Rainbow Police


This is just a small extract from part 2 of Somewhere Under the Rainbow – if you like it, feel free to support the author and buy the book!

If people in the Rainbow can at times seem intolerant or superior at times it’s probably a reflection of our collective insecurity. Some of us come to the Rainbow as a way of rejecting mainstream society and some subscribe to the new lifestyle with all the zeal of new converts. Nonetheless it’s also true that the Rainbow is inherently fragile and unless our culture is protected it risks becoming just another free festival. The Rainbow survives largely by example. There’s no constitution, no membership and no way of keeping the Rainbow way of life alive other than by living it.

With such a loose structure it continually amazes me how much agreement there is about what is acceptable behaviour in the Rainbow. Almost everyone is grateful to be in a space where no one drinks alcohol, everyone understands the importance of not polluting the rivers with soap and no one walks around with headphones on listening to their favourite Mp3’s.

But then there are more nebulous questions in the Gatherings that come down to one’s interpretation of the Rainbow spirit – can you send an SMS to family to let them know you’re okay? Is it okay to use tampons? Can you secretly keep a tin of tuna in your tent for when you feel your protein levels dropping on a diet of mushy vegetables and rice?

People in the Gatherings tend to just make up their own minds about this kind of thing but they’re usually not done out in the open for fear of being jumped upon. Some things do affect the general atmosphere – I personally have no hesitation in asking someone who insists on making a phone call to go climb a mountain first – but what about if someone lectures a sister on the folly of wearing nail polish?

That we respect certain principles in the Rainbow are part of what makes it such a special place to be. But the moment those principles are seen as rules and prohibitions the door is opened to the kind of legalistic, punitive mentality that we hoped to leave behind in Babylon.

Enter the Rainbow Police.

At the height of the European Rainbow in Finland over half of the people gathered were Finnish and they embodied the polite, respectful behaviour that seemed to me part of the national character. It also meant, however, that they took the Rainbow very seriously and there was such an atmosphere of conformity and obedience that some in the Gathering felt their spirits recoil against it.

‘Okay, so there was a fire ban but we could have had a little fire inside our tipi,’ one Italian brother laughed in exasperation, ‘We’ve been doing this for years. And alright, the owner of the land wanted our dogs to be on leashes but you can’t keep them like that for 24 hours a day for an entire month!’

The Italians in particular felt the atmosphere to be so stifling that on the last day of the Gathering they decided to teach the Finnish a lesson. All of them veterans of many a Rainbow, they bought a hundred cans of beer and sat drinking in the parking lot with the stereo on their van playing loud.

‘Then we let all of our dogs run free and we went about the camp lighting fires,’ one Italian brother told me gleefully, ‘the Finnish came to put them out and we’d light another one a little further along!’

Once again I was reminded how important the biodiversity of the spirit is to the Rainbow. In every culture the figure of the Trickster looms large, the mischievous personage in mythology and art who shakes everything up with his anarchic, free-spirited behaviour. The Rainbow can certainly take itself too seriously at times. There are zealots and fundamentalists within our ranks – and they, too, have their role to play in maintaining  tradition – but ultimately it’s not the letter of the law that keeps the Rainbow alive but the spirit we feel inside. And that knows no rules.

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book about rainbow gatherings

Photo by Joth Shakerley

This is just a small extract from part 2 of Somewhere Under the Rainbow – if you like it, feel free to support the author and buy the book!