Eshu’s blues: Michael Jackson dies of Amurrika at 50

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Michael Jackson dies of Amurrika at 50

Created 06/30/2009 – 10:57

By BAR columnist michael hureaux perez

The King of Pop is dead, and “you can hear the scavengers gnawing on bones all the way to the bank from any vantage point where you stand.” Michael Jackson succumbed to a peculiar Amurridan syndrome: TMTS, Too Much Too Soon. “In United States capitalist culture, performing artists have to deal with a public pillorying that actually ought to be reserved for the war criminals and thieves who have always run and owned this society.”

Jackson was able to surpass someone else’s moves with his own, and surpass his own moves with someone else’s.”

Michael Jackson is dead, and we are told the cause of his death is a mystery. But there’s no mystery. This enormously gifted and sad man died of a lethal Amurrikan disease many call TMTS (Too Much Too Soon), and the terminal qualities of his chronic disorder began to manifest long before he actually passed. Many who denied the immensity of the man’s talent will cry crocodile tears now, and many of those folks are people who, just a week ago, were more than eager to castigate his outwardly bizarre behavior, which, even at a glance from this far away, was clearly a symptom of an isolated emotional and mental illness which went untreated all the man’s days.

But that’s Amurrika. Amurrika has always set up its idols for a moment, only to make a public spectacle of their human frailty when Amurrika believes it can sell enough trash magazines and other forms of cultural offal. Michael Jackson, like Freddie Prinze, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, and many others before him, fell into the workings of TMTS, and got ground up in the gears of the machine. Not that the machine really cares. You can hear the scavengers gnawing on bones all the way to the bank from any vantage point where you stand.

There are those who tell us that Michael’s fate came to him because he was just too powerful a figure on the cultural scene and too black to be allowed such power in Amurrika. There’s no denying the importance of these cultural factors, but they weren’t decisive in the end. The fact of the matter is that Jackson, while at the top of his game as a performer, was as brilliant a talent as anyone who ever stood center stage in Amurrika. A lot of the artist’s most brilliant work with his brothers as lead for the Jackson 5, Off the Wall,Thriller, Bad, were bones in the throat of his most bile-ridden Amurrikan critics, and that’s why they hated him so. “Whacko Jacko,” as the New York Post called him, my ass. Many people familiar with that style of journalism know what’s actually whack, jack.

A lot of the artist’s most brilliant work were bones in the throat of his most bile-ridden Amurrikan critics.”

Jackson’s original contributions to choreography and dance were substantial. As is said of any prominent athlete, Michael Jackson was able to surpass someone else’s moves with his own, and surpass his own moves with someone else’s. We won’t see his like again for a long time.

michaelJackson.wackoBy the same token, it must be remembered that for a brief period, Michael Jackson really tried to play the Amurrikan game of “superstar” and cultural impresario, and it turned and devoured him. His pettier efforts, from the attempt to own all of the work of the Beatles to his efforts to shut down talents like Terence Trent Darby, were pathetic and created a lot of resentment towards him. But he had a lot of money and power, and I think it was Bob Dylan who said that sometimes, when you’ve got a lot of knives and forks, you’ve just got to cut something. And face it, that’s how success is defined in Amurrika, having just for the sake of having. No rhyme, no reason.

There are some with far fewer abilities than Michael Jackson had who can thrive in such a place, because their stupidity allows them to believe they personally created sex or dance or the Kabala or Frida Kahlo or whichever human energy they’re trying to purchase this week. Michael Jackson wasn’t stupid, but he never really had a childhood, and at some level, never figured out what his own reasons were for exploring the androgynous dimensions of dance that he pioneered and embraced, so he jumped through a window in his own head quite some time ago. The arts pose some peculiar crossroads, and the Vaslav Nijinskis and the Michael Jacksons of this world often get jammed up in their experiments with form.

Both Jackson and Presley were manipulated by their personal ambitions, the drive of others around them, and the toxins of the Amurrikan spotlight.”

