For many years, Michael Jackson wanted to be the voice of the voiceless.. the children.
This blog is a humble attempt to carry his voice to the world.

Before you judge him..
KNOW him!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Michael Jackson VS. Terry Eagleton

How crazy is that? I'm about to offer a critique of Prof. Terry Eagleton. Yes, THE Terry Eagleton. Hard to imagine? Indeed. I myself would have never imagined I'd be doing that one day. But that's what happens when you develop a mind of your own.

I bet the reason you probably would laugh at the mere idea is that you see me -- basically a nobody -- daring to weigh my thoughts against those of a well-known thinker. Something in your mind tells you this isn't the way things should be. Some may consider it like the end of the world. This Michael Jackson fan who would go that far to defend him! In fact, I have been advised by a friend who knew about my intention to embark on this project to skip the "Michael Jackson fan" completely. He said that would interfere with my aim, because nobody will allow themselves to see anything beyond that. And I agree with him. Yeah, I am skeptical of those people who are reading this. They will probably tend to label me as an obsessed fan. They won't care about the degree I hold, or the serious research I've invested so much time into, or the important message I wish to deliver.. But still I won't cheat! I won't go back behind this cloak I used to wear and the thick glasses that were making me dizzy jeopardizing my eyesight and sound judgment. See, this is precisely what I'm rebelling against right now. For me, the end doesn't justify the means. And if I'm gonna talk about honesty, I'll do it honestly. I''m taking my chances!

Back to you.. if you examine the idea carefully and then become able to look at it critically, then I win! See, the thing is.. why do you consider it "daring"?.. Must I surrender to the rules of the mainstream? Must I feel intimidated and declare my powerlessness in my current position? OK.. let's say I'm a nobody.. and he's Somebody. I believe it is not a matter of names or persons. I believe it all comes down to ideas. In that particular case it is mine against HIS, but the fact remains that this is a game between ideas! Who said them seems totally irrelevant to me. I'm still conscious that I'm saying that in my current (and newly found) state of mind. I repeat.. I didn't use to think this way. There was always the common error of who said what.. the "authoritative" sources again! However, when you think of it, we should allow the ideas to converse freely, regardless of the authority (or lack of authority) of the people who brought them forward.

By authority I don't mean credibility. In this context I mean how big - or small, or tiny - the names involved are. Hence, it is not strange at all if you have your say about something said by the President. But can your ideas have as powerful a forum as his? Ideally, they should. Yet in the real world.. well, you know.

Before I proceed any further, please, let me make it clear that I have nothing but total respect and sincere admiration for Prof. Eagleton. He can never be underestimated as a thinker and critic by any means. I studied his books as a student, and I appreciate his works a great deal. This is a man who gained his doctoral degree at the age of 21 for God's sake!

Mind you, my topic is not Nagla vs. Terry Eagleton. I'm putting forth a much tougher question. It is someone whose fame far exceeds that of Prof. Eagleton, yet whose image has suffered so drastically in a way which led intellectual circles to reject him. You read an article by Terry Eagleton and it earns your respect, whether you agree or disagree with it. But you read a speech by Michael Jackson just for fun, never being encouraged to take it seriously (and that is the best case scenario)! When Terry Eagleton uses false information about Michael Jackson as "givens" in his intellectual arguments, nobody can interrupt him to refute it! In fact, other pens would just copy after Prof. Eagleton, considering his givens to be accurate.. or even more accurate than the truth itself. That is the danger of it. And that is precisely my subject.

You see, when our intelligentsia commits those kind of mistakes.. that is copying after one another, allowing the mainstream to influence their impressions, and moreover, to feel confident enough to build whole arguments upon baseless claims.. Then, I'm sorry to say it, but we're not in good hands! For those are the minds leading their societies. If those people do not take research to heart, and are willing to adopt ideas because they've heard them too often, just like anyone else.. then we're killing the whole idea of research!

Here are some examples to help you realize the amount of this tragedy.

