Whose Burn Is It, Anyway?

[We'd like to welcome new author Whatsblem the Pro to Burners.Me. He's kicking things off with this monster of a post about this year's "Free Bird" controversy, and the vitriolic backlash related to the Temple Burn]

It may not be obvious to the casual eye, but nothing demonstrates the steep political and cultural gradient of Burning Man quite so handily as the behavior of the crowd at Temple burn.

Yes, there’s a significant political and cultural gradient at Burning Man. Contrary to popular belief, Black Rock City isn’t some kind of neo-Woodstock populated exclusively by contempo-hippies getting groovy and passing their bongs and dreadlocking tips around. Black Rock may be a place for a certain oddly-inclined swathe of humanity, but the swathe Burners cut is quite broad, and thus BRC’s culture has some very real diversity to it in spite of the many qualities that Burners share.

Like any cosmopolitan metropolis, Black Rock City is a bustling mélange of diverse cultural streams coming together; hippies certainly have their place, but so do ravers, punk rockers, industrial arts and engineering geeks, gun-toting Anarchists (minus the guns, these days), hard-working rednecks, pranksters of all stripe (often inspired by the Cacophony Society and the Situationists), devotees of the Church of the Subgenius, the Church of Eris, and the Church of Satan, survivalists, 12-Steppers, polyamorists, radical Feminists, iconoclastic geniuses, jet-setting career hedonists, mild-mannered blue- and white-collar workers, and, sadly, a certain percentage of garden-variety frathouse douchebags and sorostitutes who think they’re in Daytona for Spring Break. We’ve even got some wealthy Republican investment bankers in the mix, straight outta Wall Street. . . and as of 2012, a sudden massive increase in the number of undercover cops. Truly, as the saying goes: WE ARE EVERYWHERE.

When the Man was younger and the City less densely populated, there were a lot fewer rules. You could, for instance, get yourself and your dog good and drunk and then test your aim at the Drive-By Shooting Range at high speed if you were so inclined. . . but with the event growing by leaps and bounds came the decision that it was necessary to ban firearms and require vehicles to observe a 5 MPH speed limit. Pets were banned too; you can still get drunk, but you have to drive at a snail’s pace, you can’t shoot at anything, and Spot has to stay home and drink toilet water (poor Spot!).

The thing about the growing list of rules, though, is that by and large they’re there for clearly pragmatic reasons. It could be argued (it often is argued) that the rules are overly-protective and are destroying or have already destroyed the original spirit of the Burn, but the rules do tend to have a solid rationale behind them that is arguably sensible. Some of them are just plain inarguably necessary; 2012 gave us a horrifying example of that when foreign matter deposited in a porta-potty clogged the hose of a suction truck, causing the hose to burst catastrophically. The driver of the truck was hospitalized with pieces of shrapnel from the hose buried in his neck, accompanied by a heaping helping of raw sewage. Please: if it isn’t single-ply toilet paper and it didn’t come out of your body, it doesn’t belong in the potty.

Still, the necessity of some rules is more debatable than that, and whether or not the rules ruin your Burn is highly subjective and depends heavily on what the Burn means to you; regardless, it’s undeniable that the maternally protective and homogenously Left-wing thinking of hippies and hippie-like beings has made vast inroads on the more Mad Maxish and ruggedly individualistic influence of the Anarchists and Nihilists and Libertarians among us. It has been generally assumed that the inevitable increase in deaths and injuries that our population boom would have brought had the firearms and rule-free driving been allowed to remain would have been unacceptable. To the average person on the far Left, that all seems rather obvious and self-evident, and the largely unexamined assumption is that it has to be that way because that’s the only correct way possible. It’s the same with all the rules; there is little dissent among Burner hippies because every political stance comes with its own distinctive set of blinders, and those of the far Left tend to determine how the Borg sees things these days. It’s a mistake, however, to think that everyone agrees that the rules are necessary. The popular Burner motto “Safety Third” is hardly a new thing, after all, and is only partially a joke.

What happens when rules generated by the assumptions of the patchouli set run head-on into the more libertine sensibilities of dissenting factions?

If it’s a matter of written rules, you might get the kind of bad boy/bad girl behavior that, perhaps paradoxically, is so often exhibited by DPW workers. They may work for the Borg, but their cry of “fuck yer day” is not a sentiment commonly associated with hippies, or even Lefties in general. DPW has a mini-culture all its own; their roughneck abrasiveness and sometimes cavalier flouting of the rules are borne of a sense of entitlement (perhaps justified) that comes of heroically busting ass for long hours in a terribly hostile environment so everyone else can party. It’s to be expected. The more likely reaction among non-DPW non-hippies, however, is a reluctant acquiescence and adherence to the rules, peppered with some dusty muttering about how much better it was last year.

What about unwritten rules? Are they really rules at all, or just traditions? Whose traditions are they, and do we as Burners have a universal responsibility to respect and uphold them?

photo by Michael Holden

Ask people on the Playa, and most will tell you that there is a long-standing tradition of sitting in silence and mourning the dead or otherwise having a cathartic, spiritual experience – again, in silence – while the Temple burns down. Many will use the word ‘rule’ instead of ‘tradition,’ but there is no rule about remaining silent or indulging yourself in spirituality during the Temple burn.

There are always some people who ignore the tradition and make a little noise, and the 2012 Temple burn was no exception. The most egregious example, however, was a vehicle sporting a powerful sound system that violated the silence in a very muscular way by playing the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Free Bird” while the flames rose to the sky. As always, the ordinary noisemakers were vigorously shushed by the kind of people who have an exaggerated sense of the sacred. . . and as always, the shushers ended up making more noise than the people they were trying to silence. You can’t shush an art car with a bumpin’ sound system, though.

If the subsequent discussions that took place in various Internet-based forums devoted to Burning Man have been any indication, the playing of “Free Bird” upset quite a lot of people, and upset many of them very deeply. Sentiments have been expressed to the effect that this was a tremendous outrage that absolutely ruined the Burn, and that even ordinarily noisy individuals who lack electronic amplification should be very strongly discouraged from breaking the silence during Temple burn lest they too ruin the experience. So strongly, to some peoples’ way of thinking, that they believe noisemakers should literally be violently assaulted and injured for breaking the tradition.

That’s the typical hippie/Left-wing argument, anyway. It’s a persuasive one, both because it’s nestled in so many assumptions about what is correct behavior and what isn’t, and because the emotional impact of sitting in a crowd of tens of thousands of people who are all being silent is undeniably impressive. If you’re the kind of magical thinker who sees some things as being deeply sacred, the power of that experience may be multiplied tenfold.

What struck me most about the arguments and characterizations made by politically Left-leaning people in discussing the noise at this year’s Temple burn was that they tended to lump nearly all noise-making, regardless of its nature, into the same category: disrespectful, intrusive, unwanted rule-breaking, deserving of shushing, the most shocking insults, and even grievous physical punishment. That’s a product of the assumption that silence at Temple burn is absolutely right and deeply necessary, and that the tradition amounts to a de facto rule that only a lamentable fool or a contemptible, disrespectful jerk would violate. It’s one of those rare occasions when you see hippies snarling at people en masse and showing a propensity for physical violence.

Let me tell you the rest of the “Free Bird” story: the car that played the song was a DPW vehicle. They were memorializing the passing of one of their fallen comrades, who had the words “Free Bird” tattooed across his abdomen, and who was known for playing the song over and over when he wanted to playfully irritate his friends. As such, it seems to me that it was a thoughtful and perfectly appropriate way to say goodbye to him. They played the song only once, early in the burn.

Now let me tell you something about the tradition of silence: it’s an even older and more strongly-enforced tradition at the Rainbow Gathering, a festival that, rather than being a mixing bowl for many diverse streams of culture, is pretty much exclusively a hippie thing.

People mourn in different ways. In some cultures, high-decibel wailing and ululation are necessary parts of every funeral. In New Orleans, raucous live jazz tunes (like the traditional number “Didn’t He Ramble?”) are played both to celebrate the life of the deceased, and to sever the connection between his body and his spirit. There are cultures in which professional mourners are prized and paid well for their skill at providing convincing lamentation at high volume. Assuming that silence is the only proper way to mourn someone’s passing is both ignorant and selfishly provincial.

I can’t deny the powerful effect of sitting among tens of thousands of people who are all maintaining a reverent silence, but the fact is that this tradition, enforced as it is by large numbers of people who shush and shout people down and even threaten them with bodily harm, represents a force-feeding of Leftist hippie values on everyone who attends Burning Man, no matter what part of the political spectrum they occupy, no matter how spiritually inclined they may be, and regardless of what obligations for proper mourning they may owe to their own subcultural milieu. The tradition is a direct transplant from the Rainbow Gathering, and while hippies are certainly a welcome and vital stream of culture within the Burner family, Burning Man is not the Rainbow Gathering, and it does not serve the population of Black Rock City as a whole to allow one segment of our culture to oppress everyone else with their assumptions about how things are supposed to be.

