The myth of Pandora’s box is an analogy that has been tossed around ever since the KJ vs. AEG civil trial became imminent, and now that it’s here, the phrase has even more relevance, especially since Judge Yvette Palazuelos has ruled that Michael Jackson’s medical records will not be sealed.
“The Jacksons are opening Pandora’s box,” has gone the line, repeatedly, across almost every MJ advocacy website, blog, and forum, as well as almost every MJ-related social media page.
Well, what does that mean exactly? Let’s look at the origin of the Pandora myth.
Once up a time, a long time ago, Zeus ordered Hephaestus (Aphrodite’s husband) to make him a daughter. It was the first woman made out of clay. Hephaestus made a beautiful woman and named her Pandora.
Zeus sent his new daughter, Pandora, down to earth so that she could marry Epimetheus, who was a gentle but lonely man.
Zeus was not being kind. He was getting even. Epimetheus and Prometheus were brothers. Zeus was mad at one of the brothers, Prometheus, for giving people fire without asking Zeus first.
Zeus gave Pandora a little box with a big heavy lock on it. He made her promise never to open the box. He gave the key to Pandora’s husband and told him to never open the box. Zeus was sure that Epimetheus’ curiosity would get the better of him, and that either Epimetheus or his brother would open the box.
Pandora was very curious. She wanted to see what was inside the box, but Epimetheus said no. Better not. “You know your father,” Epimetheus sighed, referring to Zeus. “He’s a tricky one.”
One day, when Epimetheus lay sleeping, Pandora stole the key and opened the box.
Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late. All the bad things were already out of the box. They flew away, out into the world.
Epimetheus woke up at the sound of her sobbing. “I opened the box and all these ugly things flew out,” she cried. “I tried to catch them, but they all got out.” Pandora opened the box to show him how empty it was. But the box was not quite empty. One tiny bug flew quickly out before Pandora could slam the lid shut again.
“Hello, Pandora,” said the bug, hovering just out of reach. “My name is Hope.” With a nod of thanks for being set free, Hope flew out into the world, a world that now held Envy, Crime, Hate, and Disease – and Hope.
I suppose it is neither here nor there that Pandora’s “box” was never a box at all, but an urn (as so often happens, bad translations through the centuries managed to turn the original Greek word for urn, or jar-“pithos” -into a “box”). However, you get the idea. This young woman, overcome by temptation, unerringly releases all of the evil into the world. Up until then, according to the myth, the world had been an idealistic place, similar to the Garden of Eden state of the Judaic-Christian tradition. Once released, there is no way to take the evil back; no way to return it to the confines of the box and return the world to its former, idealistic self.
The myth of Pandora’s box seems to make perfect sense in relation to this trial, except that-as so often happens-those who are lightly tossing the phrase around are ignoring the facts of the actual myth, and simply using it as a convenient “catch all” phrase based on its most rudimentary meaning. Today, we often refer to opening “Pandora’s box” to mean a small action that will, nevertheless, have far reaching and severe consequences down the road. By that definition, it makes perfect sense to use Pandora’s box as an analogy for what is happening-or what may happen- with this trial.
But there are two crucial twists to the actual myth that I believe bear scrutiny. One is the fact that the story of Pandora’s box relies on the belief in a perfect idealistic state of being. Or in other words, ignorant bliss. If we take the story of Pandora at literal face value, it means accepting that humanity lived in a state of perpetual, ignorant bliss before Pandora opened her box because the “evils” of the world were unknown to them.
Also, the crucial twist at the end of the story is often all but ignored. Pandora does release all of the evils of the world. But she also releases Hope. Perhaps we could argue that without evil, there is no need for Hope. But how sad would the world be if we lived in perpetual evil-plagued by all of those nasty things Pandora released-without Hope?
All of this brings me to the subject of the trial, the medical records, and how the myth of Pandora’s box truly applies to all of them. In fact, if we’re going to make comparisons to Greek or Roman mythology, then perhaps the threat of those heretefore sealed medical records could be called the Sword of Damocles. Why? Because I believe if most fans are truly honest with themselves, it is the threat of opening those medical records-what they may contain, and what may be “unleashed” onto the world by their revelation-that has stirred the most concern of this entire trial.
