Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson - more, or less, than meets the eye?

I was in the airport in Atlanta when I saw this tweet from @geekandahalf (Derrick):

What the hell done happened to Michael Jackson?

Not knowing the context of what had happened, I first had to search FriendFeed to find the reports that Jackson had suffered a heart attack. In response to the surprise at this happening, I responded in the FriendFeed thread as follows:

50+ year old man, presumably under stress over financial difficulties and career reverses. Formerly addicted to painkillers. Previous legal troubles in criminal and civil courts. Sadly, we shouldn't be surprised.

A little bit later, we learned that the heart attack was fatal.

Now if we think back, there are positive and negative aspects to everyone's life story, including Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. And there were certainly those aspects to Michael Jackson's life - even a few hours after his death, the stories were circulating:

According to unconfirmed reports, Jackson aides told medics he had collapsed after a Demerol injection. “Shortly after taking the Demerol he started to experience slow shallow breathing” an aide allegedly told the media. “His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped.”

One's thoughts potentially return to the painkiller addiction I previously referenced:

[Demerol] is often compared to morphine, and is supposed to be safer and carry less risk of addiction, and is claimed to be superior in treating certain types of pain. Demerol though has come under scrutiny in recent years....

And that noted journalistic source The People's Daily reported the following in 2008:

Michael Jackson is said to be living on a diet of gravy, painkillers and biscuits.

The cash-strapped apparently surviving on the bizarre diet after his spending habits spiralled out of control.

And there are other reports that are surfacing:

Brian Oxman, the Jackson Family spokesman and former lawyer for Michael, told CNN in an interview on Thursday night that "I can only tell you that this is something that was not unexpected." Oxman went on to say that "the medications which Michael was under, this family has been trying for months and months and months to take care of Michael Jackson."

Oxman went on to compare the Jackson situation to that of the late Anna Nicole Smith. "The people who have surrounded him have been enabling him. If you think the case of Anna Nicole Smith was an abuse, it's nothing in comparison to what we have seen taking place in Michael Jackson's life," Oxman told CNN.

It's odd that Jackson was compared to Anna Nicole Smith, a person whose best-known talent was her ability to take her clothes off. A more apt comparison may be Elvis Presley (whose daughter was married to Jackson at one time). Presley was also musically talented, also revolutionary, also a loner, and also had a drug problem.

The painkiller issue goes back to 1993, and was linked by Jackson himself to other personal issues:

Michael Jackson has announced he is canceling his world tour to seek treatment for his addiction to painkillers. He attributed his dependence on the drugs to his anguish over accusations that he had molested a 13-year-old boy.

In a taped statement released late Friday, Mr. Jackson, one of the world's best-selling recording artists, said: "The pressure resulting from these false allegations, coupled with the incredible energy necessary for me to perform, caused so much distress that it left me physically and emotionally exhausted. I became increasingly more dependent on the painkillers."

Sadly, in this case one cannot discuss Jackson's musical career without discussing his personal life. I started a FriendFeed thread on Thursday:

OK, I'll ask this question before boarding my cross-country flight - did Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, or Michael Jackson make the greatest contribution to society? Talk amongst yourselves.

As I flew west, the participants discussed the difference between "contribution" and "impact." As I said when I killed the thread upon my arrival in the West:

Michael COULD have made the greatest contribution, but his effectiveness was muted.

The chief example of Jackson's potential is the Heal the World Foundation, the charity that Jackson created. Here is how the website describes the role of the President Emeritus:

Mr. Jackson officially founded HTWF in 1992, forming the nonprofit, however, the heart of his charity, healing the world, one person at a time, was Mr. Jackson's focus, even before the papers were signed and the foundation formalized, he was serving his fellow man.

HTWF focuses on character development worldwide and addressing high priority global problems and was on target to become one of the largest charity organizations in the world and also one of the greatest 'goods' to mankind and with any great good, comes opposition in that same measure.

Note the reference to "was" on target. In HTWF's terms, Jackson's enemies did the Foundation in:

Therefore, it is NO surprise, that shortly after HTWF was launched in 1992, that Michael Jackson's naivety and altruistic love of others, was twisted and exploited.

The story continues, causing you to wonder - is this the story of a charitable organization, or a Michael Jackson fan club?

Despite the years of repeated attacks of the rapacious and the false rumors of this legendary entertainer and humanitarian, the fact remains that he is one of the most honorable, generous and Godlike men of our time and he will not be put down.

Now while people often praise the founder of an organization, the word "Godlike" is not necessarily used. In this case, however, the word was used, and the Godlike man

From 2002-2008 the foundation was fledgling, along with its founder and lost its tax exempt status while reorganizing its focus and upper management.

We continued to develop our initiatives and held many questionnaires and PR 'polls' to gauge the public approval of the charity. Many volunteers continued to hold fundraisers and serve their communities on our behalf and many lives were helped, including all the people on this site currently....

In 2008 based on the demand from our supporters and the devotion of our volunteers, we restructured the charity under a new board of Directors and regained our tax exempt status. However, the charitable giving and work of HTWF was always moving forward and never ceased.

One man can do his part to HEAL THE WORLD and Mr. Jackson did take a step out of the charity for awhile as was necessary and understandable, but will never abandoned HTWF, nor his desire to serve his fellow man. When it is time, Mr. Jackson will lead HTWF into this generation and all generations to come.

This is the text that appeared on the page as of Friday morning. Unless the Heal the World Foundation officially endorses reincarnation, it will probably be edited in the future.
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