It’s polite to respect the traditions that other people subscribe to, but there’s no need to sacrifice your own in order to satisfy their requirements if you don’t really want to. The lively discussions that have been taking place in forums like the unofficial Burning Man group on Facebook, though, have been filled with angry head-butting, mainly because elements of the hippie faction have been asserting the primacy of their subculture over all others. Rather than making polite requests that their wish for silence during Temple burn be respected, they demand it as something they are owed. They protest that all they are asking for is a little politeness, but the passive-aggressive nature of the ‘request’ is revealed when others decline to comply. It’s not a request; it’s a stern command from someone who is insisting that you modify your behavior to suit their aesthetic, because to their way of thinking the Temple burn is “supposed to be that way.”

Respect for cultural differences cuts both ways, and we all have to take responsibility for our own good time and our own mood. Your experience was ruined? That person who made noise near you during the Temple burn didn’t ruin anything for you; you ruined things for yourself and used your noisy neighbor as an excuse to do it. Perhaps that person was just being a loud, dumb, over-intoxicated douchebag, but they were still doing their own mourning and their own Burn in their own way. They were doing their Burn, not yours, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

DPW’s sonic tribute to Joey Jello was not so much an example of DPW personnel acting like entitled jerks as it was a valuable reminder that Black Rock City is a culturally and politically diverse place in which people must take care to refrain from forcing the template of their own assumptions and desires on others, and must take responsibility for their own experience no matter what those around them are doing. Claiming that you have a right to expect silence from others while the Temple burns is making the same argument that overzealous Christians use when they claim to have some kind of right to not be confronted with things that offend them, like Gay Pride parades.

Whose Burn is it? It’s our Burn, and we are everyone.

120 comments on “Whose Burn Is It, Anyway?

  1. Pingback: Caravansary – First Impressions | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Pingback: Temple of Decent Dance? | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. Pingback: Invasion of the Boy Bands | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  4. Pingback: Drone Bombardment Develops | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  5. Pingback: Silence, Violence, and Self-Reliance | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  6. As a member of DPW I was glad to hear Free-Bird playing for Joey, get a grip put on your big boy pants and get over it. I also have a job during the year that makes taking 2 months to go live in the desert difficult. Making room in my life to go do that is one of the toughest parts of going. The volunteer staff and paid staff of DPW are what makes it possible for the rest of you to show up. Nobody is getting rich off of burning man that is a part of the BMorg. I didn’t get my job because someone in the BMorg is my friend, I got it because I am a talented craftsman and I’m willing to work in the harshest conditions for long periods of time. Yup DPW seems from the outside to have self-entitlement issue, Put on our boots and see how the average participant’s entitlement rights feel like they are out of control. Personally if you don’t like it then don’t show up. I’m sure you could go do you own thing somewhere else. I’d like that just fine. The best part is that if Joey has the time to watch any of this he is laughing at the sad sacks who care about it at this point. If you really really have an issue with this don’t threaten violence there is a way to handle the problem.

    Listen all! This is the truth of it. Fighting leads to killing, and killing gets to warring. And that was damn near the death of us all. Look at us now! Busted up, and everyone talking about hard rain! But we’ve learned, by the dust of them all…Bartertown learned. Now, when men get to fighting, it happens here! And it finishes here! Two men enter; one man leaves.

    If you really want to deal with this then get in the Dome. Just face off and get over it.

    Puddin’

    Like

  7. Pingback: Burners.me – Sacred Cows and the Gift Economy? » The Regionauts

  8. Pingback: Who the Fuck Are All Us Burners, Anyway? | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  9. Pingback: Dispatch From the Front [by Whatsblem the Pro] | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  10. Okay, I have to say that I’ve never been to Burning Man. I’ve been to several local “burns” as well as a stream of parties that seemed to less about any particular mindset than they were about raising money for people to go to Burning Man. Fair enough, it takes a lot of money to organize a theme camp.

    Several of my friends attend the event and enjoy it. They travel thousands of miles and spend a heck of money to get there every year. They tell me I’d love it but I keep hesitating for a couple of reasons. The first one, there seems to be a lot of hypocrisy involved in the event. I’ve heard about how it’s supposed to be a barter only society out there, but there’s a lot of money spent before you hit the gates to support the bartering so I don’t see the point.

    The second reason is evidenced by this article and thread. The “burners” I’ve met through my friends and the ones who I haven’t met but who’ve commented on things that I’ve posted on my friend’s Facebook pages seem to be incredibly judgmental and closed minded. I’ve been criticized for my clothing choices at burner events more than once, verbally assaulted for my points of view by burners and even mocked for my political beliefs by them.

    That being said, everywhere else in the world that I’ve travelled I’ve been treated kindly by strangers, made new friends and been invited into their homes. So given a choice, I’d rather spend my money and go anywhere but Burning Man. I’d like to think I’m wrong, that I’ve just met the wrong Burners. Am I?

    Like

  11. Pingback: What’s Your Cargo? | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  12. Pingback: Play That Funky Music, Jerk | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  13. Pingback: “Sound Wave of Love and Beats” – Robot Heart 2012, the video | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  14. I am currently building an art car for 2013 and my first burn! I’m going to have the most wicked sound system and i feel grateful to the DPW for playing Freebird as I intend to play ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS at full volume in honor of my deceased loved ones. In the spirit of Christ!

    Like

    • Wow, my mind can’t stop working with this awesome light that DPW has shined. I’ve now realized that I can go beyond music: I will arm my art car with projectors and shine across the playa ground vast images of aborted fetuses. What a fitting memorial to all of those murdered souls! 2013 can’t come fast enough!

      Like

  15. Pingback: Everyone’s Unique Except Me: Why I Hate Magical Thinking | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  16. Pingback: Sacred Cows and the Gift Economy | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  17. so.. if i understand this correctly — those who are CHOSEN as volunteers are entitled to more then those of us who WANT to volunteer in a HUGE CAPACITY but are DENIED the opportunity. . . just because the borg decides to give it’s close friends a “FREE RIDE” does not entitle them to any more freedom/expression/whatever than the rest of us who bust our butts working day after day after year after year to save up enough cash to get our sorry asses out there and hug a fellow human being.

    just sayin.

    Like

    • burning man is a corporation. they sell you a product. they hire employees. they have a logo. their employees are their friends because when you create a company that people want to work at, you tend to hire your friends. you don’t hire every fucking person that hangs around trying to get in good with your circle of friends. if you just wanna go hug someone, start your own regional. if you wanna do it in a sea of 50k people, you’ll need to pay the borg for organizing it for you.

      watch videos of previous temple burns and listen to how much noise is going on. freebird wasn’t even that big of a fucking deal. what made it a big fucking deal was all the self righteous fucks who couldn’t just let it go.

      Like

    • You might find re-reading the article valuable, Mouse, since it appears you’ve missed a large portion of the author’s message. I work for DPW (10 years, now…), and assure you none of us are ‘close friends’ of the borg [sic] given a ‘free ride,’ nor have we-or the author- asserted at any time that we are anymore ‘entited[ed]‘ to ‘anymore freedom…than the rest of [the community] who bust [their] ‘butts.’ After you’ve re-read the article, re-examine the 10 principles Burning Man participants (citizens, artists, AND DPW) are encouraged to reference in shaping their experience in Black Rock City (the list is on the event’s website). The first (and foremost) principle, I will articulate here: “Radical Inclusion:
      Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

      Like

  18. Pingback: Parenting on the Playa: Do Kids Belong at Burning Man? | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  19. Thanks to commenter “Sad” for clarifying the origin of silence at the Temple burn, whether it’s a tradition that is or is not a realistic one to maintain (I suspect it is not)

    The article’s author fumed at length and with great certainty about it being some sort of ‘problematic’ transplant from the Rainbow Gathering, and when I asked for clarification in the comments, the response was……. oh how very, very ironically….. silence.

    I realize that it will be nice to have some company on the Burners.me art car, when it circles the Temple burn in 2013 with poster-girl Ka squawking a feathery Freebird over a megaphone. But did dear blog editor really think that an article with so many obvious and evident greasy chips on its shoulder was ever going to fly…… fly……. freebird…… (guitar soloo00ooo0ooo0o0o0o0o0o0ooooooo…..)

    Like

  20. lesse….the Temple has become an outlet for people to build shrines to their loved ones who have past recently or otherwise..and the burn obviously being an emotional release for them. So it’s cool, somehow funny or even their right to force an amplified theme onto these grieving peeps? I don’t give a fuck who did it.. it’s just plain weak.

    Like

  21. When David Best built our first Temple, he requested silence during the burning of his art.
    I was there, I heard the request.
    He also instigated the ‘wave’ when the last timber fell.
    This request, by the artist, has become a tradition.
    In a city that is filled with sound 24/7, the silence at the Temple is an oasis in a sea of thumpa.
    Along with David Best’s gift of his art, he also gave us the gifts of reflection and contemplation.

    Like

  22. Pingback: The Dark Side of Burning Man: Rape on the Playa – SF Weekly | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  23. What I posted on reddit.
    “Hmmm. I will have to address this on a post of my own!

    I agree with the thrust of the the article in certain respects (” That person who made noise near you during the Temple burn didn’t ruin anything for you; you ruined things for yourself and used your noisy neighbor as an excuse to do it.”) … However, the whole harping on left vs right politics seems a great deal of projection from the author of his own paradigm and assumptions. You cannot know the politics of most noisemakers or their vocal detractors based solely on this behavior. Other than this flawed and overbearing aspect to the article, the rest of it is great!”

