When I sat down to write about the Michael Jackson song, “WE’VE HAD ENOUGH”, I quickly became overwhelmed. It is simply too difficult or maybe even impossible to separate the artist from the art in this case.
Leaving aside the fact that MJ was and remains one of the most famous and controversial characters in history, the man did not just write love ballads. He repeatedly brought social issues into his songs and and publicly declared them to be causes close to his heart, right? (You have to admit that even if you dispute the exact amount he donated to charities.) And “We’ve Had Enough” happens to be one of those songs! So, I will not even attempt the task of separating the man from his art. Besides, I am a huge fan and any such attempt will be seen as “biased”.
Who was Michael Jackson then? The answer is simpler than we think. The skeptics would have us believe otherwise, but these folks never really tell us who he is. All they do is point to what he is NOT.
They say that he was NOT really a humanitarian and dismiss his efforts as a case of self-interested publicity. This line of thinking certainly has its appeal. Afterall, we tend to reserve the label, “humanitarian”, to those who appear to pay little attention to “worldly” concerns. A man who cares so much about the way he looks? No way.
What is it about “human nature” that makes us so ready to see evil in others and are human beings motivated purely or primarily by greed and self-interest? If people could be so easily explained, it would make life a lot easier and inaction so much more justified – why bother if the world is and will always be so evil? But we all know that life ain’t easy.
Have you never walked past a homeless person on the street and wanted to give him/her some money? When you turn on the TV and see images of starving children who literally look like a rack of bones, do you not want to reach for the remote and switch channels? When you see an elderly person walking alone on the street barely able to maintain balance, does your heart not cringe a bit and wonder where their loves ones are?
If you answered yes to any of the above, it becomes easier to understand who MJ was. Like you and me, he was a human being with compassion or concern for others’ suffering. But unlike some of us, he also had an immense ability to empathize – the ability to mirror or put himself in others’ shoes and understand how that suffering feels. And unlike a lot of us, he made conscious decisions during his life to use his creativity and talent to translate that compassion and empathy into action.
The song, “We’ve Had Enough”, is testament to that. We can all describe our observations of violent acts – the attack, the injury, the blood, the tears, etc. In this song as with many others he wrote, MJ goes one step further. He goes into the victims’ heads and sees their complex emotional predicaments.
Here is one of the stories in the song. There is a civilian family (mother, father and child) caught in a war zone or some sort of life-and-death situation. The child screams as he sees the mother dying, and the father is witnessing all this. In itself, that is a sad enough story. But MJ tells us more…the child is shrouded in panic and confusion because he cannot make sense of what is going on and feels helpless…the father is not only obviously devastated from the imminent loss of his wife, but is also at a complete loss as he is unable to find answers to the questions that he anticipates will be coming from his son…the child then becomes angry…
The narrative, told in this manner, is hardly convincing but MJ tells the story in a different way. Instead of simply identifying those feelings as I have above, he takes us through the imagined dialogues of the characters as well as their sense of devastation, hopelessness, indignation and conviction which we hear in his voice. Finally, through his direct pleas to the listener in the chorus, he successfully persuades us that we “ought” to do something to end such tragedies. Listen to the song and you will know what I mean.
MJ was definitely extremely gifted. The rest of us may not have his talent or resources, but at the very basic level, we have a lot more in common with him than we think – compassion and the capacity to empathize. MJ developed that capacity into an actual ability, and then repeatedly turned it into action. What will you do? Personally, I’ve “HAD ENOUGH” of the skepticism. Through this MJ song, I am going to tell the world exactly that.
Written by S.Z (Canada).