[We’ve been copping a bit of flak recently in some online comments, for being crusty old vets who are overly negative on Burning Man, compared to the dewy-eyed Virgins and wannabes. Not true – at Burners.Me, we all love Burning Man, that’s why we write about it. Loving Burning Man is not the same as loving the company that owns and operates it, this party is unique in that it is created by the audience, not the ticket-sellers. This isn’t a marriage – we’re free to criticize any aspect of the party or BMOrg we don’t like. You are too, and you’re free to disagree with us. As eloquently as you choose. “Freedom of Speach”, as Burner Crystal aka Nezgod calls it. Anyway, in the face of all this criticism against us for too much negativity, Burners.Me is happy to bring you this guest post from Whatsblem the Pro…]
With each passing year, more and more people hear about Burning Man in glowing terms that convince them that it’s something they’d like very much to experience for themselves. This gives rise to tongue-in-cheek threads in online communities in which participants claim that Burning Man is canceled, or that bicycles are banned, or that there will be no porta-potties this year.
Why don’t vets want you to go to Burning Man? Isn’t it a place of radical acceptance where all are welcome?
Yes and no.
Burning Man isn’t just an annual party, it’s a year-round culture. That culture has to be successfully transmitted to new people in order to survive, so of course new people are welcome. Unfortunately, the maximum allowable population of Black Rock City is finite, while the word-of-mouth about the event is more like a geometric progression. If the influx of new people overwhelms the vets’ ability to transmit the culture to them, the culture will perish along with an inordinately large number of dehydrated first-timers, and Burning Man will indeed become just another party (some say this has already happened).
We got a taste of that problem in 2012, when the ratio of fresh new burners to old hands threatened to become completely unmanageable due to the ticket lottery. Steps were taken to adjust that ratio, and in February of that year Marian Goodell wrote on the Burning Man blog:
“There are indications that a large percentage of people attending Burning Man this year will be first-time Burners. As eager as we are to welcome our newest citizens into our community, it’s crucially important that we have a solid foundation of veteran Burners in Black Rock City to meet, greet and acculturate these eager new participants, ensuring that they not only survive the elements but also fully participate in the Burning Man culture.”
In the interests of preserving a healthy ratio of new burners to veterans, here are ten good reasons why Burning Man sucks and you don’t want to go:
1. It’s dangerous.
If you look at the back of any Burning Man ticket, you’ll find a disclaimer that varies slightly from year to year, but remains crystal clear: YOU MIGHT DIE at Burning Man and if you do it’s all your fault for showing up. People die in Black Rock City every single year, although you don’t hear much about it. There are plenty of injuries as well, some of them very grave. There are accidents. There are rapes and other forms of assault. People might kill you; you might enjoy a momentary lapse in good sense and kill yourself, and like the ocean, the desert itself stands a good chance of killing you if you fail to respect it and prepare for it. If you have any kind of medical condition that could bring on an emergency, you could find yourself having that emergency a million miles from the help you need. Nearly everyone around you will be intoxicated, and some of them will be operating incredibly dangerous and highly experimental machinery designed to be maximally destructive.
2. It’s dirty.
You’re not likely to get a shower at Burning Man unless you’re DPW or hooked up with a camp that has its own shower. If you’re squeamish about being filthy, that alone might make you want to just quietly erase us from your bucket list. Some people run behind the water trucks that spray water on the roads to keep the dust down, but don’t do it; that water is non-potable and much dirtier than the dust and mud you might have caked on you. Speaking of the dust, you’ll have a hard time appreciating the thoroughness with which the dust infiltrates virtually everything until you’ve been to the playa yourself. I guarantee you’ll get playa dust in your vag even if you don’t have a vag. It might wreck the electronics and any vulnerable moving parts in your car, your phone, your camera, your watch (why are you wearing a watch?). If nothing else, it will be with you (and your car, and a lot of the things you take home from the playa) for a long, long time. People are not exaggerating to you when they talk about how insanely problematic the dust can be. . . there is just nowhere and no way to hide from it, and if you get yourself caught in one of those sudden dust storms that kick up out of nowhere, unprotected and with no shelter available, the dust could easily kill you.
