Why Rainbow Serpent must continue | opinion

As the Emperor of Rome Marcus Aurelius put it, “Almost nothing material is needed for a happy life”.  We must acknowledge that the current way of living leaves little room for the expression of self. We need moments of madness as corrective to how we view ourselves mostly in the world. We get easily caught in the trap of external influences- advertisements, society, and media- all telling us how to think and act. No matter how little sleep we get or how sick we feel inside we are expected to have ourselves together to engage fully and productively in our working environment. Everyone is aware of the fact that the price of living is immensely high and this leaves little time for working on oneself. This brings me to my point. Rainbow Serpent is much more than just a party in the bush or an excuse to ingest illicit substances for the majority of people who eagerly await this week in January. It is a time of rejoicing, relaxation, a celebration of the unity of humanity, brought together by a deep passion for music, longing for freedom of expression and the Australian outback. The earth offers reconnection and the landscape offers clarity. The festival offers time to reflect and self evaluate; a refreshment that is so rare these days. As the Collective Evolution online says, “We are not automatons, but highly complicated, volatile collections of proteins that needs careful and sympathetic administration. We should expect that periods of madness just do belong to every wise and good life.”

LISTEN TO ARIANE VIRGONA ON 3AW WITH NEIL MICTHELL ON WEDNESDAY

Nothing is for everyone but many, like myself, find solace in this avenue. I am a new addition to the rainbow family and have been inspired by the power of a friendly conversation, the sharing of love, food, gifts and the electric energy of the crowd.  Images and anecdotal knowledge from peers and friends who avidly attend other festivals also claim that Rainbow has a spirit that is so unique and respected. I was talking to a man who attended the first rainbow with his wife who said that Rainbow is one of very few festivals that have remained true to its roots across the years. It was encouraging hearing that it has not caved under the many pressures of modern society to conform, but rather reveling in its distinct flair and keeping with the Indigenous theme. It acts as a reminder of our own cultural roots, which seems to be rare also these days.  

So why take that away from us because a small minority of people? However, I feel this uproar from police is necessary as it also allows the rainbow community to have their say, to explain to the general public why the majority of people attend and why we love it so much. It also acts as a platform for these offenders (in response to the statistics on 3AW segment –“Controversial Rainbow Serpent Festival could be banned due to criminal concerns” published on the 28th of January) to be questioned and shown the severity of their actions on the wider community and themselves ultimately. It is imperative to the long term trajectory of rainbow to make room for adjustment and improvement in what seems as the new generation of people who attend are not standing true to the mantra that is peace love and unity.

Why not just go out camping yourself you may ask? Festivals like Rainbow Serpent offer opportunity to interact and meet new people, people that perhaps usually wouldn’t appear in your social circles or within the workplace.  The less we know about what makes it so special the more magical it feels.

It restores the faith I have in humanity, serves as a reminder that there are people out there who are searching for what I am and that there are some good wholesome people out there. It washes away the build up of smog over my heart formed from everyday negativity, from the news and monotonous duties that is life in this society and this constructed reality.  

Sports, media and government run, or sanctioned events statistically have higher rates of the many claimed issues the Victorian police are highlighting as negative aspects of Rainbow Serpent. The fans at many soccer and football games reek havoc through violence and disruptive behaviour. Does that mean we shut the world game of soccer down due to the high risk that these games pose on other patrons or the players themselves? A woman (Sarah) was physically assaulted at the 2015 AFL Grand final between Hawthorn and Fremantle, during the match a middle-aged man, was verbally harassing a woman with two young children. The man then proceeded to walk over and physically strike the woman in the neck in an alcohol induced rage. For her first-born son aged at thirteen and her eight-year-old daughter, this experience has been a traumatic life-changing event. In comparison to the statistics that were shared on 3AW’s segment, Stereosonic was significantly worse, with a death this year also.  If Rainbow was to be shut down over this year’s so called ‘concerning’ statistics, I think that Stereosonic, for example, should have been completely banned by now.    

