You’ve heard: “underneath our skin, we all bleed the same red” (or words to that effect). How about the song: “Don’t have to be Dread to be Rasta.” Some would vehemently object to that idea, or the possibility of being Rasta if you’re not of explicitly African origin (ie. sub-Saharan).
Scientifically (if you go in for that sort of thing), it’s been verified that we all hail from Africa – genetically – and geographically. But does this mean the later, disparate traditions of Europe and Asia – the native Americas (or Australia) – have nothing to contribute to our overstanding? Or that non-Africans have no worth as human beings? I think not (and I hope nobody would be so racist as to assert so).
In fact, many non-Afro traditions (and individuals) have both contributed to, and played an important role in magnifying the reach of Reggae and Rasta philosophies. “One Love, One Heart” is not (nor should it be) exclusive. To make it so would be like tying the legs of race horse before the gate opens. We have enough to fight down as it is.
When will we (as Rasta/Reggae lovers – and human beings) realize that we have more in common than separating us (especially in our so-called “community”)? Don’t we know that “until that day…everywhere is War!” (as His Majesty said).
“Burn Down Babylon” – the philosophy of fire (or destroying one’s enemies) – is that Rasta? Happens a lot in the Bible, and dominates current events. The sentiment has been around from early on in the Reggae tradition (including in Bob’s lyrics). Did you know the whole Babylon theme originates in the Jews’ conquering and forced migration to Babylonia (now Iraq)? “Their” fight was the same as “ours” – to resist and/or make a separate peace – to survive in spite of the odds, create our own homeland, or reality, that works better for us than the prevailing “system” of the time.
Ital (vital, earth-based, natural) eating and living (to the extent that it’s possible, given our living situation and will-power), as well as the treatment (and respect) of our own body as our temple is (I believe) integral to Rasta.
Righteousness is key, but there is a fine line between it and “self-righteousness” – which is actually vanity. Humility is the foundation, fear of (or respect for) G*d is prerequisite. That means YOU (alone) are not G*d. As Bob said: “leave all judgment unto Him.”
Much as I appreciate the homage and respect due each of us, recent years’ address of men and women as King and Queen (to my mind) detracts from the fact that there is but ONE King (and His Queen is THE Queen). “Ras” or prince feels more appropriate, as we are all servants (or ought to be), seeking to manifest His will (to the best of our ability and opportunity).
Still, any philosophy and overstanding has a right to evolve. No religion can survive being static, without allowing new generations to make and espouse their own interpretations of faith.
One of the things about Rasta that makes it unique is that it’s fiercely individual – ask any avowed Rasta “what is Rasta?” – and you can be sure to get as many answers. Lack of any central organization or authority has been a relative constant.
Is Rasta the abiding acknowledgement that Jah Ras Tafari (Emperor Haile Selassie I the 1st) is G*d, or at the very least is the face and personal embodiment of G*d? These are two very different, though related concepts. However you slice it, I think the answer is YES.
How can you call yourself Rasta unless Rastafari is somehow front and center in your life?
Many so-called Rastas “deh pon” some other trip (“fashion dreads” not withstanding).
Often Jesus is given the throne foremost. Even Jah himself – while holding all the titles befitting The Lord – was humble and did not boast of his deity. He, as others, put Christianity first. Ethiopians (and Jah) trace their prime lineage to Sheba and Solomon, and incorporate the “Old Testament” or Torah into their holy scriptures (as do the Muslims, consider themselves part of the Abrahamic tradition). Others may be Jews for Jah, so to speak, sidestepping the Christian piece, and awarding H.I.M. status as personal representative and human incarnation of Adonai.
Truly – and to be fair – the oral gospel that is Reggae, and all the best that being Rasta has to offer, must be laid at His Majesty’s feet, as an offering: “so that the words of our mouth, and the meditation of our heart, be acceptable in thy sight, over I” (from the popular song & Psalm 137).