Privilege, anarchism and the mysterious rastaman
Understanding privilege for dummies
I think the realization that the world is structured in such a way that only a few benefit hit home when I was in primary school. In my class there was this girl, Cynthia, who had everything. She had all the books when all you had were dogeared copies of exercise books. She wore “Toughees” when you walked barefoot. She had packed lunch when you only had a few coins enough to buy you a piece of sugarcane.
To be honest I was envious. I wanted to have everything she had too. Like anyone raised in a Christian family I went down on my knees, praying that He grant me goodies same way He did to Cynthia. Well, the waiting made me impatient. It just couldn’t sink in that what was happening was fair. I just couldn’t understand why she could afford luxuries while I, on the other hand, barely had access to basics. It was then that I began grappling with the concept of privilege.
Cynthia was from a wealthy family. I wasn’t. She could have most things at request. I couldn’t. Cynthia, thanks to her bourgeois family, had it a lot easier than most of us. She would be caught on the wrong but somehow teachers wouldn’t come down on her with such vehemence as they would on the rest of us.
What bothered me most was that then there seemed like there was nothing I could do to balance the scales. No, I couldn’t steal because somehow Christian ethics had been inculcated in me. I tried, though, because there was no way I was going to bother my struggling parents to buy me a pen when I could just easily get one from Cynthia’s desk during break time!
Seeking relevance in 20th century articulation
I grew up, joined college and mingled with like minded people (now comrades) and even read books by revolutionaries which, by the way, helped me in forming some coherence in my thoughts. Karl Max’s The Communist Manifesto raised class consciousness in me. I understood why society was stratified into social classes (words like proletariat, bourgeois… fascinated me to the point that they became phrases I used frequently to the amazement of my clueless friends). Proudhon’s Property is theft! made me scoff at every mention of private property. Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid instilled in me a reason to believe in collective action as being important to human survival. Emma Goldman simplified anarchism for me. Italian illegalists and The Black Panther purged the moral confusion in me when it came to violent protests. Second wave feminists made me understand patriarchy and how, as a man, I’m sometimes responsible for the evils perpetrated against women.
More recently, through Black Lives Matter, I understood the importance of autonomous organizing and the important role the black bloc plays in protests.
In the process I became political. And my leanings tended towards anarchism.
Why am I a rastaman?
I became interested in the counter-culture and what it had to offer. Particularly, I fell in love with music from that side. I would go crazy when some rapper went HAM against the system on a really catchy beat that made your head involuntarily bop (Eminem recently did a freestyle on BET unleashing his wrath on Donald Trump and his supporters. It wasn’t exactly to my taste because it seemed to me he was pro Hillary, a warmonger that has spread terror in the Middle East. And he was playing “either or”, divisive politics. Basically, he was saying you can’t be stan and a Trump supporter at the same time. What with lines like “And any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against”. And I’m really disappointed that Wu Tang’s Redman approved Em’s freestyle.) I loved the way heavy metal artistes raged against the system with their terrifying guitars and devilish voices (Big Iron Maiden fan here \m/). Reggae was the shit. I was particularly fascinated with its revolutionary tone. I was so enchanted that I ended up trying to learn the life of a rasta and in the process becoming a rastaman.
Reggae as a music genre is pure genius. I bet any music guru can attest to that. Reggae is also a social movement. It’s a medium through which rastaman express themselves. Usually the message is that of liberation. Reggae pushes for freedom as the ultimate goal. Like any social movement with revolutionary tendencies, reggae fights Babylon aka Capitalism, with all it’s got – from creating awareness to asking you to pick up a fight with the system.
Israel Vibration’s System Not Working points out the struggle that the working class goes through. It makes it clear that wage slavery is a thing. Don Carlos’ Seven Days a Week pretty much does the same thing. Bunny Wailer’s Chant Down Babylon is basically asking you to join the revolution. Stepping Razor is Peter Tosh warning you that he’s not going to let you fuck with his freedom. A rude boy that one.
Clearly, reggae is political. On the political spectrum it likely falls on the far-left. Their politics pretty much align with that of the socialists – communists, anarchists…
Unlike your favorite liberal, rasta doesn’t seek reforms. They don’t want a seat at the table because in their minds it’s the goddamn table that needs to be smashed. They seek an end to Babylon; that monstrous system that devours on the poor. Rasta doesn’t imagine social wrongs like poverty as a result of one’s on making. Rather, they’re certain Babylon is responsible. Rasta doesn’t point a finger at the youth for turning into crime; rasta pities them because they’re victims of a system that works by creating something as unemployment. And, of course, rasta doesn’t play identity-based, divisive politics. Rasta has no interest in call-out culture; s/he wouldn’t write to your employer demanding that you get fired and thus lose your source of livelihood for posting something (that seemed) racist, sexist, you-name-it on social media.
Other than wanting to bring down Babylon, rasta pushes for something really essential to humanity – one love!
In Why am I a rastaman? Culture’s Joseph Hill says he’s one because while he was growing up he knew a certain rasta; he loved them as children and treated them with respect. But Babylon, through the police, came for him and locked him up, presumably because of weed possession. It is then that young Joseph realizes Babylon wasn’t exactly a friend to the lowly. Every other rasta becomes one pretty much for the same reasons as Joseph’s – Babylon and the situation. And no, having dreadlocs doesn’t make you a rastaman. As famously quipped by a certain rastaman, “you don’t haffi dreads to be rasta”.
And so we a gwan
Being a rastaman has never compromised my anarchism. If anything, it has helped solidified it. As an anarchist I fight the system (Babylon) too. I despise greed that drives people into denying others access to life’s necessities. I hate the police for what it’s designed for (Waliaula, Kimiywi, Kweyu… sorry bros, but I don’t approve of your profession in any way whatsoever. You’re Babylon’s lapdogs!). Like any other anarchist I’m entirely anti-government because government, by design, aids Babylon in unleashing mayhem on people. Just look at what’s happening in Kenya right now. I try to fight – or at the very least put a dent – on any oppressive system, just like a rasta would.
I’m a rastaman and an anarchist. As a rasta I’m a soldier in Jah’s army. As an anarchist, on the other hand, I’m a Molotov-cocktail thrower, a black bloc-er who wouldn’t waste a chance at stringing up someone’s favorite billionaire on a streetlight post.
Rasta lives forever. Rasta always keeps up the fight.
(Side note: At some point Cupid saw it fit that Cynthia and I become lovers. However, the tip to his arrow must have been blunt or something like that because our little, barely grown-up romance was short-lived. We had our moments, though. And if you just ask nicely I’ll give you specifics. Of course I wouldn’t edit out those juicy bits, you know).