I wasn’t too surprised to see headlines in our local Manila paper that Michael Jackson had died.

Heck, sometimes the headline announces that x number of people passed the nurses’ examination this year, and usually under the headline is a photo of our lovely President.

But his headline is larger than usual, with a long story of the details and his photo, while on the back pages and local news websites there are interviews with those in showbusiness who were inspired by his music, and even quotes from the mayor who tried to stop his Manila conference due to the scandal (who now regrets having done so).

And if you continue to read the back pages, you will notice a story that the Cebu Drug rehab prisoners who had their ten minutes of fame dancing in sync to Thriller last Halloween are planning a tribute video.

So this of course proves that the we live in a decadent culture, or that the news is full of such trivia to distract us from the important matters, such as changing the constitution in the Philippines, or in the US, the fact that the congress just voted on some type of global warming scheme that no one has read let alone tried to figure out what it means.

Perhaps I have a slightly different point of view.

Jackson was the modern equivalent of a national poet.

Nowadays, no one reads poetry, much of which is ideological, vague, or seems more like bad prose than something one remembers and later uses to express what we feel or think.

In the past, it was poets, bards, or playwrights who could give us a moment of joy so that we could forget our troubles; nowadays our culture is shaped by movies, and music.

Most of “pop culture” disappears quickly, but some of it remains and shapes our world. And, of course, the best of pop culture is escapism in the best sense of the word.

Personally, I don’t think escapism is a dirty word: I’ve seen too much pain and suffering in my lifetime not too bless those who can make us smile, cry, or have a little joy in life.

No matter what one thinks of Jackson’s strange life, nevertheless, his music is still alive. Think Jackson, and you automatically hear a beat and music that makes you want to dance with joy.

So if Jackson’s death is filling the news cycle, it’s just the news. Like the daily political squabbles, or the latest “if we don’t do this we’re all gonna die” headlines, the headlines will change tomorrow.

But his songs will remain behind, letting our hearts dance.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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