Michael Jackson: A Tragedy of Our Times

Writing in FrontPage Magazine, Dalrymple examines both the life of Michael Jackson and the logic of the doctors who connived to help him “live out his childish and pathological fantasies”, and he finds the case emblematic of modern culture:

What we see in Jackson is a manifestation in extreme form of modern man’s increasing unwillingness to place a limit on his own appetites, the precondition that Edmund Burke laid down for the exercise of liberty. Jackson, it is often said, was a child who never grew up; ‘I want, I want!’ was the sum total of his philosophy. He was, in extreme form, a very characteristic modern human type, whose life course was that of precocity followed by permanent adolescence.

Read the essay here.

Dalrymple wrote about Jackson’s child molestation case twice for National Review. His 2003 essay Our Great Societal Neverland (actually, the essay that first opened my eyes to his writing) examined pedophilia, and 2005’s Looking for Boundaries argued that Jackson’s child molestation case was evidence of “gross sexual confusion in our society”:

Each person is left to decide whether his behavior will cause harm to himself or others, and it is a fact of human nature that we can easily persuade ourselves of the harmlessness of what we want, or are already determined, to do. And conformity has in any case a bad name: It is a form of lese majesté of the individual, and — ever since the end of the Second World War — carries the connotation of the feeble excuse offered by mass murderers, that they were only obeying orders. Not the least damage that Nazism did to the world was to destroy faith in the possibility of decent conventions that ought to be followed.

The Michael Jackson case has revealed a foul swamp of egotism, not just of Jackson alone, though he has hitherto enjoyed the means to live out his tasteless fantasies. The case is an example of what happens when individuals are left to define boundaries for themselves without the assistance of social convention.

Update: Our Great Societal Neverland is available here for free. (Hat Tip: RJK)

7 thoughts on “Michael Jackson: A Tragedy of Our Times

  1. Steve

    Yes they are, Mary. I wonder how some of those commenters found Dalrymple’s piece. They don’t seem like typical FrontPage Magazine readers.

  2. Arne Appelmelk

    Dear Mr. Dalrymple,

    You can’t think of anyone in the history of the world with more extreme self-mutilation than Michael Jackson? I can: What about your big friend Jesus Christ? Wasn’t his mutilation orchestrated by God himself and thus self-mutilation? And certainly self-mutilation and other not so healthy rituals are something you see all the time through history by his followers as something to admire. And not only in Christian religion. Maybe all people like Michael Jackson and people with tattoos or other body-artistics are inspired by religion(s). Greeting,

    Arne Appelmelk (With tattoo but had my identity before)

  3. Clinton

    Hi, Arne. FYI: this site is not affiliated with Dr. Dalrymple. Secondly, Dr. Dalrymple is an atheist, so your assumptions about his religious beliefs are not true. But thanks for your comment anyway.

  4. Arne Appelmelk

    I knew Dr Dalrymple isn’t a theist but he has often suggested an elite like a church or some other moral authority for managing the uproar of lower classes. These authorities use idols like Jesus Christ or also ettiquette as an example. Why don’t leaders of elites open up their private life as example how to live? Because following their real ways would be disastrous and make a quick end to any society. Morality isn’t coming from elites anymore. The differences with members of the elite is that they hide their mischief or have their ways to make them look like good behaviour. People that have little to loose don’t need or have these cover-ups. Nowadays they express themselves in public as they like. With or without visible tattoos, piercings, as an individual, or joined in public happenings in any way they like from nerd to extravert. I agree in some degree with Dr Dalrymple that people (of all classes) need some (strong) advice about risks they take in certain choices and on the other side laws for for the merchants of these risky choices. For tattoos and piercings for example: Hygienic rules and only registered tattooshops. And for their clients rules about age, fysical, and mental health. This legislation is possible or existing for all sorts of human behaviour.
    These are the real problems: The lack of authorities to apply existing legislation or not give their excecuting forces enough power (and along with that enough controlmechanisms to control these excecuters). The lack of citizen’s courage to speak up or act otherwise confronted with public but also hidden (real) bad behaviour or criminal acts. These two lacks are related. Another underlying problem is that we live in a time of wide spread communication accessable for all classes. In the past elites could hide almost anything for the general public. Like the Wizard of Oz they lost their power after being exposed in their real shape. What Dr Dalrymple wants is to give authorities some of this magic back when he suggests restauration of moral superiours. They don’t exist in a free society! (Like the Wizard of Oz.) It’s the burden of freedom. For freedom’s sake we’ll have to live with it. What is possible then? Open discussion, attention, and ways of confronting or even (under restraint of neccessity) forcing people about what is good or bad. But when there isn’t real neccessity no rules at all. You can’t or even should want to rule out people making mistakes. We must not forget that our freedom was and will be fought for. To maintain but also extend (social and geographical) this freedom it will be an enduring struggle. A much better book about the lacks of modern society is “The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America” by Robert Hughes. This angry but much more intellectual (but also accesible) book about modern society published in 1989 is still available. Greetings,

    Arne Appelmelk


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