Michael Jackson: a victim of existential capitalism

By Navina Jafa

(July 02, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Growing up in the eighties when Michael Jackson’s career was revolutionising areas of performance and technology, I would gaze at the television occasionally but from a certain distance.

As a dancer myself I was not only in awe but slightly puzzled at the play of fantastic stage settings, theatrics and sophisticated technology that complimented and synergised with a new style of presentation of a performer.

In the last couple of days I suddenly could not stand being indifferent any longer regarding the artiste and the man that MJ was. I called my teenaged son to view a documentary on MJ on CNN-IBN, and was struck by some thoughts.

MJ himself and other people may blame the unusual childhood; psychologists have been analysing the annihilation of artistic individuals that lead to their dependency on and death by drugs but the hard facts regarding his last years make him an iconic symbol of the spirit of capitalistic market and existentialist spirit.

He was identified as an individual with extraordinary creativity and talent. His genius, his new ideas become potential for creating more and more money in the capitalist world.

People invested in him, encouraged him to create and thereby increased his intoxication with his own genius and also fed the greed of several individuals, companies and organisations within the capitalist web to feed them. A whole range of industries grew around him. But this led to the process of capitalism as a system swallowing him.

He represented to me a barren creative soul challenged to constantly produce ideas and innovations that needed to be marketed.

The truth was that his own performance in the markets meant that he started creating, like many artists do, a make-believe world of his own.

He lost connection with the real world, and when he did try to connect, the index behaviour was to us all weird and abnormal both in his physical and social appearances.

This lost individual retreated in the make-believe world; he tried to connect with the world in becoming a legendary performer — for the stage was his pole of existence, his link to the world; other world actions were becoming a father, participating in several fund-raisers, going into marriages, undergoing plastic surgery to be ‘beautiful’, seeking solutions through several spiritual paths.

Of course, the failure to reconnect constantly was painful — physically, spiritually and mentally — and so the pain relievers and, consequently, a freaky physical appearance was needed to sort of create a false sense of equilibrium.

It was a life that was in some ways that of boredom, barrenness and loneliness. The second autopsy of a ravaged physical body is proof of the reality of a tragic suffering soul.

It represents a person’s quiet struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of life. MJ diverted himself to escape in several ways, his music, his Neverland and, of course, his obsession with children.

He was a true example of a modern capitalist world that lept not onto the moon but into the state of existentialist isolation — a state that begins with a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.

As we witnessed the illusion of the bubble of capitalism burst last year, ironically MJ, the symbol of that system, succumbed also. MJ represented in life what Dostovevsky and Kafa created fictionally — stories of men who are unable to fit into society, are internally unhappy with the identities they create for themselves. Often surreal and alienated characters who struggle with hopelessness and absurdity.

MJ’s existence was a reflection of a deep human crisis, somewhat like Herman Hesse’s character of Harry Haller in his work “Stephenwolf”, a portrait of a man who faces a human condition dilemma: “who am I?” and the eternal struggle between virtues and instincts that took him to journey through his inner desert.

Ironically, the same capitalist world that brought this individual to this state will now reap the benefits of his demise as a large number of ‘products’ and organisations will continue to be rewarded monetarily to make this individual an icon of existentialism in modern times; that irony became more glaring as we read reports of his own personal reduction to becoming a poor indebted person towards the end.

When my son asked me that why did this not happen in India to people like A.R. Rahman, I replied, “Son, he has spirituality, so God is not dead, and he has a family. These act as walls that protect his soul from becoming a desert in the world of materialistic culture and capitalistic markets.”
-Sri Lanka Guardian

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