donderdag 2 oktober 2014

Personal knowledge trajectory regarding Haile Selassie

“Afgeschreven” is a Dutch word, which can be translated to English as “written off”. There are other translations possible as well: it can mean something like “discharged” or “laid off”.

I saw that word, Afgeschreven, written on some books I have at home. I remember I bought these books years ago, when public libraries in the Netherlands (where I live) happened to have cheap sales of such “discharged” books. All these books had a small sticker on the cover with Afgeschreven (added was “bibliotheekboek” which means: library book) on them, and Afgeschreven was also stamped on the first page.

What does this mean? Is it a quality evaluation?.. Were all these books on sale I browsed through (there often were hundreds) written off and removed from the library collection because they were crap, nonsense, perhaps incorrect or outdated? Damaged perhaps, with excessive “comments” or underlinings in them by readers? Pages cut/torn out even? Would they sell them if they were that damaged? Browsing through them, I found that there were quite some interesting books between them, even by known authors. Of some I could imagine an outdatedness – often dealing with technology, or changed geography. Think for instance about books on the former Yugoslavia. This territory is divided now in separate countries, following a bloody war. That does not mean that books called “country reports” on Yugoslavia were inaccurate in describing the history, the landscapes, ethnicities and languages, the cultures.. Politics (borders are political) is the main thing that changed, not other aspects like culture or flora and fauna.

It might also mean that the books were borrowed so little that there seemed no interest in them, or that thematic changes in library book selections were made for economic or political reasons. I am afraid that also cultural or ideological biases or choices can play a part in this. Thus, some books were removed from the collection. That is unfortunate, and mostly unjust, but commonly affecting library collections when under volatile economic or budgeting constraints: choices have to be made at the cost of some public groups; not everything can be acquired or kept as part of the collection (hence: afgeschreven/discharged).

QUALITY?

A quality evaluation of books – beyond outdatedness - in a public library does not seem a reasonable explanation for books becoming Afgeschreven (written off): they must have been bought by the library in the first place once, hopefully as what then seemed sound decisions. Nonsensical, incorrect, or ideologically driven or propaganda works, were – ideally, at least - selected out and dropped (or never made it to) “the books to buy” list for the collection. Like the chaff it was removed, before ever entering the library collection. This selection process is of course furthermore (again: ideally) in line with the type of library and its public groups.

To go back, I bought some of these Afgeschreven books: I don’t remember the date(s) but I think I bought these in my later teens or early twenties, I imagine. So over 15 years ago, at least. Then I was in the bookworm mode: I was on a (long) “bookworm” tip, you might say. I must have been interested in reggae and Rastafari already, because one of the books is a short biography on Haile Selassie – the Emperor of Ethiopia – written in Dutch, published in 1993, the other one a “country report” of Ethiopia (and Eritrea), also in Dutch, and published in 1994. I remember I borrowed many books on African countries as a member of the public library around that period too. Both the mentioned “Afgeschreven” books I bought for about a guilder at the time (less than half a euro today). What’s more, I found them to be very educational and broadening. These books were in that sense not at all “afgeschreven” to me, but valuable.

Speaking about valuable. I considered it also valuable for me to know still more about Haile Selassie and Ethiopia. That goal has remained in my mind since before I bought those Afgeschreven books: namely when I became interested in reggae, including the lyrics, and Rastafari. This started when I was about 11 years old, I imagine. Reggae lyrics were my first reference to Haile Selassie, and, after that, books about Ethiopia in the public library, wherein Selassie was discussed in a broader context. In educational, “popular academic” books, for different age groups. This was all before the rise of the Internet, by the way, so these books I still have remind me of that “pre-Internet” period as well.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Much more recently I finished reading ‘The autobiography of Emperor Haile Selassie I : 1892-1937’. These are the translated memoirs of Haile Selassie, which he wrote in 1937 when exiled in England - in the town Bath to be precise – and which were not published until 1972/73. I will come back to this Autobiography later on.

KNOWLEDGE TRAJECTORY

What is, I think, interesting from a didactical perspective, is my trajectory of knowledge and information gathering regarding Haile Selassie. Since around I was 11 years of age, I listened to reggae lyrics, then I read library books for children, later books for adults on Africa, Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, and Rastafari..

