Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Forgive thy Sins?

I’ll be completely upfront, this is of course just my opinion, but I am somewhat sickened and disturbed by the amount of people praising Michael Jackson, the media circus surrounding his death and the concert being held in his honor. To me, the evidence and amount of allegations of his pedophilia were pretty solid, yet there are so many that have gladly looked past these horrific past transgressions to toss admiration and kudos to the memory of this man.

The parents of some of the children, who allowed there kids to sleep over with Jackson are partly to blame, and no one can argue that Jackson had somewhat of a difficult life living in the constant limelight of fame, but at the end of the day, sexual molestation of children, no matter what the circumstances is repugnant and despicable. Time and again, the psychological problems that children of sexual abuse suffer later in life has been documented quite substantially by the scientific community. This is not about some petty crime, but about a crime that has lifelong lasting effects on the victims.

For us Buddhists, what responsibility do we have to speak our minds in these cases, to point out the disturbing actions of others? I’m not talking about pointing out the actual crimes, as I think that it is quite apparent that we have the same responsibility as anyone else to report these types of crimes, but more in a moral sense, of peoples past crimes and forgiveness of these ‘sins’? We all have things in or past we aren’t proud of, and we all have been the victim of a crime at some point were we have forgiven the offender; but to hold a concert in some kind of twisted homage to this pedophile, to me, crosses a line of not only good taste but also somehow says if you are famous and make lots of money, somehow the standards of decency don’t apply to you. What do you think?


  1. I was never much of a fan of Michael Jackson and certainly didn't admire him as a person.

    Actually I felt a little sorry for him. It's hard to know what the truth of the allegations was, but it's absolutely clear that he consistently behaved in an appropriate way with children. And you're right, it really shows how people's judgement is affected by celebrity.

    Another example of this are footballers who's public esteem is unaffected by the rape allegations against them.

    Why does it matter if he can moonwalk?

    And I don't buy the 'he brought happiness to millions' argument because in reality genuine happiness is not affected by the fleeting pleasures of entertainment.

  2. He did, however, get MTV and mainstream radio to play music and videos from a black artist.

    As far as I can tell, that was his biggest accomplishment and he deserves praise for that. Anyone who helps break down racial barriers deserves credit where credit is due.

  3. Unfortunately he turned himself into a white man in the process.

    Personally I have more respect for the courage and integrity of Jarvis Cocker who flashed his arse at the crowd during Michael Jackson's horribly idealistic and pompous Earth song while Jackson was levitating above a crowd of children images of poor African kids like some sort of messiah.

    I suppose it just comes down to taste.

  4. Morally speaking, I think Justin has made the right point: that there are two kinds of 'happiness', the true kind we seek and hope to offer others as Buddhists, and the false kind that the media and so much of our society seem fixated upon.

    I think it is our responsibility to continue to redirect people to the real issues of today, the real sources of suffering, and to try to bring out the best - the Buddha-nature - in all others.

    I agree that the circus that has formed around his death is nothing short of crazy. It shows us all again how much work we have!

    Now on with the work... :)

  5. I have many reactions to your brief blog, Kyle. Let’s start with the obvious, idol worship. Regardless if it’s Michael Jackson’s memorial service, a presidential campaign, interviews of athletes – the point is the same, we as a nation are caught up in this stuff to a nauseating degree. Why do we need idols? Is it our shortcomings that cause us to project our deficiencies upon these “stars” in order to feel better? Is the media at the root of it all – can anyone sit through the US coverage of the Olympics anymore? In the end, our flaws always rise to the top, sometimes in small amounts (Michael Phelps) and sometimes in overwhelming amounts (OJ, Gov. Sanford, etc.). As long as mortals walk the earth, idols will be created and extolled.

    Now, onto the heart of your post. Just as you never walked in Michael Jackson’s shoes, I never walked in yours so I can only respond based upon how I viewed him and how your message resonates with me. Buddhism has given me the window to see beyond the obvious. First: who am I to forgive him? To believe that I have the power to bestow forgiveness feeds an ego I am trying desperately to calm. I have compassion for him because I believe his motivation was pure but years of being the recipient of paternal abuse flawed him severely.

