The Voice of Bob Marley’s Fussing and Fighting

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The Voice of Bob Marley’s Fussing and Fighting
America Today

“Swaddled in abstract ideas, convinced of their own righteousness, incapable of self-criticism, indifferent to accountability, they turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one. When things went wrong, they found other people to blame.”

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–George Packer

Every society and community, starting from the post-egalitarian group of people, contains and forms within them a body of people that will lead the group in its way to survival. No matter how rudimentary this political body may be, its importance will always be noted. But the difference of such political bodies across the history lies in the fact that as societies evolve in complexity, so do the political bodies. Their concepts of rules, war and territorial boundaries develop as they acquire access to new resources or new technologies and methods. In effect, the repercussions of their actions also increase in intensity.

The above statement of George Packer (cited in Mason:2006) was intended to refer to the Iraqis for the longest time that their country was involved in various wars, combats or mass killings. In any nation, present are several institutions that come to play in molding its social structure. But if there is one institution that has been overly developed in today’s societies, it would probably be the military institution. With everyone protecting its territorial boundaries, natural resources and even its citizens from the watchful eyes of the predators and colonizers throughout the globe, a huge bulk of their nation’s financial budget is being allocated to the development of the military force, be it the marine, the navy, the armed forces or the police.

Activities of these military forces inevitably lead to violence, one way or another. Several motives are accountable for the development of violent acts. Some say more people have died because of religion than due to natural disasters; while others point their fingers to the angle of one country wanting the natural resources of another and the way they perceive to win over such resources is initiating a war for colonialism purposes. The latter can be exemplified by the case of the USA-Iraq war.

The US military institution is probably the most developed one existing in this time. It occupies and forms numerous military bases and military alliances with different countries. The expenditures for military resources, although it varies according to the existing political system, have been larger than it was five years ago. Currently, it defines itself as engaging in a war against terrorism. (

True enough, the President of the United States of America proudly puts his best foot forward as he brags about their concern to uplift the oppressive political regime existing in Iraq (or other countries) and to, as mentioned above, combat terrorism. However, Packer (cited in Manson:2006) also pointed out how people, in their discussions regarding anti-war movements, seem to over simplify the oil motives of the US-Iraq conflict.

Regardless of the genuine as opposed to the publicized reason for instigating war not just in Iraq but also in Afghanistan and for intervening with issues of Haiti, ( massive portions of the population had been victimized and killed by such violence. To add to this, it has been proven that war does not post an end to itself. It even perpetuates itself by developing future chances of retaliation. The Journal Newspaper supported this as it reported that war has helped in the creation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat increased since the 9-11 incident. (2006;page 14)


The Post-Colonial Era

Gathering colonies has been a major factor in the onset of war throughout history. Some use the colony’s citizens as slaves while others want the resources present in the geographical givens of their colonies. Although different, colonialism and terrorism can also be found in a common ground. Both of which, when powerful and intense enough to serve as reasons or motives, result to war as the means to achieve the desired end/s.

After years of battling it out with the colonizers, independence is a fruitful product of sweat and blood and of physical and mental efforts. But unfortunately, not all will be awarded with this. However, even upon achievement of a well-fought for independence, the post-colonial stage presents an adverse situation of getting things back on the right rhythm. If there is one characteristic present in various wars especially today, The Journal Newspaper  points out that it is “the almost complete focus on the combat stages of the war and disregard for post-war planning.” (2006;page 14)


Voices and Choices

Efforts are being made almost all over the world to send anti-war messages to the US government. The biggest one, according to The Birmingham Post, is the “Peace Now” anti-war protest that rallied and shouted out their concerns across the White House as they pointed out their opinions against the policies of the Bush Administration. (2005;page 9) But, as it is, although much has been said through movements like this, people do not have enough power to counter the plans of those occupying the upper political echelon of the US government. In the first place, the government may not even be paying attention to the pleas of the people.

Social movements are also manifested in various forms. It is not necessary that movements are confined in within the typical street assemblies and mobs like rallies and protests. The voices of the people can be directly expressed through battlecries, speeches or handheld signs. But they may also be conveyed through various forms of popular culture such as literature, art, music and dance among others.

Popular culture includes the archetypal forms of media most accessible to the public. These may be used as vehicles to convey contextual ideologies of the time and place they were produced. Hence, their existence and purpose may also go in a bi-directional way. Aside from their use as mediums of messages, they are also reflective of the historical context happening at the time of their insemination.

It is recognizable that in any particular society, there is always a dominant ideology that reigns supreme over the others. Such dominant ideology, according to the Marxist point of view (Encanto: 2006), molds the mode of production being utilized by that society. More than this, the dominant ideology is retained as the status quo because it is perpetuated by popular culture. So, if the masses are oppressed by this set-up, it is likely that they will remain to do so for as long as the dominant ideology holds its position in the society.

The entrance of the period called Post-Modernism gave light to the oppressive presence of the dominant ideology. In this school of thought, all views and perspectives, other than the dominant one, are recognized as existing and valid. Today, societies are more commonly adhering to the post modern thought.




The Communist in Bob Marley

In expressing views and opinions of his time, probably the one of the most well-versed icons of popular culture, particularly music, related to what’s happening in the USA as claimed above would be Bob Marley. Born in Trenchtown, he learned his music, history and religion here along the lines that “race and culture live together.” (Farred:2003) He grew up in a society believing that race and culture are actually different social concepts are mixed into just one and made to appear as if one is replaceable by the others. In effect, it bears the idea that a race or a culture is superior over the others. However, Marley thought so and acted otherwise.

