In the end, the only one who could help Michael Jackson was Michael Jackson
Posted Jun 30 2009 3:49pm
"To you, Michael is an icon," ... "To us, Michael is family and he will forever live in all of our hearts...."
These were Janet Jackson's words, spoken this past weekend at the BET awards. Well-timed as they were, they were also about saving face in the wake of tragedy.
But actions speak louder the words. Did anyone ever act to save Michael Jackson?
A family with a boatload of money couldn't rehabilitate a man who was 50 years old, weighed 112 pounds and, according to reports, had nothing but undigested pills in his stomach when he was found dead?
If he did have anorexia, as his symptoms suggested, then Michael Jackson may have lived the same destiny that has doomed millions of others with mental illness. He was helplessly helpless, and he ultimately endured the same kind of existence as that of a homeless person who self medicates away their personal demons.
The only differences between Michael Jackson and the man on the street, frankly, is money, and access.
Like a homeless person, he ultimately confronted a society and a system that does more to enable, and less to assist those who can't come to grips with their own fragility.
Indeed, media reports say that, yes, the family did act. Fox News reported that exactly the same scenario almost played out in 2004 in Jackson's rented mansion. Jackson’s brother Randy found him unconscious in his home and immediately called a paramedic friend who lived very close by and who rushed to the house.
Fox News also reported that Jackson’s family started having premonitions of his premature death in 2001 around the time of his New York "30th Anniversary" concert series and were forced to intervene. A family meeting was held and, basically, Jackson was begged to seek help. His mother started asking a lot of questions about how Elvis Presley died.
But Jackson ultimately went his merry way, because that's what many people with severe mental illness do. He further destroyed his reputation, bankrupted his finances and ruined his credibility. He seemed to further isolate himself, and when he did show his face in public, he created embarrassing tabloid fodder that inspired the "Wacko Jacko" headlines.
He was like many of the lost souls I've seen, and interviewed, on the streets of New York City and Philadelphia, each of them with family members who show up every now and then to show they care. They give them money, they talk to them and they shake their hands. But the family gets ignored, and the money gets spent on booze and heroin.
Jackson didn't need his family's money. He had his own, and he had his drugs. Injecting Demerol into yourself, frankly, is like shooting legalized heroin and having the insurance companies pay for it. If the media reports are true, then Jackson was basically a legal junkie with health coverage.
Now the focus and the blame has shifted to his doctor, Conrad Murray. References to Elvis abound: Did the doctor enable him by prescribing the medications that may very well have killed him? Why wasn't he stopped?
Or maybe Jackson was, in the words of David Crosby, too far gone. Instead of blaming the doctor, maybe we need to look at ourselves, and how society treats mental illness. Maybe we need to look at how society creates Michael Jacksons, Elvis Presleys and Marilyn Monroes, only to watch their fragile statues crumble.
In the end, Jackson was helpless to the point of being hopeless. Not a doctor or a psychiatrist in the world could have transformed a man who had nothing left to give.