    I’ll post a rebuttal on my own blog later i suppose.

    Like

    • Thanks for stating it simply John. This paragraph is some of the most generalized incorrect garbage I’ve read in a long time. There’s plenty of angry hippies out there. Don’t f’n stereotype a group of people. Most burners aren’t rich condescending dbags, only a selection of them.

      “it’s undeniable that the maternally protective and homogenously Left-wing thinking of hippies and hippie-like beings” then vomit spewed all over the screen.

      Like

  24. >those of the far Left tend to determine how the Borg sees things these days.
    Yeah? I hadn’t noticed that. Borg seem to get more liberal every year if you ask me. Why do you persistently associate the left with hippies? Every hippie I ever met was a budding right wing lunatic using acid to keep their inner republican quiet.

    Like

  25. so let me get this straight…it’s ok for privileged white folk to impress upon their ‘experience’ onto me with gongs, om chanting, or ava maria at the temple burn… make me smell sage, patchouli and other incense and crap because that’s somehow okay and civilized enough for mourning? (btw that counts as uberfucking hippy shit)…but freebird is offensive and breaks the rules or some semblance of tradition … really?!?! really!?!?!
    and this is why we have ants!

    radical self entitlement is only for dpw? laughable!
    or did the lottery reaction not teach y’all that? chicken littles and the sky was falling…remember january?
    and since when did the hippie culture or hippies for that matter need a voice in their defense all of a sudden? is this article some horrible slander against the hippie race and all those poor little free loving lefties that can’t defend themselves because they are too busy saving the planet? don’t think so.
    they are all just misunderstood? predominately white, affluent, educated, upper class, privileged hippies being maligned in a blog post…all because of skynyrd.
    amazing!

    just to put it in perspective…while you and i are bitching online in the comfort of our own homes, a faction of dpw is still out there cleaning up your trash.

    if you want quiet or solitude on the playa, i highly recommend going out there any of the other 40 weeks out of the year or maybe go camping at any of the other national parks in the country…oh but wait, it wouldn’t be the same without all the people would it now? all those magical connections you’ve shared? all the beautiful moments brought to you by el-wire…all that noise!

    thanks for letting me throw in my two playafied cents…

    fuck yer day!

    Like

  26. It isn’t anger or bigotry, it’s just an observation. It’s also peppered with qualifiers, so if you’re a Leftist hippie and you don’t think the shoe fits, you don’t have to wear it.

    Like

    • defensiveness serves no one. the bias is loud and clear in your piece. it’s too bad your message gets lost in all the name calling. if you want to publicly paint with a broad brush, you might also want to listen to others who critique said generalization, and to hear when said others agree with some of your more salient points. i’m a leftist hippie. the shoe does fit. too bad you handed us smelly birkenstocks and not a pair of fierce stilettos…

      my original post:
      “as a leftist hippie, i agree that your article would be so much more legitimate if you didn’t hold so much anger and bigotry towards one group that you have magically determined to be the culprits of shushing amongst tens of thousands at the temple burn. i and my leftist, hippie boyfriend have always thought the shushing is ridiculous. in fact, it’s often the loudest thing at the temple burn. that is, until other burner than thou folks thought that blasting their memorial song at a volume louder than needed for them to hear it was justified because, “hey, without us, there is no burn.” maybe you would appreciate the beauty of the thousands of intentions being felt and expressed if you weren’t so focussed on shushing. and maybe you’d have experienced a more meaningful memorial to your buddy (without all the backlash), if you weren’t so hell bent on making it everyone else’s temple anthem. and if you can’t deal with having a little respect for other people’s sacred, then there are earplugs for the shushers and earbuds for the freebirds…”

      Like

  27. as a leftist, hippie faggot, i agree that your article would be so much more legitimate if you didn’t hold so much anger and bigotry towards one group that you have magically determined to be the culprits of shushing amongst tens of thousands at the temple burn. i and my leftist hippie boyfriend think the shushing is ridiculous. in fact, it’s often the loudest thing at the temple burn. that is, until other burner than thou folks thought that blasting their memorial song at a volume louder than needed for them to hear it was justified because, “hey, without us, there is no burn.” maybe you would appreciate the beauty of the thousands of intentions being felt and expressed if you weren’t so focussed on shushing. and maybe you’d have experienced a more meaningful memorial to your buddy (without all the backlash) if you weren’t so hell bent on making it everyone else’s temple anthem. and if you can’t deal with having a little respect and flexibility for other people’s sacred, then there are earplugs for the shushers and earbuds for the freebirds…

    Like

  28. You want to ruin people’s silence with your music? Crank your tunes on some headphones.

    At Burning Man you can find music anywhere. Silence is a rare treat.

    Like

  29. I do not class myself as a hippy, in fact I do not class myself as being exclusively in any of the ‘cultural streams’ the author listed early in their post, I am a down to earth guy who is always open to new ideas and viewpoints. This was my 6th burn.

    In my opinion it was completely wrong of DPW to blare out a song right in the middle of the temple burn. My post is about entitlement, anyone at Burning Man who feels they are entitled should go home(and by home I mean their actual home – not Black Rock City).

    Many DPW (definitely not all, but definitely many) are at Burning Man for a free ride for 2 months, they live rent free in the desert provided with 3 delicious meals a day, and many are proud they avoid ‘Burning Man’ during the actual burn week. Yes there is hard work involved, but there is hard work involved for hundreds of others setting up sound camps, theme camps, building the temple, creating mind-blowing artwork and countless other projects too numerous to mention.

    Everyone knows the Temple Burn is seen as a time of quiet reflection, and that someone blaring out a song at this time would offend the majority. I’m quite certain that at least half of the owners of art cars know someone who has passed on in the last few months or year, but they do not feel entitled to start playing their friend or family members favourite tune in the middle of the Temple Burn, of course they don’t! Because they do not feel ‘entitled’, as nobody should at Burning Man. DPW clearly felt entitled and went ahead and did it anyway, knowing that discussions such as this would follow.

    There are plenty of non-DPW who (in the words of the author) “heroically bust ass is a terribly hostile environment…” but they do not feel entitlement, they are in Black Rock City working hard because they want to contribute to the most amazing place on the planet. Which is in my opinion the right reason. They certainly don’t think this gives them the right to blare out a song in the middle of the Temple Burn.

    So, in summary, playing the song was wrong, DPW will never admit this and will continue to act as though they are entitled, even though they are not entitled because NOBODY at Burning Man is entitled.

    Like

    • Andy Brown, as a member of DPW I respectfully disagree with you.

      “Everyone knows the Temple Burn is seen as a time of quiet reflection” I didn’t know that. I thought burning man was about self expression, and that the temple was specifically a place where people placed their regrets and lost loved ones. You assume it’s quiet reflection time, that is your personal desire, but it is not the reality for the rest of us.
      Playing freebird during temple burn was in great taste, and it made a lot of people very very emotional. There was more processing for Joey on playa this year than you can imagine, and it spanned MULTIPLE DEPARTMENTS. Thats right, Joey had friends EVERYWHERE, not just in his own dept! You say “NOBODY at Burning Man is entitled”… except for you, right? You’re entitled to pass the judgement that temple burn is ‘supposed’ to be quiet hippie reflection time, and that playing Freebird was wrong, and you’re entitled to also judge all of DPW (which is a huge huge crew of people) as looking for a free ride, characterizing us as if we were street bums…
      You know there would be no burning man without DPW, right? They are a huge diverse crew of individuals with professional skill sets who perform VERY HARD WORK for nothing but meals and place to lay their tents, for months at a time out there (if they were paid what they’re worth, your ticket would cost you over a thousand dollars). They won’t admit playing the song was wrong because it WASN’T WRONG. “DPW clearly felt entitled and went ahead and did it anyway, knowing that discussions such as this would follow.” DPW doesn’t care what hippies and hipsters ‘discuss’ on the internet. It is entirely inconsequential to them… Freebird wasn’t for you, it was for us… the HUNDREDS of volunteers whom you are dissing from every department who knew Joey. What I find inappropriate is that you let your feelings get hurt because of the mourning of hundreds of people. Why would that upset you? Don’t you care, or have any respect for this huge group of people who lay out your city and protect and serve you? Joey meant a lot to these folks, I can’t even believe it’s a controversy AT ALL. I think the very notion of this is highly disrespectful. Hippie, shut up. For serious.

      Like

      • I think you make a very good point . Dpw, Bmorg, the foundries, the volunteers – DO have a higher level of entitlement than just some random Burners. Don’t like it? It’s a big Playa, go somewhere else . Go make your own little quiet temple if it’s so important to you

        Like

      • A wonderfully intelligent response from Mr, Ms, or Mrs Cunt, who is clearly DPW and therefore believe they are entitled, and who also have no clue about Burning Man philosophy – there is no wrong, there are merely opinions, you’ll note I used the qualifier ‘in my opinion’ more than once in my post.

        Still, the fact that 99.9% of art cars shut off their music for the duration of the Temple Burn should be enough for others to work out that that is the respectful approach to take.

