The man and woman had waited all year for this celebration. They had worked on their new art exhibit day in and day out, and had only just finished a few weeks ago. The clothes that they were going to wear were chosen carefully, as they should be not too hot, not too cold, rugged, but casual at the same time, oh and don’t forget unique and memorable.
Getting to the event was an event all of in-itself, whatever they had to carry-in, they had to carry-out. So, lightness and reusability was key. And oh, carting in a week’s worth of food and water, in addition to any adult beverages, also had to be taken into consideration. The people, you see, were on their way to Burning Man, a festival held every year in the deepest darkest desert of Nevada. That’s right. Burning Man is essentially temporary alternative utopia, a city of some 70,000 people that is created overnight, with streets and toilets and all the necessary things a person needs to live in the hot desert weather. And then, just a short-time later, the city is deconstructed, torn down, with not a trace left behind.
Burning Man is a technological neo-hippy party for adults with very strict rules. The idea is that people are able to come together and re-write the rules of society, celebrating mankind’s creativity, while being free to do whatever one wishes. That’s right. As Jacobian writes — “In principle, the annual Burning Man festival sounds a bit like a socialist utopia: bring thousands of people to an empty desert to create an alternative society. Ban money and advertisements and make it a gift economy.
Encourage members to bring the necessary ingredients of this new world with them, according to their ability.” That sounds pretty interesting, right? But are there rules?
Jacobian continues by writing — “Burning Man is guided by 10 principles, among them the concept of self-reliance. Everyone who attends the event — which is part festival, part music show and completely dusty — must make their own advance arrangements for food and water. Commerce is strictly prohibited at Black Rock City, aside from ice and coffee, which are sold by the organizers to raise money for local schools.” That’s right. Money is essentially forbidden! But how does that work?
The Irish Times explains this by saying — “One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is “gifting” – not selling or trading, but giving things to people with no expectation for anything in return. That’s right, you can walk up to a bar and get a drink if you want one – that’s the extent of the de-commodification of the festival. However, you’re not just there to take, so people come prepared with their own things to offer the festival.” In addition to gifting, USA Today notes — “That means every attendee is responsible for all of the food and water they'll need for a week. Event organizers provide outhouses but not showers.”
Art is prevalent, with massive structures being built and lasting for only weeks at a time. Business Insider writes — “For this year's festival, the artist duo known as Hybycozo is creating a set of three glowing balls. From smallest to largest, they will be called "Marvin," "Starship Bistromath," and the "Heart of Gold."” It continues by noting — “The two California-based artists, industrial designer Sergei Beaulieu and former Google employee Yelena Filipchuk, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project. After less than two weeks, 310 backers had pledged over $33,000 to bring their vision to life.” Just think about that 310 people agreed to support the artists dream to create a unique piece of artwork that will only be around for a few weeks! Pretty amazing, right? In fact, the festival culminates in the burning of an effigy of a man as a tall as a building, and that is where the party gets its name – “Burning Man”.
Of course, all amazingness aside, the bittersweet note here, as Jacobian once again notes, is that — “… capitalists also unironically love Burning Man, and to anyone who has followed the recent history of Burning Man, the idea that it is at all anti-capitalist seems absurd: last year, a venture capitalist billionaire threw a $16,500-per-head party at the festival, his camp a hyper-exclusive affair replete with wristbands and models flown in to keep the guests company.” That’s right. In a place where there literally is no money, somehow the rules are different for the rich and powerful.
In fact, Salon wrote — “…. The most elaborate camps and spectacles tend to be brought by the rich because they have the time, the money, or both, to do so. Wealthier attendees often pay laborers to build and plan their own massive (and often exclusive) camps. If you scan San Francisco’s Craigslist in the month of August, you’ll start to see ads for part-time service labor gigs to plump the metaphorical pillows of wealthy Burners. The rich also hire sherpas to guide them around the festival and wait on them at the camp. Some burners derogatorily refer to these rich person camps as “turnkey camps”.
As the world continues its big wobble, with uncertainty around every corner, like Turkey formally invading Syria, Hillary Clinton’s mysterious health concerns becoming more mainstream, Trump’s apparent flip-flop on earlier statements, and Germany’s government telling their citizens to stockpile 10 days of food and water, it is nice to know that some things remain constant. Whatever good the common man will do, the rich will always find a way to corrupt it and twist it for their own benefit. And that, comrades, is comforting.
So, what do you think dear listeners — “Are rich people just better people?”