When you place 15,000 people in one area together there are bound to be some mishaps. It is merely a reflection of human nature rather than the festival itself, as it seems to be a common issue at many other festivals and large social gatherings in Australia.   Rainbow promotes unity rather than competition like all sporting events. In addition, Rainbow Serpent doesn’t serve alcohol. Statistics reveal, and I'm sure anyone who has been in the city late on a Saturday night, would know that alcohol severely impairs decision making, leading to a large array of harmful behaviour such as sexual assault. Rainbow doesn’t promote drinking as a necessity throughout the duration of the event and with this, orientates its focus on the celebration of music, nature, community and harmony with its name for starters.

Maybe the increase in the reported ‘trouble’ at this festival is a cry for help, or at least a cry for attention. Maybe we should view this as not what is wrong with people individually but as a whole. 

Just as Aristotle believed, moral goodness is the result of habit. Those lacking in moral virtues can change their behaviour over a period of time but it is not possible for there to be a quick fix for this behaviour. Change is possible. It takes time practice and encouragement. People who lack virtue should be considered unfortunate. These people should have better teachers and more guidance. Let our community continue to be the guidance for these people and the government or authorities to also act as guardians for these people to gain their respect and trust. Maybe these people are going crazy at these places of more freedom due to the mass constriction and suffocation in our nanny country.

I recently attended the National Gallery Victoria to see Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition. The artwork was inspiring and I was drawn in by Ai’s dedication to revealing truth through the depiction of his own life story.   I took a strong liking towards this one quote of his; “Expressing myself is like a drug, I'm addicted”.  Rainbow acts as an avenue for this. Creative people are known to have a tendency towards being risk takers, thinking with their hearts and disliking rules. Ai Weiwei is an example of this. You can also see the similarities in the behaviour of some at Rainbow this year, people are kept in cages for so long that a chance to break free and soar and feel who you are, turns out to be too much to handle for some. Despite this I do believe that there are some people who come to these festivals and pollute the energy space with darkness with little to no intention of contributing to creating a magical vibe.  It is saddening to think that people would do this however I think we must continue to lead by example. Education surrounding proper festival etiquette may need to become more obvious.

Rainbow Serpent serves as rest time for our bodies and our minds. It allows people to wear, think, feel what they want and break away from normality. The pure pleasure of waking up to rolling hills all around you and to be dictated by the sun or the sound of a grumbling stomach rather than the hands of a clock brings us back to the primal way of existence- simple and effortless. The constant hum of the music acts as a pulse that brings humans together from all over the planet and brings smiles and purpose, rhythm and healing.

I was reading an article the other week about how women in Iran have to dance in secret. The risk of captivity is dangerously high each time that the eager dancers congregate, as it is illegal to express oneself in public in such a provocative manner.  It is extremely obvious what I am trying to say here… we are extremely privileged to have such a space where we can express ourselves in whatever fashion we seem fit and can also join together and explore raw human existence. Let’s not waste this nor give others a reason to put a stop to it.

You’ll always get those people who will say that festivals like these are ridiculous however it is clear that they have never been a part of such a community. Don’t underestimate the power of feeling completely free for a while.  So at least try it before you judge and be open to what Rainbow Serpent represents as well as what it has to offer.

Lastly, this serves as a good opportunity to shout out to those people who know that they attend these festivals for the wrong reason. I call for some self-evaluation. This press coverage gives great opportunity for the government to be realistic. Don’t take away the ability to connect with others or our beautiful landscape we so proudly call Australia but rather let’s implement increased drug testings at festivals and education in all realms of life. The education would encompass the background of the dreamtime and maybe even what goes into creating a festival from the bottom up- the money, time, effort and progression over the last 20 years (2017 will the 20 year anniversary). Moving past this lets celebrate the passion and love and acknowledge how influential an event like this has been and will be for years to come. Lastly, people of the Earth, lets respect this opportunity of expression and be grateful for what we have and let the media attention surround all the positive aspects of our gathering and prove the sceptics wrong.

*this article was submitted to The Courier as a letter to the editor