Indeed, whatever truth lies hidden within those records is at the heart of virtually every argument that fans and defenders of Michael Jackson have had to wage against the haters and the media from Day One. With the exception of the molestation allegations, no issue has raised more heated debate and controversy among fans, haters, cynics and the media than those pertaining directly to Michael’s medical history. Did he or did he not have vitiligo? If so, what brought it on? Was it natural, or “chemically induced?” (Keep in mind this has nothing to do with what I believe, but rather, the kinds of questions that are being kicked around on many discussion forums and by the general public). Did he or did he not have addiction issues? Did he or did he not have xxx amount of cosmetic procedures? Did he or did he not father his own children biologically? It doesn’t take long to figure out the pattern. All of it-practically every issue that is debated in regards to Michael Jackson other than the molestation allegations-comes down to his medical history.
And these are not only the issues that drive the most heated debates between fans and haters/cynics. They are also the very issues that drive the insatiable tabloid market for stories on Michael Jackson, and continue to keep it fed. These are all of the very issues that have kept millions of fans busy on the internet, endlessly defending, arguing, presenting facts and evidence, etc. Go to any general discussion forum dedicated to discussing Michael Jackson, and you will see that all of the above are the most hotly debated topics. Mostly such “debates” are an exercise in futility, as most haters are ignorant of the facts and already have their heels dug comfortably in. They are content to live in their state of “ignorant bliss” (they, in turn, are only too happy to say the same about fans!). But that still leaves many who are neutrally curious-as I was in 2009-who just want to learn the truth-whatever it is. I am forever grateful to those who at least opened my eyes to question what the media had fed me. Over the years, I have somewhat come to my own conclusions of the man and artist that was Michael Jackson, but always being careful to keep those views flexible in light of new evidence and new things I may learn. I am not content, in other words, with “ignorant bliss”-either on the side of blind idealism/fanaticism on the one hand, or pointless calumny and vilification on the other.
But given that all of these topics have been, for years, the most hotly debated among fans and foes alike, it is small wonder that the idea that we may finally have the full truth unleashed is creating more than a few ripples. And more than a few concerns.
But what exactly are we so afraid of? Perhaps that’s the real question that fans ought to be asking. Because the exact message that we (and the estate, via its request that the documents and/or certain aspects remain sealed) are sending is that we must feel there is something to fear. Many of us, whether intentional or not, are sending that exact message loud and clear, a message that says we must fully believe all of the AEG propaganda of “deep, dark secrets” to be revealed-and are shaking at the thought!
However, I believe firmly that propaganda is exactly what it is, and that such sensationalistic scare tactics are being fed to a pro-AEG media to elicit just such responses.
Take, for example, this recent article on the revealing of the medical records and the typically salacious words and phrasings used:
Michael Jackson – Michael Jackson’s medical records to feature in trial
AEG Live will use Michael Jackson’s medical records as part of their defence in their lawsuit against Katherine Jackson, who is suing them for the wrongful death of her son.
Michael Jackson’s medical records to feature in trial
Michael Jackson’s ”astounding” medical records will be used as evidence in his wrongful death trial.
The late King of Pop’s mother Katherine Jackson is suing concert promoters AEG Live – who were responsible for the 50-date London residency he was preparing for at the time of his death from acute Propofol intoxication in June 2009 – for negligence in hiring Conrad Murray to supervise the ‘Thriller’ star’s medical care.
However, the concert promoters plan to back up their argument that Michael was addicted to powerful painkillers and went to great lengths to keep it hidden by using the medical records, which had previously been sealed.
A source told RadarOnline.com: ”Until the trial, the records had remained sealed for a very good reason. The contents of the records will stun even the most diehard Michael Jackson fan.
”Michael’s dependence on prescription drugs for routine cosmetic procedures was astounding.