ETHIOPIAN CONTEXT

The book on Ethiopia was not the only book I read on Ethiopia. I would read several smaller and larger books on Ethiopia, that were of course partly on Selassie’s reign as well. This taught me about the complex, feudal, and hierarchical society that Ethiopia was, about the limited connections between towns and country, the Orthodox Ethiopian Christian religion and its dominant role, as well as the central role of the Amhara people and about other ethnic groups and religions. I got to know about traditional structures and customs ingrained in Ethiopian society, and about the very ancient (Christian) Solomonic dynasty, the long time of maintained independence, the highlands and more..

In hindsight, it was useful that I read more about Ethiopia as a whole, before reading more about Haile Selassie. It helped me to put his reign and his actions in the proper context from the start. Ethiopia’s feudal culture and society help explain how Selassie had limited ways to manoeuvre, even if he aimed at changing things for the better: ending poverty, illiteracy, remnants of slavery and more, which he sincerely seemed to aim and intend. For this reason his approach for Ethiopia’s progress was steadfast, thought out, but often “gradual”. These difficult hierarchies and sovereignties with little state/national influence, especially also in rural areas, limited or determined often as much what could change as Selassie’s own goals, plans – even when put in practice - or his determination.

I remained a member of the public library in the course of my life, though my bookworm mode became in time less intense. This partly relates to life choices: I moved the focus to experiencing first-hand, and actually socializing with people.

In another way I was influenced by the Internet, that has become more important, also in my life. I can recall that looking on the Internet became a daily thing for me (with varying intensity) since I was about 22 years of age, when I started to study (Library and Documentation) and had Internet available at school, and later at home. Internet became more commonly checked by me since about the year 1996 (a bit later than Dutch youths of the same age from wealthier/middle-class families). Whether I wanted to or not – or even realized it – I in time began to approach “information” and “facts” differently because of the Internet and searching information on it. It became more technical, rational, and fragmented. A well-told history in a physical book that I enjoyed in library books I borrowed a decade earlier began to seem something of the past, though not entirely. Facts still need contextualization, so “texts” have remained important, also on the Web. Not all is fragmented. Take for instance the often long Wikipedia articles, especially on the Wikipedia in English. Besides this, of course, books and journals are still published.

Also on the Internet, I began searching for what had remained my interests: reggae and Rastafari. I got more interested in Marcus Garvey as well. I was interested in Africa and Ethiopia, also in topical events. The study and other aspects placed these interests of mine sometimes at the background, but never too long.

Apart from the “information media” (books, articles, Internet, tv, or video/DVD), what in the end is more interesting to me is the information itself. In that regard it is interesting that Selassie’s own writings followed in my case on what (mostly Western or European) historians wrote about Selassie. Following the reverence and “positive importance” Selassie has for Rastafari-inspired reggae artists – many of whom considered Selassie as God - , I also noticed critical comments in other sources, that often somehow seemed dubious. Not that I did not want to hear or read that, simply because I chose to “side” with the positive opinions of the reggae singers I liked. This might seem plausible to amateur-psychologists, but is in reality too simple an explanation. Writings about Selassie by different Western historians contradicted each other, I noticed, sometimes because of political ideology or other biases, sometimes because interpretation of complex issues differ easily from person to person. Ethiopia was indeed complex, as were Ethiopia’s traditions, politics, monarchical culture and history, and social reality. In all this Selassie had to find a way, as said explaining and shaping his actions.

SERGE VAN DUIJNHOVEN’S BIOGRAPHY

Serge van Duijnhoven, an historian as well as poet from the Netherlands, wrote the small “afgeschreven” biography (mini-biography) I bought on Haile Selassie, published in 1993. To Van Duijnhoven’s credit: his portrayal of Haile Selassie is not too negative and relatively neutral and balanced. It seems even understanding with regard to Selassie’s choices, even when other criticized these. Van Duijnhoven seems to put in context the complexity of the country Ethiopia and the Emperor. He was mainly factual, strove to balance (which is good), but not always got all his facts right, though mostly regarding less relevant details. Not overly relevant, perhaps, but odd mistakes there were: he describes Jamaican thinker and leader Marcus Garvey – who predicted Selassie’s coronation - as “Reverend” (analogy with Martin Luther King?). Garvey never was a Reverend. He wasn’t even formally Protestant anymore in the latter part of his life (he became Catholic), but never belonged to any clergy. He was the leader of a social Black Power or upliftment movement, not a primarily religious one. Van Duijnhoven does describe the general tenets of Rastafari well, on the other hand.

