H.I.M. remains an exemplar to Rastafarians around the world. And no greater tribute could be paid to his memory than for everyone of all races and creeds to commemorate his impact on mankind on July 23…
by Rasta KEITH
Come July 23, Rastafarians from the four corners of the earth will be celebrating the 126th birthday of His Imperial Majesty (H.I.M.) Emperor Haile Selassie. Come to think of it, though, such a commemoration should be observed not just by Rastafarians but by persons of all races and creeds.
For no other modern leader, including the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Barak Obama, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and not even “the Donald”, and the scores of other statesmen and politicians who might feign comparison to H.I.M., has gone the distance traversed by the Emperor in espousing faith in humankind and hope for a better world.
And the most solid basis for this assertion is that H.I.M. is the only person of international renown after whom a religion has been named during the last millennium or so. Many Rastafarians might take umbrage at the use of the term “religion” for the purpose of classifying Rastafari. But given the broad etymological scope of the term, and the tremendous transformative power of such kinds of institutions, there is no other word which might better serve the purpose of determining an appropriate typology for the phenomenon.
Also, as the internationally known reggae herald, Robert Nesta (Bob) Marley has noted, Rastafari is a “Movement of Jah (God’s) People.” Thus, an even better classification for the Movement might simply be that it is a “religious movement.”
While thousands of earlier adherents had literally sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears in the struggle to earn the kind of respect that is now accorded to Rastafarians, The Rt. Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Leonard P. Howell, and Bob Marley must be singled out as having been mostly instrumental in establishing the Movement as a force to be reckoned with.
Having witnessed and personally experienced the plight of African people around the world, Marcus Garvey had left no stone unturned in his advocacy of the need for Black people to up their game and proactively strive to be the equals of other races. And so, when the young Ras (Prince) Tafari Makonnen was crowned Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930, Howell felt compelled to take a cue from Garvey and to organize Black people for allegiance and service to the Emperor (the only Black King) rather than to any foreign monarch.
Thus, began the Rastafarian Movement. And with the lyrical input of reggae minstrels like Bob Marley, Rastafari has continued its forward movement; despite the many obstacles placed along its path.
During the intervening years, a lot has been taking place within the Movement as thousands upon thousands of individuals continue to answer the call to be labourers in the harvest of lifting the African People to the noble status envisioned by H.I.M. and ushering in a new world order in which as many human beings as possible, if not all of humankind, could truly enjoy their fair share of the fruits of the earth.
But, while Rastafarians might generally agree that the Emperor ought to be recognized as one of the most important personages to ever traverse the face of the earth, and that he truly deserves to be elevated to the highest level of human accomplishments, rather than being demonized and maligned in the manner that the establishment would have ordinary people believe, the Movement could hardly be regarded as a homogeneous organisation.
A majority of persons persuaded by the belief that the Rastafarian Movement might very well engender the kernel of a philosophy for articulating the collective experience of the African People prefer to approach the matter as “freelance” adherents, for want of a better word. But a number of formal groupings such as the House of the Nyabinghi, the Bobo Shanti, and the Twelve Tribes have already sprouted within the Movement. And although such sub-groups might be viewed, to date, as merely projecting Rastafari as a kind of Black People’s version of Christianity, that sort of apparent intellectual retrogression should hardly be a cause for alarm.
Even so, given the present state of affairs within Rastafari, it is no small wonder that the Movement continues to grow by leaps and bounds all over the world. And so, as the German philosopher Friedrich Hegel might agree, the only reliable explanation for the exponential growth of the Movement might be that God (JAH) ‘Himself’ is again on the verge of directly intervening in the affairs of man, as history seems to so clearly record.
Meanwhile, the notion of God as “Divine Intelligence” will always pose a serious problem for philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers trying to come to terms with the actual nature of God, since the determination of intelligence always presupposes the antecedent presence of some manner of physiological abode, viz; brain, for its particularization.
On the contrary, the conception of God as the “Source and Sustainer of all Intelligibility,” as opposed to the familiar anthropological or Santa Claus notion of God, offers a new insight into the apparent conundrum. For every natural object, from human beings to trees, to crystals, clearly displays varying degrees of intelligibility, or noetic capacity.
The question of whether matter is the product of intelligibility, or whether intelligibility is the product of matter will always be brought to bear on such kinds of “God-Talk.”
But the universality of the varying manifestations of intelligibility, and recent research in deoxyribonucleic (DNA) and ribonucleic (RNA) functioning seems to clearly indicate that the former proposition rather than the latter might, in fact, be the case.
Hence, it seems safe to assume that the Cosmic Mind might be more readily penetrated through a more profound grasp of Intelligibility. And if there truly is any merit to the saying “Mind over Matter”, then the prospect of God’s occasional intervention in the affairs of man might no longer appear to be too farfetched for human comprehension.
There is also the fundamental philosophical question with respect to the dichotomy between the one and the many (or between unity and multiplicity). Philosophical explanations for this kind of phenomenon relying on the “Argument from Design” might not have had the kind of success in putting the issue to rest, which ordinary minds might have expected. But evolutionary theories like “Natural Selection” and “Survival of the Fittest” have not fared any better.
And yet, despite the unnatural impositions of humankind on the nature of things, the universe continues to unfold as it should in the manner of an intelligible and comprehensive whole with provisions for all manner of creatures, just as it has always been for millennia. Thus, the attempt by the scientific community to canvass the view that all phenomena could simply be reduced to empirical explanations might, at best, be regarded as spurious.
In light of these considerations, therefore, it might be safe to conjecture that the French philosopher Blaise Pascal might indeed be correct that it is better for a person to fear God and to later discover that God does not really exist, than for a person not to fear God and then discover that God does, in fact, exist, and so, suffer eternal damnation as a consequence of his disbelief. All of this to say that the notion of the unfolding of Rastafari as having certain metaphysical dimensions might no longer seem as a classic case of wishful thinking.
Such metaphysical musings aside, anyone truly committed to the task of ushering in a new world order based on the life and teaching of H.I.M. would be doing a disservice to the cause by simply thinking that Rastafari could merely take on the form of just another static religion; mostly engaged in the practice of certain staid rites and rituals. Instead, such persons should go directly to the source. And the most reliable source, to date, is the “SELECTED SPEECHES OF HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY HAILE SELASSIE I.”
As the reader peruses the almost 700 pages of the book, it becomes abundantly clear that despite the Emperor’s devoutness, he had one of the keenest insights into the many facets of the human condition, and of how the world might become a better place for all of JAH children. And he had tried to realize this both in words and in deeds.
Like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, the Emperor was convinced that all of the major issues confronting modern man could simply be resolved by everyone guiding their conduct by what Kant refers to as the “Categorial Imperative,” or the maxim that individuals should always bear in mind that their conduct could become a universal norm [otherwise known as the Golden Rule].
But the religious and political brass had concluded a long time ago that it was going to be better for human beings to glorify war, thereby giving credence to the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ view that life is indeed supposed to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
No wonder that Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin had respectively postulated that “God is dead,” that “religion is the opiate of the people,” and that humankind must have been the product of some crude form of microbial evolutionary process.
And that was precisely why the Emperor had been put down by the very people whose well-being he had done so much to improve. For by encouraging people from all corners of the earth to uplift themselves and to become truly enlightened citizens of the world, H.I.M. was viewed as a serious threat to the world order. So the powers-that-be just could not have afforded to allow him to be around any longer.
Still, H.I.M. remains an exemplar to Rastafarians around the world. And no greater tribute could be paid to his memory than for everyone of all races and creeds to commemorate July 23 as one of the most significant dates on the calendar.