        By all means park somewhere and play your song at a volume which can be heard by your people – but driving around the perimeter so that you negatively impact as many other burners as possible IS flat out wrong and is perfectly in line with the non-Burning Man DPW philosophy of ‘Fuck yer day’, only it would be nice if the one time and place free from the FYD attitude would be the Temple burn.

        Like

      • ok..let’s go then.
        FIRST, it’s MS. CUNT if you must know…or are you not familiar with the human physique enough to know that CUNT belongs to a woman.
        SECOND, there is no wrong at burning man?!?! really? this is the philosophy? it’s all opinion? like relativism is a valid argument in philo 101? and an opinion not based in any fact is just as valid as one based in fact? holy shitshow!

        THIRD, the reason i just said you are flat out wrong is because i didnt really have the time nor desire to get involved in a flame war on the internet with your ridiculous posts…
        moving on… let’s start here in your fabulously valid uneducated and ‘flat out wrong’ opinion…
        “Many DPW (definitely not all, but definitely many) are at Burning Man for a free ride for 2 months, they live rent free in the desert provided with 3 delicious meals a day, and many are proud they avoid ‘Burning Man’ during the actual burn week. Yes there is hard work involved, but there is hard work involved for hundreds of others setting up sound camps, theme camps, building the temple, creating mind-blowing artwork and countless other projects too numerous to mention.”

        so is it that because you put the qualifier of “definitely not all” in parenthesis that it makes this statement ok? a free fucking ride eh? for 2 months? try 3 months for some…ohhh 3 delicious meals a day…wow, thank you massa!…i also get a tent? well hell, how am i so lucky to deserve this? im surprised those house slaves ain’t jealous of me now! ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME DUDE?!?!
        oh we built a theme camp…we work sooooo hard! your 9 days out there in comparison to 39? ok…sure…once again your logic is impeccable.
        do you come from a family of plantation owners, because this line of reasoning is rather brilliant as a slave owner… fucking free ride my ass!

        oh but once again…there is no wrong in burning man philosophy?
        hmmm
        “In my opinion it was completely wrong of DPW to blare out a song right in the middle of the temple burn. My post is about entitlement, anyone at Burning Man who feels they are entitled should go home(and by home I mean their actual home – not Black Rock City).”

        so wait, is there only wrong if you say there is? or you can say there is if you qualify it by saying it’s your opinion? how does this work again?
        please let me know as you clearly have the how to do burning man right completely down.

        I AM DPW. I AM GAYTE. I AM AN ARTIST. I AM A THEME CAMP. I AM A PARTICIPANT. I AM ALL THE THINGS! that’s like more entitled than you can fathom! hahaha
        what the fuck are you? who the fuck are you?
        i reckon to guess…and this is completely my presumption and i’m having fun with this…oh wait, IN MY OPINION (cuz whenever someone says that it becomes valid right?) you are just a whiny self-righteous privileged white dude fitting into the uber leftist hippie demographic as much as you don’t want to admit it. you are so cultured, so aware of so much of the world, you shop at whole foods but love wal-mart in reno, you drive a prius but happily use gallons of fuel for your generator for some dirt rave in the desert, you only use organic phosphorous free soap to wash your 300count thread sheets made by little pakistani chidren, i bet you even use recycled toilet paper, oh, maybe that’s what makes you think your opinion/asshole is better than anyone else’s.

        lmao! “nobody at burning man is entitled”
        that’s fucking hysterical. are you familiar with first camp?

        namas-fucking-te!

        *see what happens when ya get this cunt started…tsk tsk…i was trying to be fucking nice* oh well. that was fun…time for coffee…and im sure by then, someone else will be wrong on the internet again. ;-) fuck yer day bitches!

        Like

        • Thanks for the eloquence. You’re totally wrong about me, but you are totally wrong about pretty much everything in your reply so consistency is your strong point.

          Back on topic you didn’t bother to try and defend the playing of Freebird loudly and so that a tonne of people could hear it, because you know this to be wrong of course.

          I do appreciate the over the top reaction. Nice to be able to take 3 months off work and head to the desert – what jobs allow that kind of a sabbatical every year anyway?? Average number of vacation days in the USA is 10, so the folks who head to the burn for 3 months are helping push that average up a lot cos they must have at least 45 days vacation, either that or they don’t have tax paying jobs.

          Like

      • wow. you’re amazing at forensics!
        thank you for making the world such a better place.
        i don’t need to defend the playing of free bird. it’s why i didn’t.

        Like

      • @burnersxxx
        i find it rather patriarchal that a woman’s genitalia is used as a character insult to people and especially to feminize men.
        food for thought. not trying to start a debate with you by any means. it’s just something not many people think about and it’s rather sexist to use it as an insult in the same way that ‘faggot’ is used…and i know plenty of folks that balk at that moreso and don’t find it acceptable.
        a woman’s cunt is amazing and magnificent and it does not deserve to be used as a slanderous term, neither does my pussy. my nickname is there for that reason and taking it back and re-owning something men have initially used as an insult.

        why not just call people assholes-everyone has those and they are not gender specific nor call upon the false machismo in our society or perpetuate the subordination of women?
        shall we start another blog? hahahaha :-)

        Like

      • All of you are assholes. Fuck yer day You are all assholes and you are all wrong so a big Fuck Yer Day to all of you. Get over yourselves.

        Like

      • Hey Andy…

        So:

        “Nice to be able to take 3 months off work and head to the desert – what jobs allow that kind of a sabbatical every year anyway?? Average number of vacation days in the USA is 10, so the folks who head to the burn for 3 months are helping push that average up a lot cos they must have at least 45 days vacation, either that or they don’t have tax paying jobs.”

        Um… no, not really my uneducated friend. I’m a small business owner, and before that was a freelance designer. I saved my TAXED EARNINGS every year so that I can take time to contribute in a very palatable way to create one of the best cities in the world.

        For you to assume that I somehow skirt out tax-system because there is no WAY in hell I can take this time legally (the presumption of tax evasion is that of illegal standing) is really egregious.

        There are people who create their entire world to be able to come out three months out of the year to create a place for you to party/have spiritual awakenings/see art/etc. There are also things called “sabbaticals” that a lot of progressive companies allow their employees to take. I happen to know a lot of people who choose to use them as volunteers at Burning Man.

        Are their people who are transients who come and work for three months? Sure. Are their people who might work in a cash based system to allow them to come out? Sure. But your grand-sweeping accusations really don’t serve your argument and make you look more like an idiot than I think you are intending.

        Like

      • Thank you, DPW Queen, for all you do. . . all the hard work, and all the sacrifices you make just to be able to do that hard work.

        I’m not sure what to say to people who just flat-out don’t believe that others would be as ready as you to put heart and soul and even wallet into making the event — and the culture — an ongoing success. Given the hardships I KNOW quite a lot of people put themselves through to be able to make it out there and contribute like troupers, comments like Andy’s seem like a very real and unwarranted slap in the face.

        Like

    • I put out a wonderfully thought out response to you, but it was ‘moderated’. Obviously we can’t have anyone here from dpw with well thought out responses… THIS IS NOT PERMITTED! The only responses allowed can be about burners crying about their ‘experience’. Grief, and the defending of said grief would probably be too ‘real’, is my guess. Or the comments on this blog aren’t for holding a dialog, they’re specifically here to boost the author’s view point only.

      And you wonder why we can’t get along? Because people like the moderator here exist, that’s why. We wouldn’t want anyone to disagree with the author in an intelligent way, now would we? I’ve noticed the moderator left dissent from less well thought out authors, or people who come off as kind of dumb, but eliminated any real arguments with depth. That’s super super lame, and has perpetuated my deep dislike.

      Like

      • err, WTF are you talking about? Maybe you forgot to press “send”? If we moderated these comments then the first to go would probably be the massive amount that are critical of us and shit that we wrote. But they’re all still there. So why would we delete DPW’s perspective? Read the fucking blog, we’re on their side! Unless they’re a bunch of rave-hating hippies, that is…

        Like

    • I think you are employing the term ‘entitlement’ incorrectly; certainly with a double-standard that excludes you and your argument from it’s grasp or definition. You said it best in the last sentence: ‘NOBODY at Burning Man is entitled.” Not even you, or your desire to observe the burn in your own way, unfettered by some asshole-or group of assholes- mourning louder than you. You assert that, in a culture out in the desert that prides itself on radical expression AND radical inclusion, ‘playing the song was wrong.’ That, mate, is entitlement. DPW simply played their song (once), mourned in their way (rather than yours), and respectfully spared you and everyone else any moral proselytizing about it. ;)

      Like

  30. I found it very confusing when the author spent the entire piece pointing towards some sort of pervasive “Left” or *gasp* “far-Left” mentality behind the negative reaction towards “Free Bird” – because all human behavior can be distilled into political philosophies and all those within either of the two paradigms therefore must think and behave like a school of fish – and yet the only real analogy presented was the example of Christians objecting to gay pride parades,

    That thematic dichotomy made me have to reread the whole piece again to see if I had missed some sort of deep satirical poke at those who would blame “the left” for any/everything or just a careless and undermining logic hole. Either way, that made me laugh, so thanks!

