell your soul
Cuz your God is such
If you show me the man
Then I will sell him
If you ask me to lie
Then I will tell him
If you’re dealing with God
Then you will hell him
You’ll do anything for money
and with ‘HIStory’ (the second half of the album which people slept on of course); i wonder if this was more of an impetus than ‘black or white’ for ‘the hand’ to watch you even closer. you directly attacked the white corporate structure; you attacked white-owned media; you attacked the government; you attacked the white financial empires all in one album. for a man who’s supposed to be apolitical to call out j.p. morgan and rockefeller by name on your album… i think i even heard the name rosthschild. i have no qualms with saying you were targeted.
and yes, even by sony. they were sitting there waiting for you to implode… ah! there’s the ‘they don’t care about us’ controversy… then there’s the drug scandal… then there’s the lack of promotion for ‘invincible’… then there’s the SECOND charge of child endangerment and molestation… then there’s the… money problems, and sony i’m sure has been waiting for another 25% of the publishing you co-own with them. collateral is a powerful thang, isn’t it?
you have to have a strong spiritual resolution to deal with these devils; and i truly believe you did. it is indeed a gift too, even after the roots of darkness worked overtime to kill your spirit; as weak as you may have been you rose to the occasion.
they were watching you, and they clearly planned to run you down in order to sell to the public the image they hoped to maintain of you- but those who know have not forgotten. they may have killed you, the man “with the tune”; but we will never forget.
and as a student i will do my best to make sure no one forgets.