3. It takes a lot of hard work in a dangerous, dirty environment.
If you’re looking for a vacation, Burning Man will certainly improve your attitude and give you plenty of opportunities for recreation and cutting loose, but relaxation? Forget about it. This is the hardest-working vacation on the planet, if you’re not just being a tourist (and tourists in Black Rock City are despicable). If you want to kick back and have people waiting on you, if you want to catch up on your sleep, if you want to finally read that novel you haven’t had any time for, then go someplace else. Burning Man is not the place for you, and if you manage to go home happy it will only be because you’ve been through profound and possibly jarring changes in your worldview. This is the vacation that you come home from filthy dirty and profoundly tired, having stretched your own physical capabilities to the very brink and maybe a little beyond.
4. You might end up in trouble with the law.
Every year, the ratio of law enforcement officers to burners on the playa gets worse. Some reports claim that between 2011 and 2012, the number of cops in Black Rock City doubled or tripled. We’re talking about all kinds of cops here, from at least six different agencies: the Federal Bureau of Land Management Rangers; the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office; Washoe County Sheriff’s Office; Nevada State Department of Investigations; Nevada State Health Division, and the Nevada Highway Patrol all have a presence among us during the event. Undercover officers are abundant, and a lot of them don’t seem to care much about anti-entrapment laws. You’re liable to get a little more leniency in Black Rock than you will from the same cops elsewhere, but you’ll still get fined, get stuck with a criminal record, and possibly go to jail.
5. It’ll ruin your relationship.
Burning Man can be poison to relationships. It’s incredibly unlikely that anyone on the playa is going to keep to whatever schedule you might propose, and that alone is enough to push some peoples’ buttons. Add to that a tantalizing smorgasbord of available sex, unprecedented feelings of freedom and hedonism, and the strong sense of complete personal transformation that your first burn is liable to inflict on you, and you’ve got a recipe for pissing off someone you love and driving them away forever. If you’re not polyamorous, or at least willing to give the love of your life a vacation from monogamy (and the feeling is mutual), then you might want to go without that person . . or stay home and let him or her go without you.
6. People at Burning Man can be really mean!
It’s true. “Fuck Yer Day” is an oft-heard phrase in Black Rock. Burning Man is not based on anyone’s notions of peace ‘n’ love, and radical acceptance doesn’t mean everyone has to like you, or even pretend to like you. If that bothers you, better drink more water (or maybe just go somewhere else). You have to prepare properly, and show that you’ve received enough of the culture to be some kind of asset and not just a tourist, or you’ll run the risk of being openly mocked and derided by the burners around you (or worse, DPW) for your inevitable massive faux pas. Bellying up to the Black Hole bar and loudly demanding service and a cup, for instance.
7. It’s expensive.
On a per-day basis that includes your ticket and your food and other basic supplies for a week on the playa, Burning Man really isn’t that expensive, and in fact would be quite a good vacation value if those were the only expenses you might incur. However, if all you’re doing is surviving and spectating, then you’re doin’ it wrong, jack. Being a part of it all is essential, and that takes a lot of hard work and maybe quite a lot of money, which needs to be factored into the cost as well. Plus, as you get involved, your participation will rapidly begin to demand more than just a week out of your year. Even if that’s all the time you actually spend on the playa, be prepared to find your burn preparations annexing your leisure time – year ’round – like Hitler pouncing on the Sudetenland.
8. It will make employers think you’re weird and on drugs.
Granted, this can actually work in your favor if the person making the hiring and firing decisions is either a burner, or is weird and on drugs, or both. Your strategy would best be determined by your intended profession; it’s probably not going to be an issue if you want to work in a piercing parlor, medical cannabis dispensary, or fetish webcam modeling agency, but it might put a damper on your work if you teach at a Mormon high school.
Seriously. People who work at other festivals, people who work on road tours with major musical acts, people who are major musical acts, people who are at festivals all the time and don’t even get much out of them anymore aside from a paycheck. . . those people go to Burning Man to unwind. It’s not like other festivals and it will make every unrelated event you attend seem like a delicious dish with some vital ingredient missing.
10. This list of reasons isn’t a joke.
OK, sure, it’s a bit meta, but it’s an important point. A lot of people hear about the conditions that prevail out on the playa, and fail to appreciate the sheer severity of it all. Maybe they think their friends are exaggerating, engaging in hyperbole, or just plain joking. The fact is that the playa is a howling wilderness that will make you monstrously uncomfortable if you’re not prepared, could change your life in ways you haven’t anticipated and aren’t ready for, and just might maim you or kill you deader than a very dead thing.
DON’T GO TO BURNING MAN.