    Like

    • I put out a wonderfully thought out response to you, but it was ‘moderated’. Obviously we can’t have anyone here from dpw with well thought out responses… THIS IS NOT PERMITTED! The only responses allowed can be about burners crying about their ‘experience’. Grief, and the defending of said grief would probably be too ‘real’, is my guess. Or the comments on this blog aren’t for holding a dialog, they’re specifically here to boost the author’s view point only.

      And you wonder why we can’t get along? Because people like the moderator here exist, that’s why. We wouldn’t want anyone to disagree with the author in an intelligent way, now would we? I’ve noticed the moderator left dissent from less well thought out authors, or people who come off as kind of dumb, but eliminated any real arguments with depth. That’s super super lame, and has perpetuated my deep dislike.

      Like

      • Evil Chris:

        I could be wrong, but I don’t think these comments are moderated. Even if they were, we’re DPW-friendly here. If you tried to comment on something and your two cents didn’t show up, please try again.

        Like

        • Evil Chris: WordPress is a huge system and no doubt subject to glitches. The same thing (posts disappearing mysteriously and then usually reappearing later) happens all the time on Facebook.

          Your comments are perfectly welcome here, as far as I’m concerned. If you post something and it doesn’t show up, please check back later and repost if necessary. I really don’t think your comments were deliberately deleted.

          Like

        • found out what happened – your post was automatically classed as Spam by WordPress. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t write their code. I have marked it as “not spam”, now we can all bask in the glory of your comment.

          Like

  31. IMO, the correct analogy here is to smoking. You have a right to smoke, but I have a right not to inhale your smoke. The two rights are fundamentally incompatible. You have to choose.

    You mourn with music, I mourn with silence. The two are fundamentally incompatible: your music ruins my silence, my insistence on silence precludes your music. You have to choose, one way or another.

    With smoke, it’s easy. There’s some gray zone around how little smoke is no smoke, but fundamentally if you don’t acknowledge a right to breath clean air, which is more fundamental then choosing to use drugs, then you don’t acknowledge any rights at all – none – and this conversation has no common ground, so please just stop reading.

    On Free Bird, it’s more complicated, of course. Neither state – noise or silence – is natural in the way that clean air is natural. But it seems to me that the natural state of the Temple Burn is silence, and so the default should be to respect that. That said, it seems as if allowing some of the time to be noisy and some of it to be silent seems like a perfectly fine solution. To respect everyone’s needs, those times should be planned ahead, so that expectations are not “I have X minutes of silence ahead of me” and then suddenly the music kicks in. Planned periods of silence would accommodate all needs and allow correct expectation setting for all parties.

    Like

    • You’re comparing apples with oranges. You don’t have a right to silence the way you have a right to smoke-free air because smoke is harmful to your health, and sound at a reasonable volume isn’t. You have no right to not be confronted with the expression of others in a public space no matter how much it displeases you.

      Like

      • if someone is smoking around you, and you don’t like it… why can’t you move away from the smoke? be radically self reliant and take care of your personal needs? why is it that EVERYONE AROUND YOU has to bend to your will?

        Like

      • You imply that I believe that smoke and noise are perfectly analogous. I said, “neither state – noise or silence – is natural in the way that clean air is natural”; this is precisely my recognition that the two are not perfectly analogous. Go back, read it again.

        You imply that I claim a “right” not to be confronted with the expression of others. I claimed no such right. Go back, read what I wrote again: w/r/t noise/silence, I talked only about respect.

        You ignore the undeniable fact that your noise and my silence are fundamentally incompatible in both directions. I offered a constructive solution to this problem. You responded with vitriol.

        Like

      • Uplift23, you are the one who brought up the analogy between noise and smoke, so it seems rather staggeringly disingenuous for you to now reject that analogy as unsound, and use that as the basis of your argument against what I said. We BOTH think the analogy is unsound; the difference is that it’s your analogy and not mine.

        Aside from that, all I have to say to you is: vitriol? What vitriol? This is what I said:

        “You’re comparing apples with oranges. You don’t have a right to silence the way you have a right to smoke-free air because smoke is harmful to your health, and sound at a reasonable volume isn’t. You have no right to not be confronted with the expression of others in a public space no matter how much it displeases you.”

        Where exactly is the vitriol in that, if you please? Contained in the large chip on your shoulder, perhaps?

        Like

  32. I’d assumed only yuppies were doing the shushing, maybe some uptight righties too. A traditional hippie should exhibit a more live & let live attitude.

    Also, burners cracking jokes about hippies are mostly just referring to other burners, not lefties. And all burners are considered hippies by the general population of course.

    Like

      • We must organize an OWS open mic style rendition of Free Bird at next years temple burn. It’s simply the only way we’ll resolve this question of whether left-wing or right-wing burners are shushier. ;)

        Like

  33. At my dad’s funeral, we had Marines shooting rifles. Pretty much broke the silence of the entire cemetery, if not that whole side of town. I don’t really see the difference between someone playing Free Bird and someone else calling out, “I love you!” or “Good-bye!” or someone openly crying, which seem to be “acceptable” and “sanctioned” interruptions. Silence is silence. No babies crying, no throat-clearing, no mumbling. Church silence. I think if one really wants a silent memorial to a beloved, one should make a better choice than a Burning Man temple burn, since the temple is quite a bit more than “fond” and revered memorializing of those who have died. There are a whole lot of “Fuck yous” and “I can’t forgive your abuse” and “I beat you cancer!” messages on those walls. I am guessing there are a lot of folks who would like to openly laugh, cheer and let out a rebel yell when that thing burns, but they don’t, out of a one-sided respect for the silent types. I think everyone should just remember where they are: Burning Man, and you sort of get what you get.

    Like

  34. I was not disturbed at all by Free Bird playing yet understand above concerns of one group mourning should not be above another’s. That being said, what did upset me was that seconds after the temple started burning, what seemed to be all the virgins, got up and walked away. I felt this was extremely rude and disrespectful. Knowing that they were not going to stay to watch the last bit of temple fall to the ground, they should have stood toward the back. However, they were near the front, most with bikes that they had to maneuver through the crowd of mourners. How is THIS not a bigger controversy than Free Bird?

    Like

  35. I haven’t been to a Burn (I’d like to) but I’ve always been a little concerned about the extreme weather conditions and how I’d be able to handle them. And I keep getting older and poorer, so it’s not likely.
    I would urge Burning Man to stick to their guns (but glad they don’t allow guns anymore, whew!) and try to keep the Temple burn as a traditionally silent time. We all get plenty of music out here and it ain’t gonna kill anyone to keep some things sacred.
    (And since I’ve never been, I don’t think I should say much more about what happened regarding the “Free Bird incident”.)
    I HAVE been to Rainbow Gatherings —three, which are quite challenging in themselves as there are often long treks on quite slippery paths; and the chance that you’ll get some kind of third-world stomach disease (I got dysentary Missouri ’85 and my tummy hasn’t been the same since), is a very real one. Just want to say to the author regarding Gatherings: there are all kinds of people —“ravers, anarchists, librarians, AND libertarians.”
    As a matter of fact, there are all kinds of arians and lots of isms, too. Also, genuine poor people, street people and homeless. I actually like this about it, even though it’s a little scary sometimes. Missouri ’85, I’m sick in my tent, to weak to move and have to listen to some redneck complain about all of the nude women “Pussy just staring me in the face, makes me wanna rape ‘em.” (That’s what I mean about all kinds of people and scary, okay?)

    The Gathering has some rules —hardly any, but two strong ones about recorded music and money. Neither are allowed during the Gathering. Believe me, it would be hell if they were. (Everything’s bartered.)
    The good thing about Gatherings as compared to what I imagine a Burn is like is that Gatherings are almost always in a forest. Shade and trees, (which can sometimes mean lots of rain and mud) but also usually means a cool, clear stream or a body of water. Yes, it’s tough out there in the “dessert” and I think I might be a little too Lefty-liberal to handle it—have yer fun, and don’t let the fuckers play Skynyrd too often.

    Like

    • My brother died 1 month before this year’s burn. My family being the generally supportive gave me some of his ashes, knowing I would want to put them in the temple. As it was a particularly significant temple burn for me, grief stricken, I grappled with the meaning of both life and death. Questioning everything, at the most poignant moment in the temple burn, the sound of Free Bird, resonated upon the Playa. I turned to a campmate, long time burner, in my moment of grief and I said “Freebird,” do you think this is right? She said “Freebird is perfect,” and it was. My brother would have loved it. Maybe it was just for me and my brother. The playa always provides what we need. Two of my campmates held me while I sobbed, and I was healed by the love of my Burning Man family.
      I’m not really sure of my title. I guess I am a gun toting hippie, fur wearing liberal, feminist, organic food growing, taxpaying carnivore.