Still, if he got some facts clearly wrong, you don’t know what to believe anymore. Selassie became in his latter years more focussed on health issues – Van Duijnhoven relates – and had Indian advisors for his mental and physical health, as well as a Swedish “holistic” advisor. Selassie wanted to see his staff in the palace dance daily to “modern rhythmic” music for health reasons, Van Duijnhoven also relates as illustrative detail. This is not really a disturbing detail, and even sympathetic or funny in some way, but how did Van Duijnhoven find this out? However: maybe it is simply true, and he had reliable sources.

Other books - or journal or newspaper reports and articles - were more critical, and overall an image was presented of an authoritarian, absolutist Monarch in the vein of The Bourbon Monarchy (Louis XIV) as existed in France, centuries ago. An Emperor who aimed to keep absolute power, and even neglected the ply and problems (poverty, inequality, slavery) of his people. While Selassie in reality aimed at solving these problems as well as at modernization in several ways (legally, technologically) – influenced in part by the Western world and Europeans -, some historians still claim that Selassie’s efforts had little effect, and that he actually kept Ethiopia backwards. Several authors, however, also note more positively that Selassie made quite some progress, such as in modernization and education, in Ethiopia, despite difficult circumstances. In addition, several authors place Selassie in the broader historical context, pointing out with arguments that the following dictatorship under Mengistu was worse in several ways. Indeed there are strong arguments for that.

Marcus Garvey might have “predicted” the coronation of an African king that would mean the redemption of Black People worldwide (Rastafari-adherents see Selassie’s later coronation as the fulfilment of this prophecy), and was praiseworthy of the Emperor when crowned in 1930 and some time after it, but he became critical later. When Fascist Italy under Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1936, Garvey became irritated by the support Selassie sought, against the invasion, of mainly European, Western powers – “who would let him down, eventually”, Garvey warned - while neglecting broader African connections within his own continent or with Black people worldwide against the Fascist invasion. He attributed this to his elitist position in Ethiopia, detached from the large populace, and used to riches, privileges and servants.

KAPUSCINSKI’S BIOGRAPHY

Then there is the still most famous book on Haile Selassie: ‘The Emperor, downfall of an autocrat’, by Ryszard Kapuscinski. This was published in 1978. This work is on Selassie’s monarchic rule and habits, and sold well. However, the veracity of all facts in this book – including even relevant facts – has been meanwhile questioned by many. Not just by Selassie-adherents, by the way. Kapuscinski was known to “invent” or “make up” facts in his journalistic or historical writings, often as part of allegories, for political purposes in, for instance, his native Poland. In the said book on Selassie, Selassie’s rule was in this sense compared to Edward Gierek’s, First Secretary of the Polish Communist Party, until he fell in disgrace in 1980. If this comparison really made sense is already doubtful, but Kapuscinski’s historical methods have been criticized overall as “unscholarly” and biased, including – as said – made up (or unverified) facts.

See this review:

http://www.nytimes.com/1983/05/29/books/the-dictator-s-downfall.html

In a quite recent article (January 31, 2013) in the Dutch weekly journal Vrij Nederland, Harm Ede Botje calls Kapuscinski a “fantast”. He furthermore worked for the Polish secret services, making him a fanatic, practising Communist, and which explains his “propagandistic” journalism. That Selassie was ousted by Communists in 1974 for instance had to do with the negative image of Selassie that partly comes through in Kapuscinski’s 1978 work on Selassie.

Kapuscinski was seen as good (literary) writer, a poet, as well as a journalist, but when a book is presented as “nonfiction” and historical, one may assume that the facts in it are correct. Artistic licence is okay, so are literary aspirations, but this is just lying and deception.

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1972048,00.html

Van Duijnhoven’s small biography I mentioned before was read (or sold) much less than the bestseller (deemed classic now) by Kapuscinski. Van Duijnhoven’s “mini-biografie” has not been even translated into other languages than Dutch, so the market remained limited. Even Dutch public libraries “wrote” the book “off”, as I told. Serge Van Duijnhoven (who is also a poet) is also practically unknown outside of the Netherlands. Yet, his work on Selassie seemed more neutral and “real” to me. Not extremely academic in tone, but a good read, (seemingly) factual, and educational for young and older people.

Other more neutral biographies of Haile Selassie may have appeared in other countries and languages as well, but Kapuscinski is the more known as an author and journalist, even if his bias has become more evident recently.