    Next – what responsibility do we have to speak our minds in situations like this? So many teachings are flooding my brain right now. I guess the one that I am trying to put into practice is “What was the state of your mind immediately previous to hearing about MJ’s death?” attempting to get back to that state of momentary tranquility. I think about how the Dalai Lama’s has always presented himself with respect to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and torturing of monks and citizens. I have never witnessed any anger, animosity or the need “to speak his mind” from His Holiness in this regard.

    And finally, I keep recalling that in a previous life, Michael was my mother. And if that is hard to accept, perhaps our gaze should not be directed outward, but inward.

  6. I think you just wanted to get on a soapbox about it as it as absolutely nothing to do with Buddhism.

    What good does it do anyone to jump on a media bandwagon and vilify someone that you don't know? You have absolutely no clue whether he did the things that the court found him not guilty of.

  7. @Justin With regard to your comment about MJ turning himself white - I don't believe that he had control over his skin color due to the fact that he was diagnosed with Vitiligo in 1986. If I were him and more than 50% of my skin lost its pigment, I would try to match the lighter shade as well. I'm a person of color, and I can only imagine how devastating it must've been to lose so much of your pigmentation.

    As for some of the other comments and this blog post - it's sad to see a bunch of self proclaimed Buddhists passing judgment on someone that they don't know based on evidence that they have not reviewed. I always thought that a Buddhist would be the last person to pass judgment on someone else, but I've been sadly mistaken. If it were an artist you were a fan of, I'd wager there wouldn't be any of this kind of commentary.

  8. I believe there is some misconception here that by being a Buddhist that we don't act or speak when we see actions being committed that harm others. Yes, of course, none of us were in that bedroom, we can only go by what has been reported. He was investigated several times and arrested in 2005 for child molestation. He admitted sharing his bed with teen and pre-teen children, so, perhaps I am making a bit of a conclusion. But being Buddhist doesn't mean we give up our common sense and good judgment. Most of us are not passive people who sit by and watch other people being taken advantage of.

    And perhaps I am a bit sensitive when it comes to children that are physically and sexually abused. Millions of children each year have to face that god awful situation of abuse. I know first hand this horror, and let me tell ya, those scars don't heal so quick. So yes, I am standing on a soapbox a bit.

    But this does go to the what being a Buddhist is about. In our lives we will be confronted by people who harm or take advantage of other people, and we still have to deal with them in a relative way. Set aside Jackson for a moment, and we are confronted with Jeffery Dahmer, and his atrocities; in some way we have to deal with him, society has to deal with him, and this involves in a relative manner passing judgment in some cases.

    Again, these are just my opinions and do not reflect all the contributors to this site. Take them as you may, but I don't mind taking a bit of heat if shedding some light on the sexual and physical abuse of children.

    All in all, its a sad situation.

  9. justelise

    Considering that MJ had extensive plastic surgery which made him look more and more like a caucasian I didn't believe the Vitiligo story. I accept that I might be wrong about that.

    It is human to make judgments about people's behavior, just as you are doing with ours. I think our comments are valid and harmless. Michael Jackson behaved in inappropriate ways with children and may have sexually abused them. His celebrity, money and talent shouldn't make us treat him any differently from anyone else under such circumstances.

  10. It is human to make judgments about people's behavior, just as you are doing with ours.

    just as I was thinking...Buddhist's are no better than anyone else...

    we're all subject to being judgmental. And I agree nothing outrageous has been said here.

    I really liked what Andrew Sullivan had to say being that I too came from a traumatized childhood.


    for the most part I've tried to avoid the coverage because it disturbs me so. It truly is reflective of our culture as Andrew says.

  11. Blame it on the boogie!

    I agree with Andrew. Michael Jackson was a victim of our celebrity-obsessed culture.

    The Jackson Five era stuff was great btw.

  12. that's actually the first video I've watched throughout this period following his death...it was beautiful and a nice way to remember him, certainly. A lovely boy.