It was never surprising that Michael Jackson married into the Elvis Presley clan for a brief period, for there is no other figure in the history of pop culture whose career he so inversely mirrored. Both men were manipulated by their personal ambitions, the drive of others around them, and the toxins of the Amurrikan spotlight. Presley was tormented by the ghost of his mother, Jackson was tormented by the living spirit of his father. Presley was never comfortable in his own skin, and was haunted by both the outward and the hidden injuries of southern rural class and race, in that order. Michael Jackson was never comfortable in his own skin, and was haunted by both the outward and the hidden injuries of northern urban race and class, in that order. Both men knew enormous success early in life dwelling in a revolutionary transformation of a popular music that would be irreversibly impacted by African American motif, changes that were much larger than either was allowed by circumstance to develop any holistic reckoning with. And both men were haunted by the bitter memory of what once could have been.

In United States capitalist culture, performing artists have to deal with a public pillorying that actually ought to be reserved for the war criminals and thieves who have always run and owned this society. But it’s not like that, only established forms of full-blown, batshit insanity are allowed license in Amurrika, the last few national elections and their immediate aftermath being the clearest proof of the game.

Performing artists have to deal with a public pillorying that actually ought to be reserved for the war criminals and thieves.”

MichaelJacksonJuly1Of course there’s no denying that much of what happened to and with Michael Jackson on a personal level was crazy, for want of a much better word. But mental illness is mental illness, it is an internalized disease, a disease. Unfortunately in the United States, you’re supposed to be impervious to old pain, especially if you’re rich and famous. “Success” in Amurrika is a cruel thing. There is no mystery that a culture so steeped in denial of the internal need for emotional and psychic connection above and beyond the definitions imposed by the worship of the commodity is so violent on both a personal and interpersonal level. There is no wonder that it eats so many of its more “successful” children. Or at least there ought not to be any wonder at this sorry point, by god.

Well, Amurrika finished has chewing up the living body of Michael Jackson. It began devouring him inwardly a long time ago, and finally administered the death blow. Now we’ll all be treated to the spectacle of the Beast chewing on the bones of this fallen child-man. There’s money to be made selling off the body parts of the spectacular corpse, and it’s morning in Amurrika.

BAR columnist michael hureaux perez is a writer, musician and teacher who lives in southwest Seattle, Washington. He is a longtime contributor to small and alternative presses around the country and performs his work frequently. Email to:

8 comments on “Eshu’s blues: Michael Jackson dies of Amurrika at 50

    Michael Jackson became a drug addict because he suffered from one of the worst forms of mental illness, referred to in psychiatry as alienation of the existential self. The root cause of this mental illness, which affects a large number of blacks, making them succumb to addiction and self destruction, is centuries of conditioning as a result of the slave trade and oppression. These facts are well explained by Oscar Bamwebaze Bamuhigire in The Healing Power Of Self Love (504 pp., $30.95, available at: ISBN-10: 144010137X
    ISBN-13: 978-1440101373). He argues that:

    Due to the effects of alienation of the existential self, some blacks have even gone as far as changing their skin color from black to white, in an attempt to deny their “Africanness”. Many African women today apply skinlightening creams, and wear wigs of white women’s hair, in an attempt to deny their “Africanness”. It is considered fashionable by many African women to wear a wig of a white woman’s hair. Many Africans break their backs trying to imitate the accents of Europeans or Americans. These are symptoms of the psychiatric illness which Frantz Fanon aptly labeled ‘Alienation of the existential self ’. It is a severe form of self hatred which often leads to self destruction, physical and mental illness. Emmanuel Hansen, in his analysis
    of the works of Frantz Fanon, explained:

    Fanon uses the word Alienation to indicate a variety of phenomena. He
    uses it to identify a ‘psycho existential complex’ – a series of inferiority
    complexes that manifest themselves in the existential condition of the
    individual. He also uses the word to indicate a condition of separation or
    attempted separation of the individual from himself. ‘A Senegalese learns
    Creole in order to pass as an Artilles Native: I call this alienation.’ Here it is
    a separation or an attempted separation of the individual from his existential
    self or an aspect of his existential self. The fact of being ‘Senegalese’ is part
    of the existential self of a native of Senegal, and to run away from this is to
    manifest alienation. In the same way, a black man who tries to run away
    from the existential condition of blackness manifests alienation…

