One of the biggest questions that anarchists face when spreading the message is "If it works so well, why isn't anyone doing it on a large scale?". Unfortunately, most anarchists stumble at this question, because they don't realize the correct response is: "they are".
This is a work-in-progress paper on the Rainbow Gathering, and specifically the importance that I believe it holds to the freedom movement, both as proof-of-concept and as an already established global network. I am very much looking for input, please give any feedback, ask any questions, and generally just let loose, so that I can create the most fleshed-out writeup possible. I'll also be breaking this down into a couple of pieces, just to keep the word-count down and hopefully get less people to gloss over it.
- Part 1: Introduction, Key Principles
- Part 2: History, Original purpose of the gathering, Interactions with the state
- Part 3: Layout, Camps & Kitchens, and Infrastructure
- Part 4: Conflict resolution, Consensus-based decision making
- Part 5: Rainbow outside the gathering, Conclusion
The largest, long-running experiment in anarchy is something that most have never even heard of: The Rainbow Gathering. Since 1972, this metropolis of freedom and healing has been forming all around the world, often with a population in the tens of thousands. In staying true to the nomadic nature of humans, the gathering is not a single physical location, it is a set of principles & agreements, a way of being, that coalesces around the world for weeks or months at a time. This is not to say that there aren't any permanent Rainbow Gatherings, as I will get into later.
The things that bring humans together from all around the world, with widely varied cultures, ideologies, lifestyles, and even languages, are the principles that they live by, the basic understanding that everyone operates under. Some of these things are never even discussed, but the container has been established so clearly and intentionally that they don't really have to be. These principles encapsulate the basics of anarchy/voluntaryism, but take it (much needed in my opinion) step farther as well.
1. You can do what you want, as long as you aren't hurting or threatening anyone else
This is quite simply the basic idea of self-ownership and the non-aggression principle. Whether you want to drop acid and run through the forest naked, build a giant net-fort in the trees and make bird-calls at people, or bring ounces of DMT and sit next to the trail sharing with passers-by, you are free to do you.
2. Give what you can, take what you need
The gathering is a place where nobody is forced to give anything in order to get the necessities of life. If you are hungry, go to any kitchen, and they will feed you. If you are hurt, ask where CALM (the medics) are, and they will take care of you. If you need a sleeping bag, start asking and you will have one before you know it. The gift economy model functions extremely fluidly, and everyone ends up with more than they need. I myself am a chef in a 24-hour kitchen, and all that I ever have to do is yell "we need dishwashers", "we need firewood", or "we need veggies chopped", and I will always end up with more volunteers than I know what to do with.
3. If you find a job, it's yours
This principle falls right in line with the previous one. Since the Gathering is a place of true freedom, that means that it is also a place of true responsibility. We are all responsible for taking care of each other. If you notice that a compost pit is full, a kitchen is out of firewood, a water reservoir is empty, you now have a responsibility to make sure that problem is solved. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to physically solve the problem, you may not be physically capable, or even know what to do. Everyone can, however, spread the word until they find someone who is capable of solving it. By taking responsibility for any problem we find, everyone makes sure that the Gathering remains safe, clean, and functioning.
4. Everyone at the Gathering is your family, treat them as such
At Rainbow, you will never see 2 humans who just met shaking hands; they will always be giving each other a hug. Throughout your time at a gathering, you will hear crowds getting together and screaming "We love you!" at the top of their lungs, with the cry rippling through the forest. As you make your way down the main trail for the first time, with all your gear on your back, hundreds of people will say "Welcome home". One of the biggest things that separates the Rainbow Gathering from any other kind of event or community on Earth is the remembering that we are all truly one human family. As with any micro/macro-chosm of a family, and as the name suggests, Rainbow has people from every part of the spectrum. Doctors, veterans, street-kids, Christians, Hebrews, Hare Krishnas... In this place, they set aside the illusion of separation and live in the truth of the love that we all are.