The Difference between Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility

By February 16, 2017Participate, Principles

I like the idea of talking about the principles of Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility at the same time because while they are often intertwined, there are distinct differences between the two. Both of these principles are about how we interact with other people and while communal effort connects us with others to create exponential results, civic responsibility makes sure we interact safely and respectfully.

Communal Effort is what creates our amazing theme camps, most of our larger scale art projects and the day-to-day workings of Blazing Swan as a whole. With teamwork and co-ordinated efforts, our community often functions as a result of a commitment to co-operation and collaboration, maximising everyone’s contributions to bring forward incredible spaces and experiences.
Communal effort is the principle that encourages us to embrace the fact that, so often, the sum of what we do together adds up to being way more than we could have achieved individually. Every time I attend Blazing Swan I am always stunned by what everyone creates together and I always feel so grateful to all of these incredible teams and committees that work together around schedules and limitations to make Blazing Swan what it is. It’s impressive to say the least.

What happens when we work together is more than what we produce though. It’s also where we benefit personally as we connect and communicate, where we form bonds of trust through co-operation and generate new social networks. Teamwork generates connectivity and we can feel both supported and included by working together on common goals, often while we forge new friendships.
Communal effort is not always fun though and does actually require us to put in effort (which we can make as fun as possible). For example, we don’t need to join a camp at Blazing Swan but if we do, simply being a member of a camp is not really enough. We are almost always expected to contribute a solid effort to achieve the camp’s goals and activities, especially if we want to be a valued member. On a wider scale, the principle applies to all burners regardless of whether they belong to larger groups or camps and is something that we can take with us on our journey each day. Everywhere we go there will be opportunities to assist and engage with others.

For people who can make a commitment to showing up sober every now and then, volunteering to be Ranger, Greeter, Firey or MOOP patroller is a great way of making sure you will experience the pride, joy and connectivity of Communal Effort. Alternatively, if you have access to valuable things like transport and materials, or specialised skills and qualifications including medical personnel and tradespeople you could offer some time to the community, there’s bound to be someone looking for exactly what you have to offer. To find out more about connecting to Communal Effort and volunteering or register here.

Civic responsibility is probably the only principle that we must adhere to. While the others are ideal and desirable, civic responsibility is a necessity and sometimes requires a clear and informed reality check. The main thing that we need to remember is that laws existing outside Blazing Swan generally exist inside Blazing Swan. With the exception of things like public nudity and large public artworks that say CUNT, we are generally bound to comply with Australian law. Every blazer (from individuals to theme camps and organising committee members) needs to be mindful of Occupational Health & Safety, Environmental Health and Risk Management overall. There is the occasional visit from the boys in blue on site and there is plenty of Government Agency paperwork to be done beforehand by our hardworking organisers but mostly it is up to us, as a community, to self regulate and keep everyone safe.

Apart from the bigger picture stuff where you need to get permits for structures and have your electrical equipment tagged, a classic example of individual civic responsibility would be responsible service of alcohol. Lets say someone is inebriated and disorientated while they are wandering alone. A blazer with a gift of tequila to share who takes this principle seriously will suggest, or even assist in finding a glass of water or recommend a place to rest for a while rather than pouring fuel on the fire by offering a shot glass. Another example might be the responsible storing and preparation of food that is to be shared with other people. If food is your intended gift, then please make every effort to understand how to safely deliver your gift. There are Environmental Health laws about how to handle food safely and this information is readily available on the internet.
Without civic responsibility our community structure could easily break down. We need to think carefully about our actions and contributions and regularly check in with ourselves about our duty to those around us. Generally we should try to make sure that whatever we undertake, offer or construct has no lasting negative impact on our fellow blazers and that wherever possible we ensure there is little to no risk that they will be injured or impacted by our activities.

Getting consent from others is also important as we aim to protect people’s rights to refuse participation at their own discretion. It’s not okay to take photographs of people without asking unless they are in a crowd in which case it’s probably more acceptable – but please be discretionary. Publishing photos on any media forum of people whom you have not sought consent is definitely not okay and might reduce some fabulous acts of self expression due to fear of footage and photos being published to the outside worlds.

More enforcement measures, regulations, rules and directives become necessary the less people take on and embrace their civic responsibility. As needs are bound to arise, the community performs its own moderating functions by enlisting many volunteer rangers, fire fighters and MOOP patrollers to keep everyone on track when we might occasionally wander.
Volunteering is a great way of showing that you understand and value civic responsibility. It also is a fantastic way of gifting for people who don’t know what they can give.  Volunteering costs nothing and often opens up new links and adventures. When you volunteer, you don’t have to do heaps of stuff – it just requires you to be sober and willing to assist the community from time to time.

So it’s pretty simple really. Blaze respectfully and with integrity and keep everyone safe so we can all party and play again soon. Civic responsibility – it’s the bare necessity!