Category Archives: miscellaneous

More Pressing Issues for Debate

Is David (in the right hand corner) shirtless or not? :P

pool

On Cults and Community

david296I remember way back when David was dominating the VH1 top music videos (that’s the glory days of 2008 post-Idol) one of the VH1 hosts of the show, in introducing David’s “Crush” video, had described the “bizarre” community of David fans, who were given to weeping, sobbing, and falling into trances upon hearing The Voice.

“It’s like a special cult,” she had uttered in disbelief.

It was a subtle dig against David but still a dig, and I guess I should have realized – even back then when he was dominating music charts – that mainstream media folks didn’t take kindly to him.

Describing David’s fanbase like some dangerous “cult” instead of a die-hard group of fans was a sign that he would not be taken seriously.  Of course, his fanbase back then were mostly tweens and teens.  If they dropped back in later and realized most of his fanbase are older women, then they’d really wonder what was up! ha!

I’m reflecting on this moment because, this week, little attention was given to another anniversary besides the big 50th one commemorating JFK’s assassination.

I’m referring to the 35th anniversary of the massacre that occurred at Jonestown in Guyana, when cult leader Jim Jones of the People’s Temple led more than 900 people to their deaths in what has often been described as a “mass suicide.”

“Don’t drink the koolaid”? A macabre allusion to this tragic state of affairs and usually uttered whenever someone wants to provide  a contrary position to a dominating position put forth by group think or mass hysteria.

It wasn’t until I read an informative piece titled “Why Did So Many Black Women Die?” that I started paying attention to the fact that most of those 900 victims were African Americans, and most of these African Americans were women.

That leads to other questions: Are black women more susceptible to cult-like organizations? Statistics indicate that we are one of the most religious groups in this country.  Are we more vulnerable to the trappings offered by highly manipulative people?

And I don’t ask these questions to suggest that either black people or women are “perfect victims.” I think we get targeted more.

Reading up on the history of the People’s Temple, it’s really chilling to be honest. Because, say, had I been living in San Francisco in the early 70s and didn’t find too many opportunities for community building and attended a church service at the People’s Temple, saw a nice multiracial group of people in that church, listened to the leader discuss pressing issues like social justice and anti-racism, and enjoyed a bangin’ gospel choir! (all aspects of this particular community), I sooooo could see myself joining this movement and being totally committed.  One of the Jonestown survivors said, “We didn’t join a cult. We joined a community.”

And anyone can fall prey. Even historically, the strong and self-assured Sojourner Truth found herself entrapped in an abusive cult by one “Prophet Matthias,” who abused her in the same way she suffered abuse when she was enslaved. (Interesting that, right after Truth was freed, she sought community in New York City, and in her loneliness joined this crazed cult of “perfectionists.”  I’m telling you!)

Cult leaders tend to share similar characteristics of abusive husbands and partners. They prey on the most vulnerable, they seduce you with the words and messages you need to hear, and then they isolate you and cut you off from the rest of the world – where you are truly caught up in an abusive situation.

What happened to Jonestown is exactly like an abused victim trapped in domestic violence. Sure, there were some who dissented, like Christine Miller who did try to “reason” with Jim Jones before the massacre started, saying: “I feel like as long as there’s life there’s hope.” She also said she and others had a right to “their own destiny.” If you ever listen to the “death tape” (floating around on You Tube but I won’t link to the chilling tape here), you can here Christine Miller being shouted down by others when she said this!

At least she didn’t go out without a protest, and she was prone to challenging Jim Jones, who at times used to wield a gun to intimidate his followers. One time in a heated argument, he pointed a gun at her, and she calmly said to him: “You can shoot me but you will respect me.”

Just knowing one of the victims of this massacre never gave up her faith despite the godless nature of the Jonestown situation is one reason why I think we need to have more nuanced thinking and discussion about “cults,” the nature of abuse, and the recognition that such situations “could happen to me.”

If we had a deeper realization of this, we wouldn’t casually dismiss groups we don’t agree with as “cults” (that often happens to churches like the one David belongs to, among others), and we certainly would be more careful when we say things like “Don’t drink the koolaid.”

Mass suicide or mass murder?  Does an abused partner delight in masochistic pain, or is she simply trapped?

Aren’t we all just looking for love and community either way? The main concern is how to offer healthy alternatives to those most susceptible to the abuse that batterers and power-hungry individuals offer.

Energized by Youth

Because I never could move like this six-year-old girl, B-Girl Terra, when I was her age!!

