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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Racism and the Rainbow Gathering

As many long time gatherers know, the gathering has always had a small percentage of participants who are people of color.  I've sat in many a circle where this has been discussed and you may have as well.  The basic premise of the rainbow is to be inclusive of all peaceful people. Yet we are falling short of what I believe most gatherers would like to see (Just an aside, I don't speak for anyone but myself).

For the last 2 months I've been participating in a series of conversations on race and racism at San Diego's Peace Resource Center on some Saturday mornings. We've watched films such as Women Talk About Race in America, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible, and Cracking the Codes: the System of Racial Inequality. We've had small and larger group discussions on the film, various talking points, and even how how the format of these get together have fostered or subverted racial inequality. If you haven't seen these films, I encourage you to watch them, get the study guides and work towards building a just society for all humans and this beautiful planet we call home.

As I have been participating in these sessions where we tackle hard issues, I've been trying to examine the gathering for racism and racist behavior by gathering participants. We all know the gathering is comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds and differing beliefs and we sometimes see less conscious behavior than many people would like to have present at a gathering. That being said, there are some situations built into the intrinsic nature of the gathering that can be very challenging for people of color and I am hoping we can all gain consciousness on how to mitigate these issues.

One of the big challenges I see is the need to run the gauntlet on the way in. As a middle aged, currently middle-class, woman of European ancestry, I'm one of the least likely people to get hassled by the cops on the way into the gathering or once on site. I try to us my position of privilege to protect those more likely to get hassled, like my younger family and my family of color by keeping my body between the cops and my family. But I am only one body.  Given that cops are more likely to shoot and/or arrest people of color trying to come home, how to we create a safe space for people to get from the outside world into the gathering?

I've also been thinking that my ability to live outside of mainstream culture and to exit and enter as I wish is a privilege of the color of my skin. Even when I have been living far outside of mainstream culture, I have the ability to take a shower, put on appropriate clothes, and enter places of power like court rooms, city council chambers, and banks and be treated with respect. This is the privilege of being able to openly defy mainstream culture.

Living in a major city in Southern California where winters are quite mild compared to the rest of the United States of America, we have a very large homeless population  -- and a very large percentage of people living outside are of European ancestry. I often think about how few people of color live on the streets and how people of European ancestry can survive on the streets, while those of color are jailed or much worse.  So even among the homeless, I can see white privilege in action.

How do we address our relative impunity at sharing herb and the very differing rules the powers that be apply to those of color?

How do we create a space that feels safe to people of color without treating people differently. How do we address the way the outside culture responds to the gathering in an often negative fashion/ This negativity is impacts individuals differently depending on age, gender, race, and abilities. In other words, when we gather, we create a situation of open rebellion to the society around us. Rebellion has consequences, but individually, we do not experience those consequences equally. During the time of intense conflict between the Forest Service and the gathering, we had to navigate who was willing to go to what lengths to stand up to the Forest Services -- there were no easy answers then and there still aren't any easy ways to address a system in which the gathering is embedded.

Since I don't have any answers, I'll leave you with the voices of some powerful women who can speak to the issue far better than I can..

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Peace and the Planet (Part 5 of 5 of "Creating Peace")

In order to live in a peaceful world, we need to treat our planet, Gaia, with the respect, love, and attention to her sustenance with which we treat our children. Climate change is the result of mistreating our amazing planet. Climate change is about changing weather patterns that make it hard for people to find drinking water for their children, that create flooding of homes and agriculture land, and that wither our crops under relentless sun.

When people are hungry or thirsty, violence can easily erupt over food and water. Not just in Dafur but everywhere including the gathering.  How then do we show with our actions that we are actively working to protect Gaia from climatic changes that threaten world (and local) peace?

Reduce the number of campfires. Burning carbon increases global warming. Plus if you see the cloud of wood smoke in main meadow at a gathering, you'll realize that reducing the number of campfires will improve the health of every gathering participant. Click here to learn more about the negative impacts of campfires on human and planetary health.

Reduce/reuse/recycle - adopt a zero waste lifestyle. Only buy products that you will consume or that will last you for a long time. For example, buy rice in bulk with reusable containers instead of throw away plastic packaging. Buy reusable forks and knives for a gathering not single use plastics. Packaging and throw away junk contributes to climate change. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that by cutting the amount of waste we generate back to 1990 levels, we could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.6 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE), the basic unit of measure for greenhouse gases. To learn more about how what you buy creates climate change, click here.

