Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Going Live Forever

"Big Brother isn't watching. He's singing and dancing. He's pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother's busy holding your attention every moment you're awake. He's making sure you're always distracted. He's making sure you're fully absorbed.
He's making sure your imagination withers. Until it's as useful as your appendix. He's making sure your attention is always filled.
And this being fed, it's worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what's in your mind. With everyone's imaginations atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world." -Chuck Palahniuk

On my way home from the post office this morning in my 12 year old Ford Explorer with peeling paint, 3 months after my layoff and 2 days without shaving, I heard someone say something on my radio that I've heard many people say in the past 3 weeks, "Where were all of you people who now profess your love for Michael Jackson when he was alive?"

The answer is that they were outside of the locked, guarded gates of Neverland. The answer was that the very weird and confusing bits of personal news from the artist's life that filtered to their eyes and ears in the past 20 years has kind of tainted people's appreciation for the artist's work. Until he died. Now it is nice dance music. Now people feel okay appreciating the work again since there isn't some very disturbed, very sad and vaguely sinister artist behaving lawlessly, remorselessly somewhere. I come to bury Jackson, not to praise him. One would like to think that the evil men do dies with them, but turns out it really does live after them.
I never owned a Michael Jackson album and my connection is really just that I lived through the peak of his career and decline. His body of work has always struck me as meatless. Actually, that's a bit of a high horse statement on my part. In all honesty I should say it's not the kind of meatless music I tend to go for when I go for meatless music.
Laurie, however, was crazy about his music from back in the day, the pre-Thriller stuff, and Gina grew up when he was bigger than the Beatles. I am told she danced as a child to Man in the Mirror or some such thing. This is the only contact we will, could or ever will have with the man. Really, the artist could be a complete recluse and the only thing we know about them is the art that shows up with their name on it (Pynchon comes to mind as does Salinger.)

However, if one has a platform, ought not one use it? Even if one risks losing the platform, ought they not risk it for something they think worth risking it over?

I was dinking around the internet (you know how the internet can be) and ended up on a vaguely familiar video clip the other day. It was Sinead O'Connor's infamous performance of a a capella Bob Marley cover (with "racism" replaced with "child abuse")which culminates in her tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II on SNL from the early 1990s (which, if you've never actually seen it, I highly encourage you to click this link and watch it.) I realized (I suspect with a large portion of the studio audience) that while I was struck by the courage and defiance she was showing, I had absolutely no idea what she was on about. So I looked it up!

She was on about the sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church, and how the allegations were being ignored because they were made by women and children. Which, in retrospect, seems rather astute and prescient on her part as the performance occurred in 1992. At the time people were very upset about it, as I remember, (I'm not sure if they all understood why they were upset aside from someone dragging emotional depth onto Saturday Night Live) and O'Connor's career took some rather dramatic turns. Today she has eschewed pop music, released a Reggae album and is about to release an album called "Theology." She is an ordained priest in the Independent Catholic Church and she says that her mission is to "rescue God from religion." That's another frustrating soundbite for me as depending on what the speaker means I might absolutely agree or disagree with them. Part of the game of being a "normal" or "unfamous person" is that I may die not knowing what she is talking about. I am out of the loop and only receive the information allowed me. There is no conversation, there is only a monologue. And so I have traded one mystery of what she's talking about for another.
The SNL clip reminded me of Marlon Brando's Oscar acceptance by proxy, Michael Moore's Oscar speech, Harvey Pekar's Letterman strike appearance, and that is just off the top of my head. I'm sure I could come up with many more. All of their careers shifted as well but mainly bounced back to their former state after a time. How is it that other pop stars like Bono and Sting can get all sanctimonious and get away with it? The cynic in my thinks it may have to do with them not being bald women.

I do not know these people and probably never will. They care about me, my life, and what I think of them or even are as aware of my existence about as much as the crystal formations in the Lechuguilla Cave care about me.
There is an admiration I have for those who see that they have a platform and risk losing the platform to speak out for truth, justice, peace, conservation, equality or good. The celebrity system is asinine. People who act in movies or make music or write books that get published are just people. They are not magical beings. They are just as human as a produce truck delivery driver, possibly with less talent. We don't have to take orders from them. Just like anyone, we can agree or disagree, regard or disregard them. Just because I like the song you made doesn't mean I want to know anything about your life (I was amazed at how much I knew about the life of Michael Jackson, having very little interest, and realizing I was aware of pretty much every major point of his public life) and I don't necessarily care what you think about things any more than you care what I think about things. Also, I don't hold you in higher esteem than anyone else. I doff my hat to no man.

Mainly because I don't wear hats.

Also please do bear in mind that I am not immune or outside of the paradigm I am describing. Intrepid readers have probably already noticed the long list of names I've dropped in this post. But I will do everything in my power not to bow at their altars.

If I had not put the quote and citation on the quote at the top of this post I would be passing it off as my original thought, which is stealing, dishonesty and plagiarism. By citing and quoting I am giving due credit. Names are useful. For example, I have enjoyed every piece of music I've ever heard by Tom Waits, so I can be fairly certain when I come again to a point in my life where I have money to throw at music, that I will enjoy any future music by Tom Waits. Also, as another example, I can point people at things that are wonderful (which I love to do.) I can tell you about Nicki Jaine, this wonderful dark cabaret performer whose albums you should all buy. But maybe we had better let it go at that.

In a perfect world, people use tools. In an imperfect world, people abuse tools. People worship false idols. My encouragement for you is to sanctify sanctify sanctify. Revere and bless. Seek to always follow the Shema "You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your might." And the other part of the Great Commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself." (hint: your neighbor is everyone else.)
As for life on an imperfect world, there are so many laws, customs, and cultural pressures to do such horrible, evil, greedy, wicked, inappropriate things. They smell like death and they are infernal. Keep your eye on your treasure and ignore the chaff, the blather, the noise and distractions. As Sinead would agree and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Good men must not obey the laws too well." Celebrities are not to be obeyed.
Do the real work.

Fight the real enemy.

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