I watched a documentary, Marley, about Bob Marley and from the start, shots of tin shacks, barefoot children running on dirt tracks, men with crooked teeth standing on rickety porches while it rained – it reminded me of home.
Studying about America’s problems, sometimes I forget where I come from and what I will have to work with when I go back. The poverty in Pakistan is stark, more in-your-face, more prevalent, more life threatening and acute. And I’m not saying racism, sexism, ageism, etc. isn’t as dire as Pakistan’s violence, illiteracy, unemployment, inflation, and so on, but it is oh so different, and it is where my heart lies, it is why I’m here.
Anyways, so Bob Marley. He was born in a tiny, hilly green village in Jamaica, where the light in the night came from stars and fireflies. He always loved music, inspired revolutionaries across the world and inspired his people in Jamaica to peace, helping to foster a truce between the rival political parties. His dad was a background kind of white guy who slept around while he traveled to other countries on active duty, but refused to really interact or get to know Bob (listen to “cornerstone”, which is a pretty sweet song like all of Marley’s music. Just makes you want to get up and turn your back on all the materialistic, petty yet pervasive stress and just go sit out under an open sky and light a joint).
Marley smoked pot, a lot, even grew his own weed in a middle-class neighborhood in America, played the guitar, wrote songs about peace and happiness and love, and danced to the reggae he spread across the world, and played football. His house was always crowded with people, coming in and out at all hours of the day and night, and they would sit around smoking, talking about religion and justice and history, and then play football (I loved how in the documentary it wasn’t soccer but football like the rest of the world calls the sport) and then write songs and make music late into the night. It sounds like the perfect life.
Marley slept around even though he was married, but the women in his life forgave that, and their explanation was that there was too much to this man, what he stood for and what he did. The kind of man who makes unforgivable things seem trivial bad habits, like cutting your nails without spreading an old magazine underneath. Annoying but not a thing that ends a relationship.
Back to Marley and Jamaica: shots of poverty give way to shots of violence: men with guns on streets, puffs of smoke dissolving in the air above barrels, like lives of people caught in the crossfire, political parties feeding off on the violence. Areas divided visibly with informal check-posts, marking sectarian divides as constructed as the check-posts but harder to see and erase. And like Marley said, when you have youth killing other youth, it isn’t for anything, it is just the politicians’ using people, its divide and rule…
Bob Marley inspired peace in Jamaica (I’m not sure if it lasted but it sure happened, on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of people moving their bodies to the beat of Marley’s music); he was shot the night before an earlier peace concert but he went on with it anyways; and then years later he directed a negotiation between the rival political parties of Jamaica and had another amazing concert.
He wrote a song for people in Zimbabwe, for people in Africa, for black people in America, and even now, his music lives in the hearts of millions, telling them to get up, stand up for your rights.
That sure was two and a half hours well spent.