Of all the aspects of Rainbow I can write about, few have as much applicability as the means of conflict resolution and decision-making at the Gathering. Let's dive right in to part 4!
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.
- 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 (this post)
- Part 5: Rainbow outside the gathering, Conclusion
The incidences of violence & aggressive conflict are greatly reduced at a Gathering compared to the world at large, thanks to the container of love and compassion that has been created, the recognition of individual sovereignty, and the lack of alcohol. On those rare occasions when violence of some sort does break out, Rainbow is already prepared for it. The term is Shanti Sena, which translates to "Peace Army", and everyone at the Gathering is Shanti Sena. If someone sees a fight breaking out, they yell out "Shanti Sena!", and everyone within hearing repeats the call, while also moving towards the origin. As the shouts ripple outward, there are soon dozens of people on scene to help out. The idea of Shanti Sena is to nonviolently de-escalate the situation, only resorting to a physical response when absolutely necessary (usually involving simply pulling people apart, or tying someone to a tree who is unwilling/unable to be talked down). Workshops and trainings on Shanti Sena practices and principles are quite common at the gathering, and can present newcomers with many skills that are applicable anywhere in life.
Working with the Portland Peace Team at a March in Portland
This model has been adopted by outside organizations like the Portland Peace Team, where I had my introduction to de-escalation tactics. I joined the team in 2014, and attended various events as part of the team, helping to calm down those who get aggressive, and also acting as a buffer between police & protesters.
Consensus-Based Decision Making
All decisions of any import at/about the Gathering, from where the next one will be held, to what will be bought on town runs, are made by consensus, usually by humans gathering in a circle. One of these circles, called councils, is probably happening at all times in a Gathering. These usually look about the same, with a group circling up, with some topic that needs to be discussed. Most often, o open the circle, everyone holds hands, breathes together, and generally ohms and/or sings together, often followed by someone explaining what the purpose of the council is. From that point, a talking stick/feather is passed around, and everyone has the opportunity to speak when they have the feather. Consensus has been reached when nobody has anything else to add.
Councils are generally open to everyone who wants to attend, or everyone who is affected for smaller-scale decision making. By deciding not to attend, you are trusting your family to reach a decision for you, and in many cases it doesn't make sense for everyone to attend every council. If you don't ever work in a kitchen, you wouldn't have much to add to kitchen council, just as someone who knows nothing about architecture or construction wouldn't have much to add to a council about building a house.
Some examples of common councils:
- Main Council begins after the Peace Prayer on July 4th, and goes on for hours a day, until a decision has been reached on the general area for the next year's Gathering. This process often takes many days. Once a general area has been decided, the council is over, and for the next year, scouts explore National Forests in the region, taking pictures, making notes, and doing general research. All of this leads back around to Spring Council.
- Spring Council begins in early June, at a central location in the region that was decided for that year's Gathering. Everyone who wants to be involved in choosing the exact location of the Gathering is welcome to attend. The scouts present the data they have collected over the past 10 months, and council operates in the usual way, until a decision has been reached. Once that happens, the GPS coordinates & directions are put up online, and Seed Camp begins, with folks building kitchens, clearing trails, running water lines, and digging shitters.
- Kitchen Council happens every morning of the Gathering. Representatives from the kitchens meet up, circle, and balance inventories, discuss any issues with the water supply, and come up with a list for whoever is going to town on a supply run.