LOCKOT’S WORK

Another biographical work on Haile Selassie cannot go unmentioned: the very readable ‘The mission : the life, reign and character of Haile Selassie I’ by Hans Wilhem Lockot, published in 1989. It is overall a quite sympathetic and positive description of Selassie as a person and of his reign. Lockot describes Selassie’s political and social talent as outstanding, for instance, and also points at actual progress achieved in Ethiopia toward modernization and education under Selassie’s guidance. He characterizes the accusation that the Emperor “hid” the drought and famine in Wollo province of Ethiopia from the world as fabrications, inventions by his enemies: Lockot points out that many foreign journalists worked freely in Ethiopia before and during the famine. Also, that Selassie supposedly had a lot of money (billions according to some German journalists) hidden abroad in a Swiss bank account, had “not a shred of truth”, Lockot points out, as all the extra money was needed for Ethiopian developments and policies.

Overall Lockot’s work, rather than unreasonably laudatory or apologetic, seems upon closer reading a balanced portrayal to me, making it more convincing. Much information recurred that I already have read before in other works on Selassie, but details in it were new for me.

SUBTEXTS

Different writers – outsiders/non-Ethiopians in most cases – partly repeat the same general events surrounding Selassie, but with individual differences between them, especially in the details. Hans-Wilhem Lockot, a German, lived and worked in Ethiopia as head of the research division of Ethiopia’s National Library. He really loves Ethiopia, coming across also in his other writings. In this particular work on Selassie, Lockot furthermore admits that he aims at a positive reassessment of Selassie, after negative comments about Selassie following the revolution in 1974, led by Mengistu, overthrowing the Emperor. He brought this overthrow onto himself, seemed to be a subtextual meaning about the Empreror’s rule in several commentaries.

Subtexts – or in other words “reading between the lines” – is what I do with all these books on Selassie. Biases can be hidden, to differing degrees, as we saw with Kapuscinski’s “biography”. Yet, also with more seemingly “neutral” or “impartial” works a degree of intellectual mistrust seems healthy to me. European countries Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium also had violent, oppressive colonial pasts in parts of Africa. The seeming respect granted by e.g. the British government and state to Haile Selassie, including wartime assistance, and Ethiopia’s independence, was perhaps helpful, but at the same time hypocritical as Britain denied self-rule in other African countries it colonized. This smells like the proven imperialistic method of “divide and rule”. Many articles, reports, or books on Selassie are by Britons (and other Europeans).

DOCUMENTARY FILMS

Then I saw a few good documentaries, some on DVD (and before that video) , that I considered quite educational for me: on Ethiopia and Haile Selassie’s rule. These include a British-made one, a seemingly neutral one, called ‘H.I.M. Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah’ (http://youtu.be/75GQ3rwxtZI) - worth a watch I think.

Another, more recent one, spoken mainly in Amharic, I saw as part of a film festival, and I discussed in another post (December, 2011) on this blog: the documentary is called ‘Twilight revelations : episodes in the life and times of Emperor Haile Selassie’, is from 2009. It is based on interviews with Ethiopian people who worked closely with Selassie. To quote myself from that post: “This documentary gave a balanced, and overall positive (and human) view of Selassie as person and Emperor”.

I found the documentary of ‘Faces of Africa’ called ‘Haile Selassie: the pillar of Ethiopia, part 1 & 2’ interesting as well. See: http://youtu.be/bVki9t3anJU

Several interesting documentaries can furthermore be found on YouTube. This one, called ‘Ethiopia : the hidden empire’ is another interesting example: http://youtu.be/ZbyJyp2rQdE

I watched several of them, also on YouTube, encountering partly information I already learned about through other media and books, though with some added knowledge, and of course - the main advantage of films – visualization, images. Images can on the other hand also be manipulated and confusing, so I try to remain aware of that as well. Just like a main advantage of Internet, over other media: namely that you can search very specifically for information yourself, can also turn out to be confusing, and is also manipulated (by commercial parties, hackers, or virus spreaders).

RETURNING TO THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Like I mentioned, later than most other works on Selassie I mentioned, I also finished reading recently the Autobiography written by Haile Selassie I, called ‘The autobiography of Emperor Haile Selassie I : 1892-1937’. He wrote this in 1937. ‘Autobiography’ is a somewhat confusing term, because it mostly consists of memoirs from the perspective of a political leader. The actual title Selassie gave himself to the memoirs makes this clearer: ‘My life and Ethiopia’s Progress’. In other words, his life at the service of Ethiopian progress.