Plus the less stuff you bring to a gathering, the less stuff YOU need to haul out when you leave. You would be amazed at the amount of camping gear that gets left behind at a gathering.  Re-use that tent or find a loving home for it if you do not want it anymore. Don't leave it behind for the cleanup crew.  YOU are the clean up crew. The less we buy and bring to the gathering, the less clean up we have to do. Buy food in bulk, bring gear to keep you warm and dry and forgot about the rest. Recycling of aluminum cans takes energy which contributes to climate change.  Use reusable stainless steel containers for your beverages and stop giving your money to the multi-national conglomerates like Pepsi and Coca Cola who don't care about the seventh generation and are wrecking your health and the health of the planet.

Put your money where your mouth is. Walk your talk.  We can change this world by spending our money in ways that create the change we want to see in this world. Shop at your local co-ops. Buy locally grown produce. We can make a difference, one person, one family, one clan at a time. Let us follow the wisdom of our Lakota siblings and heal this beautiful planet that gives us so much.

We are the people we have been waiting for to create a future for the next generation. How are you going to step up and create the change for which Gaia is praying?

Together we can change our future

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What is Peace? (Part 4 of 5 of "Creating Peace")

A common point of discussion when working towards peace is defining what peace is and isn't, what it looks like, which activities are considered "peaceful" and which are not.

I think at the extreme ends of the spectrum, most people can agree on what peace is and isn't. For example, most people would consider dropping bombs on other people to be the opposite of peace. Most people would consider the silent prayer/meditation for world peace and the om to be examples of peace.

That's the easy stuff. In fact trying to define peace can cause even the most peaceful among us to be less than peaceful.  So what do we do if we say we want peace, but we can't even agree on what peace looks like, feels like, acts like or talks like?

I'll throw out a couple of high level ideas, but even these are subject to much discussion. I hope you continue these discussions in the circles in which you find yourself. If all goes as planned, I will be doing a few workshops at the gathering on "What is Peace and How do We Create Peace?" -- hopefully I won't be the only one.

In Creating Peace, Parts 1 to 3, we looked at some of the foundational aspects of peace (click on the topic "Creating Peace" under Gathering Topics on the right hand side of this blog).
What is Peace?
First graders have a very good concept of peace (image from Miss Krug's Our Grade One blog):

Some people view peace as the absence of war or violence. Perhaps this view comes to us from  Ancient Greece in the goddess Eirene the goddess of peace, who also celebrates decisive battles that end wars. If we subscribe to this paradigm, we probably are following the axiom "the ends justify the means."

Another high level view of peace is one that focuses on harmony and tranquility that can take the form of an inner state or a state between people. We can say she is always tranquil and peaceful or they have a harmonious marriage.

Peace can be considered as cooperation between people in a social group or culture to maintain a certain level of social order. Keep in mind that slavery existed in the USA during times of peace and for me, slavery does not equal peace.
Liberian Women for Peace

The Global Peace Index (GPI) attempts to identify countries by their level of peacefulness focusing on various formal military measures, prisoners per capita, refugees, wars, etc. 

In the last hundred years, peace has been tightly coupled with the idea of non-violence. So now we have to define what non-violence is and how non-violent  methods contribute towards creating peace. Now I'm sure most of you are familiar with the teaching of the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. -- all of which emphasis non-violence --another problematic concepts. Defining non-violence is just as hard as defining peace (but I think by now you know how to approach this issue.)

The Dalai Lama offers these words, "Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free." Of course now we have to figure out what "free" really means. For example, do we include the freedom to harm others in free? Or are your freedoms curtailed when they impact my freedoms? How does your pollution impact my freedom?

Peace is often negotiated between groups of people. For example, a family, school, city or state negotiate what they see as peace.

International Alerts writes, "

Friday, March 11, 2016

Sustenance and Safety (Part 3 of 5 of "Creating Peace")

One of the foundations of creating peace is making sure people are prepared, in the right mindset, and able to do the hard work that creating peace entails. Sustenance and Safety are the building blocks of peace.

Sustenance takes care of our bodily needs. We can't think well when our blood sugar is crashing or when we are dehydrated. Adequate food and water is a must for all in order to be able to even discuss peace (stay tuned for part 4 of Creating Peace).

One of the most important actions a person can take at a gathering is making sure everyone is eating and drinking plenty of water. This year we will be in the east and that generally means moister gatherings and lot's of sweating. One gallon a day of water that has been boiled for 20 minutes or filtered with a 0.2 micron or smaller filter is a must.

When people haven't eaten or are dehydrated they act out. When they are in these conditions for too long, they get sick.  When you combine these issues with over-indulgences, we have a recipe for problems that can impact the entire gathering.

Prevent the problems by making sure you and the people in your vicinity are eating and staying hydrated. Be on the look out for people who look like they aren't getting food and/or water and help them before they start breaking the peace. 

Now for the tough topic: safety.

