Rastafarian Movement Term Paper

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Rastarfarian Movement

The Rastafarian Movement started as a religion in the 1930s in Jamaica and the spread of the Reggae music in the 1070s transformed it into a political manifest as well as a social movement among those who were underprivileged young people who found in the Rastafari not just a way of life, but also a mean the express themselves in the a world that was governed by the rules set up by a society they felt neglected them.

Sheila Kitzinger write in 1966 an article on the Rastafarians based on her own research results, after personally interviewing some Rastafarians from Jamaica. She considered them a "social problem for Jamaica" (Kitzinger, 1966). According to Kitzinger, the "members of the movement worship the emperor Haille Selassie of Ethiopia, and insist that, as their African ancestors were brought unwillingly to Jamaica as slaves, it is now time to be "repatriated" to the land of their origin -- Ethiopia, where reigns "the first Asian king of Creation, the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah, God of the Black race" -- or more generally, to any part of Africa"(Kitzinger, 1966, p. 33).

The original doctrine of this religious movement born in Jamaica went through a metamorphosis along the years and it became a way to make their voices heard for all those who were belonging to an "indigenous culture" that "has been suppressed, and in certain instances completely supplanted, by western models imposed during centuries of European and American colonial expansion" (Savishinsky, 1994, p. 15). The Maori, the Havasupai Indians or the West Indians who adopted the movement were obviously not claiming that the land of all hope was Ethiopia or the rest of Africa, as the adherents to the movement of African descent were claiming, but they were merely adopting the Rastafari style and expression means in order to overcome their inferiority in the middle of societies that were ignoring them and their culture at best.

Poor, uneducated people who were striving to make a living in a hostile environment that often treated them as second-class citizens were finding the values promoted by the Rastafarians as appealing. Religious movements in the twentieth century had always found their followers among those who were looking for an identity and were eager to affirm their belonging to a social group. The young people born in the lower classes that were at a disadvantage from their very first cry in this world found a music that sounded better to their ears and adopted it as their living style.

Kintzer (1966) insists on the problems made by the Jamaican Rastafarians during the 1950s, for example. Practically whole slums were fooled into believing that the moment of return to their promised land of Ethiopia had come and were persuaded into giving up the little they owned in exchange for a trip to the Promised Land. When that did not occur, they would riot and create chaos as their answer to those who did not keep their promise. Actually, the Jamaican Rastafarians for the first half of the twentieth century were overwhelmingly made of the poorest Jamaicans of African origin who consumed the "ganja," the euphoria drug inducing plant in order to increase their spiritual experiences and as a means of healing, considering it a panacea. Kintzer points out that the Jamaican Rastafarians became divided into a religious and respectively a political movement, the former accusing the latter of pragmatism and thus alienation form the first precepts of the religion.

The Rastafarian religion is largely based on the Old Testament, replacing the Messiah role of Christ in the New Testament with that of the Ethiopian king Haille Selassie who is God incarnated on earth in the form of an African-American, that is the opposite of the with skin, blue eyes Jesus is depicted in most of the religious books or artistic representations.

The relatively small influence the Rastafarian movement had at the beginning, mostly among the Jamaican peasants, but soon followed by some living in the poor urban areas rose and spread over the natural borders of the island one the Reggae music spread into the rest of the world. Reggae music, "a form of Jamaican pop music which developed in the late 1960s from a fusion of its antecedents ska and rock steady with African drumming techniques and American rhythm and blues, soul, gospel and rock music" (Savishinsky, 1994, p. 21) rapidly caught the attention and hearts of the young people all over the world.

The Rastafarian movement has undergone substantial changes since its beginnings in the 1930s. The original racist beliefs that the black man is superior to the white have been reconsidered and it has slowly led to an egalitarian vision that accepts that all are equal. The movement remained mostly Pan-African, but not exclusively (Simpson, 1985). The first manifestation of violence were the response poor, uneducated mostly rural people found as the only way they know to react to the injustices of a society that overlooked them almost entirely. The second half of the twentieth century reflected into the evolution in the Rastafari movement as well. The Rastafarians are no longer motivated and brought together exclusively by religious doctrines, but it evolved into "a way of life, a philosophy, and an ethical code" (Simpson, 1985, p. 288). The Rastafarians are expressing their life style through music and also through language. Their way of expressing identity, the strong sense of belonging to a certain society is listening to the same king of music and speaking the same language that differentiates them and supports their sense of unity. The word is of special importance to the Rastafarians who consider it a mean to do harm or well. Nature also plays an important role in the Rastafarian culture since the natural state of things is emphasized in favor of the western civilization that corrupts the nature of humanity.

The Reggae music has adopted the militant way of expressing a socially engaged point-of-view through its texts and the Rastafari, as shown by Campbell (mid-1970s) quoted by Simpson (1985) engulfed a good portion of Jamaica as a cultural movement. One the vision and the doctrines changes and adopted less violent views of fighting oppression, the response from the society changed and became more disposed to accept the Rastafaris as representatives of a new culture that was promoting ancient values and an ancient culture in a world that became more and more open to diversity.

Famous singers, like Bob Marley contributed to the change in attitude from the outside world in response to the Rastafari movement and his recognition as a flag bearer of the most important aspirations of the Africans and African origin people world wide increased the chances Rastafarians had in being accepted as a cultural group that promoted social justice and religious freedom over any kind of violent manifestation from either sides.

The Ras Tafari is known today in the modern world as a form of cultural manifestation that includes all art forms in its expression. Jamaica was followed by the Eastern Carribean, Dominica, Grenada, Martinique and Guadeloupe, London and Paris, Antigua, Barbados etc. (Simpson, 1985). The theological side of the cultural movement has been dissipated, but it has not cease to exist. There are different views in the opinions of this movement's followers as it is habitual for any existent form of religious manifestation.

The Rastafari movement has come a long way since 1966 when Sheila Kitzinger, among other anthropolosists was considering it a source of social unrest for Jamaica and gave it a small change to develop into a religion officially recognized and accepted as such. Its moral values were highly overshadowed by the violent manifestation of the impostors, who, as in any religion of the world, did not hesitate to use a relatively new…

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