Rap on Rainbow Disorganization

I grabbed this off AGR the other day, and thought it was a good rough description about the "Organization" of a Rainbow Gathering. One thing about this kind of article is that if you asked 20,000 people about the Rainbow "organization", you'd get 20,000 somewhat different answers. The one main thread though would be the openess and tolerance for different beliefs, as well as the elevation of the individual's "rights".

Subject: [Long] The Politics of the Rainbow Gathering
From: Marty

(Note: This is my own opinion about Rainbow Gatherings based on my attendance at a few of the events.)

There are no official organizers or leaders at Rainbow Gathering. All work, including all management of the work of others, is done by volunteers. Even the gathering council, which makes (a very few) important decisions affecting the whole gathering, does not generally appoint or establish roles at gatherings. There is no centralized management of any of the major operations that keep the gathering functioning. All tasks are handled by individual (self-selected) volunteers or small groups of such volunteers. These smaller groups organize themselves using the same consensus-based decision-making mechanism as the gathering council.

There is no organization behind Rainbow Gatherings, nor an infrastructure. The system of individual cooperation is sufficient to make it all work. After the gathering is over there is no remaining social or legal entity until the following annual gathering. The closest thing to a permanent entity associated with gatherings it probably this usenet newsgroup (A.G.R.) on which you are reading this message.

There is unanimous resistance to any attempt to organize the gathering by defining official roles, especially roles of representation or leadership, as these would usurp the principle of individual equality, freedom and autonomy that is the organizational basis of the gathering. There is also resistance to defining any organization that would represent the gathering, as this would also violate the most fundamental principles of the gathering.

There is no payment or official reward system for work done at the Rainbow Gathering. The main incentive for volunteers is the personal satisfaction of assisting others at the gathering. In addition there is no funding apart from donations collected during the gathering, and all of the funds are spent by the end of the gathering.

There is no official belief system or political ideology (apart from populism) common to participants at the Rainbow Gathering. The official purpose of the gathering is simply to pray for peace, but even that motive is optional. Atheists, for example, are completely welcome at the gathering. The range of political viewpoints range from radical leftist to extreme right wing. The only viewpoints which are likely to receive criticism at the Rainbow Gathering are authoritarian or racist viewpoints, since these contradict the inclusiveness and openness implied by the populist basis of the gathering. Such unpopular viewpoints, however, do not preclude participation. Such people are still accepted as full participants, or at least tolerated, at the Rainbow Gathering.

There are no rules of conduct for participation in the Rainbow Gathering. There are several suggested safety and practical guidelines (e.g. sanitation guidelines), but they only address the logistics of a large group camping in the woods, and are only the minimum guidelines necessary to make the gathering safe for all participants. Most of the guidelines are not written down but are passed on by word of mouth. A few of the key guidelines ("Rap 107") are agreed upon and written down by consensus of the gathering council. Even these guidelines are not officially enforced but are either voluntarily followed, or enforced by pressure from other individuals. There is no official mechanism or policy of enforcement if individuals refuse to comply with the guidelines. This is not viewed as a problem but as an acceptable risk since individual freedom is the key feature of the gathering. Each participant is autonomous and responsible for controlling their own behavior. (This freedom is prized for its entertainment value as well for its ideological appeal.)

There are likewise no guidelines or rules, or official security team, addressing dangerous or unlawful misconduct, nor is there is any official mechanism or policy for excluding anyone from a gathering for such misconduct. Once again it is the responsibility of individuals to behave responsibly, and to protect themselves and others from people engaged in harmful misconduct, short of engaging in vigilante actions. Law enforcement officers (of which there is no shortage at the gathering) are called upon as a last resort, when unlawful behavior places others in immediate danger or when a crime victim chooses to press charges. In response to dangerous misconduct participants often react swiftly and decisively, often en-mass, to protect themselves and each other. Even though this protective response is voluntary and sometimes dangerous, it is strongly motivated by the satisfaction of assisting others, and it contrasts sharply with the fear and apathy toward crime that prevails in urban areas. In spite of the willingness to risk themselves in the defense of others, very few gathering participants are armed. Arming themselves would violate the nature of the peace gathering, and voluntarily disarming is also considered an acceptable risk.

Although the Rainbow Gathering occurs on July 4th, a US national holiday, the event is not national, or nationalistic. It is officially a "North American" annual "gathering of tribes," indicating international scope and a rejection of the nationalism that accompanies authoritarian governments of both the classical left and right political wings.

Rainbow Gatherings are occasionally criticized by liberals/leftists who wish to see the activist energy of the gathering turned to political ends, and from conservatives/rightists who see the populist theme being dominated by various leftist agenda. The ideological unity of the gathering comes only from the populist ideals of individual freedom, autonomy and equality. These ideals appeal to participants from both ends of the conventional political spectrum. In some respects the populist, individualistic appeal of the gathering outweighs the classical left-right political alignments. The real political focus of gatherings could be described as populist, and the conflicts between the US government and the Rainbow Gathering could be interpreted as a conflict between populism and pro-corporate big government.

In the current two-party political system of the US government, both the left and right use authoritarian big government to achieve their ends: the right uses national security or religion as the rationale for authoritarian control, while the left uses social and environmental problems as its rationale. Both parties are hopelessly corrupted by power and money, and both have allowed big government to undermine individual rights and freedoms.

The gathering reflects a national populist trend of people reacting against the overwhelming self-serving power of big government and corporations which it serves. Those from the classical political left tend to focus their attack on the power of corporations and their impact on the poor and the environment, while those on from the classic political right tend to focus on the power of out-of-control, self-serving big government. Now the poles of political ideology are authoritarian v. populist, and within the populist camp the classical left-right polarity is redefined: the libertarian party representing the extreme right; the reformed party, conservatives; the green party, liberals; and the anarchists representing the extreme left. Most others tend to support the two party system by default, in the hope that their candidate is the lesser of two evils.

The populist appeal of the Rainbow Gathering could be the key to the Rainbow Gathering's unity, as well as an indication that the gathering is anything but a non-political event. It is populism in its purist form, representing a rejecting of authoritarian government power. The primary significance of the gathering occurring in this era of the the dawn of the internet, is that for the first time in human history direct participatory (i.e. pure) democracy may soon be possible. Rainbow Gatherings may provide some insights of how such a government could function, at least on a local level.