von D. Mutumwa Mawere
EACH and every individual has a story whose real impact on others is regrettably only told in its true and proper perspective when one exits
Michael Jackson (MJ), the legend, icon and superstar and, indeed, an African heritage point of light passed on last week and his exit exposed the
complexity and meaninglessness of life in so dramatic a manner that one cannot ignore the lessons from the experience.
In life, MJ was truly a genius and a gifted artist. On August 29, 1958, MJ’s journey began and the world may not remember his birthday but will
forever remember the official departure day, June 25, 2009.
Yes,we had 51 opportunities to say to MJ, “many happy returns” and yet many of us took for granted that the messenger will always be available to deliver the message that we have embraced through purchases of his music.
Is it not ironical that it is only at the time of death that people attempt to pause to reflect on the meaning of one’s life and its impact?
As the world reflects as it should on the life of MJ, there is no doubtthat a universal verdict will declare that this was a man who dedicated
his life to making a difference to the world through pop culture.
When Africa Heritage Society (AHS) www.africaheritage.com joined the movement to identify individuals of African heritage in whose hearts there is a light that shines beyond the confines of family and friends, I took it upon myself to contribute my thoughts on this important subject matter www.mmawere.com.
The universal outpouring of genuine non-racial emotions following the death of MJ tells a story about the 51 years of service to humanity so
eloquently that we need to pause and reflect on the purpose of life.
Who really was MJ? Was he properly understood? Did the world embrace only his message and not the messenger?
MJ,like any icon, was less understood in life by the people who have in the millions embraced him at death. His journey was and must have been alonely one.
As people put him on a higher pedestal, he ceased to be human and invariably became a prisoner to his work and fans. We all want to be
inspired by others but rarely do we take time to reflect on the costs we impose on the people we look up to.
MJ once said: “I am an instrument of nature” and indeed he was. He has left a legacy and future generations will no doubt remember The Man and hopefully the things that we did not do to make his life ordinary like we all want to enjoy, with no intrusive and malicious interventions.
When he departed, the world froze to attention to express a universal grief and also to reflect on MJ’s truly remarkable journey filled with
accomplishments but no doubt empty at the personal level.
However,when we pause to reflect what occupied the mind of MJ at the time of his untimely death, we may never know but we may not be wrong to conclude that he was a lonely man whose childhood and life was alienatedby fame from him.
From a young age, MJ became our collective property and he lost his freedom so that we could enjoy the message.
It is only when we broaden and deepen our understanding about the meaning of life and our individual and collective obligations to impact the
world we live in that we can properly spread the burden to each and every individual in whose hands the future of humanity rests.
Eachbirthday and the day of death should provide an opportunity to celebrate life and try to capture in life what the people we interact
with mean to us and the world we live in.
MJ was forced by financial circumstances to return to the centre stage and almost a million tickets were sold for the 59 shows he was to perform
in. He needed the money and if one takes into account the millions who now grieve over his death, it is not difficult to see the dilemma
inherent in MJ’s complicated life.
We wanted more from him and never took time to invest in him in a sustainable way to ensure that the burden of life would never disable or
The hours that the media has devoted to him after death and the kind of message coming from the discourse on his life suggests that we need to find a balance in reporting about our icons.
Ultimately,every individual has a point in his/her life. This is not to say that we need to look for angels. If this is the case, then we need to begin anew conversation that seeks to celebrate life and not celebrate someone after death.
If you love someone then you are compelled to know him or her. How much did the world really know about MJ? MJ was black like me and yet his
impact through pop culture was universal. One cannot deny that his impact on the world advanced the cause of our heritage. For those who
focus on race, they will have discovered that MJ’s impact transcended the confines imposed by race.
He was a perfectionist and he worked hard at his craft. This allowed the world to be his judge and the verdict if there was any doubt is now
known but he is no more. Even if the world wished otherwise, there is no mechanism known to mankind of changing the hand of fate. When it is
time to go, and your departure number is called, there is no choice but to go.
What we leave are memories and MJ left many to make it difficult to truly capture his real impact in one hour or even one day of non-stop
coverage. He touched so many lives. The real question is ‘whose lives have you touched’?
Last Saturday, I was a guest speaker at a gathering of Zimbabwean-born professionals who are now resident in South Africa. They like many
non-resident Zimbabweans wanted to discuss about the situation at home and see how best they can impact on the situation. My message was
simple. I told them that they should seek to invest in the change that they want to see and should focus more on impacting the world they live
in and in so doing they can have a bigger impact on others.