February 11, 2009

Kingdom Come

Doing research and absorbing information in the 21st century is both exciting and overwhelming. Every piece of the puzzle leads you to another piece, until you are left needing to see the entire picture to make sense of any of it.

I started by reading Catch a Fire, the Bob Marley biography, and already I am being buried under the information I am finding. One can quickly become besieged if the right choices are not made. The question becomes not how many facts or opinions one can find, but what is done with the newly found knowledge, what meaning is constructed.

This post will cover chapter two from the book, Kingdom Come, which covers the life of the emperor of Halie Selassie. You can easily read his wikipedia article yourself and get the basic idea of his life story. You can even read the chapter here on Google books, so there is no point in me outlining the details of his life.

I want to talk more about the information trail. After reading up on Selassie a bit, I was led to King Solomon. Apparently around 900 B.C Solomon fathered a son through Queen Sheba, the queen of Ethiopia. The story goes that Selassie is a direct blood descendent of King Solomon, hence the belief of many Rasta that Selassie is a prophet and god incarnate.

I am not here to list a series of facts on Selassie or Solomon. You can watch your own videos here or here and here.

I see the role of the blogger, or at least this blogger, is to take the information analyze and synthesize it, then try to express some new insight on the topic, if insight is beyond reach then perhaps at least some reflection and expression of feelings.

Long story short, I was being buried by the Selassie information and since it is not the main source of my inquiry, albeit a very important facet of my search, I decided to try and collate as much data as I could and sift through the results.

The first thing I did was create a Wordle of his wikipedia page:


I found it fascinating that this symbol of what is often though of a loving peaceful religion, Rastafarianism, was really nothing more than a conniving Machiavellian power broker. I was hoping that the Worlde would provide a more balanced, loving picture of the Emperor, one that was more congruous with the Rasta image, but alas the words were not encouraging. What’s more the very man who had set up Selassie as the Rasta savior, Garvey, would go on to renounce Selassie as a coward years later. Furthermore, it curious that a religion and a political movement as ethnocentric as Rastafarianism, with it’s return to African pride, would base so much of its belief system on a religion that began not in Africa but the Middle East, a religion that has done nothing to ever promote or aid Africa in anyway, except to treat Africans as inferiors and slaves.

So why would Jamaican descendents of slaves worship an heir of an old Jewish king? Why would they choose to re-write a Judeo-Christian text, rather than stick to more African mysticism? Why did Bob Marley, who seemed to have a full understanding of geo-political affairs especially in regards to Africa, colonialism, and the African Diaspora experience choose to follow a belief system that made a god of Selassie, a man that as far as I can see did not promote peace, love, or understanding.

In addition to wikipedia distillation, I decide to find some pictures of the man and create a collage. I am not sure what effect I was hoping this newly created image would have, but I feel it is important that through research it is important to create something. I wouldn’t necessarily call creating a collage of images form google art, but for my time frame and interest in Selassie , it is all I could do. Perhaps the final product for the Marley project will incorporate the things I learned about Selassie.

I will be the first to admit that I have made some superficial observations about a man I know little about. I hope that if there is anyone out there who knows more, or can show another side of Selassi than you will comment on this post so we can learn from each other.

I was just struck by this quote as a picture of Selassie's priorities:

Makes you wonder what Peter Tosh the rest of The Wailers were thinking when they wrote Get Up Stand Up:
We sick an tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin n goin to heaven in-a jesus name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you cant fool all the people all the time.
Did they not worship a living man?


  1. The Kingdoms of David and Solomon were the underpinnings of Zionist theory as well.

    Yes they worshipped a mortal.

  2. Good stuff - I read "Catch a Fire" a long time ago and I don't remember it super clearly, but I thought it was very "mystical" - Which I liked on the one hand, because I didn't know much about Jamaican spirituality, but I also would have liked to have read a more straightforward biography too, and compared them.

    Honestly I think the reason the whole Selassie-worship trend got started was because Jamaicans were looking for someone who was a) definitely a black African and b) related to the Christian tradition, and he fit the bill. Jamaicans were so into the Bible - listen to Marley's early singles, half of them are based on Bible quotes - judge not, wings of a dove -

    It's easy for people hoping to boost their racial pride to say that the Egyptians or Christ were black, but it doesn't have the same impact as actually seeing pictures of a black Christian king. In my opinion Selassie, flawed as he might have been was a perfect choice in some ways because he allowed Jamaicans to continue to use the Bible as a source of spirituality while shutting out all the Jews and white people who'd gotten mixed up with it in the past, and moving towards a racial pride movement.

  3. @Renegade Eye That is just what I needed another tangent to follow.I am sure the link between King Solomon and David and Zionism is beyond interesting. I hope to remember to research it after I finish this book.

    @albtraum You make some great points about the need of an oppressed peoples' need to crate a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. It just seems to simplistic an obvious to me.

    I have never known much about Rasta, and this just seems like such a let down. I was hoping it would have more hoodoo and African roots.

    But I am aware that I am making lots of premature judgments, perhaps by reading the book further I will gain more insight.

    i am curious to see how Marley himself came to Rasta and what the religion meant to him.

    I also agree that the book is very mystical and I am loving it. It reads like a novel.

    Thank you both for commenting, I hope you continue to stop by for the duration of these post.