      Like

  36. Ive been going for so long, I’ve never questioned the code of silence. And I think it is pretty nice after non stop cacophony 24/7…
    I think it’s the right thing to do,
    which why it’s amazingly so well observed. I’ve had a few burns without even hearing a single shush…
    So there’s that.
    But, my hatred of sanctimonious hippies trumps even my sense of right vs wrong.
    And fuck it… Tradition is meant to be broken, time to time.
    On a related note… Sharpie in hand, I was dying to rickroll the temple this year. Only I was so fried, couldn’t remember the lyrics.
    Thought was there though : )

    Like

      • I think the right thing to do is whatever you need to do… if you need to sing Ric Astley during temple burn, you should do it. The ‘code of silence’ is something perceived, it’s not a reality. You can make any noise you like while the temple burns, and you SHOULD make any noise you like while the temple burns.

        This is burning man, not Symbiosis… you can express yourself any way you like.

        Like

  37. Thanks for this article. I intentionally stay clear of the burning man backlash conversations. Luckily, my friend pointed me to this blog, I began reading it and then insisted my girlfriend read it b/c it was apt for the conversations we have had about burning man in the last two ennui filled weeks back in default world.
    I agree with your judicial explanation of various points of confrontation. When “Free Bird” began playing, my long time burner friend who is seemingly impossible to rattle, simply muttered and frowned a bit to himself. I, who am easily pissed off, noticed his disapproval. I reacted thoughtfully (a rare moment) and the only conclusion I could come to was the person/people playing the song were doing so to memorialize a loved one, who was, in their minds, worthy enough to cause such a scuffle. With only that thought in my head, I inhaled the song, sang along (in a low voice) and smiled thinking of my dear friend, Audrey, whose name I wrote in the temple. Because of Audrey’s personality and trickster like behavior I thought she would appreciate the slight chaos caused by the song.After the burn, I ended up lost, on foot, heading towards the trash fence instead of 745 and F. I used this time to think about my community, how much it has changed, how it is futile to expect it to not change and I was able to appreciate the various people for who they are; burners……many of whom fooled me more than once in giving me incorrect directions back to camp. Thanks to the leftist hippy burners, I did manage to find my way home.

    Like

  38. “….your not burning right”-,……”Don’t tell me how to burn!”,…..two wrongs don’t make a right. But it seems to make a Lefty!

    Like

  39. I see this whole Free Bird controversy as a tempest in a dusty teapot. I’m an old-timer, 2012 was my 22nd straight year and so I’ve experienced most of the Temple Burns. I personally did not find the Free Bird moments at all irritating. I figured someone must have had their reason, that it wasn’t just a random thing nor meant to impinge negatively on the Temple Burn crowd’s experience. It was brief, and in a way the song itself is equally as appropriate as Ave Maria. It often just comes down to “Whose ox is being gored?” Or, to put it another way, one person’s presumption of entitlement to silence might well be another person’s irritation. For example, at the Temple Burn in 2011, as the heat of the flames became painfully hot on our cheeks, I said to my girlfriend, “Wow, this fire perimeter is too close” and was immediately shushed by a guy next to us, who hissed “Show some respect!” Moments later, he began blasting away with repeated bursts of 7 frames at a time with his rather noisy digital SLR camera, presumably auto-bracketing for handheld HDR. This went on, seven shots at a time, throughout the rest of the Temple Burn, and really, as I was shooting a few photos myself from time to time I would not have been the least bit irritated if he hadn’t been the same guy who had shushed me so emphatically at the start of the Burn. I just kinda shrug and figure, whatever, it’s a big Playa, with plenty of room for everyone and a huge range of sentiments.

    Like

  40. Another epic internet post from (ahem) Whatbem the Pro (as Paul Ryan likes to be known “on playa”)

    Not quite up there with his incisive “Spongebob Squarepants – lefty liberal threat to liberty, or hippy infiltrator of a ruggedly individualist pineapple-housed society under the sea? Or maybe both.” (Nikelodeon.com)

    But definitely in the same ballpark as “Dinner for Two, a lefty liberal plot to force one person’s tastes on my free-thinking libertine palate” (FoodAndWineMagazine.com)

    And his rock solid piece in Homes and Gardens magazine on how painting your house in any of the colors found “in the rainbow” was essentially opening your door to the lefty liberal beliefs of all those Rainbow Gatherers, and as such, a form of collectivist mind control.

    But srsly —

    a) all this Rainbow Gathering stuff — citation needed. Apparently silence is observed at that event (thanks, WIkipedia) but does not seem to be a similar context *at all*.

    b) if you asked random hypothetical individuals on the playa, apparently “many” tell you that silence is a “rule” – o rly? Or are we just backing up an argument with hypothetical stand-ins?

    It is a “tradition” that I personally don’t participate in, and a “tradition” that I think is doomed to be overwhelmed by the reality of the event — number of people, variety of emotional states, states of inebriation and mindsets on “my right to harsh your buzz must never be impeded.” So…. if you’re planning a observing a silent memorial on playa, well, good luck with that….. But the distinction between a “tradition” and a “rule” is not a trivial one.

    Anyway. looking forward to, “Larry Hussain Harvey — a Canadian born Muslim who hates his own 10 so-called principles, and how he’s basically a leftist liberal who’s hat fucking reeks of pachouli.”

    Like

    • We’ve already talked about the tendency to try to control and limit the behavior of others “for the greater good,” the inclination to assume that their subculture is at the very core of Burner culture, the typically very strong sense of the sacred, and the passive-aggressive habit of demanding compliance but couching it in terms of asking for respect. . . so thanks for demonstrating yet another distinctly Leftist/hippie trope: if you say something they strongly disagree with, they will often accuse you of being a Republican.

      Not every hippie does these things, not everyone on the far Left does these things, but enough of them do that it characterizes them as a group pretty well. . . and it’s a set of behaviors that makes the difference between being a participant in Burner culture, and being a threat to it.

      Like

      • wow. and now hateful comments towards the left from the original author.
        This just got a lot less fun.

        burnersxxx what do you think of the hate-slant in the article now?

        Like

      • Paul,
        It’s not agreement, or disagreement.

        it’s seeing (like many other commenters here) that there is an attempt to tie “shhh”-ing at the temple to “leftist hippies”

        and then bash leftist hippies…

        So where’s your proof this is from the left?
        The original poster you’re replying to (AL) is a libertarian, so that kind of blows your theory right there.

        And then the follow up comments just seem to show that you’re angry at the far left… and hippies.

        So since the original poster of this topic WAS a libertarian (who makes hippie jokes himself), what justifies your taking HIS comments, and starting a hate attack on the left?

        Like

      • Desnarkified, the point of my post was that your writing reflects feelings you presumably have about the left, hippies and their unfortunate smells and on some level the fact that this was all ‘as demonstrated at Burning Man’ was almost beside the point. You could be writing about anything – cake, cartoon characters, stamp collecting – the conclusion would be, one assumes, typically the same.

        I would 100% agree that the assumption that all burners share the same political leanings is pretty much a rookie — or, if we must, burgin — mistake. As far as accusing anyone of being Republican, I used the language of Republican hysteria-du-jour to make a point. Maybe “Ayn Rand has a playa name” would have been more fitting (or not), but Paul Ryan’s currently funnier. I know fine well that there’s plenty of Libertarians out there, and for the sake of lets-not-split-hairs, whatever other non-specific non-labeling label describes whatever’s going on here.

        With that said, this theory that somehow silence = Rainbow Gathering = leftist agenda (which presumably threatens the event) , I — and perhaps other commenters — would love to know more. Having been pretty specific about “that’s where it comes from”, can you provide more details? Perhaps both about the custom, its origins, and the threat that the Rainbow Infiltration represents?

        Like

      • this is Burning Man, not a gated community or a trailer park. Love the haters, fuck the fuckers, and just don’t make so many rules. You make great points about being a participant. The expectation of participation in an Art project is the unknown provacative. Be challenged, be passionate, be pissed off, just don’t be apathetic or a sheep following the herd.

        Like

      • Josh, the hippies in LA (eg at LIB) are totally different from San Francisco leftists. Let alone if you’re looking at both subcultures from a Reno/Nevada perspective. As another commenter says, we’re all hippies in the eyes of non-Burners. I don’t think any hate is being promoted here. I agree with whatsblemthepro and think that he’s made his case in a fair and balanced fashion (like the true Fox News watching gun-toting overturn-roe-v-wade Republican he must be, to criticize hippy/nanny-state culture!)

        Like

  41. “The freedom to swing your hammer ends where your neighbors nose begins” – John Dewey, (1859–1952)
    Sounds pollution…once you open the door, you might as well be at a sounds battle, everyone’s ego having a battle for what the sounds track will be through the biggest sound system, i.e. battle of the base….fail. Radical self entitlement to play music as loud one wants at all times, well, these people will quickly create their own small subculture and exclude a lot of people. Silence is about as universal, and easy to relate to as it gets. The tradition works if you let be. If you can’t be down with the silence and the sound of your own thoughts, feel oppressed by some imagined belief system and form of external control, it says more about personal insecurity in your own skin, your resistance, your catholic upbringing or whatever. Silence is pretty fucking simple and just a little bit older than the Rainbow gathering. That’s all. Saying more would be beating a dead horse, either you get it or you don’t. We see you already, your grief, your struggle, whatever you show up with. Ok, so now try to Give. Just give.