In several articles and talks, Prof. Eagleton has depended on ridiculing Michael Jackson to add some humor to his serious arguments on different topics.. But most of all, he does in fact regard Michael Jackson as an icon of the post-modernist culture that he is bitterly critical of. And I'm going to talk about that particular point in detail later. What concerns me here, however, is the way he keeps using the name Michael Jackson as the equivalent of "ugly," "stupid," "corrupt," "artificial," and other negative adjectives that he wishes to inflict upon postmodernist culture. It never occurred to him that Michael Jackson is a human being, not a fictional prototype whose name can be employed in such a way. Objectifying Mr. Jackson and using him as a vehicle in delivering a leftist critique is just another form of exploitation. Furthermore, it never occurred to him that talking about someone is such a way, famous or not, is wrong and unethical! This is utterly ridiculous coming from a person who has been investing so much into addressing the question of ethics! He even used this kind of "humor" in his attack on those who deny the existence of God:

... we cannot thus demonstrate God's existence in the reasonably straightforward way we can demonstrate the existence of necrophilia or Michael Jackson, we have to put up instead with something less than certainty, known as faith. 1

I won't comment on the associations he chose to make, but I used to expect much better than that from prestigious thinkers . Can't hide my disappointment.

In an article entitled "God, the Universe, Art, and Communism," Prof. Eagleton says: "We cannot on this viewpoint provide a noncircular answer to the toddler who asks why water is wet, or why Michael Jackson is stupid."2 Such a brilliant example indeed! When it comes to the amount of certainty by which this statement was made, I'm left speechless. We're talking serious research here. This is no joke.

Again, talking about "Tragedy and Terror," Terry Eagleton amuses his audience by comparing the current world order to Michael Jackson's nose:
Socialism is not about reaching for the stars, but reminding us of our frailty and mortality, and so of our need for one another. In contrast, absolute freedom regards the world as just so much pliable stuff to be manipulated in whatever way takes its fancy. This is why postmodernism, or some aspects of it, is one of its latest inheritors. For all its consumerist greed, this uncompromising freedom is a virulently anti-materialist force; for matter is what resists you, and absolute freedom is as impatient with such resistance as the US is with the resistance in Iraq. The world becomes just raw material to cuff into shape. Michael Jackson’s nose is its icon. It is only when such raw materials begin to include whole people and nations that it becomes a form of deadly terror. 3

One of the fortunate places where this talk was delivered was Cairo, my hometown. And many Egyptian intellectuals, including journalists and leftist writers who are totally enchanted by Prof. Eagleton and celebrated his visit to Egypt, also celebrated his witty talk and his exceptional sense of humor. This particular line made it in all press coverages of his lecture at the American University in Cairo. You can see a couple of examples here and here.

Of course, Prof. Eagleton was kind enough to dedicate a whole article to discuss Michael Jackson's 2005 trial, and with the kind of authority he has, he could of course come up with all sorts of "givens" to kick the ass of this postmodernist icon.. from the "fact" that the pop star has changed the color of his skin.. to implying that truth will have no chance in the courtroom, and if he is acquitted, it is merely because he could afford to get a good lawyer!

I consider this particular article to be extremely disturbing; One which could have shaken Terry Eagleton's status as the world's most prominent literary critic.. that is of course in case someone was ready to read it objectively, without being drugged by its intellectual brand T. E. Just wishful thinking in a yes-world.. a mainstreamish-universe!

To stand on the kind of impact which Prof. Eagleton has on intellectuals across the world, I'll just give one tiny example from an Egyptian literary magazine called Akhbar Al-Adab (Literary News). In its issue dated July 5, 2009, in which there was a section of seven pages about Michael Jackson, you can clearly see how influenced all the writers were by Prof. Eagleton's view of the late icon! I need to point out here that the seven-page special was not intended to be a tribute. Such a thing would not be seen in Egypt at all. You should have seen how TV anchors announced the news of his death on TV to believe it. They were actually apologetic! Almost saying, "you know, it is everywhere on the news, so we gotta say it too." And on Egypt's most popular daily show El-Beit Beitak, two anchors along with a plastic surgeon, psychiatric and an amateur singer sat there for like an hour or so, hailing insults at Michael Jackson. Such was the kind of tribute you find on Egyptian TV! The name Michael Jackson cannot be mentioned without being followed by something negative. This is mainstream law here.

Back to Akhbar Al-Adab, which is generally regarded as a prestigious magazine.. All the articles were negative of course. Up till here, nothing is new. But reading along them, I was taken aback in horror! Those writers who presented themselves as intellectuals, doctors, and professors were just copying! None of them did any research whatsoever before writing those articles! Apparently they were rushed into this.. and it seems none of them had any substantial background knowledge about Michael Jackson's works or achievements, so they chose to go for the usual interesting stuff that is fit for tabloid and gossip, not a literary magazine by all means!

