Welcome to my blog, and thank you for taking the time to read along.
What I'm attempting to do here is not to share my grief for the loss of the legend, Michael Jackson; for although I know that millions of people around the world are still mourning his loss, there are also millions of those who are totally oblivious to the TRUE nature of this loss.
What I wish to accomplish through this blog is to ring an alarm and express my fear that the world we're living in is totally losing direction. It became too fabricated.. too dependent on lies.. too blinded by the mainstream.. that TRUTH and all related human values are at risk.
Being a Michael Jackson fan for a quarter of a century, I've grown so accustomed to the fabrication, lies and bias of the media. After so many years, it felt as if this was the way things are. One develops a strange sort of familiarity with things that have been around for so long, no matter where they fall on the scale of right and wrong. Suddenly, you realize that this lazy acceptance is something that you share with the majority around the world.. Welcome to mainstream culture! It becomes generally accepted that whoever protests will simply be disregarded. Those who rebel are considered to be a bunch of fools, or even idiots, who waste their energies in such a pathetic way. No wonder the flame needed to bring about any reform is always too weak. It doesn't take any effort, or the existence of a conspiracy, to put it out.. We just all agree to let it die out of negligence.
Why am I speaking now?.. I don't claim to be someone with a better conscience.. for I discovered that I'm not. I'm as guilty as all of you. Yes.. now I realize that like the rest of the world I had been too lazy.. I had taken things for granted.. I'd allowed this mainstream culture to kill the best in me. But the untimely death of Michael Jackson, who I admit so proudly to have been my inspirer and mentor throughout my whole life, has led me to come face to face with this reality.
I apologize to myself before I apologize to Michael Jackson, who I had taken for granted like many people all over the world. I'd been a huge disappointment. Ironically, I lived in the illusion that I was one of the best out there, and I am generally perceived by everybody as such. You'll learn more about me if you're willing to follow this blog. From a very dedicated scholar and educator, to a loving and caring friend, daughter, wife and mother.. I had no problems with my self-image at all. I've done lots of volunteer work, remained loyal to my principles no matter how much this loyalty costs me, spoken for the things I believe in, like equality, tolerance, human rights ... etc. I was not passive in any way.
However, behind it all was a shameful state of denial which I had allowed myself to fall into. How miserable is that? I had forced myself at some point to become an adult, because that's what everybody expected from me. By my own hands, and in cold blood, I had chosen to kill the child inside me. I had to monitor my actions and make sure they comply with the expectations of those around me. I had to maintain this "professional" image wherever I went. And the ABC of creating a polished image dictated 'No more speaking about Michael Jackson.. People will laugh at you if you do. They could take this kinda thing from you as a teenager.. but Nagla, now you're a teacher and a researcher. Get down to earth baby, grow up.'
What I'm experiencing now is not a change of heart, for I am still who I am, only more focused and absolutely disillusioned. I'd therefore rather consider it a regain of heart, a reconciliation with my original self that has been wrapped up over the years in layers of filters.. causing me to lose touch and sight of it. Hopefully, I am determined and committed to retrieving it once more and nourishing it as best as I can.
To start with.. I've always had this passion for knowledge, for education, for academia. These were my ideals. And I've always been on some kind of mental Odyssey for as long as I can remember. Arts were fundamental in my overall life view, and my study of English and comparative literature surely satisfied my intellectual appetite and opened up numerous doors for inquiry and fantasy. I did soar high. It felt as easy as breathing. Even studying old texts, which is normally considered as a major challenge, was for me such an exciting adventure! I enjoyed reading all genres, all ages, all literatures.
Amateur VS. Professional
As a student and as an amateur, academia glared in the horizon as my ultimate dream. It still does.. although it has lost a lot of its wonderment in my eyes after pealing many layers off its surface. This usually happens once it becomes your turn to be what you might call a "professional". Just imagine watching a magic show after you learn all the tricks involved. You might still enjoy it and appreciate the skill involved in it.. yet, the awe factor is just gone. Not just so, you've come face to face with the fact that for the magician himself it is work! Well, that's exactly how it is behind the scenes. Whether it be as a teacher, trainer, instructor, researcher.. I totally enjoyed what I was doing, being as truthful as I can be because I am a researcher at heart. However, you can't help realizing that those other "professionals" around do not share the same romantic outlook. They just follow the instructions, perfecting them within pre-established guidelines which exist inside a specific frame that is hardly expandable, if ever.