    According to Hansen, Fanon added another dimension to the notion of separation. This was the notion of alienation of the existential self. To run away from the self, he said, is merely to avoid the self, but Fanon was talking about suppressing the self and killing it. In both cases, alienation is manifested. In many cases, the victims of alienation suppress and kill the self through alcoholism/ drug addiction. Hansen explains how colonialism/ slave trade forced its victims to turn against themselves in self destruction: “In this way violence is introduced into the relations of the colonizer and the colonized, but due to the fear of severe sanctions or a feeling of inferiority, the violence of the native is repressed…” he said. “Fanon argues that the native attempts to relieve this repressed violence by visiting it upon himself, or on other natives… sometimes the alienation of the native seeks an outlet in nihilistic acts of self destruction…” (P.301)

    In The Healing Power of Self Love it is further explained that:

    The African Americans and other non white people today suffer from high rates of alcoholism and self-destruction, because of the long term effects of abuses which their ancestors were subjected to. They are the products of several generations which never healed from their wounds, and from which they have ‘inherited’ various mental illnesses and psychopathologies. Every new generation that emerges, becomes the unconscious recipient of the psychopathology of its ancestors, who were the original victims of the slave trade, discrimination, and oppression. Once infected, this new generation also unconsciously transmits its illnesses to the next, perpetuating an endless pattern of self destruction. Whereas it is very likely that the original slaves were of sound mind and body, it is also a well acknowledged fact that they were traumatized by the slave trade and other forms of abuse. This being the case, it would be illogical for any of us to expect their children to be emotionally healthy, when they were raised under the very conditions which caused their parent’s trauma! Not only were the children of traumatized slaves also traumatized, but so were their children’s children. Realistically speaking, we should not expect a race which has been subjected to more than four hundred years of torture and trauma, to heal from its festering sores, when it was denied professional treatment.

    …The fact that injuries inflicted upon the mind usually manifest themselves in the form of physiopathology, and psychopathology, is well demonstrated by the African American’s health profile today. This argument was supported by Dr. Miller’s observation that, “In fact, most illnesses are nothing more than the language permitted the abused child, as represented by the adult body. How else is the truth of a tormented, unwanted, and betrayed child to find an outlet in our society?” (P.107)… As expected, many people will be quick to reject the idea that the average African American today, still suffers from the effects of the slave trade. They will argue that because the slave trade occurred several hundred years ago, its effects can no longer be felt. According to this argument, those who were wounded by this trade died ages ago, and their descendants can not be directly affected by an event which they did not experience first hand.
    But those who are psychologically inclined will humbly beg to differ from this prevalent view, and maintain that the African American’s illnesses are nothing other than the language permitted an abused race, because this is the only way the truth of a tormented, unwanted and betrayed race can find an outlet in our society. Through illnesses of all kinds, the African American race continues to flee from its ugly past. Dr. Miller, in For Your Own Good, argues that, “our earliest experiences unfailingly affect society as a whole; that psychoses, drug addiction, and criminality are encoded expressions of these experiences”. Therefore, even when we have the strength to flee from our earliest experiences, we cannot hide from them.

  2. SUPERB! Oscar B matches the main author in insight and sheer informational value. By focusing on Black people’s alienation from self, they do a creditable service to the millions who remain blissfully ignorant, or worse, indifferent, to what is for many an invisible cross.

    I should point in this regard that modern media, which are today a thousand times more powerful than in the 1950s amplify these prejudices enormously, especially by shoving into people’s heads the notion that all black women, for example, must look like the uber-cosmeticized sirens seen on MTV and similar lurid tv venues. Men, of course, fall short if they don’t look like Denzel Washington, Brad Pitt and the host of other idealized specimens floating around in the communal imagination.

    A last point needs to be made. Feeling uncomfortable in “their skins” is not restricted to the Black race. The syndrome is universal, different only in its specificity, and may be regarded as a form of dysmorphia.

  3. I hope you do not mind, but I would like to post this excellent piece in my own little blog. If you have any objections, plz let me know and I will act accordingly. TYVM.

