Sunday, June 28, 2009

MJ. Michael.


As soon as I heard the news of his death, I knew that it was a significant moment, for me, and millions of others everywhere. Right away I thought that months from now, years from now, we will reflect and ask ourselves "Remember when Michael Jackson passed away?", and remember how we felt at the time. For now, his passing is still fresh in our memory, and for his many legions of fans, his music and moves cannot leave our minds for the time-being.

Michael's death shows the extent of his global influence. In our Internet-driven society, the passing away of one man caused grief and mourning across the world, and also a celebration of his life and his musical legacy. His death is a sobering reminder, that yes, we all have to go someday. Thursday, June 25th, 2009, was Michael's time to go and leave us. May he finally be at peace, God willing.

Michael's death shows how his music truly unified us, crossing generational lines, racial lines, cultural lines, language barriers, religion, as well as musical genres. The 80s' generation might be the actual MJ generation, but the generation before and after also witnessed the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson.

The news of his death being splashed across the Internet and then riding across the globe in waves, was more evidence of his immense popularity. Michael's massive success and fame came of age far before the current Internet age, with his legacy being stamped primarily in the 1980s'. His last album, Invincible, was released in 2001. The face of the Internet changes dramatically every couple years or so. In 2001, there was no Gmail, or Facebook, or Twitter, or Youtube, or even many online radio stations. Yet, in 2009, the news of his death crashed the Internet giants of today, in just a few minutes. It was perhaps a final display of how much he had impacted our world.

Michael, the ever-changing chameleon. I think that the many transformations in Michael's life perhaps reflect shifting undercurrents in American society. His changing skin colour complicated and confronted racial lines - a man with white skin who was still seen as a black artist, and a black figure. Michael's increasing androgyny also remarkably bended the strict boundaries of gender. And finally, most recently of all, his perceived flirtation, if not acceptance, of Islam. In the wake of his death, religion is another aspect of society that Michael continues to blur and challenge.

Finally, let's not forget, what we did to Michael Jackson. We, as in us, the public. Us as a collective. We, the ones who feed off the media, who gulp down what the media feeds to us. Because ultimately, the many trials and demons that Michael faced in his life, was because of us. He had been in the spotlight since he was 5 years old, and died at 50 - a 45-year career in the public eye. If we, as the public, had recognized that this young, amazing child, had immeasurable talent, but that he was still a child, we would have known to respect him as a person. To see him as a human being, and not just as an entertainer. We can blame the media all we want for exploiting Michael since he was young, but we allowed the media, the giant, Conglomerate Media, to do so. We didn't hold back.

Because of such vast amounts of attention, Michael inevitably receded further and further into isolation, and alienation. His fantastic talent was a great gift, but also a great curse. Because of his talent, Michael was forced, by us, to sacrifice his whole existence, to us. By endlessly performing, touring, and creating. Millions idolized him and saw him only as the Michael Jackson, and not realizing that Michael was just like one of us as well - a fellow human being, who happened to be extremely gifted vocally and in his dancing abilities. The never-ending media spotlight on him made Michael retreat into dark shadows, resulting in an excessive and odd lifestyle - surefire signs of mental distress. But still, we never let up, and we allowed the media to continue to exploit him, and it only got worse after 1993. And it still continues with his death.

So let's remember Michael for who he truly was - a fantastic performer, singer, and dancer, as well as a great humanitarian. And let's recognize, and not forget, that he was also a human being, one who we all took advantage of.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Amazing Adventures of Timmy the SuperMouse

Timmy the Supermouse can get on top of the microwave and nibble his way through a packet of roti.

He also likes to hide under the bed and squeak from time to time.

Timmy the Supermouse is capable of disappearing for months at a time. And when he returns, you wonder if he ever left at all.

Timmy the Supermouse is lucky he lives with girls who are too nice to get mousetraps for him.

He is also lucky that our neighbours don't have a cat whom we could borrow for a day and find Timmy and help him with his social awkwardness and shyness, by chasing him.

Timmy the Supermouse might actually be his cousin Tommy, or Jimmy. But as Timmy doesn't have any distinct features at his high running speeds of dashing into dark and unknown corners, he is known as Timmy. Sorry Tommy or Jimmy.

Timmy the Supermouse - I will be gone in a couple of weeks. You will have one less friend. Sorry mate!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Read. Iqra.

Ev-ery-one should have the right to education. Education should not be a privilege. The fact that education is a privilege and not a right is extremely scary - because it really shows the manifestation of power coming from the top-down. To even educate ourselves can be a huge struggle, even in the world's richest country.

Education should be a right. It doesn't matter what kind of education - home-school, public school, private school, oral history, written history - whatever. Education is the most empowering tool a person can have. To not have that tool, that right, is extremely disempowering and we can see what the results are all around us - people going off to fight someone else's war, people falling into crime, drug addiction, people getting arrested and locked behind bars. Or people being enslaved to the middle class and having to work as servants, cooks, drivers, dealers, hustlers, sex workers, and all the rest of it. If people had the right to education...all of that would be a different story.

And that's probably why they don't have access to education. To a good, solid, education.

And for those who have degrees and what-not - its not enough. We all have to continue to educate ourselves. I really understand now, how much there is that I don't know about and don't understand. And the only way to learn is to continue to educate myself. I have my diploma from the University of Michigan sitting in a drawer in my room at my parents' house. Perhaps one day I'll get a frame for it and hang it. But really, how much was that diploma worth? How much does it actually mean to me? Going to college empowered me and taught me that I need to continue learning. And going to college is a rare privilege that few in this world have. So I respect my time at Michigan and I'm grateful for it. But it doesn't put me above anyone else, nor should anyone think so.

As someone who became less and less attuned to classroom-based learning as I got older, perhaps that's why I have my diploma sitting under a bunch of folders in a drawer. Maybe that's why I'm excited more than ever about educating myself, after my formal education has ended. Maybe this means that, the university system isn't for everyone. So I think that a right to education should encompass many different kinds of education, and not shove the academic system in someone's face. Now: I enjoy reading books, outside of class. I like going to lectures, outside of class. I like doing group discussions, outside of class. In university? I hardly ever did my readings, was late to class if I even showed up, and if I did half the time I couldn't focus, took awful notes, and I didn't want to engage in group discussions because I was never prepared and I was always annoyed at being one of the few people of colour in the room, and often the only one.

Anyway...I enjoy educating myself now.