Michael Jackson – Man In The Mirror

A #1 in 1988 for “Jacko,” though not written by him, is sung in the first person as a declaration to change for the better. It comes off as a self-inflicted guilt trip, with Michael looking at his reflection, knowing he could do more to help those less well off.

Technically, around 99% of the world were financially worse off than the singer!

But we could all take from the song the hope that change can start with us, at the individual level. Some critiques of poverty alleviation maintain we too often look to or expect “the government” to get to work on the situation, freeing us to focus on our own selfishness… that we should help others organically. The government, in this view, may be seen as impartial and arbitrary, coercive and even uncaring. But as people, together as a society, there is optimism the poor can be voluntarily assisted by philanthropists large and small. The trade-off can be less coordinated efforts. A concern is whether the problems of poverty are too large and complex for such decentralized, non-expert responses.

Man In The Mirror could provoke an interesting discussion about the size and scope of government and the responsibility of individuals, to their brothers, sisters and strangers, too. It’s typically maintained that as government gets bigger, the role for individuals decreases. This is also debated.

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