When caught in the middle of a heated debate between two fervent Rastas, my suggestion is to commit to a continual nodding of the head. This nod should not favour any particular argument, and should stay clear from showing signs of adoration or disgust. This was my strategy during a debate that occurred in a Rasta settlement outside of Bamako, Mali.
It was raining when I stepped into the taxi with Sister. I remember the blur of busy street lights as the taxi meandered through muddy avenues. We stopped before exiting the city. Sister steps out, and comes back in with a greasy paper bag full of grilled goat. “Eat” Sister says. I oblige.
We reach the settlement and are greeted by three Rastamen. Brother asks me to sit down with him as he prepares dinner; cassava mixed with canned vegetables.
“Are you hungry?” Brother asks.
“No, we ate.”
Brother looks at me and Sister, then smirks. “Grilled goat, eh?”
Sister retorts. “I know the man who raised, killed and prepared this goat. I went to school with his daughters. You know the man who put those beans in that can? Is he Koné? Coulibaly? Diallo?” She kisses her teeth and looks the other way.
“Rasta don’t eat meat.” Brother mumbles, scooping up a portion of his I-tal stew before pressing the rewind button on the tape-recorder. He presses play. Peter Tosh sings. I am that I am. The whole time, I have been nodding, not taking sides, just listening and pondering. Brother and Sister catch a glance of one another and smile. The rain beats heavy against our tent as Peter speaks truth.