Anniversary Post: Rastafari Holy Day

Rastafari Savior Haile SelassieToday is Grounation Day. It is a Rastafari holy day. And it commemorates the day when Haile Selassie visited Jamaica. Now why is this a big deal? Well, he was yet another son of God — or so the Rastafari believe. He was also the Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974 when he was overthrown in a coup d’état. This all came as a surprise to me. I did not realize that the Rastafari religion was an Abrahamic religion.

Most people know the religion as being all about smoking cannabis, and the religion does indeed use it in a sacramental way. Most religions do use mind altering substances. There are people who naturally have mystical experiences. Others need help. I see nothing wrong with that. And certainly cannabis has been used in this way since before history. The only reason the Rastafari stick out is because the west decided a century ago that cannabis is an evil drug. It’s us and not the Rastafari who are messed up — at least on this issue.

Other than cannabis, the Rastafari are very much Abrahamic in the sense of “no fun.” According to Wikipedia, the religion rejects what it calls, “Babylon” — by which it means materialism and sensual pleasures. I always have a problem with powerful groups and people telling the rest of us that we really ought to knock off all those things that make life worth living.

Apparently, Bob Marley’s wife became a Rastafari when Haile Selassie visited, believing that she saw a stigma on his hand. These are wounds and deformities that correspond to Jesus’ wounds from the crucifiction and getting stabbed with the Spear of Destiny. It always makes me think of the REM song “Losing My Religion” because the video features this. So why not?

An old physics professor of mine got to meet Selassie when he worked in the Peace Corps. He thought very highly of him and as far as I can tell, Haile Selassie was a good leader of the country. The Rastafari could have chosen much worse.

14 thoughts on “Anniversary Post: Rastafari Holy Day

  1. One of my teachers in high school said that a dictatorship is the best form of government when the dictator is about doing the right thing by the people.

    Until recently I thought he was wrong. And I still am not convinced but…it does give me pause.

    • The philosopher king. The problem with it is that even if you do have a leader who is smart and cares about the people, whoever comes next probably won’t. In Selassie’s case, he got old enough that he was overthrown — and, from my reading, killed in jail. And the Roman Empire never turned back into the Roman Republic.

      • The procedural norms and polite understandings of the Republic government had been degraded and discarded to the point that it didn’t work anymore, which sounds oddly familiar. The Empire was all about trying to create stability and order. That was explicitly behind Octavius inventing the cult of emperor worship. The name he chose, Augustus, means ‘consecrated one’. The Empire went through a few official religions before adopting an odd, but increasingly popular Jewish/Greek one, thus creating the standards lock in problem for Europe and the Americas that is still with us. The Republic lasted over 500 years. I wouldn’t bet on ours beating that record right now.

        • I quite agree. I’ve long thought that Americans are particularly attracted to authoritarianism. I don’t think a country gets a military as ridiculously large as ours without being oriented that way. But don’t worry: regardless of want government we have, the people will always think it is of, by, and for the people. And the government won’t even have to take over the press to get it to say the same thing.

          Not that I’m cynical or anything.

      • It is the reason that Cromwell’s legacy lasted one generation.
        Then again, sequels are almost never as good as the original.

        • I don’t know. Now we are getting into your area.

          But as for sequels, well, Evil Dead II? And the Discworld books got better. I think I’ve liked every one I’ve read more than The Colour of Magic. Not that it was bad! And not that I miss your point.

          • Almost never. There are exceptions.

            The Discworld novels really were not sequels in my never humble opinion. A couple were maybe but for the most part they seem to be one book chopped up.

            • It’s hard to say. Scott Turow writes that way: about the same place with characters from one book showing up in another. Are they sequels? Maybe not. I actually like that. But isn’t Making Money a sequel to Going Postal? And certainly the second novel (“light fantastic”?) was a true sequel to The Colour of Magic.

              The main reason that sequels are usually bad is that they are created to make money.

              • Pratchett had a few that were clearly sequels yes.

                I think I have managed to get through one Turow book. But since I spend most of my reading time with genre fiction, I rarely have overlap with yours.

    • I think I should read a biography about him. My professor sent me a couple of pictures last night. One of them is the two of them shaking hands. It’s pretty cool.

  2. This doesn’t have anything to do with the above article except that your mention of cannabis reminded me to ask you about something. I recently saw an add for an addiction treatment network that said something pretty interesting. In making their pitch they said something like: we all know what happens when addiction goes untreated: “Someone dies, or worse, they hurt others”. The bit in quotation marks is a direct quote, verbatim. Not surprising, of course, but I don’t often see it stated so explicitly. According to them, an addict dying isn’t a good thing, but it’s WAY worse if they “hurt” someone else, which could be as simple as not behaving exactly the way those close to them want. This represents a good example of the attitude of our society toward drug users: better off dead.

    I know you’ve written along these lines before, so I thought I’d bring it to your attention. I’m not as interested in drugs as I once was, especially since I’ve found new passions, but I still pay attention. And I will never understand why chemically altering or improving consciousness is so taboo, so feared, so hated. This kind of attitude is why pain patients go horribly under prescribed and people do twenty years for small amounts of illicit drugs, while at the same time people do 90 days for sexual assault.

    • That goes right along with what Paul LePage said the other day about not allowing drug users access to narcan. It was basically, “Let’s make it as dangerous as possible.” A lot of people think that drug users should just die. It doesn’t bother me so much that they say it. It bothers me that we live in a society where they feel it is not a problem to say it. The ad you mention just shows that such things are not designed for the user. But you have to ask about a company that thinks this about the people they will eventually “treat.”

      I highly recommend reading The Birth of Heroin. It explains really well how perceptions of drugs change. It’s very much a Roland Barthes like analysis. People really don’t know why they have certain attitudes toward drugs. But at the same time, they are certain that it is all based on science. But they really should know better, given that I am old enough to have lived through a period where cannabis went from the perception of being an unthinkably dangerous drug to one that is almost legal.

      The truth is that I try not to think about this stuff. It is so obvious that the society is screwed up about drugs that I find it difficult to even try to make rational arguments. But this is why I’ve slipped into a kind of meta-discussion about our lack of rationality. I get pretty tired of hearing people tell me their opinions are just based on facts. All you have to do is look at how the climate change deniers constantly change their arguments but never their conclusions. And that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to it. But being aware of this is really helpful in getting beyond believing what everyone just “knows.”

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