Everything is War — Bob Marley


These words, first spoken by Emperor Haile Selasse I, were immortalized by Bob Marley in his popular song “War” of 1976.

Selassie, in his speech, was talking about the need for disarmament and racial equality. Today, however, we talk and listen as if EVERYTHING is war, and we should know better.

Today (July 31, 2005) there are very real wars being raged in the world. The Iraq War, although it is an unofficial and undeclared war (by US law), was launched partly in response to the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. When I think of a real war (which I’ve never been in), I think of the opening landing sequence of “Saving Private Ryan.” I think of psychological distress that lasts for tens of years after the original event, in the form of PSTD, homelessness and alcoholism.

I DON’T think of ….

  • the competitition in the business-place between WalMart and Sears
  • marital arguments that lead to separation and divorce
  • companies like McKinsey and Morgan Stanley trying to attract get the best employees from elite business-schools
  • a football, cricket, baseball, volleyball game, or any kind of sports game
  • Bush vs. Gore, or Seaga vs. Patterson, or Manning vs. Panday, Or Arthur vs. what’s-his-name
  • any kind of struggle against a behaviour or abstract mindset (e.g. drug addiction, premarital sex, values, crime or even terrorism)
  • spiritual conflicts between good and evil
  • words of disagreement between people on opposite sides of an issue
  • weed removal
  • spam
  • hemp
  • Lakota spirituality
  • obesity
  • poverty
  • ________________ (Fill in the blank with anything you feel strongly about)

In the world of excessive hyperbole that we live in, everything has become war, but only because we choose to see them that way.

War has a real, tangible and horrible effect on human life itself.

None of the other wars that we have “declared” have the same effect. We have used the imagery of warfare and the language of armed to conflict to try to raise urgency… it has become a failed method of manipulating the attention of others around us.

To believe the advertisers, pundits, CEO’s and political leaders, the average person is engaged in hundreds of “wars”, just by virtue of living an average life.

Obviously, this is absurd, even when the “war”, such as the “War on Terror,” seems to be justified. The average person is not engaged in a real war.

Even the so-called “War on Terrorism” has turned into a never-ending commitment to fear and suspicion. Think of it… can there ever be an end to a “War on Terrorism?” Terrorism is a method, not a political system, and any President who declares that the War on Terrorism has been one, will wake up the next day to some act of terror taking place in come locale around the world, even if the act is undertaken by his own security forces.

The truly sad effect of calling everything a war, however, is that we lose touch with the reality that war is. By using the word over and over in the way that we have, we have emotionally separated ourselves from the horrors of warfare, and subtly come to believe that it’s not a lot different from all the other things we declare as wars.

This is all an illusion of our making. Life is not war. Only war is war… war in the “Private Ryan’ sense is war.

Perhaps if we treated warfare with the silent gravity that it deserves, we could begin to be responsible for the other messes we have created in the world. Then we could begin to live up to the ideals first spoken by Emperor Salessie I.

*Selassie’s speech can be read in its entirety at http://www.bobmarley.com/life/rastafari/war_speech.html