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5 Ways Rastafari is

Written by on July 9, 2020

Rastafari livity has been misunderstood and misrepresented by many. In fact, I believe Rastafari cannot be fully explained; it is best experienced. It is a daunting task to document or codify this way of life not only because words are inherently inadequate, but especially because there are numerous and equally valid interpretations of this relatively young, decentralised religion. The lack of written analysis may be part of what has prevented Rastafari from getting the recognition it deserves for having been very right in prescribing a sensible sustainable way of life for the human condition.
According to Wikipedia :
Rastafari, also known as Rastafarianism, is an Abrahamic religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s. It is classified as both a new religious movement and a social movement by scholars of religion. There is no central authority in control of the movement and much diversity exists among practitioners, who are known as Rastafari, Rastafarians, or Rastas. While differences of opinion and practice exist among Rastafari, the following are 5 undeniably Rastafari rites that our post-Covid new normal have proven were RIGHT all along:

1. Self-Sufficiency is Smart

Reggae-artist and Organic farmer Jah Mason (circa 2014) speaks about food and Self-Sufficiency. Respect for Jah Mason and those who uploaded this footage for Ital is Vital!

What the world now calls organic has been the Rastafari preferred way of cultivation and nutrition from the beginning. Many Rastafari in Jamaica, grow their own crops in accordance with traditional permaculture practices (e.g. pumpkin, peas and carrot) and do not use pesticides. At Pinnacle where Leonard Howell formed the first Rastafari settlement, all inhabitants grew their own food and medicines. Sounding kinda smart in a post-pandemic 2020! Many have had a natural gravitation towards planting during lockdown and you can even Get Growing with Itopia Life, but that’s another story.

2. Ital is in fact Vital

Examples of contemporary Ital cuisine by Jamaican-based Sippin Live. A Book of Ital recipes in typical Rastafari way is sold with blank pages for the user to self-determine the contents.
Rastafari diets may differ across Mansions and for each individual, but all generally adhere to a preference for fresh fruits and vegetable based meals. Most Rastafari do not consume alcohol, and have low to no meat diets, low in salt and generous in the use of coconut oil and milk. While the Western world has vacillated on the best oil for consumption, studies have pretty consistently shown that keeping salt intake low is a good dietary practice. When Jamaicans were faced with Chik V and the Coronavirus all HAD to begin drinking fruit juice and eating vegetables, it became abundantly clear that Rastafari Ital livity was nutritionally superior.
But living Ital is not just about what food and drink you consume. It includes other aspects such as respecting nature, fostering positive or pure thoughts, living communally, being firm in your personal connection with the Creator, and rejecting Babylon (see point 5).

3. A Salute is Sanitary

From placing your hand at your head, or over your heart, to elbow bumping a new colleague, internationally we are all now greeting each other in a very Rastafari way. Since Covid 19, we have all had to stop shaking hands and hugging as part of our greeting. What we now do, more closely resembles any number of Rastafari salutes. Despite an initial appearance that may be defined as unmanicured, cleanliness is an essential rite of Rastafari livity. Furthermore, Rastafari have always been very circumspect of how close a personal contact they have with persons unknown to them, preferring to reserve physical intimacy for actual or perceived family. We are all now acutely conscious of the inherent wisdom of such a sanitary and reserved approach in the era of social distancing.

4. Ganja is the Healing of the Nations

Ganja is the sacrament of the Rastafari, and whatever your bias against this herb, its medicinal superiority over other sacraments, alcohol for example, is undeniable. Many are unaware that this Rastafari rite is divined from the Bible. Rastafari believe that the cannabis plant is that which is referenced as being grown at the graveside of King Solomon. While Western medicine has been slower to recognise the merit of plant medicine, a 2008 finding of 2,700 year old marijuana stash further corroborates a long history of medicinal use worldwide. Rastafari have long held up the “Weed of Wisdom” as the healing of the nations, and their traditional cultural knowledge is as valid as that which underpins the multi-billion dollar international medical cannabis industry. They are an integral player in the international Ganja Game, that Jamaica is playing. But that too, is another story.

5. Babylon Will Burn

To be clear, Rastafari do not promote literally burning/terrorising Babylon, but rather see their lifestyle (Point 2 above) as an inherent act of rebellion against Babylon whose fall is inevitable based on their interpretation of Biblical prophecy. But what is Babylon and is it in fact burning?
The Oxford online dictionary defines Babylon as:
“(chiefly among Rastafarians) a contemptuous or dismissive term for aspects of a society seen as degenerate or oppressive, especially the police.”
Do I actually need to expound this? In 2020 so far it really does feel like Babylon is burning/ending. But is that a good thing? Point 2 dealt with the relegation of degenerate behaviour. Right now the WORLD is trying to eat right and sleep well. Partying is not even possible in the time of curfew and social distancing. On the matter of police being viewed contemptuously, one must never forget that instances like the Coral Gardens Massacre and other atrocities are what entrenched this mistrust among Rastafari. In 2020, the wider Jamaican society are also beginning to perceive the extended States of Emergency and Zones of Special Operation as ill-advised abuses of national power.

Protesters rally in Phoenix, demanding the city council defund the Phoenix police department on 3 June 2020. Photograph: Matt York/AP

Internationally, “Defund the Police” is a burgeoning political movement in the United States, and elsewhere we are increasingly seeing civilian responses to oppressive police and unresponsive state forces. It sometimes feels like Capitalism has been a failed experiment.
Regardless of whether you accept Rastafari was right, their contribution to establishing Brand Jamaica around the World is another great service to the nation that must be recognised. Our musicians have put Jamaica on the map through the numerous genres we have given to the World and on a rare occasion some artists, like Jah Mason, go that much further to truly live and lead by example.

View Jah Mason in 2018 again aiming to inspire by example.

Whatever your view of the ideal way to live your life. The present state of racial division and discrimination, and growing economic inequalities worldwide is untenable. Rastafari have always perceived the way we were living to be flawed, and have likely had gentler lifestyle adjustments to the 2020 “New Normal”. So why has Rastafari not gotten the national respect and recognition it deserves? They promoted ganja despite prohibitions now deemed ridiculous that made much of Rastafari livity, especially cultivation of the sacrament, a criminal offence. But, as is to be expected in a society suffering from Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, many continue to point to a failure on the part of Rastafari to consistently live up to their ideals as a reason for refusing to be led by Rastafari wisdom. It is true that many Rastafari artists sing of the merits of farming, while very few actually do it. This is an excellent example of how an observable chasm between the behaviour of those promoting Rastafari principle and the reality of their actions has caused many to increasingly dismiss Rastafari as a phase at best, or a marketing manouvre at worse. I believe however, that while the livity is as flawed as the individuals that practice it, and you may not you agree that the Rastafari way was “RIGHT”, Jamaica and the World stand to benefit from greater awareness, adherence and respect for the Rastafari way of life.
I am…etc.,

Joan Nanook Webley

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