In research, you're told to depend on certain books which are generally regarded as "authoritative"; books by the "major" writers, thinkers, critics in the field, no matter how "new" your subject is. Unless depending on tradition, novelty remains unacknowledged. And when we talk Tradition and Canon, we talk about certain names and certain texts. Hence, an article by an anonymous writer won't do.. no matter how brilliant it is. Your own observations, inspiration, first hand experiences... etc, are just irrelevant! It doesn't matter what you genuinely believe or think so long as you can not find something of "authority" to support it. Even genius needs a seal of approval and has to pass through the iron gates of authoritative tradition.
It just hit me all of a sudden, that this "professionalism" is eating up my soul one bite at a time. You have to be an "authoritative figure" yourself before you can be heard. You have to maintain some kind of reputation, become somebody, before you can express real originality or creativity. Moreover, you have to appeal to the interests of others, regardless of what interests you personally. You might think a certain novel is brilliant, but it all come down to how many prestigious critics do agree with you? Has it even attracted their attention? Did they find it read-worthy?... and so on.
Your topic has to be authentic.. to a degree. You can't just refute opinions expressed by the masters of the field! Even if you decide to do so, you have to depend on the authority of other "names" who did it before you. Oh.. and be sure to go round and round in circles while showing off your knowledge of critical theory with all the complicated terminology involved. So a fish is not just a fish, you know. It is a scaly aquatic vertebrate! Remember that!
As bitterly critical as this might sound, I totally understand the need for such rules. After all every game has got its rules, without which a game is not a game at all. Thus, it's perfectly understandable. However, why does research allow itself to be controlled by the mainstream while choosing its subject?
Who is who and the question of authority
Now, if for instance I intend to propose a serious study of Michael Jackson at any university, what chances do I have? And most importantly, what choices are involved?
You see, the problem is.. academics are so arrogant. And I'm no exception. We folks are the true narcissists of this planet. We're so proud of the knowledge we accumulated. We take such pride in it in such a way which causes us to keep coding it! And each consecutive generation works on perfecting those codes, as if our aim is to preserve this knowledge in a form that denies outside access to it! Then we go and criticize pop culture and those who don't enjoy reading books with real intellectual fiber, never pausing to think: How can any of our books become a bestseller when it is only us who are able to read them?
This sort of arrogance makes it almost impossible to challenge an academically-proven stereotype. Take this example for instance. "Michael Jackson's nose is the icon of decaying postmodern culture", and that is that! Who can say no to that? You've got the most respected pens writing that. Giving it authority. Documenting it in prestigious academic journals that are present in every major library and university worldwide! How can you - Nobody - object to that?
The truth is Michael Jackson has been objectified in such a horrible way by academics. The kind of treatment he's receiving in our universities and inside intellectual circles is much more horrifying than that administrated by the tabloids. He was simply reduced into an allegory.. an emblem.. a very convenient one which is employed to illustrate all the "evils" of postmodernism! He's the freak, the mutant, the pervert, the androgynous, the narcissist, the plastic, the decaying infant... and even the devil himself! This is what Michael Jackson has been reduced to by our great thinkers! The very ones who should have been celebrating his exceptional talent and artistic creativity, I believe! For who else would?
And it seems that no matter who you are, where you're from, what beliefs you hold.. the whole world does not seem to enjoy a higher level of agreement on any other issue! Suppose some department anywhere does welcome a research proposal on Michael Jackson (extremely wishful thinking), will they grant me the freedom to propose an allegorical shift? Will they welcome a positive study on the man and his legacy and his cultural role?
This is where the dilemma lies! And in my own opinion, here lies the true crisis of postmodernism for anyone who is willing to see it. The thing is, Michael Jackson has been hijacked as an icon, academically speaking. He has already been declared as the ultimate example of postmodernist evil. It is a matter of fact now, bearing the seal of authoritative sources! Nobody can change that now. And whoever attempts to do so will never be taken seriously.. that is if he/she is given any chance to do so.