”The judge has allowed AEG to present Michael’s medical records to prove their point that he was addicted to drugs, and the lengths he would go to keep it hidden. They had absolutely no knowledge that Dr. Murray would be giving Michael Propofol at his home. If AEG did, they would have terminated talks with Murray immediately, and taken the appropriate action. AEG doesn’t want to present this evidence, but they are being sued by Katherine for $40 billion dollars.”
Insiders warn the trial – which begins today (29.04.13) in Los Angeles and could run for up to three months – will be harmful for Michael’s three children, Prince, 16, Paris, 15, and 11-year-old Blanket.
The source added: ”The wrongful death trial is going to be hard for his three children who will be forced to relive his death all over again. Paris and Prince are expected to testify. They could learn stuff about their dad he never would have wanted them to know. There will be no winners in this case, no matter what the outcome of the trial is.”
First of all, I would be very, very curious to know who this “unnamed source” is. Secondly, note the very specific way in which certain keywords and phrases are used:
“…astounding medical records…”
“…the records had remained sealed for a very good reason…”
“…will stun even the most diehard Michael Jackson fans” (somehow, I doubt this seriously!).
“…Michael’s dependence on prescription drugs for routine cosmetic procedures was astounding…” (so are they going for a record to see how many times they can drop the word “astounding” into one article?).
The propaganda machine is in full force throughout this very typical article, assuring fans that we absolutely should be shaking in fear at the threat of these records coming to light.
It is obvious to me that these stories are being planted in order to stir public sentiment against the trial and Katherine Jackson’s case-or more aptly, to stir the rage of fans.
Let me make my position on this very clear. I certainly do not believe that Michael’s medical records should be made public, anymore than should any other private citizen’s. The idea of putting someone’s medical records out for public consumption and scrutiny smacks of the very lowest common denominator of human decency. His medical history-whatever it contains-is confidential information. Throughout this trial, I have been less than impressed with Judge Palazelous’s handling of issues, and my respect for her has just been lowered another notch. There is really no earthly reason why these documents could not be kept confidential between herself, the attorneys, and the jury. What is the justification for making them available publicly? What is the rationalization? Well, it seems that court records are assumed to be public property, and Palazelous has stated both the fact that Michael’s medical history is the main “issue of this trial” and the impracticality of closing the courtroom to the public when medical information is presented.
But I think the bottom line is that we are not dealing with a judge who is going to be nearly as sympathetic or as compassionate towards Michael as we saw with Judge Pastor during the Murray trial. Pastor, at the very least, seemed sympathetic and aware of the salivating media circus that surrounded every morsel of information regarding Michael Jackson, and took some pains to keep such a media circus from happening (or at least, from happening to the extent that it might have). I suspect we are not going to get nearly as much from Palazelous, whose main concern seems to be to just get the damned thing underway and dispensed with as quickly as possible, and as with little effort on her part as possible. In other words, don’t count on her to go the extra mile to ensure Michael Jackson’s “privacy.” Her MO seems to be: The plaintiffs wanted this case, so here it is. Deal with it.
However, let’s keep some perspective on this. Are some of the fears from fans unwarranted, or as the old saying goes, a mountain being made out of a molehill? Keep in mind that, whatever Michael’s medical records contain, the issues relevant to this trial are those directly related to his health at time of death, as well as issues of drug dependency or addiction. A much more realistic expectation of just what may come from the revelation of the medical records was offered by Jacksons’ attorney Kevin Boyle:
Michael’s estate, although not a party in the suit, has requested that certain portions of his medical history be kept private. Patricia Millett, a lawyer for the estate, said she hadn’t spoken with attorneys in the civil case about which exhibits they planned to introduce.
“We won’t know precisely what we need until plaintiffs’ case is done,” said one of AEG’s attorneys Jessica Stebbins Bina. She added that the records were “relevant to the cause of his death, life expectancy and earning potential.”Kevin Boyle, an attorney for the Jackson family, said he didn’t think the actual records would be a large component, but could become relevant. “The whole trial is going to be about Michael Jackson’s medical condition,” he said.
That, of course, won’t stop the media circus from running wild with every nugget of information that may be revealed in the process, regardless of its direct relevance to the case. And I suspect that, deep down, this is what fans are in dread of the most.