    Like

  42. We were the camp playing frank sinatra,etta james and bosha.next to the porta potty’s between H and I on 8:30 when that hose burst shit every where,it was not pretty,i was watching when it happened and saw 3-4 people got hit by the spray.
    The had to spray all involved with the water hose.The guy who worked the pump handle got the worst of it he was covered.You just cant put stuff in the toilet the does not belong there.

    Like

  43. Weirdly at my first isit to BM IRL I left the temple burn feeling slightly miffed by the general sense of piety which made me feel uncomfortable.. Sort of when the more spectacular bits of the burn were over, it felt like if you were to make a joke you would be frowned upon. I am pretty good at being frowned upon and that was the first moment at BM I felt an athmosphere where a sort of unspoken set of values arose from the crowd as an emergent phenomenon, which was sure to result in me being frowned upon. I do not think it is related to any specific group, I think it is just normal group dynamics at play. We have a set of neurons specifically designed for that sort of stuff…To me the whol BM event was about being open to people. The temple burn was not. The temple burn was about 50’000 me’s, which is really ok, as.it apparently is supposed to be more introspective. We end up tiptoeing around each other…Which in the end really never helps.

    Like

  44. Its partly about evolution as time rolls on. As you all know, nothing remains the same — the only permanance gauranteed and constant is change and that is why it is so important to live in the now. That said, I think the answer to whats become a debacle and upsets tradition is the level of DISRESPECT shown to the majority. After all the Temple is the Temple – I’ve been to the Burning Man for eight (8) years and tradition has it that the Temple Burn has always been a place of silence, reflection and respect.

    The night before when the Man burns it’s expected that everyone gets tore back and to the curb in jubilant celebration but the temple Burn is about reeling it back a bit and maybe giving in to tradition – its a time to relfect.

    Temple Burn has been know, by many, as the “Secret Burn”.. It’s the end of the week, we’re all winding it down and the Temple Burn is a nice place to go reflect for a bit on how great the week was. And yes there are many who are celebrating in silence the recent or not so recent passing of a loved one or maybe they’re just thinking of someone back home who may they might want to make amends with…
    and/or forgive.

    We had all week to whoop it up and we can still whoop it up after the Temple Burn but I say lets have a bit of silence and respect for tradition. It’s a nice way to let the rats knawing in ones brain be silent for a moment.
    Regardless, I love you all and hope to see you again next year!

    Like

    • P.S. I love “Free Bird” just as much as I love “Ave Maria” which I heard sung acapello at the 2004 Temple Burn. In my mind that is still one of the most touching Temple Burns in my memory (while 2007 was pretty awesome too :) 2007 set the bar pretty high – it became my gold standard… that I’ve given in too abit.

      In 2004, I remember “Ave Maria” wafting out over a crowd of 25k ~ acapello. It was a crowd, so quite that you could have heard a grain of playa dust fall to the ground. VERY powerful to be sure. That was my year of initiation to the Temple Burn and I think it set the standard pretty darn high while in reality maybe it was more of anomily than the rule. But I do think that standard is closer in keeping and more in tune to the needs of the people at the Temple Burn. You can’t shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre and not get a negative response when there is no fire.

      I also tend to think the vitriolic reponse of those who didn’t like hearing “Free Bird” may have really been an issue that stands on its own. Free Bird in itself is not negative — while it is a a raucous rebel rousing song it is also about love lost and moving on… but maybe, and I think so, that it was a little too raucious for the Temple Burn. Really, how does one slip back into a quite relfection about their fallen loved one of many years after that tune.

      Again it’s all about respect! And the DWP while appreciated and respected for what they do need to reel it in a bit for just a few minutes and honor the majority — the spot light doesn’t always have to be on them. With out us they wouldn’t have anyone to “F” with. Was their fallen loved one more valued than anothers? NO, I don’t thing so! Only to them and while I respect that, I also think that there is a level of maturity and respect missing on their part… as well as their naysayers. I feel bad for the quite people in the middle, the majority, who had to hear this “Shut the fuck up or I’ll kick your ass” bullshit! ~ OK, enough said?

      Final thought: Who would like it they went to a concert and someone (a fan) sitting near you started singing along with the artist on stag with a bull horn — no one would! I don’t think that’s such a far out comparison even for Burning Man. First and foremost, at the end of the day, it’s all about respect to those around you.

      My rants over – this time for real :)

      Like

  45. Yeah for DPW! They have always kept the original spirit of BMan. I wish I would have heard this. I am a 14 yr. burner and my husband died in 2007 and his ashes went up with the fireworks in THE MAN not the temple cause that is how he rolled.
    I am getting tired of all the new rules that happen out in BRC every year. We need to get back to the original concept of BMan not the politically correct BMan. Let’s get back to our roots burners and everyone else stay home. Like the ticket says you could die out there.

    Like

    • Interaction with regulation is a part of life. Only by engaging reality camp can we hope to bring burner values to daily life. Otherwise, it’s just a surreal thing in the desert, shiny & without substance like a sparkle pony…

      Like

  46. As part of the DPW I get to see all the different aspects of the city grow out of a flat plain of dust. I can say from experience that entitlement to your desires being common practice begins with the Org and continues from DPW to Artists to Theme camps to the folks who show up to attend a party. It’s by no means just the hippies who show up although they do tend to have the most public entitlements Ive seen so far. I’m not innocent of the “STFU it’s the temple burn!” syndrome, until I got the hell over myself and made the attempt to let others grieve as they needed to I had that particular stick up my ass too. We are not at our most lucid when allowing ourselves vulnerability and experiencing sometimes overwhelming grief. It can be really easy to feel attached to your methods of grieving and feel violated when others don’t share ‘em and do things that actively disrupt your process.
    There is a really good idea to embrace or at least keep in mind generally and especially out in the dust which is Don’t take the actions of others personally. People are not undergoing their experience at you. The way their experience is unfolding is exactly as valid as yours and their reactions to it are as worthy. And sometimes, as was the case with that damn song the DPW played over and over this year during setup and at every gathering we had where there was any music at all, there is a really good reason for things that seem to be rudeness. Joey Jello was a good man and an amazing person, the grief at his passing runs deep through us and we will continue to let it out as it comes up. Instead of being offended a group played a song during your silent grieving instead allow that there might be a reason and don’t take it personally.

    Like

    • Thank you, Merlin Da Guy, for your very thoughtful response.

      You touch on something that I hope to explore more in future articles: Don Miguel Ruiz’ “Four Agreements,” one of which is “don’t take things personally.” I think Don Miguel’s wisdom makes a stunningly well-fitting adjunct to our own 10 Principles, and I’d like to see awareness of the Four Agreements spread far and wide among Burners everywhere.

      Like

    • My condolences.

      and yeah, the temple burn is always interesting. Burning Man is about chaos and expression… I spent one temple burn with 3 singing bears. That was an experience.

      I think I’m trying to say, I understand, and I’ve moved to that place myself. I’ve had my moment of yelling at someone in the front row to sit down, and just laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.

      people talking, people yelling for them to shut up. It’s all part of the chaos of burning man. And so are people having a reaction, and expressing how actions affect them.

      Do you know Shiho?
      This is something her guy wrote on the original thread…

      “Yeah, this is more like 100 funerals and 75 celebrations all happening at once in the same general area, rather than a designated event for one particular party or entity. And that’s where a lot of the conflict comes in, as people do it differently. IMHO, you try to do it your way while having respect for those around you. At times it can be trying when your self expression is feeling repressed, or the self expression of others is bothering you. And it can work both ways – some people are too sensitive, and others are too clueless.

      My father was an Irish musician who had a large number of recordings, and when i went to the temple burn last year to mourn him, it simply couldn’t be done without playing his music. There was no other way for me to do it. So I parked my vehicle well outside the circle, and played his music at a very moderate volume hardly audible from 10 feet away, but more than sufficient for me to hear it well and weep profusely as I stood by the open window. If anyone was bothered by it, they didn’t mention it, and had plenty of other places to go as the crowd was quite thin out where I was, maybe 40-50 yards outside the art car perimeter.

      So I found a way to meet my needs without unduly infringing on others. Which is about the best we can do, I think.”

      Like

  47. A very good piece, but I agree that you should drop the hippie/leftist rant. Your biases are clear, and weaken your libertarian argument. The hippies have as much right to “oppress everyone else with their assumptions about how things are supposed to be” as the Freebirders did to impose their tribute soundtrack on everyone in the vicinity, man.

    Like

  48. OMG!!! i didn’t realize the Free Bird thing was such a big deal!!! I’m an old hippy girl and we were memorializing one of our close friends at the Temple burn and actually, we really got in to the Free Bird song!!! It kind of made the Temple burn for us. Later we went around saying “Free Bird” when we thought of the Temple. It’s Burningman for crisakes!! It’s a place for saying “Yes”!!!

    Like

  49. I am wondering, in my own silence, what allows DPW or anyone else, hippies included, to determine the content of the experience for others? Be it silence or “Free Bird”, it should not harsh the experience of others. Each in its own personal space. If ten thousand people decide each individually to mourn in silence, then each does so and it thus magnifies. But to have a segment inflict mourning music on a larger segment is selfish, as well. Let each keep it to his own personal space so as not to interfere with the experience of surrounding burners. To each his own, but remember not to harsh the collective accordingly.

