by Whatsblem the Pro
Whither goest thou, Man, in thy arty car in the night?
The struggle to allocate dollars for education and road projects has been heated between Northern and Southern Nevada in this session of the State Senate, and now Burning Man has come to the government’s attention as a ripe plum to contend over.
With over 60,000 participants annually and a ticket revenue of some 30 million dollars, “That Thing in the Desert” has become a sought-after cash cow for local and federal agencies.
State Senator David Parks, a Democrat representing the 7th District (which includes Las Vegas), made strong overtures toward the Org’s lobbyists after a committee meeting in which a presentation was given on the economic and cultural boost that Burning Man brings to Nevada.
“We have a lot of dry lake beds in Southern Nevada,” purred Parks seductively to the the lobbyists. “Have you ever contemplated, perhaps. . . off I-15, we’ve got the Ivanpah Lakebed.”
“It is definitely bringing people into our state,” said Black Rock Solar representative and lobbyist Tom Clark in reference to Burning Man. Clark also mentioned that a Regional event was at one time held in the desert outside of Las Vegas, but had to be canceled when the federal government began demanding permit fees for the event.
It remains to be seen how the Org intends to handle the problems presented by keeping the event in the Black Rock Desert. The cost of running the event has risen significantly as more and more city, county, state, and federal agencies have come to the table with their hands out, demanding larger and larger slices of ticket revenue.
We’ve also got a law enforcement problem on the playa; the number of on-duty officers from various agencies tripled on the playa between 2011 and 2012. Radical expression being arguably the most important of the ten principles, this is a situation that cannot be ignored for long.
Clearly, Burning Man needs to move. . . but where? Relocating to the Ivanpah Lakebed could be just the thing, or it could be going from the frying pan to the fire. There has been talk of purchasing Fly Ranch in the Hualapai Valley, but like Ivanpah, there are some serious challenges with that plan, not least of which are environmental. Private property, however, does seem to be in our future, given the decreased fees and increased freedom that holding the event on private property would bring.
Moving Burning Man would be good for all of us in many ways. Given the inroads made on our freedom to express ourselves and have a good time by the rapidly-growing law enforcement presence on the playa, you’d think this would be the Org’s top priority. . . but do they even care? They don’t seem to mind wasting literally years worth of our collective time with half-baked ticketing schemes, even though that problem could be (and should have already been) solved easily. Does the Org feel the pressure to move, or is that just our problem? They make their money either way; tickets will be in demand either way. . . but if we stay on BLM land, the rank-and-file burners will continue to find it increasingly difficult to find true freedom at Burning Man.
Relocation would also, I think, tend to invigorate our culture. People are highly prone to regarding things as sacred once they become traditional, and this is a corrosive influence. It starts with angry shushing at Temple Burn, and ends with Burning Man transmogrified into the Rainbow Gathering. Moving the event to new digs would help, for a while, to break that unwanted bond of holiness some of us seem so prone to forming with alkaline dust.
What would the downside of moving the Man be? The main reason we are tolerated at all by harrumphing officialdom is because we are a cash cow. If we move to private property and sidestep all those fees and permits, how will that affect, say, the way that police and highway patrol units treat us on our way in, or during Exodus? Local municipalities will continue to love us and our influx of dollars no matter where we go, but moving could have a chilling effect on the way State and federal authorities view burners. Would we rather be interfered with and potentially harassed on the highway coming in and out of Burning Man, or on the streets of Black Rock City itself? That may be the choice that must be made.