How I became a right-winger at the Rainbow Gathering

By on July 10, 2008

How did a groovy musician, like myself, become a raving right-winger

(just to the right of Attila the Hun)? Well, I learned an economic
lesson at the Rainbow Gathering.

My first Rainbow Gathering was in 1983 in Michigan. As I made the
trek into the woods and passed the sign that said “Welcome Home,” I
did feel a deep sense of being truly at home. I fell in love with the
Rainbows and their effort to create a self-reliant community that
completely rejected most aspects of dominant society, including
private property and money.

I remember meeting an incredible character at that gathering. This
guy was wearing a long white robe and no shoes. His hair was in
cornrows with beads and bells tied to each strand. All he had in life
was a sleeping bag and a tambourine.

I asked, “How did you get here?”

He said, “I hitchhiked.”

“How did you get a ride?!”

“It wasn’t easy, but I always got the right ride.”

I was (and still am) so inspired by the radical independence of the
Rainbows and the way they “let their freak flag fly” and didn’t care
what anybody thought about it.

At that Michigan gathering, I realized I was being pretty tame in my
radicalism, so I tried out quite a few clothing configurations –
dresses, batik skirts, turbans – and of course non-clothing options
(I got the nickname of Mr. Naked from one resident of Wenzel Lane).

I spent the next three years hitchhiking around the country, going to
Rainbow Gatherings, visiting communes and working for nuclear
disarmament. I was extremely ambitious in my non-conformity and
radically independent.

My conservative epiphany came at the 1985 Rainbow Gathering in
Missouri. I threw myself fully into helping with the makeshift
kitchens and into digging latrines – doing everything I could to make
the gathering work. I wanted this counter-culture society to last
year round, not just two weeks every summer. But the harder I worked,
the more there was that needed to be done. As fast as I dug latrines,
other Rainbows would fill them up. I started to take notice that
about 10 percent of the folks were doing 90 percent of the work,
while the rest of the gang was just hanging out.

I started to realize that in a world without private property, where
you got what you needed whether you worked for it or not, there would
be an overwhelming majority of folks who would do very little or
nothing, and a small minority of folks who would be called upon to
carry the load until they got burned out.

I realized that people won’t reach their full potential unless they
are rewarded for making an effort, and that the free market is the
fairest way to implement that work vs. reward equation.

I’m writing this editorial from my secret camping spot in the Gros
Ventre Mountains. I planned to write naked in honor of the Rainbow
Gathering, but it’s a bit chilly tonight. I’m still a freak inside,
but I keep it mostly under wraps. I try to dress like the natives and
behave properly (out of courtesy), but I’ll never forget the lessons
I learned at the Rainbow Gathering.

Judd Grossman and his wife, Mary, are the publishers of Planet Jackson Hole.

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