Race and Culture

Issue section: 
(293)

I enjoyed the article on Bob Marley ('Roots Revolutionary', January SR), and concur with its thoughts of solidarity in many respects.

However, underpinning Richardson's remarks about Rastafarianism is a narrative that argues that religion is a dead end on the road to modernity, but such primitivism is understandable when a people are oppressed. There is much empathy and soul in Marx's words on religion, and of course in Brian Richardson's words of solidarity. But there is also a hierarchy of races and cultures embedded in the teleology of this narrative, and an arrogance about how we understand another group of people.

This materialist mode is one way of telling a story, a western one, that does not take into account other ways of understanding faith, history and culture from those who have been history's and colonialism's victims. These people have their own stories.

I understand that the comments about indecipherability of Marley's spoken words were perhaps tongue in cheek (i.e. his use of too much herb) but I have always found the folk speech of people from colonised lands immensely beautiful. I come from a colonised people, so perhaps I am overly sensitive to the author's comments, but we Polynesians have also been reminded of how we deviate from the 'proper way of speaking English'. Common folks' talk is ka pai (good) - we should celebrate Bob's incomprehensibility, not laugh at it.

Bob made memorable and formidable contributions to reggae, Third World emancipation, to music and struggle, to people's liberation. He spoke to me as a homeless street kid, and he continues to do so.

Tony Fala
Aotearoa (New Zealand)