    Like

    • What allows others to determine the content of the experience for others? Nothing, Lady Cyn. . . because it’s YOU who determines what your experience is going to be. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to ensure your emotional state, it’s you’re responsibility.

      Like

  50. It is well written but overly political for me , i totally agree with my fellow and previous commentators about the “left wing”/hippie ressentment article.
    The point and subject of the article is well reflecting the end of the Burn : everybody is going back to their little square life and their little judgemental , politically inclined angry self. As my first burn , I definitely felt that when everybody was intolerant AGAIN while the temple was burning. Quite interesting : strong habits kicking it again , stress , anger , EGO!!!!!
    Back to real world!!! :(:(
    I think one of the main rule should be whatever you found at BURNING MAN BRING IT BACK TO THE REAL WORLD , I THOUGHT IT WAS JUNK FREE :):)

    love and blessing♡

    Like

  51. This would be a great piece… if the backlash was just “hippie driven”
    it’s not.

    Everyone relates to the temple burn their own way. This group could have played free bird for themselves on a small radio, or ipods, instead they decided to ignore everyone else’s reason for being at the temple, and turn it into their personal memorial with loud music.

    That was a personal choice, and it showed a sense of entitlement, or just a general ignorance that other people exist.

    And why tie this to “leftist hippie value”?
    I’ve heard complaints about this from libertarians, right wing, left wing. Just because there’s some silence at a hippie gathering somewhere doesn’t mean silence everywhere is because of that culture. There’s also a silence in church. the relation there is just that people know to be silent when other people are showing reverence. It’s just polite

    Here’s the original FB post… it’s by Mutaytor Alumni Allen Gelbard, who’s definitely not a “leftist hippie”

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/burntheman/permalink/10152051959115144/

    Going beyond that.. Bashing “hippies” or “the left” for this… that’s just hate mongering (and hopefully burners.me is above this). It’s easy to bash or discredit one social group. It’s much harder to face up (and apologize for) not considering… your peers.

    Like

    • Thanks Josh. Burners.Me only hates one thing: haters. So I think it’s fair to say that there’s no hate mongering going on here. I didn’t take Whatsblem’s post to be “hippy bashing”, so much as exposing hypocrisy and sense of entitlement that does exist within this subculture of “burner than thou” Burners – driving these supposed peace lovers to make threats of violence, over a freaking song they didn’t want to hear. Some people need to take Burning Man less seriously. To me the overall most important point made in this piece is that it’s not your neighbor who ruined your Burn, it’s your own attitude.

      Like

      • Thanks for the reply…I do want to be clear…. The original poster on FB wrote this about Free Bird:

        “(A side note; I understand that DPW lost a beloved member this year and that the playing of Free Bird was intended as a memorial to him. But his untimely passing was not the only one being mourned that night, and I – personally – believe that loudly playing that song during the Temple Burn was profoundly disrespectful to all others in attendance. I have nothing but respect for DPW and have friends in their company, but that “tribute” was – I believe – ill conceived.) ”

        I completely agree with this. I am VERY sorry for DPW’s loss, and have loved friends in their company.

        I was also mourning two dear friends. John Pedone, camp leader of Mystical Misfits, and remembering (for the second year) dear friend Dan Gordon-Levitt (or burning dan).

        Neither Al, or I are leftist hippies.

        That’s where this article shifts towards hate mongering.
        Singling out a single group of dissenters. Saying the dissent is because of their traditions (rainbow gatherings), and then focusing the reply towards those specific groups (the left, and “hippies”) is focusing people’s anger back towards these groups, instead of dealing with the broad spectrum backlash against these actions, from much more than leftist hippies.

        Ok, so… Show me some proof, ANY proof, that this backlash is just from leftist hippies… without that, this post becomes a long (and eloquent) focusing of hate towards hippie elements that feel entitled, and are ruining “our” city.

        Like

      • Umm burnersxx, just because you hate haters does’t mean there isn’t hate mongering going on here. Because though I agree with a lot of the article, the hippie hate is loud and freaking clear.

        And yeah, no one can ruin my burn but me, but if something I do turns out to have hurt someone else’s feelings it isn’t going to kill me to say sorry and maybe make a different choice next time.

        Like

    • Curiousjosh,

      I’m not bashing anyone, just making some observations.

      Why tie this to “leftist hippie values?”

      Because while it is certainly not exclusive to them, Leftist hippie values are strongly inclusive of that non-Judeo-Christian sense of the sacred that is the main wellspring of anger over noise at the Temple burn. . . and, as I noted in the article, because the tradition of silence is a direct transplant from the Rainbow Gathering.

      Like

      • WhatsBlemThePro,
        Good to chat about this stuff…

        There’s the fallacy.
        The tradition of silence during reverence is way before the rainbow gathering. It’s also in conservative right wing churches (churches for hundreds or thousands of years before the rainbow gathering).

        Also the people upset about this aren’t just left leaning hippies. It’s a broad spectrum of burners who (as you pointed out) are a lot more diverse than rainbow gathering attendees.

        So at this point… why are you focusing your hate towards “leftist hippies”?

        Like

  52. Kilowatt:

    We do all have our own blinders, and I would be remiss in not recognizing that this truth applies also to me.

    However, I stand by what I said in the article. There are always exceptions to every rule, so of course you are correct when you say that there are Leftist hippie types who are not in lockstep with the Temple-shushing crowd. . . and yes, there are people in other political/subcultural camps who subscribe to the silence-as-an-inviolable-rule point of view. This does not change the fact, however, that the origins of the silence tradition are squarely rooted in the Rainbow Gathering, or the fact that Leftist thinking is justifiably characterized as tending to intrude on the freedoms of others for the sake of what is perceived as the greater good.

    If you’ll read my article again, you’ll find a wealth of qualifying words and statements that I have used in order to very deliberately avoid painting anything in black and white. You may not see it at a casual glance, but I agree heartily with you that the world is more nuanced than that, and presents itself to us in infinite shades of grey.

    Like

    • Thanks for the reply…I do want to be clear…. The original poster on FB wrote this about Free Bird:

      “(A side note; I understand that DPW lost a beloved member this year and that the playing of Free Bird was intended as a memorial to him. But his untimely passing was not the only one being mourned that night, and I – personally – believe that loudly playing that song during the Temple Burn was profoundly disrespectful to all others in attendance. I have nothing but respect for DPW and have friends in their company, but that “tribute” was – I believe – ill conceived.) ”

      I completely agree with this. I am VERY sorry for DPW’s loss, and have loved friends in their company.

      I was also mourning two dear friends. John Pedone, camp leader of Mystical Misfits, and remembering (for the second year) dear friend Dan Gordon-Levitt (or burning dan).

      Neither Al, or I are leftist hippies.

      That’s where this article shifts towards hate mongering.
      Singling out a single group of dissenters. Saying the dissent is because of their traditions (rainbow gatherings), and then focusing the reply towards those specific groups (the left, and “hippies”) is focusing people’s anger back towards these groups, instead of dealing with the broad spectrum backlash against these actions, from much more than leftist hippies.

      Ok, so… Show me some proof, ANY proof, that this backlash is just from leftist hippies… without that, this post becomes a long (and eloquent) focusing of hate towards hippie elements that feel entitled, and are ruining “our” city.

      Like

  53. RIP Joey Jello, a guy I never knew who sweated hard to make my life better. I wish I’d known about the tribute before the burn, I’d have gladly paid my respects. The thing about your examples – New Orleans funerals, etc – is that they’re in a context where everyone knows what is going on. It takes a lot of entitlement to put your mourning up at full volume in a clueless crowd of 30,000. So the DPW acted like entitled jerks? Well, duh! We love ‘em that way. No DPW = no burn.

    Like

  54. As a long-time Burner and set-up volunteer who was mourning the passing of my mother at this year’s Temple Burn, I am saddened by the fact that I didn’t hear DPW’s playing of Free Bird. It would have been a perfect accompaniment to this very personal experience. The fact that certain hippies/Leftists felt it was their “right” to tell someone else how to behave at such a personal event is appalling. Burning Man is the one place where everyone is free to be exactly who and what they are and no one has a right to start dictating behavior. This well-written article reminds us all to respect the rights of others. Those hippies were perfectly free to walk away and view the Temple Burn from a more quiet neighborhood. DPW, I offer my condolences. Losing a loved one can truly fuck yer day. Thanks for playing Free Bird. It does my heart good to know that it was playing, even if I couldn’t hear it myself.

    Like

  55. Your point about silence, the absurdity of shushing, who’s burn is it, etc…are well taken and compelling. However, you have taken an enormous leap of faith to assume that these sentiments are squarely in the liberal/hippie/lefty demographic. You fail to make any compelling argument that it is exclusively that subsection of burners that desires the silence at the temple burn. You even start your whole article describing all the varying types of people that call themselves burners, but fail to recognize that any of these people may also experience the temple burn more deeply in silence, or that some hippies may not give a shit about the silence and would love to chant om as loud as possible to honor their fallen loved ones. Clearly, you are bringing your own default world opinions about what constitutes leftist liberal thinking and applying it to the point you are trying to make. But by having your own blinders up, the end result is a total undermining of your point.

    Like

Share your thoughts with us

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s