You won’t find too much personal or intimate revelations by Selassie beyond political, practical, or work-related issues, and rarely does he refer to his daily life or personal relationships or even feelings. The tone may even seem overly formal – because of this scope as an Emperor in function - while other linguistic formulations relate – according to the translator (Selassie wrote the memoirs in Amharic) – to the inherent social values present within Amharic, culturally different from the English to which it is translated. Hierarchy is also considered within Amharic’s linguistic formulations, as are politeness, traditions, social relations etcetera, rendering an inherent “opacity” to Amharic, difficult to translate to English.

It seemed, however, translated well in my opinion, and I consider it readable, though some formulations needed some getting accustomed to. Likewise did the practical and formal focus of Selassie’s descriptions require some adjustment from my part, but I could adjust and actually began to enjoy reading even the detailed descriptions. Perhaps the down-to-earth and practical focus corresponded with a “meditative vibe” within me.

It appealed, I think, also to shared human psychology. In past periods during my life, when I was sad or felt wronged by people, focussing on mundane/earthly, practical issues like hand and foot work, cleaning, repairing, putting in order, gardening, helped me to forget – at least temporarily - the hard “big” world of hatred, selfishness, power play, or tricky human encounters where you do not know friends from your foes. Maybe the suggestion of “keeping it simple and basic” or even “starting over again from from scratch” helps puts the mind at ease and focussed. Something of this mental, meditative “escape” I seem to find in Selassie’s descriptions and focus in the memoirs.

BATH

Selassie wrote these memoirs in 1937 while in exile in Bath, England (Somerset), after the Italians invaded and conquered Ethiopia in 1936. He stayed in Bath between 1936 and 1941. He read many international daily newspapers in that period, as Lockot’s relates in his work.

I have been to Bath in 2011, when visiting surrounding areas and nearby Bristol (I actually stayed in Bristol for some days, and visited Bath one full day from there). Bath was a well-preserved historical Georgian town, tourist guides explained. I also hoped to find the place where Selassie stayed during his period in exile. Just to get an idea of the surroundings where Selassie passed his days in exile.

Photo above: view of (central) Bath. I took this photo in 2011.

Bath was (and largely still is) a wealthy, stately town, with Georgian architecture, though with some “cosy” parts, and even some seemingly “rougher” parts, though it came across mainly as a wealthy, “middle-class” town. The large house/villa where Selassie stayed was called Fairfield House, served as his residence, and was in an outer, green part of Bath called Newbridge, close to several smaller and larger parks. Perhaps ironically the architecture of this villa was of the so-called “Italianate” style.

I walked through Newbridge and got an idea (with all the other knowledge I gathered about Selassie by then in my head) of how it must have been for Haile Selassie to have to leave Ethiopia to come to these Northern European, British surroundings.

Photo above: street in Newbridge, Bath. I took this photo in 2011.

The “Autobiography” covers up to 1937. The Ethiopian-Italian conflict as a foreplay of World War II – i.e. Fascist Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936, and what lead up to it - are important topics in especially the latter part of the Autobiography, which is understandable, as he wrote this in exile soon after Italy’s invasion.

I became later in the work adjusted to the practical, formal focus of Selassie, but actually found it pleasing and educational as well. Thinking it through, I think it reflects some type of humility, of being dignified while realistic. Even when criticizing what he saw as wrong or evil actions by his enemies within Ethiopia, or the Italian wickedness, political tricks, and violence, the lack of support from the international community at times for Ethiopia, Selassie’s tone is critical but not very emotional or spiteful. Dignified, you might say. In these memoirs, Selassie certainly also recurringly makes broader (higher or deeper) philosophical and religious (Christian) references, which show his worldview and beliefs. There is quite some wisdom here and there in the Autobiography as well, alternating at times the practical elaborations on economics, agriculture, infrastructure, organization, trade, military actions etcetera with deeper (or “higher”, if you will) philosophical and social insights.

This combination of philosophy, practical development, and politics – furthermore written in a historically significant year, 1937 – helps make this Autobiography an insightful read.

BALANCE

In addition, and going back to my “knowledge trajectory” regarding Haile Selassie, it seems an interesting coincidence that Selassie’s own writings on his life and work followed, in my case, after I read, heard and saw so much about what other people said about Selassie. Opinions ranging from positive about Selassie to negative/disparaging, and from “praising” reggae lyrics, biased or less-biased commentators or biographical information from Western and European scholars/historians, of journalists, to opinions by other Ethiopians and Africans.