Marley introduced a brand of music called reggae music which is a combination of black American soul, African rhythms, drumming techniques and a Caribbean twist. (ibid) Perhaps Marley achieved a status of a star and at the same time accomplishing the goal of spreading his native brand of music through out the world. (


In addition and more importantly, the beauty of Marley’s music resides not only in its unique rhythm, harmony and accompaniment but on the lyrics as well. He used his gift of music not just for the sake of producing sound in itself but for the purpose of capturing and expressing the social situation of Africa and its people. His music represented the culture and the ideologies of his well-loved country. Spiritual influence was derived from the Rastafarianism religious belief where they gave breath once again to the idea that god is black and that god is both human and divine. (Farred:2003)

Indeed, Marley is a post-colonial, pro-communism/socialism artist. He featured the rights of the poor people in Third World counties as he aimed to move towards liberation from economic exploitation and oppression (ibid). He used his words to draw the image of the African life conditions. He served as the poor people’s advocate and their hope for change. He expressed his opinion that peace is possible only if people would stop perceiving some culture or race as superior over the other and when skin color becomes an irrelevant factor in life. (ibid) It is as if Marley’s lyrics are not just advertisements and reflections of African way of life but they also served as foundations of scenarios most likely to occur in their post-colonial future.


Marley and Contemporary America

If the objective is to use Marley’s song to make sense of the American society of current age as described above, it is just fitting to use the 1973 song Fussing and Fighting.:

“Why’s this fussing and a-fighting?
I wanna know, Lord, I wanna know
Why’s this bumping and a-boring?
I wanna know, Lord, I wanna know now

We should really love each other (love each other)
In peace and harmony (peace and harmony), ooh
Instead, we’re fussing and fighting (fussing and fighting)
And them workin’ iniquity (… iniquity)

Why’s this fussing and a-fighting?
I wanna know, Lord, I wanna know (… know), I wanna know now
Why’s this cheating and backbiting?
(I wanna know …) I wanna know, oh, Lord, I wanna know now…”


The song has no fancy rhythm and no complicated musical accompaniment. All it has with it is sheer and powerful set of lyrics, opinions and wishes. It carries a plain objective to express the intensity of his concern as evident in the way that he put a stress on some of the song’s lines.

Drawing from the argument presented above that forms of popular culture are reflective of the social conditions at the time they were conceived, this song probably emerged when parts of the world were at war with each other. Happening at the dawn of the Post-Modern era, his close-to-being-radical songs were welcomed by the masses as something outside of the typical and dominant ideology of their times. Noting the fact that his songs were geared towards liberating Africa, resistance paid less of an importance, if not negligible. He was welcomed with open arms and with great respect and admiration by people all over the world.

It was stipulated above that there are various explanations on what can be the force that drives the American government to pursue war against a number of countries. For the past 3 or more years, the United States of America has been producing a history filled with bombings, mass killings, violence and war. People around the world are witnesses to such, as reports and news stories have always been available in media forms accessible around the globe. Suicide bombings, deliberate killings, execution of Sadam Hussein, political interventions with other countries were among the occurrences that made this worldwide feat for peace and cooperation almost, if not really, next to never.

With just a few lines, Marley clearly conveyed his message that, as it seems, is still applicable to the social conditions of America today. Fussing and Fighting reflects an outsider’s point of view as he wondered why people engage in war and fighting when in fact a world full of love and peace is possible. It basically posted and continues to post a statement questioning the wide occurrence of violence and killing yesterday and today. It proved the fact that a lot of people realize the non-sense nature of violence and yet they still exist and still can’t eradicate or put an end to them. He blurted out his message that there are people who can’t grasp the necessary understanding to make sense of the things happening in the world.

Applicable before and still applicable now, generalizations can be drawn to conclude that in societies across time and space, there always exists a wondering persona and someone who pleads for a stop in the political killings. It just so happen that decades before the current, there was a man called Bob Marley who was brave enough to articulate his thoughts through a way that does not only made its mark during its own era but extending generations after it as well. Right from his first single called Judge Not (Farred:2003), his audience listened to his words and indeed, Marley’s presence has transcended beyond his life span. He may have died but he left a legacy that will always be socially relevant as long as politically greedy people exist in this world. In addition, his impact will always be valued until, using the thought of Karl Marx, the dream for a communist society will take effect and will be realized.

“Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior

is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war.

Until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation,

Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes,

there is war.” (ibid)


Today, Marley serves as a pop icon for some who are not really familiar with his words and with what he has done. Reduced to being cultural symbols used aesthetically as designs in bags, button pins and in t-shirts, his sound is sometimes a mere beyond the mainstream type of music. It is recognizable how people can be familiar with the face of Mr. Marley yet they fail to dig deeper in history to know what his life was all about.

Through the music of Bob Marley, all hopes are aimed towards the realization that “viewed in the light of our own ideals, the right to life is so fundamental that killing the innocent to advance any purpose, however worthy, is wrong. (Savoy:2004)





Encanto, G. (2004). Constructing the Filipina: A History of Women’s Magazines. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press

Farred, G. (2003). What’s My Name? Black Vernacular Intellectuals.Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press


N.a. (2005, September 26). And in America. Biggest US Protest Since War Begun. The Birmingham Post, page 9.

N.a. (2006). US Leak Backs Case against Iraq War. The Journal, page 14.

Savoy, P. (2004). The Moral Case against the Iraq War: Viewed in the Light of Our Own Ideals, the Right to Life Is So Fundamental That Killing the Innocent to Advance Any Purpose, However Worthy, Is Wrong. The Nation, 278, page 16. states_of_america_usa.htm











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The Voice of Bob Marley’s Fussing and Fighting. (2017, Mar 31). Retrieved from

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