As artificial and far removed from reality as academic research can be; sometimes forcing patterns instead of finding them; sometimes forging theories instead of reaching them; sometimes twisting and bending facts to suit specific conclusions.. academics are totally oblivious to the fact that their research bears all the scars that they attribute to postmodernist culture. It is our culture after all, no matter how critical we might be of it. Nothing exists in isolation. We and everything we do are but a byproduct of this postmodernist circus!
Let me translate that into a real life example to explain the reasons behind my concerns. Let me say that when a well-known and highly respected thinker like Prof. Terry Eagleton is allowed to use Michael Jackson allegorically and build whole arguments upon those allegories, although the very foundations of the image which he had formed of the pop icon are baseless if examined according to the scientific approach, then why can't I have the chance to conduct a serious research to prove the falsity of this allegory without being laughed at?
If intellectuals are so critical of mainstream culture, may I ask what chances do we have in creating room for different voices as long as the factor of "authority" of the sources manipulates the whole process of criticism?
It happened that I found myself in a position where I had to betray Michael Jackson in favor of Terry Eagleton. Because where I stand, Terry Eagleton is the subject and Michael Jackson is the object. Terry Eagleton is the thinker and Michael Jackson is the joke.
I'm sorry, but I can't take this injustice! And allow me to say: this is mainstream at its worst! With all due respect (and I do have lots of respect for Prof. Eagleton), but how many lives has Prof. Eagleton really touched? I mean the kind of influence that would really inspire you to do something with your life. How many people did he change? Well, I can never forget that the very reason I was in that class reading Prof. Eagleton's book has been Michael Jackson. I can't deny that, I won't hide it, I won't shy from it. I truly believe that if it were not for Michael Jackson's inspiration, I probably wouldn't have been in that class in first place! I wouldn't have chosen the path I did choose. I wouldn't have been the exact person I am today. And everybody who knows me and thinks I am special or finds anything about me worthy of admiration, well, they should know I owe it all to Michael Jackson. Nothing anybody says or thinks will change that, for this is the truth.
Michael Jackson has the right to be respected and appreciated for this kind of influence and drive force. And if the whole world decided to betray him, I won't be able to do it. Call me crazy, naive, immature... whatever. I won't betray him! If I betray him, I will be betraying myself. I can't sit there laughing at a joke being made about him. He's not a joke! He's a human being. And any culture which allows the objectification of anybody in such a humiliating way is both destructive and disgusting. It is certainly not worth sacrificing one's essence to fit among such a crowd. Disguising this behavior under whatever name does not change its reality. It is cruel and unethical!
Let's talk about the media. There are certain newspapers, magazines, networks and programs which can also be considered as "authoritative".. they have the largest bulk of readership or audience. No matter what they say, people would tend to buy it. They have it in their hands to shape the world we're living in by manipulating what they choose to broadcast, inviting attention to specific topics through ads, reruns, space and time dedicated to coverage... etc.
Just forgive my subjectivity for a while as I draw an example which I am very familiar with, coming from the Middle East. My country stays a sole example of being successful in reaching a peace-treaty with its former enemies. Egypt is still being criticized by many Arab countries for this, as if our aim should be to engage in never-ending wars! The Arab-Israeli conflict is in fact being constantly fed by hatred on both sides. The media always takes sides. We're talking about a very disproportionate situation here, mind you.. as Arab media is only viewed by Arabs, while the mainstream international media is viewed globally and, most importantly, in countries which rule the world for us. So while I admit that Arab media does not show the whole picture, like violence committed in Israel, and might in some cases tend to glorify some of these acts; the massacres committed by the Israeli army on daily basis are only shown on our screens, when Western media chooses to hide them from viewers, only focusing on individual attacks and threats made by some groups. The whole world is against Iran's nuclear program, and I absolutely join their concern. But we hear nothing about other countries which have been having their secretive nuclear programs for decades!
