At the Rainbow Gathering, we call our security system “Shanti Sena”.
American English speakers pronounce this “SHON-tih SEE-nuh”. It is how we deal with conflicts and fights and crime and anything else that is dangerous to our community. Shanti Sena responds to these without violence.
Shanti Sena is a Sanskrit phrase that was first used by the followers of Mahatma Gandhi. Literally translated, the two words mean “peace army”.
They did not mean an army that fights with weapons and imposes its will with fear. They meant people acting together with the power of an army to bring about peaceful resolution of conflict, and peaceful control of people whose behavior is threatening and discomforting to others – without resorting to violence. It was a force that wages peace instead of war, and builds rather than destroys.
Still, some gatherers (including many military veterans) don’t want to join an army, so they prefer the phrase “peace scene”.
Either way, the goal is peace.
Violence means hurting, wounding, crippling, killing. We do not allow it to continue if it starts, and we don’t respond to it with more violence.
If you are the victim of a crime, or if someone starts to be or threatens to be violent with you, or if you observe this happening to someone else – you can summon help by calling loudly, “Shanti Sena! Shanti Sena!”
Effective Shanti Sena strives to make conditions where nobody ever has to call for it. We watch out for each other, and try to detect problems early, BEFOREthey erupt into strong emotions and destructive behavior.
We notice when someone seems to be having a hard time. In the gathering environment, it is easy to become dehydrated and have low blood sugar from not being able to find food. One can lose all sense of time and not take medications at their proper intervals. First time gatherers can find themselves unprepared for cold weather, and even seasoned ones can succumb to heat stroke. People can take drugs without knowing what they really are, and have reactions they weren’t prepared to deal with. If we find a person in trouble, we befriend that person and strike up conversations, and try to persuade him to go to a kitchen or other place where he can find support from lots of people. (“He” can be “she”, as the case may be.)
If we observe tension building between different people or groups of them, we first talk with both of them separately, then invite them to council together and work out their differences.
If we find children who seem to be lost, we try to find out who their parents are and where they are camped. If we can’t, we take them to Kid Village and then go to the kitchen area and make sure someone there knows a lost child has been found. (We don’t just drop them off and leave.) We also inform Info.
If a situation necessitates a call for Shanti Sena, the most basic principle is to gather enough people with good calm energy to overpower and diffuse any bad agro energy.
This is expressed in the saying, “We are ALL Shanti Sena”.
All who hear a call for Shanti Sena respond by going in the direction of the call, (unless they would have to abandon critical activities, such as tending a cooking fire). If you respond to a call and find the situation already under the control of several people, you can stay back and not add to a possible mob scene, where bad emotions can be mutually amplified. But if there are only a few other people around, you should join the effort in the best way you can.
Certain members of the Family have been recognized as having special talents in dealing with people problems, and some of these walk around with two-way radios and make responding to Shanti Sena calls their main job at a gathering – but they are not a police force that does the job for you. Shanti Sena is not something that a person IS, it is something that we all DO – watching, warning, helping, and acting together.
You can do the following when you respond to a call for Shanti Sena:
Try to maintain and instill calmness. Encourage reasoned discussion without raising voices or making threats.
Those responding to the call can join hands in a circle around the people concerned, while one or two deal directly with them. An Om may be started by those around.
(If a situation involves police officers, do not completely encircle them, but leave a gap to allow them an escape path.)
If you take upon yourself the role of peacemaker who deals directly, the rule to follow when starting out is: do not touch a person in any way. Don’t resort to physical restraint unless it becomes necessary to protect the people around. Don’t try to impose hugs or other acts of affection.
If someone is on a bad psychedelic drug trip, engage him in a conversation where you listen and respond to what he says. Things that seem to have no logical connections can turn out to be rational after you have listened to them long enough. Let him work off excess energy within the confines of your circle until he gets tired. Sometimes it can take several hours until he comes down, so stay with him or find others to take over.