Safety is a bit harder to come by because what constitutes a feeling of safety is a very subjective and emotional feeling.  To explain what I mean, we'll talk about the estuary by my house.  The salt marsh and estuary have been channelized to prevent flooding and on either bank is a trail. The east side is a paved path that hooks up with bike paths to the north and south. The west side is a dirt road with trees providing shade on a warm day as shown in the image.
The Estuary

People in my neighborhood have very different perspectives on the estuary. Some people view it as a haven for criminals and are afraid to go down there especially after dark. Other people loving taking their kids down to watch the Great Blue Herons and Osprey trying to rustle up a meal.

Now you would think there is some logic as to who feels safe at our estuary and who is scared, but so far I haven't observed any patterns.  I see people with small kids down there watching the sunset and in the early morning many seniors walk their dogs. Then I meet other people in their thirties and forties who are scared to go down without a large group of people because once upon a time someone had a bike stolen (maybe 10 or 15 years ago).

In addition to the herons and hawks at the estuary, one finds the differentially housed: people who live in tents or throw down a sleeping bag under a bush for the night.  Some people are scared of people with different lifestyles then their own, others exchange pleasantries with everyone. Some people who live in non-portable houses are scared of the differentially housed. Others make friends.

Every time I speak at a community meeting, some people go off the deep end on how dangerous the estuary is and others talk about how it's an asset to the community.  I know that I can't change people's opinions about which is which. Plus trying to address how people feel is tough. Your feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are.

Low crime rates do not make people feel safe. Community makes us feel safe.

So having said all this, how do we help everyone feel safe at the gathering?

One way we can do this is to treat others the way they would like to be treated -- not the way you would like to be treated.  Try finding gentler voices. Look out for each other in peaceful ways and make sure the people in your vicinity seem comfortable. We all have different levels of tolerance, sensitivity, and fear. Honor that.

If someone looks uncomfortable, they probably are. Introduce yourself. Smile at someone you do not know.  We all feel more comfortable when we are around friends. Share your gathering wisdom. Pay more attention to body language. Learn to pick up vibes from the people around you. If you sense that someone is afraid of a situation, help them to feel comfortable by either staying with them, removing both yourselves from the situation, or trying talking to the other person about their fears in a supportive way.  Just because the situation is comfortable for you, doesn't mean it's comfortable for everyone.

Honor our differences and our need to be treated accordingly. Help each other on this journey.

Please pay special attention to law enforcement officers. A scared cop is a dangerous cop (remember Wyoming 2008?). Turn down the volume on negative energy by oming instead of cussing when you do not like a situation.

Think about how you would like others to act around your three year-old child and your ninety year-old grandmother and act accordingly.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Love (Part 2 of 5 of "Creating Peace")

The rainbow family is full of love. We shout "we love you" to the sky, to other gathers, to the earth upon which we gently walk.  I have many friends whose children were conceived at the gathering.  We shower love as best we can on people who are unhappy about our presence in their neighborhood. We love all our siblings (brothers, sisters and transgenders), even the ones we do not like all that much.  We love the person who didn't pick up their dog shit, but we want to talk to them about it as well.

We even have a somewhat sarcastic phrase "loven you" to indicate our concern without being too mushy. With all these types of love floating around, how does love contribute to creating peace? Does the manner in which we love matter or does it matter more how we express our love?

In English we are limited as we have one word for love. The ancient Greeks had four separate words for love:
  • storge - kinship or familiarity
  • philia - friendship
  • eros - romantic and or sexual feelings
  • agape - self-emptying or divine love

Spanish has many words for love:
  • encantar - indicating strong like
  • gustar mucho - indicating strong like
  • querer - to love romantically, to want
  • afición - enthusiasm
  • amado - sweetheart 
  • amor - pure love, romantic love
  • caridad - charity
Love is also an emotion. A very strong and powerful emotion.  How many of you have made decisions based on amar, agape, caridad, eros, and storage? I'm guessing everyone.

For the romantics among us, love is what creates beautiful art, amazing music, and sleepless nights.

For the biologists among us, love is a biological function like hunger or thirst that creates attachments between people, thereby insuring their survival in a dangerous and hostile world.

For the psychologists among us, love is not only a feeling, but a series of actions. 

Unconditional love is a common theme of most of the major belief systems and is one of the often unspoken foundations of participating in the phenomenon commonly called the Rainbow Gathering.

So what does all this have to do with creating a culture of peace?

Well besides being a slogan from the 1960s, using love as a way to create connections strengthens our interpersonal relationships. If we love someone with whom we disagree, we are highly motivated to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone.  If we have no personal attachment to other living beings, then we can more easily ignore their perspective and we often do not care about their  happiness.