I did not intend to talk politics here, but just imagine.. if the destiny of our planet, a major issue like war and peace is being treated in such a way, with nobody willing to go beyond this giant smokescreen and investigate into it.. what will become of our world? How will we explain it to our children?.. We were just lying there on some sofa with our remote controls watching the world fall into ruins?
Take environmental concerns, for instance, and how they are simply being disregarded and looked upon as luxuries! Makes you wonder: What on earth is considered important?!!.. If something like climate change is unable to stir the world into action.. then what? Our priorities are in desperate need for examination and rearrangement.
As individuals, mere citizens around the world, we underestimate ourselves and our abilities because we've allowed ourselves to be marginalized. Although WE ARE the world!! We truly are.. and we have to wake up before it is too late.
As funny as it might seem to some of you, I am indeed arguing that even a super mega star as Michael Jackson has been marginalized! Yes, you read that correctly. I believe his voice was lost amid empty controversies and rumors tackling his personal life. His important message to the world remained unheard, or fell on deaf ears which are not interested in such topics like healing the world!
Mainstream's roles and molds
There are just prewritten roles in the world that need filling. Just as the world needed a hero, it needs the villain, the corrupt, the terrorist... etc. Apparently, the world needed a freak, so they went ahead and made one! While many celebrities were potential target, Michael Jackson happened to be at the top of his success and fame at the time, and he happened to have a skin condition which changed his skin color from black to white. He expressed himself openly, showing himself in the company of children and animals, creating Neverland with its zoo and theme park... Bingo! That was the one! It might have seemed too convenient, I guess. Hence they created their "Wacko Jacko".. a product of their own imagination that has got nothing to do with the ACTUAL Michael Jackson.
Many might fall under the impression that I'm idealizing Michael Jackson or wish to portray him as perfect. While it would be inevitable for some to reach this conclusion, I assure you that this is NOT what I am after. I'm just saying that Michael Jackson is a human being! He's neither an angel nor a monster. He has his own eccentricities as anyone else, and that doesn't make him a freak. And for those of you who have already made up their minds about Michael Jackson, I don't seek to impose anything on you, or even prove you wrong. I'm just asking you to give him the credit of the doubt.
There is much more to Michael Jackson than his moonwalk! This man is a true intellectual with noble aims.. with a vision.. with a philosophy.. with a message.. and he died trying to ACT while the whole world was so busy ridiculing and mocking him! The interest in his personal life and whatever he tried to keep private has blinded many from seeing and appreciating what he actually offered to the world through his multiple gifts and dedicated work!
What alarms me most is that we're not learning anything! We're just allowing ourselves to remain trapped in this way. We shy from speaking for Michael Jackson because, you know.. He's Michael Jackson!.. Besides, frankly speaking.. Who Cares? We only cared when he was a subject for gossip.. we cared when he was the subject of a major scandal.. we cared when he arrived to court in his pajamas!.. THAT sort of stuff is worthy of attention. This is what mainstream culture has programmed us to focus on. But who cares about his musical genius? Who cares about his humanitarian work? Who cares about his dreams and his hopes for the future and for this planet? We're programmed to regard those things as boring.. and as you know, survival is for the most exciting! That's the media theory of evolution. And people are buying it.. They truly are!
From freak to monster
Michael Jackson cared about the children, not just because he wanted someone to play with, but because they are our future and our hope. Of course this is something that nobody wanted to hear about! There has got to be some dark sinister side behind this because, come on, nobody is interested in children!! Children?? Kids?.. They're marginalized too.. Naturally they are considered as the cute little things that exist in our shadow! WE the adults.. We're THE THING, you know. We're THE PEOPLE! While kids.. Kids are just kids. They are an extension to us, like an extra limb. Nobody can develop a real interest in kids!
That's our nature now. When we refuse to see the truth, we go into a pathetic state of denial. We're not just lazy.. we turned into criminals.. willing to smear reality and throw dirt upon anything pure trying to make its way through and touch our impoverished souls. So an adult sleeping with kids has got to be a child molester. If he's not a child molester, then what could he be? Innocent? Loves children?.. Takes the teachings of Jesus to heart?.. Nah.. we're adults.. we know adults don't think that way!
Can you see what we're turning into?