If there is an altercation going on between two or a few people, let the people who are apparently the victims speak, then let the apparent attackers give their side of the story. Ask both of them what the matter is, and encourage them to talk in terms of feelings and behavior. What were the things that were done that made them angry or afraid, and why did these do so? Don’t encourage name-calling or respond to it, and don’t let people go off on quoting law or abstract creeds. We are not in a court where we assign guilt and punishment; we are mediators who find solutions agreeable to all.
Often it is a good idea to get all involved to agree to come to a council a few hours later, after everyone has had a chance to calm down and regain their rational abilities. This can especially be the case if it is nighttime. Councils are best held in daylight, when people can see clearly and this affects their thinking.
If actions to defuse tension with words fail to keep violent and dangerous behavior from occuring which must be restrained with physical force, we do not respond with more violence.
The following actions are violent, because they risk physical injury to the person you do them to:
Pulling on hair or other parts of the head, or sticking things in eyes.
Using martial arts techniques like karate blows or judo throws. Those who study these arts learn how to survive them safely. Ordinary people don’t, and can be injured by them.
Tying up with ropes or wrapping with duct tape.
These actions also risk legal injury to you. You can possibly face charges of assault and battery in a court.
The Shanti Sena idea is restraint, not defeat. You don’t stop the attacker by killing or incapacitating. You render him incapable of harming others until he is removed from the victims, or until he is in a stable state of mind and no longer dangerous to others.
The following techniques can be used for physical restraint that does not injure:
(This hold is illegal in high school and college wrestling because it can be dangerous. Again, be careful!)
If someone is in a drug-induced state and moving unpredictably and dangerously, you can get ahold of one of his hands in an affectionate manner and then brace your forearm against his while you hold it with your other hand, letting you keep him from walking away from you. Keep up a conversation as you do this, and don’t let him on to what you are doing until you’ve done it.
The two best positions for restraint are sitting on the ground with hands held on opposite shoulders, or prone with people holding both legs and arms. An alternative to tying up or duct taping is to roll a person up inside a blanket, or get him into a sleeping bag, but this is used only when there are not enough people around to restrain by holding. Here tape or rope may be applied to the outside. If this is done, someone must always remain with him and provide him with water if he needs it, or help him smoke a cigarette if he wants one.
These actions must be continued only for the duration of the emergency. Leaving people behind in restrained states can bring legal charges against you for kidnapping or false imprisonment.
The ultimate sanction at a Rainbow Gathering is expulsion from it, and this extreme measure is to be decided only at a council of several people where the person to be expelled is present.
If there is a consensus to expel, that person is escorted out of the gathering by enough people to guard against anyone who wants to take vengeance. An expulsion lasts until the end of the gathering it occurs in, including cleanup. Future gatherings remain open to all peaceful people, including sinners who want to repent.
If someone has committed a felony crime such as rape or murder, or a person has become completely beyond the ability of Rainbow forces to maintain the safety of others, it can be decided by a council to turn that person over to police. This is only after all Rainbow alternatives have failed. If we do this, we work with the deputies of the local county sheriff. We don’t call the Forest Service law enforcement officers.
If a victim wants to report a crime to the police, that person should be willing to press charges and show up in a local courtroom. The court case will that individual vs. the offender, and not “Rainbow Family” or “Shanti Sena” making the complaint. This may mean return trips for that person months after the gathering is over. The integrity of the crime scene for forensics investigators must also be maintained. It should be roped off and watched.
If someone remains in a drug induced state for several days, or if it becomes apparent that someone has a serious psychiatric condition, that person can be transported to a local hospital if that person’s relatives can’t be found and contacted. At least one person must commit to remaining with that person if necessary and continue to be available as a contact.
Bear in mind that someone ejected may try to come back, and that people taken by police can appear in court and be out again on bail, and this time be even angrier than before – so vigilance must be maintained.
Shanti Sena is all of us working together to diffuse tension and eliminate violence.
We watch out for each other and try to ease tension before it builds up and snaps.
We overcome agro energy with calm.
We respect the people on all sides of conflicts, and we strive to come to solutions that are agreeable to all.
We do not respond to violence with more violence, and we do not injure others if we have to restrain them.
We work toward the goal of peace for all.