We're made from clay but also from a spirit that is not of this world. Negotiations between the two are now in session. Meanwhile, you may find here some reviews, commentary, translations, short fiction, links to various articles, excerpted quotes, exegesis, and anything else that has a chance to kindle, edify, anger, or draw a yawn. •••Twitter••• @i_abusharif
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The Meaning of the Moonwalk
It's always interesting to see how swift and how far and wide the blow darts of media hype can fly. I first heard of the news of Michael Jackson's collapse on AlJazeera. It was breaking news in Doha and, therefore, every other Arab city that carries the news network. In no time, after it was confirmed that Jackson had died and after Jermaine Jackson made his moving statement, Muslim bloggers and notable figures alike have had something to say about the man, mainly because of his alleged, reported, suggested, rumored, or bona fide conversion to Islam. The Michael Jackson story is, of course, hardly hype alone. The man was big for many reasons that we're all familiar with. And I don't think it's because the cult of celebrity has become the national religion. Michael Jackson actually "said" something about modern life, whether he meant to convey it or not.
Artists, as they say, lose interpretative control over their art. Just look at Picasso's paintings, for example, and you'd be "correct" to notice a theme of the disconnect and disjointedness of the modern human mind and the life of disproportion and of a severe crisis of emphasis. His depictions of the human form, those circus freaks, reveal to the beholder a diaspora at the level of limbs and body bulges.
Now look at Michael’s moonwalk, his most mimicked move. Unintentional or otherwise on the dancer's part, we may easily see it as the postmodern view of progress: the motions of walking forward while actually moving in reverse, a regression marketed as advancement, steps ahead. But the good news is, you can't really do it for long.
It's been widely reported that Michael in recent years has turned his attention to review his spiritual condition. I hope it's true, and if so, I hope it bodes well for him, as his fans emulate his moves of old and as music promoters struggle to save their investments.
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Ibrahim is a professor of journalism at Northwestern University in Qatar. His research interests include the intersection of media and culture; literary journalism; media in the Arab world; and religion and media. He is also a journalist and a writer of non-fiction and fiction. His articles have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, both print and online. He has also worked closely on translation projects of the Quran. And he finds it very interesting to write about himself in the third person like this. It's possible he'll revise this introduction and be more personable. But "not now!" he says. (Email: email@example.com)