The best article by far was one written by Ahmed Naje, for at least he had something to say. Yet, from the very title he chose for his article I knew it was all about Terry Eagleton's critique.. for that's what a person working in a literary magazine will read, right? What else (talking about mainstream)? "A Farewell to the Crowned King of Postmodernism" it was called, and in it Naje says:

The [Michael Jackson] trial revealed a new shift in Jackson, one which caught the attention of the British thinker, Terry Eagleton, who wrote an important article after the not guilty verdict he received entitled "Lessons Learned from the Michael Jackson Trial," [his mistake] in which he sharply criticized the cinematic way in which the trial took place. And since Jackson is considered to be an icon of postmodernism, Eagleton compared his plastic surgeries and his wish to live forever to world manipulation and the desire of the George Bush administration to reshape the world, imposing a solo version of democracy. But, regardless of the viability of Eagleton's comparison, it does give us a clear insight into the special nature which Michael Jackson had attained during the final years of his life [!] as he became the most important icon of Western civilization, the thing which caused such a prestigious critic and academic like Eagleton use him as an example to criticize this culture. 4 (my translation)
OK. So there you have it. According to this writer, Michael Jackson's only possible importance comes from the fact that Prof. Terry Eagleton has made use of him in his ingenious criticism of postmodernism! That's what he had to say about Michael Jackson right after his death. How fortunate MJ must be, huh?

Another article which was so appalling, and which appeared on that same issue, was written by the well-known psychiatrist, Dr. Khalil Fadel. And I shall talk about this one in detail in a separate post, because it is such an absurd thing that he subtitled it "A Study" while it was all hearsay from the very beginning till end! All based on tabloid rumors! No research was done. No facts introduced. No insight. Nothing. I used to think that a study involves careful collection of proven data, then a thorough examination of it in order to reach sound (or semi-sound) conclusions! But nowadays more and more "studies" are all about coming up with whatever you can get to support a preconception or an insinuation! This is precisely why I lost faith in academic research altogether! This is why the whole process has become so meaningless in my eyes, losing its very essence which is based on credibility and a genuine interest in truth.

It is easy to label me as crazy. I might be crazy. I don't have any concrete evidence to prove otherwise. But I reached a point when I thought "if I can't go to a university and tell them I am interested in studying Michael Jackson, then the whole educational system has nothing to offer! Then academic research is just another mainstream facade that I don't wanna waste my life on. It doesn't speak for me or for the marginalized majority. Why am I welcomed to conduct a research on Shakespeare, or Milton, or Coleridge, or Naguib Mahfouz, but not on Michael Jackson? Why would it be prestigious to quote Terry Eagleton, but childish to quote Michael Jackson?

When you try to dig deep into it, there is nothing there but absolute mainstream bias! Hence, I dare to raise some questions: If I can prove that Michael Jackson is not the epitome of postmodernist decay, will anybody care? If I am able to bring forth a very powerful argument to prove that the best minds in the world allowed themselves to be manipulated by the mainstream while advocating the opposite, who will be there to listen?


1. Eagleton, Terry. Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009, p.111

2. The lecture was published in Red Pepper as an article entitled "The Roots of Terror"
Eagleton, Terry. "The Roots of Terror" Red Pepper. 1 September 2005

3. Eagleton Terry. "God, the Universe, Art, and Communism" New Literary History, Vol. 32, No. 1, Views and Interviews (Winter, 2001), pp. 23-32

4. Naje, Ahmed. "A Farewell to the Crowned King of Postmodernism" Akhbar Al-Adab. 5 July 2009: 834. pp. 30-31


1 comment:

  1. مش فاهم ازاى وصلك انى بدافع عن وجهه نظر ايجلتون، او انى شايف ان كل أهمية مايكل انه ايجلتون اتعامل معاه كرمز، انا محبتش بس اخش في وسط معركة عمرها ما هتنتهى بين أصحاب الحكايات الكبري ابناء الحداثة الأوفياء زى ايجلتون وبين ابناء ماركس وكوكاكولا ومايكل جاكسون ابناء ما بعد الحداثة الأوفياء


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