    It's been painful for me to look at his face for a very long long time...it pained me to imagine the self-hatred that was so self-evident in what he'd done to himself.

    here he is healthy and beautiful. most likely still in pain but it is a good memory.

  13. Thanks, Kyle for bringing this up and my thanks to all who have added to this conversation.

    I appreciate Russ's bringing up the Dalai Lama's attitude to China. Sure they (military, leaders, and no doubt many civilians) have done horrible things, but the Dalai Lama's response is to say that they - like all of us - act out of ignorance and their own suffering.

    Gianna's link to Andrew Sullivan is helpful too, as Andrew sums up our ambivalence perfectly when he writes, "He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child."

    I come to this as someone who lived with a woman who was a genius, but also a victim of abuse who eventually became abusive toward me. The range of powerful emotions this stirred up, from anger toward her hurtful actions to defending her as a victim, was very confusing. I can see this full range of emotions in comments here.

    May we all find peace in seeing the truth in one another's views, expanding our own relationship to the issue and to one another.

  14. Justin - Thank you for those thoughts, I think you really hit the mark.

  15. I agree with Vera. Unless you have read court documents or know MJ, you should not judge him. As someone who has a friend with vitilago, I really cannot stand it when people claim my friend or MJ was trying to make theirselves white. People who have the disease want to make themeselves look as normal as possible so that people won't stare at them and call them "freak", "human oreo", or accuse them of bleaching their skin. It is an extremely horrific thing to go through and it usually leads to that person suffering mental depression. Also, he clearly stated in every interview that he was Black and proud to be so(unlike Prince, who claims to be Italian, not Black). He put lots of Blacks (light and dark skin, something you can't say about most rap videos now).
    I think we need to remember despite what negative views one might have, he did a lot of positive things in his life, I am sure his children would agree.

  16. I think that it is wrong to convict Michael Jackson of child molestation. I also think he is innocent of the charges.

    There are plenty of reasons for him to 'pay off' that has everything to do with getting his name out of the news. I feel that many people maybe far to eager to 'convict' him in their minds because he paid them off.

    What I think is true is that he was a freak that actually was a little boy {Peter Pan} in his 'mind' inside an adult body. Society sometimes tries to 'assume' human adult motives when all 'evidence' {to me} actually suggests that he was anything but an adult.

    That said, I am happy he is dead because I feel he is in a better place and hopefully a lot happier.

    I think I have explained myself well enough; And, I just wished to express a different view point. I will likely avoid reading any response for a while.

  17. Angel - I don't necessarly disagree with most of what you say here. :-)

  18. I don't know why I feel compelled to comment, but I will anyway. :)

    Isn't celebrity such an odd invention? We're all 100% guilty of this. Even concentrating on this topic is of such glamour that I can't think straight!

    Here's what I had to say upon Mike's death. I am a musician, and I greatly value the entire catalog of music he has offered the music community. I was not alive in 1977, so all in all, this was my generation's Elvis. It was a very sad scene and it was terrible what became of such an iconic musician.

    Other than that, there is nothing I can really add. I know nothing that would lead me to believe one way or another that he did anything to anyone, other than influence me in my particular musicianship, but I do understand that his values and his treatment of others may have been illogical.

    Celebrity has taken the formalities to a new height. I didn't know Michael Jackson, so even if he did do those things, there's really nothing I could have done, aside from not listening to his music..

    But a sad story, indeed. What we can really take from this entire event, regardless of your taste in music, or the court cases, is that the hungry ghost can never be fed, and money cannot buy happiness.

    Or mindfulness, for that matter.


  19. To me, Michael Jackson was the biggest star of one of the most benighted times: the mid 1980s.

    I also think that his glorification is a symptom of a baleful celebrity culture that he helped create.

    Whenever a celebrity dies to great acclaim, I think of all the scientists, teachers, and poets who pass to the indifference of the culture.

    I stick to the notion, however, that one can make a culture within the culture: Aware of the mainstream, but apart from its excesses.