October 15, 2011

An Anthem for the 99%

Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" should be the anthem of the 99% movement:

Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit

In this song, Marley recounts the experience of New World Africans who have been treated as commodities rather than as human beings. Indeed, Marley's career was devoted to emancipating his people and their downpressors from the kind of thinking that values profits over people. From as far back as the song, "Slave Driver," written in 1973, Marley demonstrated his opposition to the Babylon system:

Ev'rytime I hear the crack of a whip,
My blood runs cold.
I remember on the slave ship,
How they brutalize the very souls.
Today they say that we are free,
Only to be chained in poverty.
Good God, I think it's illiteracy;
It's only a machine that makes money.
Slave driver, the table is turn, y'all.

It's a theme that Bob returns to time and time again, even in the deceptively bouncy tune, "One Drop":

They made their world so hard (so hard):
Every day we got to keep on fighting (fighting);
They made their world so hard (so hard):
Every day the people are dyin' (dying), yeah!
(It dread, dread) For hunger (dread, dread) and starvation
(dread, dread, dread, dread),
Lamentation (dread dread),
But read it in Revelation (dread, dread, dread, dread):
You'll find your redemption
And then you give us the teachings of His Majesty,
For we no want no devil philosophy;
A you fe give us the teachings of His Majesty,
A we no want no devil philosophy:

New World Africans have borne the brunt of the system that began in the Americas with the resistance of the Taino against genocide. This struggle continued with the opposition to colonialism in the Caribbean and Jim Crow in North America through the work of the heroes celebrated on this blog, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bob Marley.

It's a struggle in the name of love, which extends to the 1% who have "hurt all mankind" as Bob sang in "One Love":

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One love)
There is one question I'd really love to ask (One heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

The 99% movement has roots in the historic opposition to profiteering in human misery and the prophetic tradition rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics with which Marley repeats in "Redemption Song":

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty
We forward in this generation
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs

For us, the 99%, the dispossessed and disenfranchised sufferahs, it's all we've ever had.

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