Language in Redemption Song -Freedom and Iyaric

Freedom and language are intimately associated

When we speak we are expressing more than just thoughts. Language expresses states of being, ways of perceiving the world, ways we view the self and our relationship to others. And the Rastafarian movement knew this, and used it to the fullest advantage. The words of Marley and all the other Rasta poets and writers captured our attention in the states not just because the sacrament of cannabis is something Americans seem to love. It’s because the language has freedom built into into it.

“We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind … “

Redemption song came up on Pandora while I was driving today. I love it when that happens; one of the best songs ever. Mid song, I pulled up to the coffee shop where I was deciding whether to work on new intake paperwork for my chiropractic practice or write this post about the importance of language and mindset through the lens of Iyaric, the Rastafarian language. A guy I can only assume was a personal trainer had the quote “None but ourselves can free our minds” on the hood of his truck. Deal sealed, lets talk Iyaric.

Language establishes mindset, and taking control of language is one of the most powerful revolutionary acts one can commit. The Rastafarians chose to shift their thoughts to be uplifting, to rise above, through speaking words of life and empowerment. Livication replaces dedication, because it’s about life, and “ded” is gone from this otherwise uplifting word of empowerment. Know replaces believe.  It is a more powerful statement. Chiropractors sometimes speak of this difference. In older times, when your MD would dismiss you from care because you were seeing a chiropractor, you had to “believe” a chiropractor could replace your MD to make the risk of being dismissed from care feel safe.

Chiropractors do not “believe” in chiropractic. We “know” based on objective scientific knowledge that it works, and we “know” how it works based on physiological research. And as much as we appreciate it when patients tell us they “believe” in what we do, those of us who understand where this phrase comes from wince a little inside when we hear it.

In Iyaric I replaces me. Thus the odd phrasing in Redemption Song.

“Old pirates yes they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I from the
Bottom less pit”

Me is felt to transform the person into an “object” or a noun. You can own nouns, because they are things. While I is more subjective, a verb in this context, an act of being. In Hebrew, and Rastafarians see themselves as the lost tribe of Judah, the African Hebrew diaspora – I Am, the name of God, is a verb. One of my favorite books on religion “God is a Verb” by David Cooper, describes this. You cannot own a verb. It is an unfolding process. To be a verb, is to be free.

Perhaps some readers dismiss this as a childish manner of interacting with the world. After all, many of us, myself included, developed unique language expressions with friend groups in high school. But think about that for a minute. We make up words, slang, phrases, mannerisms of speech, when in adolescence, as a means of expressing independence from our parents, community in general, as a safe act of rebellion. It is something that assists our transition from children with identities based on parental influence to adults capable of crafting independent views and thoughts.

Verb Based language

And this extends to cultures as well. English is a noun based language. Not all languages are noun based. Many Native American languages are verb based. As a result, these two cultures have completely different mindsets and ways of being. To speak a noun based language is to express dominion and ownership over the landscape. You are, in effect, declaring what something “is” and defining your relationship to it based on the fact that you have enough dominion over that “object” to name it. Perhaps your relationship to this noun is one of ownership. Perhaps it is one of enmity. But it is rarely one of cooperation, because you and this “object” are both separate “things” one with more power than the other.

Verb based languages describe processes and actions, without the need to declare an “it” that is acting. Ownership and power relationships would be difficult to establish in such a language, as processes cannot be “owned” they simply occur. This is how you get Manhattan for glass beads. A noun based language of commerce and dominion encounters of verb based language of relationship. Miscommunication is bound to occur. These cultures see the world differently, and interact with each other with different sets of expectations. Noun based languages are from Mars and verb based languages are from Venus, perhaps?

How we speak determines who we are. And this is the beauty of the Iyaric language, it is a discipline of mind, a manner of mentally freeing oneself from the mindset of the oppressor, or “downpressor” as they would say in Iyaric. By watching words, speaking in a completely different manner, one is able to transform their entire mindset, and see the world in a new light. It is a defiant act of creation, in which a new lens, with new creative potential is crafted, for the purpose of overthrowing the status quo and preparing the world for something new.

We should all aspire to at least examine our language and languaging, the way we use words, our word choice. Our words create our mindset, and as we change our words, we change our minds. As the lyrics say “None but ourselves can free our minds”

Photo credit: monosnaps via Visualhunt / CC BY


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