But since this is already a runaway train that is not likely to be stopped, I would like to examine the positives that can come from this, as well. And yes, there are some potentially positive outcomes. Remember, Pandora didn’t just unleash evil and badness into the world; she also unleashed Hope.
Maybe in this case we can substitute Hope for Truth. “Truth” is actually empowerment…if we but embrace it. Once “Truth” is accepted, the enemy loses power. Yes, revealing Michael’s full medical history may reveal things that some fans do not necessarily want to know. But the records may also reveal many truths that could finally shut some haters and doubters up for good. Who knows; maybe it could be a good thing to finally have some answers so that a lot of these unending debates that have gone in circles for years can finally be laid to rest. As long as “ignorant bliss” continues to rule, there is no chance that any of these issues can ever be truthfully dealt with. As has been the case so often before, such as with the autopsy report, the truth has far more often vindicated Michael than harmed him. This may be a good time to remember his own words: “Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons.”
By panicking and fearing the truth of what may come out of these medical records, we are really giving more ammunition to the haters, who will only come back and say, “What are you so scared of?”
Because I embrace Michael’s humanity-as well as his greatness-I am inhaling a deep breath, taking the madness in stride, and adopting the philosophy of the Persian Sufi poets: “This, too, shall pass.” As a Michael Jackson fan, I know that the very worst thing we ever had to fear about him was the fact that, just maybe, those allegations made against him were true. The evidence has been overwhelmingly in support of his innocence. So beyond that, what else is there to fear? Do we fear the shattering of illusions? Do we fear that Michael lied to us, or was less than forthcoming on certain issues? Or more aptly, do we fear the ridicule and taunts from the media and haters when/if some of these things may come to light?
This may be a good time to address some of those questions head on and come to our own terms. There will be no easy answers, and no “right” or “wrong” answers, as we have to determine for ourselves what kind of fan we are, as well as what truths we can accept and which ones, perhaps, we cannot.
I want to echo what one fan said recently in the comments section of an article. While I cannot remember the comment verbatim, the gist of it was that she didn’t feel she had anything to fear from this trial or the unsealing of the medical records if the worst there was to fear was learning the truth. Her words touched me in their simple and sincere honesty. “I trust in Michael,” she said.
Personally, I am not one of those naive enough to believe that every public word Michael uttered was 100% complete and honest truth. That may shock you to hear me say, but bear with me a moment and let me explain. Michael, like all celebrities, had a public image to uphold, and sometimes did what it took to uphold that image. But what has actually amazed me most in researching Michael Jackson is, in fact, the depth and extent of his honesty, which-as far as celebrity sincerity goes-was much more forthright than many are willing to credit him. (And if you are not familiar with Craig Baxter’s amazing study of Michael Jackson’s truthful body language in interviews, you should really check him out! http://www.amazon.com/Michael-Jackson-Behind-Mask-ebook/dp/B009LAMGDY). Time and again, Michael spoke the truth, only to be ridiculed until his words were proven true by actual documents and medical reports. More often than not, he has been vindicated by the truth, when many thought he would be incriminated. I have no reason to believe that this time will be any different.
I guess this is all really a very long way of saying, we simply have to keep faith that the truth will win out. I certainly do not relish the idea of Michael’s private medical records being unsealed, if only for his own dignity and because I dread the media circus that is bound to ensue. However, I do think a certain empowerment can come with embracing and owning the truth, rather than shrinking from it. And I do think we have to honestly ask the questions: What is it we really fear from this information being made public,and what is the worst that can come of it? Once we have faced and owned that very worst “what if” scenario, then nothing else can hurt.
And if, in fact, the very worst that is revealed is Michael’s human frailties, then so what? Is any of it really going to shock me that much? Is it going to make me less of a fan? Is it going to make me love him any less? Admire his humanitarian accomplishments any less? Admire his artistry any less? I think not. Ignorance is bliss, but it is not empowerment. Only truth can do that.
I say, let’s do not fear Michael’s truth, but rather, embrace and own it. There is nothing to fear in truth. We simply have to keep faith that truth will always triumph-ultimately- over ignorance, lies, and injustice.