I find that you can be inspired and taught by life stories of people, especially when they were innovative or influential. When they had odds to overcome and aimed for the positive. I had this with the life story/biography of Marcus Garvey, even to a degree Bob Marley or Peter Tosh, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, or, for that matter, people like Pablo Picasso, James Brown, Kemal Ataturk, William Pitt, Charles de Gaulle, Toussaint Louverture, Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde etcetera. Artists as well as political and social leaders. These are often also “positive examples” for one’s own life. I really experience that this way.

Yet, even biographies of people with “dubious” sides like Napoleon Bonaparte, Muamar Khadaffi, or Stalin can be instructive, as of people who are not commonly known as really good or bad. Also the life story of (they say) a distant relative of mine, Manuel Godoy, prime minister in Spain around 1800, inspired me somehow. Such biographies give insight in personalities, the mere humanity of them when they made choices, and we all share that humanity, making the stories imaginable, even when dealing with other times and conditions.

I am interested in biographies/life stories, but also in autobiographies and memoirs: because then the person talks about himself “in his own words”. I think it’s good for balance: to put these own writings alongside what others say. My distant relative Manuel Godoy was a political leader in Spain, around 1800. There were many (positive and negative) comments about him then and later: he was what you call “controversial”. See the Wikipedia article on him, for instance. Godoy’s own memoirs, written later in his life after he was removed from power following popular uproar and was living in Paris, France, were – not unlike the discussed Selassie’s memoirs – more on his political role and with little attention to his personal and intimate affairs. Still interesting to read, I imagine even if he was not (as I heard all my life) somewhere in earlier branches of our family tree. Indeed he was from the same part of the province Badajoz, as most of my Spanish family (my mother’s side), and that surname Godoy was one of the two carried by my grandmother (in Spanish custom people have two official surnames, as readers may know).

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, a lesson I learned from all this, is that you must not neglect what the person him- or herself has to say about him-/herself and his/her life, even if many other people feel the need to comment on or describe him/her from the outside. Every human being needs to be given attention, listened to, and not just talked about. That’s my idea of a better world. Even when disagreeing with or not really understanding someone.

While many Rastafari adherents admit that Haile Selassie (re)connects them to an (ancestral) African history and identity, making him (Selassie also as symbol) important for the Africa-focussed redemptive movement that is Rastafari, quite other people writing or commenting on Selassie have also their own agenda, quite to the opposite of the Rastafari movement. One of these agenda’s was separating, through given honours and welcomes, the Christian monarch Selassie, the ancient dynasty and monarchy and extensive cultural heritage found in Ethiopia - and Ethiopia’s independence – from the rest of supposedly more “savage” Africa, as the British and French and others did as part of a colonial “divide and conquer” game.

Selassie corrected this himself with his leading role in organizing African unity and the Organization of African Unity (headquartered in Addis Ababa, since its foundation in 1963) since the 1950s and 1960.

On also a more cultural and spiritual level, the Rastafari movement also “reinscribed” Selassie within and as part of Africa, as of course he and Ethiopia always were.

One may or may not share the actual “spiritual” belief that Selassie is God (called Jah by Rastas), or more specifically the reincarnation of Christ as God returned to redeem Africans – as some Rastas believe –, or at least that (as many Rastas argue) Selassie is the divine Jah, still living because everliving, redeeming Africans (all Black people) now and in the future. People who find such beliefs irrational would be less hypocritical if they applied the same rationalist scrutiny to powerful world religions as Christianity or Islam (or Hinduism, Buddhism etcetera). People have the right to choose their own spirituality.

In any case, apart from personal beliefs one may have, the redemptive function of Selassie for Rastafari adherents, Africans, Black people - and perhaps even for poor developing countries in general - is real and proven. As also from other life stories, besides this I think all human beings globally can learn something from Selassie’s life.

This is, I think and conclude, largely due to the overall intelligent way in which Selassie ruled Ethiopia and protected its and later Africa’s interests, as most writings I mentioned above showed in different ways. Despite difficult conditions, and conservative traditions to be considered, Selassie maintained dignity, and achieved progress in Ethiopia in several ways, wherever possible at least, and also for African unity. Moreover, in the international arena he took an early stand against Fascism, against racism, and colonialism, in other words: in favour of international equality and solidarity. All this adds up to a positive example.

SHORT POSTSCRIPT

My “knowledge trajectory” is by the way not over (it never is.. as I live I keep learning): there is a Volume II to the Autobiography by Selassie I discussed, Volume II dealing with a later period of Selassie’s life and rule, also in his own words.. I have to find this to read it as well..

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