    What surprises me, btw, is the number of otherwise sane bloggers out there who continue to castigate this man even in death and fall prey to the most ridiculous assumptions.

    The worst idiocy was “a black who hated his skin so much he tried to be white”. I have not even returned to see if he looked at the addies I provided regarding MJ’s vitiligo.

    Anyhow, good piece. Thank you.




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    Editor in Chief
    Cyrano’s Journal Online

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  5. Don’t want to sound like a racist bastard here but i think there’s too much psychologizing and too much slack being cut on a cultural figure who had a lifetime to correct characterological deficits. Michael Jackson was as gifted as he was self-indulgent; he was a megalomaniac surrounded by the usual retinue of parasites and sycophants, living off the income river he managed to generate most of his life. Jackson, like thousands of very rich people, had “fuck you” money, and lived to the fullest the way he wanted, with complete abandon and irresponsibility, all underscored by an almost pathological level of immaturity and reality-evasion. Most fair-minded people will recognize that between his dancing and posturings and real life there’s a gap bigger than the Great Canyon.

    He was done in by TMTS, as Mr. Hureaux notes. That’s as far as I go. Meanwhile, dry up the tears. He had a better run than 99% of humans on this miserable planet.

  6. The above first two comments are a typical example of secondary racism, even though we should give the writers the benefit of the doubt about their good intentions. Using the words of a primary black French writer a theoretical case is presented as if the generalizations about blacks in America are valid, decrying their dependence on outdated forms of social behavior and a crippled mental horizon caused by history. The naiveté would be laughable if it were not presented so seriously and ‘scholarly’, but factually there is absolutely no scientific or statistical proof that would support a theory of inherited
    mental illness. Hypothetically if this were the case, then Jews would be equally affected by an even much longer discrimination in Europe. On the contrary, it has been successfully argued that oppressors suffer from greater mental disorientations than the oppressed. But then the victim is always blamed. Furthermore white collar crime, i.e. white crime is as prevalent or more so than often smaller offenses in minority communities, so this is all a nonsense and a rather dangerous argument by ‘psychologizing’ commentators. As for Jackson, he suffered from the usual fate meted out to gifted individuals in this society, who have had to protect their creative selves often in eccentric ways, like Lloyd Wright, Pollock, Faulkner, Brando and so many others.

  7. Like many people in this –I should say inordinately forgiving society to the foibles and weaknesses of individuals–commentator Pavimentov cuts an enormous amount of slack to the celebrities in question, refusing to accept the fact that their personas were not entirely or even primarily moulded by “success” but by individual choices. Leftists hold the individual practically blameless for his deviations (assuming they’re nefarious, it’s good to be deviant when you oppose chauvinism and classism, for example) while rightwingers refuse to find anything wrong with a society that produces tons of unemployment, broken marriages, constant wars, a pervasive toxic culture of escapism and lies, and high levels of alcoholism and other dysfunctions…

    As a leftist I believe that society bears the lion’s share of the blame in this equation, BUT I still think the individual has a lot to account for. Frankly, despite the constraints of pernicious social hypocrisy and puritanism we have in the USA, this is a free-wheeling society where anything goes, and this is particularly true for the rich and famous. Their childish pranks and lifetime petulant behavior are cheerfully tolerated and indulged.

  8. I agree with the above comment, but if American blacks feel and act the way they do, it is because of racism still being rampant here. Existential doubt or displacement has nothing to do with that reality, which may not penetrate the average white mind because their world is so very separated from the ever present daily American Black, American Indian and American Asian experience. This society is far from forgiving, on the contrary it punishes those who are ‘misfits’ and have been resistant to becoming equalized and commoditized. entities. Being a ‘celebrity’ in America is being subjected to an absurd celebration as well as the fiercest condemnation, both a result from extreme capitalist materialism, whereby an obligatory conspicuous consumption and constant affirmation of their status through publicity must be maintained. Victims of their own success, they often privately scramble to remain ‘whole’ or at least a close resemblance to that and many choices remain closed, like for the young Jackson, who never had much of a chance for an education. Legion are the famous or once famous and talented derelicts thrown aside by this insane society.

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