Being a smoker, I spent the entire three-day trip downstairs in the smoking compartment. In that carriage was a crew that defined the term "motley." Let me put it this way: I had been deliberately out of work and living in a van for five years at the time, because accounting had stopped doing it for me. And yet I was far and away the straightest person in the group. We were all tobacco fiends, though, and that can be a good enough connection with strangers. That, and being sandwiched together in a metal tube, reversing the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.
Most of my fellow travelers on the mighty Empire Builder were heading for that year's annual North American Rainbow Gathering. The Gathering is "a nonhierarchical and egalitarian convocation of people who come together on public lands to expose the ideas of peace, love, freedom and community, and to try to live free from Babylon or popular culture." (For insurance purposes, the term "festival of weirdness" will suffice.)
In many important respects, the inaugural Bermuda Captive Conference in mid-September, also a three-day experience, was utterly different. In other ways, it was exactly the same.
The differences were obvious enough. No one at the BCC, for example, was stoned out of his gourd on drugs (probably). Nor gulping Jack Daniel's for three days straight (although I didn't attend the BCC social events, so we cannot be certain). No one at the BCC was wearing tie-dye or feathers. Many at the BCC, I'm guessing, had bathed in the previous 20 years. Most of them enjoy--nay, are proud of--their Babylonian heritage.
The similarities between the two proceedings were more interesting. Chief among them was the overpowering sense of community. The Warriors of the Rainbow (as they call themselves) shared a set of hopes, beliefs and ideals. Ditto the Warriors of Self-Insurance. In both cases, the ties that bind ran deep indeed. The attorneys who specialized in captive insurance are the spiritual brethren and sistren of the health-care captive owner, and their cousins, the captive managers, in exactly the same way that the peaceniks, stoners and sundry other psychotics were at one with each other.
Had I asked, most of the Rainbow brigade would have derided insurers for their conformity of thought and appearance, their uniform of open-necked shirts, Dockers slacks and comfy shoes. The Warriors, of course, were arrayed in their own conformism: anything old and dirty. Insurers, however, know they are conformists. A point to them for that.
The BCC was a more comfortable experience--there was food, for one thing--but the motivating spirit was identical, I swear?which is odd, on the face of it, because two more clearly dissimilar groups of people one could barely imagine. Ah, but people are people everywhere, man, which is a point to the Rainbow people.
The 2006 Rainbow Gathering will be held in Colorado, if last year's lawsuits can be worked out. Why not work it into your schedule for a change of pace? If you do, dress very, very casual and don't mention your love for Pamela Anderson.
ROGER CROMBIE, a writer, editor and former accountant, is a regular columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He also covers issues on alternative risk for this magazine.
November 1, 2005
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