Russell Brunelle (russellb) wrote,
Russell Brunelle

Thoughts on the Rainbow Gathering

In no particular order:

  1. I was amazed that something this complex (and involving over 9,000 people) could occur with essentially no organization, and essentially no fixed leadership. Of course it isn't perfect, but it's like the proverbial talking dog: you're amazed to see it work at all.
  2. Insofar as the Rainbow Gatherings are pretty much the purest remaining expression of 1960's counterculture, it's interesting to note that nobody there seems to have a personal problem with the troops in the current two wars. In fact, many of the attendees proudly identified themselves as Vietnam veterans, and neither this nor American flags seemed to raise any eyebrows.
  3. Heavy alcohol use causes more behavior problems than essentially any other recreational drug. Pretty much anyone who went to college could tell you that, but at the Rainbow Gathering this lesson was impossible to miss: despite drug use being pervasive (to say the least...), the only behavior problems I could see were all at the "alcohol camp."
  4. The best way to fit into a completely new environment, in which you don't know a single person, is to find a way to volunteer to do something useful (e.g. safely shuttling people to and from the parking area in my case).
  5. I think many Rainbow Gathering attendees would do well to try a little harder to understand the perspective of the Forest Service. Yes, the Rainbow Gathering volunteers work exceptionally hard to restore the land to at least the same condition it was in before the gathering, and they succeed (the before/after pictures I saw were remarkable), but there is no guarantee a different gathering would be as conscientious. Without a permitting system, it seems to me as if there's nothing preventing a similar gathering of the same size on national forest land by a different set of people who don't even try to "leave no trace." Good faith should be assumed here, I believe: after all, nobody joins the Forest Service because they hate forests, and nobody joins the Forest Service to get rich.
  6. Even when it comes to the environment (i.e. the issue about which most hippies are the most passionate), these days it seems to be business leaders, mainstream politicians, and scientists who are having the greatest positive impact. Try as I might, I did not see or hear anything over the course of my experience at the Rainbow Gathering which seemed that innovative, or which I believed would catch on within the larger culture. Having said that, in fairness it is not clear this is the goal: to many folks, despite the lofty rhetoric used in its promotion, the Rainbow Gathering seems to be as much about having a good relaxing time as anything else.

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