I’ll admit, I was no fan of Michael Jackson. I didn’t particularly like his music, and I really have ongoing suspicions regarding his pedophilia. Yet, the collective grief seems unending and the irrational behavior by people who never personally knew him is mind-boggling.
Then just today we learned of the sudden death of television pitchman, Billy Mays. Mr. Mays was fully engaged in bringing to market new and innovative consumer products; products with a level of appeal to just about everyone. I can’t help but compare the reaction we’ll likely not see with regard to Mr. Mays, verses the irrational orgy of collective grief we’ve been witnessing over Jackson. Mays life-work can be measured in jobs, revenue, and profitability for newly launched goods by small start-up companies competing in the marketplace, Jackson?
Michael Jackson was a hedonistic, self-absorbed, media creation whose personal life was as much his “product” as any of his music. I rejected both as trash and not art – that is my personal perception, others can [and do] take a different view. From naming his child whom he dangled precariously off a balcony in Germany “Blanket,” to strong suggestions that he engaged in pedophilia and drug addiction (in the least strange bedfellows), I saw nothing in him or his life of unique value to me or my pursuit of happiness. Art ought to give one a sense of life that is refreshing in its intellectual and aesthetic conception, which requires, in my humble view, a particular view of life and living that is enriching and not an appeal to a lower common denominator of existence.
Now, there are those who will feebly attempt to eulogize Jackson as an artist whose works were completely separate from his bizare existence. Moreover that his life’s work was grand art that should be taken on face value notwithstanding his oddities.. The reality is that such a dualist approach cannot stand the test of reason. Jackson’s artistic expression was a sum total of him – he and his persona was what was marketed, including his world-view, philosophy (if he had a coherent one), and cause celebs. It’s a tangled web interesting to some, to me it is not art worthy of much but a passing glance.
In my view, Billy Mays is a much larger loss to humanity than Michael Jackson. While there is clearly something untoward in comparing people posthumously in this way, it is nevertheless the media in our face that prompts reaction. None of these losses to those who are truly and immediately affected is really any of our business. An otherwise disconnected observer can and should be empathetic, but to go further and internalize such an event so as to manifest feigned grief is irrational.
Having lost a father at an early age, I can empathize with anyone who experiences the death of a loved one. In a rationally self-interested way, my life is impacted negatively by the passing of Billy Mays; not in a personal, emotional sense, but rather in the fact that Billy Mays was a productive part of society who profited handsomely while increasing the wealth of others. Arm’s length transactions and the creed of the trader were traits exuded by Billy Mays in numerous ways. We need many more Billy Mays’ in our world and far fewer Michael Jackson’s… I tip my hat to Mr. Mays and the example he set of working hard in the marketplace as an integral piece of what remains of a free market economy here in America.