Yet loving each of our siblings all the time is challenging. Some of our siblings act out, behave poorly, don't clean up after themselves, steal, fight, or are just downright mean. What then?

Then we muster our agape and our caridad and try to make that connection. We try to befriend our siblings. By finding a connection, we are creating a relationship. It may be storage it may be afición, but if we can love another person in the worst situation, then maybe we can use that relationship to work towards peace.

But to be clear, loving someone does not mean you accept all their actions.

True love is being able to love your siblings person while calling them on their bullshit (in a loving manner). 

True love is being able to communicate in a loving way why specific actions are hurting you, the planet, or other living creature.

True love is a meditative practice we undertake as we deal with the frustrations, interruptions, disappointments and annoyances that fill our lives.

 Let your mantra for this year's gathering be I love all my siblings and this beautiful planet we call home.

Love is the path towards peace.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

On Climate Change and Ride Share

As we all know, burning fossil fuels contributes to greenhouse gas emissions that over the long haul are changing weather patterns. From less rain on the west coast to more snow on the east coast, we are seeing the impacts.  This blog is dedicated to the annual 4th of July rainbow gathering and not for me to proselytise about issues with which I am actively involved. I live about ten feet above sea level along the coast so my house is going to have to be propped up on stilts like those in the Louisiana Bayou if all human beings on the globe due not get a grip on how we are treating mama earth. All that being said, this is the first of a series of blog posts on gathering related issues that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What is climate change?

I'm sure everyone reading this knows that automobile emissions are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.  One of the best steps we can take to help Gaia and ourselves is to engage in ride share on our journeys to and from gatherings so that we burn less gas, burn the gas we burn in cars that get better mileage and make a friend. Every year, people without rides are trying to find rides and those with vehicles are preparing their vehicles to head home. Once we know where home is, bus information to the nearest stop will be posted.  But in the mean time, there are a number of options on hooking up those with rides, but space for a rider or two and those without rides at all

Star's Rainbow ride share board is the oldest web based rainbow ride share board.

Many people have posted on the local Craig's list board for their local city. Google your city name and Craigslist, then under the "community" section, there is a "ride share" section.

Go to your local rainbow potluck, picnic, drum circle and talk to people.

If you Facebook, visit one of the Rainbow Ride Share boards:  Rainbow Ride Share Redone or Rainbow Ride Sharing. Disclaimer: there are probably more of these on Facebook since groups seem to spin up all the time.

Once you've made a connection, take the time to visit with your potential riders at your local coffee shop, community park or co-op and discuss the ground rules. Is smoking in the car acceptable?  Is this going to be a non-stop drive from wherever to home?  Are pets allowed?  Who will be driving (someone with a driver's license and insurance)?  How much is a rider expected to chip in for expenses? Who is paying for motel rooms if that's where you plan to sleep along the way?  What is allowed in the vehicle?

Once you're on the road, be respectful, help out in anyway possible, be safe and don't rush it.

While it's important to start loving all our family en route to the gathering, if you don't feel safe sharing a ride with anyone, just say no.

If you're planning on hitchhiking, use the buddy system, only do it during the day when you can more easily see what kind of a car you're getting into.  If you have a fancy phone, take a snapshot of the license plate and send it to a friend so in case something happens, we know where you were last seen. Only take rides that your gut tells you to take. Better to take three days to make it home and be safe then risk a bad ride.  Remember it is illegal to hitchhike on the interstate in many states including Montana and position yourself where a driver can safely pull over.

Trust your instincts.  If a situation feels unsafe, get yourself to safety ASAP.  We want every belly home in one peace.

Best time to arrive home is before noon. If you're 100 miles from home at 10 PM, crash at a local campground, motel, or friend's house. Then get up at 7 AM and come home.  The last few miles into the gathering are often twisty dirt roads and you may be driving 20 miles per hour.  The hike from where the car is parked to where you decide to set up camp may take one to six hours if you know where you're heading, longer if you're trying to find that just right spot.If you don't normally live at a high elevation, it will take you a few days to get your mountain legs so you'll be moving much slower than usual.

Every year I see intimate relationships take a hit over the stress of the last fifty miles into the gathering, parking, hiking and getting set up.  Why do it when you're exhausted and you're doing it in the dark?  Arrive early in the day and then you'll be able to see where you're driving, hike your gear in more easily, see the how the gathering is disorganized and enjoy the process.  Plus if you need to make two trips to your car, a 10 AM arrival will give you plenty of time.

No matter how you're coming home, please be safe, look out for one another, and help a traveler in need.  The gathering is in your heart. Be the gathering as you travel home.

Finally, if you don't want to get a mandatory court appearance for a broken taillight, read this info on the right hand side of this blog.