enabler– one that enables another to achieve an end ; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior (Definition from Merriam-Webster)
The publicity stemming around Michael Jackson’s memorial service today at the Staples Center forced me to acknowledge MJ’s fans enabling ways in my column today. Michael Jackson always left me bemused by his incredible talent, his strange behavior and his fans blind acceptance of all things Michael. And make no mistake about it but the adoring fans did enable Michael Jackson’s bizarre behavior. Their blind acceptance of Michael Jackson enabled his bizarre behavior and hastened his very death. Had the fans reacted early on in his career in repulsion to MJ’s bizarre self-mutilation with numerous plastic surgeries, germaphobic behavior, skin bleaching, his predilection for young boys perhaps Michael Jackson would have tempered his behavior and would not have been so deviant later on in his life. But if you are an enabler and accepting of bad behavior it is not surprising that the aberrant behavior often spirals into new and ever more grotesque and destructive gyrations.
To assume that enabling is a one way street is also wrong. Fans and sycophants, such as the Reverend Al Sharpton, took advantage of Michael Jackson’s foibles while seemingly championing his cause. In general, the enabler or codependent wants to feel needed and enabling validates their own existence or in some instances serves their own selfish goals such as a hefty contribution to one’s church. Moreover, enablers don’t want to change the dependent behavior nor do they want to participate in the exercise of self-sacrifice.
Fan’s often argue that Michael Jackson’s excesses were the idiosyncratic behavior of an eccentric musical genius as though being a genius exonerates you from acknowledging the norms of a society. I’m sorry, Einstein and Mozart were geniuses, Michael Jackson was just a very talented entertainer, perhaps the best of his generation but he was still just an entertainer. Okay, Einstein married his cousin and he did have that wild hair style yet he didn’t go off the deep-end but, in fact, Einstein became a great humanist in his later years long after his intellectual skills had peaked. Michael Jackson could have done the same, after all he had the following but instead he just sung deeper and deeper into his drug induced haze enabled by an adoring fan base that could see no wrong in their self-proclaimed king of pop. For one to suggest otherwise one would have to incur shrill, vituperative rebuttals from those very same adoring fan base.
But Michael Jackson is just the tip of the American enabling iceberg. Americans are engaging in enabling like they never had before. Obesity runs rampant as children and later the morbidly obese adults are enabled by numerous family members. When somebody weighs close to half a ton you know somebody is diligently shopping, buying and shoveling a never ending supply of food into the obese shut-ins mouth. It’s so easy to say to someone here eat this and watch television, it’s not your fault your overweight and then pass off the enabling as love! You can weigh in pounds their enabling love!
Moreover, American enabling has a far darker side than just Michael Jackson and obesity, just witness the drug cartel wars that plaque Mexico. What the hell does that have to do with enabling you may ask? Any fool can argue that the failed political and judicial systems of Mexico are the root cause of the drug violence but our drug habits and the ensuing money enable this corruption. Without the billions of American drug dollars you can’t buy a Mexican judge nor can you corrupt a local politician or police chief. Yet we smoke our pot as though there is no consequence to our seemingly benign but cool drug usage and go into instant denial when somebody has the temerity to suggest otherwise. In any case, a successful war on drugs is an impossibility when so many of our fellow Americans are collaborating with the enemy, enabling the enemy so to speak. (By the way, the libertarian in me says legalize the dope to take away the corrupting influence of the drug money while the social conscious part of me recognizes the vast pitfalls of what legalizing drugs will do to an addictive personality.)
The enabling and denials don’t end there. Our love of cheap oil, of course, enables all sorts of horrendous behavior in the Middle East. Without our oil dollars to fuel a building boom in Saudi Arabia Osama Bin Laden would never have the money to fund the Taliban and 9/11. Instead of selling the rope to hang ourselves, as the communists had hoped, we instead send oil dollars to fuel the terrorist engines. Why? Because we don’t want to, or have the willpower, to kick the SUV habit no matter how many polar caps we may melt in the process. Enablers have a tough time in making the hard decisions for themselves and the others they enable.
Furthermore, American dollars funding abhorrent terrorist behavior is nothing new for this country. For years Irish-Americans supported the activities of the IRA while Cuban Americans continue to funnel much needed dollars to Cuban relatives and into Castro’s failed regime. By golly, enabling is an American tradition just like apple pie!
I don’t expect this to change any time soon nor do I expect our greatest enablers, our brave politicians, to lead the way out of the land of enabling. So Michael Jackson rest in peace, you’re sad destiny was determined by your own neuroses and your enablers alike! What a depressing day and such a waste of a great talent but not surprising when your paramount interest is just to be entertained!
Erik John Bertel