Michael Jackson died this morning.
I was never a fan of his music--either of the tradition from which it sprang (Motown), or his particular use of it, a high-powered kinky jive routine which didn't leave much room for expressive definition. I found his voice flat and lacking in articulation.
The personality he came to project--filled with self-loathing, a frenetic dervish emulating a child-like immaturity which became increasingly strained as he aged--left me cold. Why did people like him? As a projection of adolescent fantasy, he seemed a peculiar and odd amalgam of the teen idol: A lonely, lost soul who'd skipped growing up, and then began to mourn the loss of his own innocence. A Black man who wanted to be a white puppet, who attempted to create his own literal version of Never-Never Land, whose fixation upon little boys betrayed deep-seated psychological issues.
His performances--of which I saw perhaps three, all on television--basically dance-numbers with voices dubbed in--showed his real talent as a dancer, though the moves and the themes of these--frankly masturbatory--seemed deliberately tasteless. If Jackson wanted to appeal to children, in the end, how was massaging his penis in those dance-numbers supposed to accomplish that?
If Michael Jackson was the symbolic projection of our popular cultural ideal, what does this tell us about our collective unconscious?
The growth of the medical industry over the last two centuries is one of the most dramatic phenomena of the modern world. The rapid increase in "universal treatment" in civilized societies has been facilitated by increasing mechanization of treatment, the advance of chemical applications and vaccines, and our understanding of physiology, body chemistry, and behavior.
This expansion of knowledge and treatment options has brought about the steady increases in costs of treatment, rapidly overtaking the ability of individuals, or the population at large, to pay for it. To be blunt: We can't afford to treat everyone for all the ills they suffer.
For a long time, we've been pretending that there is no limit on treatment, that if we could only come up with the right "formula", the right combination of public and private "coverage", everyone could count on being taken care of, no matter how serious their conditions, no matter how rich or poor they were. This is a dangerous fallacy.
There is not enough resource in even the richest societies, to provide equivalently efficient and effective medical care for everyone. The so-called "difficult choices" which we will make going forward are likely to make this graphically clear. The days of affordable group coverage are over. The days of providing state-of-the-art treatment for the poor are over. As the U.S. moves towards socialized medicine, the tiers of the medical treatment hierarchy will become more controversial, and clear-cut.
Modern medicine is a miracle of science, but it's too expensive. We can't afford to offer it to everyone. There's not enough treasure in all the world to pay for it.