 

If Only David Played Guitar on Idol…

He might have won! :P

In other news, according to the latest SD poll, 31% of you said you developed O.D.D. after David sang “Heaven,” but the same percent shows that many of you had a different “moment” when you became obsessed with the Archulator.

Still, 27% of you said it was the moment when he sang “Imagine” for the first time! (Sigh)

Sweet times, yes?

Alas, only 4% of you said that O.D.D. kicked in when David sang “And So It Goes” (who knew I was in such a small minority – that was when the moment happened for me).

Of course, that a third of you said “different moments” brought on Obsessive David Disorder just proves that this Archu ride is both an individual experience and a collective one.

As for the three people who said they never developed “O.D.D.,” puh-lease! I’m soooooo not buying it! Otherwise, why are you here? :P

Missing Idol’s Finale for Cirque du Soleil!

This year was the first time I’ve ever missed Idol’s Top 2 Finale, and I’ve been watching since Season 1.

Of course, I don’t care. I’ve been so underwhelmed by the talent popping up on the show that I couldn’t even be bothered to record it on my DVR.  Instead, I went to the circus! :)

Seeing Cirque du Soleil perform Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour was a long time coming. I received the tickets as a birthday present, and I was finally able to attend the show.  It definitely lived up to all my expectations and beyond.

Let’s put it this way: Michael Jackson’s Music + Cirque du Soleil = Magic! Imagination! Mind-blowing Awesomeness!

I haven’t seen such things on Idol since David Archuleta (who of course never needed all the razzle-dazzle pedazzle that the likes of Cirque and MJ have relied on to entertain the masses, but still: pyrotechnic-meets-acrobats-meets-greatness makes for magnificence).

What was really amazing to me during the 2-hour plus show was how the more simple performances turned out to be my favorites.

Like, the “Human Nature” piece, which included high-flying trapeze artists spinning in the air, only detected through lights illuminating their bodies, as they danced against the backdrop of deep space.

I tell ya, I was moved unspeakably to tears, it was so beautiful. The entire concept, beginning with our clown M.C. stand-in as MJ doing an amazing breakdance popping number while the digitized screen imagined his inspiration coming from musical keys, was awe-inspiring, especially as he surrounds himself with hearts. Love, the ultimate source of inspiration!

Or, how about a pas de deux in air, danced to “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”?

Simply exquisite!

The Thriller number looked like it was recreated from the concept behind Michael Jackson’s This is It, so I wasn’t as blown away, other than it was cool to hear the song, and I wish they did more with Earth Song. I definitely think they could have done a more beautiful presentation with costuming and flying trapeze artists, instead of relying on the music video. Yes, I expect more from Cirque du Soleil.  I wanted flying butterflies and animated trees, or even an oceanic scene!  Those two numbers were a bit lazy, compared to the more simplistic performances that offered more imagination.

What saved Thriller?  The prelude, which included a “Book Worm” woman, literally crawling out of a book about “ghost stories.” :)

Absolutely awesome what she was able to do with her body!

But perhaps one of the most moving performances came toward the end, when militaristic robots came out marching to “They Don’t Really Care About Us,” while different images from the music video and footage around the world, detailing our social problems, illuminated on screen. When the dance number faded to black, all we could see were their illuminated red hearts, keeping rhythm to the audible heart beats.  But of course! Only love can “fight” social injustice!

Such an MJ message: L.O.V.E. :P

All around the stadium were illuminated red hearts that segued to a moving number of “Will You Be There,” which culminated with a hologram of MJ himself and a clip of little Michael singing “I’ll Be There”!

*Sniff*

After that was an energized medley of “Can You Feel It,” “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” “Billie Jean,” and “Black or White.”  The finale of course was MJ’s “Man in the Mirror.”  Simple and subtle (though it would have been cooler if the company held up mirrors to the audience to remind us all how we need to look ourselves in the mirror).

I’m still on a high from the evening before.  I certainly recommend you go see this show if it’s playing in your area.

So, after all that, and after realizing I wasn’t at all a bit tired so went online to catch up on what I missed on Idol, I’m even more disgusted at what Idol has become.

Really, there will never be another Michael Jackson (and certainly not someone who could inspire a spectacular show like Cirque du Soleil’s Immortal), but these reality TV contests should be about seeking greatness.  There’s no nurturing even of potential. Just a whole lot of empty platitudes and fake mentoring.

Reality TV: a celebration in mediocrity.

But even in the midst of mediocrity, one often catches a glimpse of greatness.  We found that in David.  Other than that, Idol needs to pack it up.