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Society – death and respect

I thought it was inconceivable that two icons of my time could die on the same day but that’s what happened. Farrah Fawcett had been battling cancer so her demise did not come as a surprise to me but I still felt a sense of sadness at her loss.  My initial reaction to the passing of Michael Jackson was one of disbelief. This was an entertainer whose UK tour had been widely publicised as his big comeback and Diversity, winners of ‘Britain’s Got Talent 2009’, were scheduled to perform.  There had been a scramble for tickets to his concerts and the future was beginning to look bright for him so there was no reason to think that Death was lurking around the corner. Farrah Fawcett

The first time I heard of Ms Fawcett was when I watched an episode of Charlie’s Angels.  At the time, the focus was on her looks and her hair.  She was a beautiful woman but it was in her later years that I began to admire her due to her active involvement in charity work and it wasn’t the ‘look at me, I’m a good person’ kind of charity work that some celebrities indulge in these days.  Once we were privy to the fact that she had cancer, I knew it was a matter of time before she passed over. I wish she had had the chance to marry Ryan O’Neal before she died but it was not to be.

Though not a fan of his, I saw Michael Jackson as a gifted songwriter who delivered phenomenal performances. Following his death, one can understand that people would want to discuss his life and the allegations of paedophilia which were a part of that life, after all, the latter part of his life was plagued with these allegations.  While he had loyal fans who adored and supported him in spite of these allegations, there were also people who believed him to be guilty of these allegations and detested him for that.  However, I think it’s a real shame that his death is being trivialised with tasteless jokes, most of them based on these allegations.  Here’s one I came across and I was not even looking for it:

As we all know Farah Fawcett passed away yesterday. When she got to the pearly gates god said “because of all the charity you did through your life, I’ll give you one wish” …. so she asked for all the children in the world to be safe….next thing you know Michael Jackson is dead!

Michael Jackson

…and that is one of the nicer ones I’ve seen.  I must be getting old.  I was raised never to speak ill of the dead.  While I think Michael Jackson had some problems,  I do not believe that paedophilia was one of them.  Following the ‘Living with Michael Jackson’ documentary by Martin Bashir in 2003, Paul Valley wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph which sums up my thoughts on Michael’s behaviour.  Of the documentary, Mr Valley writes that,

The tabloids, of course, concentrated on the sex. Understandably I suppose, since after allegations of child abuse in 1993 he paid $18m (£11m) to 13-year-old Jordan Chandler after being accused of molesting him. Jackson maintained to Bashir that he had settled just to get the matter dealt with swiftly. After all, what’s $18m when you have trillions in the bank? Yet there was something preposterously innocent about the man. Mad, yes. Sad, yes. But, bad? In the end I somehow believed that Wacko really did invite kids over to see his orang-utan and take a ride on his massive empty ferris wheel and then tucked them up in bed with “milk and cookies”.

Being in bed with children, he said, was “very beautiful”. Very worrying, said Bashir. No, said Jacko, “It’s very right. It’s very loving. That’s what the world needs now – more love, more heart.” No doubt this is weird. No doubt if your kids went on a sleepover and you heard that their friend’s Dad had slept in the same bed with them all night you’d be asking questions.

And yet every parent knows the pleasure of being woken in the middle of the night by the tapping of tiny feet across the landing and the expectant little face appearing at the side of the bed asking: “Can I get in with you?” There is something about the unconditional love that a child offers and craves which touches

to the deepest part of what it means to be human. Even if it does mean a restless night. Part of Jackson’s disjuncture with reality is that he doesn’t seem to understand that you are only supposed to do this with your own children. But that shows only that he’s weird rather than wicked.

It’s not hard to see why. You don’t have to believe that he was telling the truth about his plastic surgery – he’s only had two ops, he said, on his Concorde-shaped nose, and that was to help him sing high notes – to accept that in his core he is very mixed up about the business of childhood. The interview revealed just how brutal a bully his father was. That combined with a relentless Jackson Five showbiz itinerary robbed him of his childhood. What he is doing now – with the aid of his vast fortune – is to attempt to recreate that. The experience of touring as a child star and having to pretend to be asleep while his brothers brought girls back to their bedroom for sex is enough to arrest the sexual development of many people.

Michael JacksonMichael appeared to be a man who never grew up – he had the innocence and naïveté of a child.  I believe that he needed to be protected, not vilified but then the tabloid media has always been able to spin stories whichever way they want just to sell papers.  Being a public figure does not give people a free pass to mock him. Are we so devoid of compassion that we ignore the fact that this was someone’s father, son, uncle, brother, child, cousin or loved one? Do his loved ones not deserve to grieve without the added pain of these insults? What does it say about us as a society when,  even in death, we see fit to ridicule someone this way?  It is at times like this that I truly despair of humanity. What makes this situation even worse is seeing the irritating Uri Geller crawl out of the woodwork (where I really wish he had stayed) to tell anyone who cares to listen about his close friendship with Michael. In addition to being a world-famous ‘spoonbender’, Uri is supposed to be a psychic so why didn’t he foresee Michael’s demise?

The deaths of these two entertainers are a stark reminder of our own mortality and for each one of us, the end is inevitable.  May fond memories of them be a source of comfort to their family, friends and fans and I hope that, in death, Michael Jackson has finally found peace that he sought, but could not find, in his lifetime.

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Farrah Fawcett (February 2, 1947 – June 25, 2009)

Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

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People seem to forget that he was abused as a child.
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