There’s This Thing Called Burning Man. . .

by Whatsblem the Pro

Josh and Chuck -- PHOTO: SYSK

Josh and Chuck — PHOTO: SYSK

The STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW podcast has a new installment up, and it’s called “How Burning Man Works.”

Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, hosts of the show, have never been to Burning Man. They don’t plan on going, either. . . they like looking at pictures, but they just don’t feel that an actual trip to the playa would be their cup of tea. They begin the podcast with the question “would you or would you not ever go to Burning Man?” The answer? “Nah.”

It’s interesting to listen to these two talk about Burning Man without ever having been there. The show is a weird mix of pure Org kool-aid with look-at-the-dirty-hippies snark, peppered here and there with moments that make you wonder where they got their information. . . like when they say that there’s no law enforcement presence on the playa; Josh and Chuck seem to think that the BLM is the only law enforcement agency out there, and that the Org deals with BLM so everyone else just gets left alone to do whatever they like. Ah, wishful thinking.

Some of the eyebrow-raisers uttered in this podcast really make you wonder about more than the duo’s grasp of English grammar (which should be excellent but isn’t; Josh touts himself as a professional journalist, and Chuck has a degree in English). Frankly, I’m beginning to question their commitment to Sparkle Motion. We should, however, bear in mind that nobody has an obligation to know much of anything about Burning Man, even if they’re doing a podcast called “How Burning Man Works.” Josh and Chuck are, after all, in the entertainment business.

Motorhomes is what most people stay in.”

“There will be scalpers there [at the Gate], but they’re selling the tickets for less than face value. . . sometimes half of the lowest price.”

“It’s not about trading, even. It’s about giving. I will give you herpes, and you don’t have to give me anything back.”

They cite decommodification in a very gee-whiz sort of way, and naturally they miss the fact that it doesn’t apply to the Org making money. . . but they do go on to speculate about the damaging effects that big money has had on the event over the years, and on the relationships between Board members.

The part they get absolutely right is the idea that you’re supposed to translate your on-playa experience into your life the rest of the year. If ever there was a core Cacophonist value, that would qualify. . . and surprise, surprise: Josh and Chuck may be Burning Man outsiders with some confused views of the event and the culture, but unlike a huge percentage of burners (who ought to be ashamed of themselves), they know what the Cacophony Society is, and actually use the phrase “Temporary Autonomous Zone” at one point. We’ll overlook the fact that Josh and Chuck think that Black Rock City really is a Temporary Autonomous Zone, which is just plain nonsense. Their confusion is highlighted nicely (though ungrammatically) in the phrase “there is rules,” uttered just moments after the false assertion that there’s no law enforcement at Burning Man, and you can do whatever you like there.

I’m not sure what to think of all this, but at the very least it’s a good glimpse into what the casual outsider thinks of Burning Man after having spent an hour or two idly reading about it. Your thoughts?

Free As a Bird/Pig/Prickly Thing

porcfestxBurning Man began its life as a Temporary Autonomous Zone – a place where people could experiment with different ways of living together, for fun and for pleasure and (increasingly these days) for profit. There are still other events around the world true to the TAZ spirit. Perhaps even more true – usually with these things, the smaller they are, the more authentic they are. Porcfest seems like one such event, dedicated to freedom and liberty and maybe even a little dose of anarchy. Their tenth annual festival, Porcfest X, has just wrapped up this weekend. If anyone went this year and has photos, please send. Here’s how the organizers describe it:

The Porcupine Freedom Festival is the flagship annual event of the Free State Project. It is a week long celebration of liberty at Roger’s Campground in Northern New Hampshire. Over 1,000 people are expected to attend this unique camping event which includes activities for all ages. Camp fires, panel discussions, presentations, movies, live talk shows, dancing, singing, music, food, parties, all around liberty-loving good times, and more are to be found at the most exciting liberty event of the year. PorcFest is a showcase of some of New Hampshire’s finest in the scenic view of the White Mountains.

white mountainsWhen I was a kid, the White Mountains was the name of an awesome sci-fi trilogy about Day of the Triffids/War of the Worlds style “tripod” alien invaders to earth. Interesting parallels in those stories with the views of freedom that are celebrated at this festival, and at Burning Man. I’ll take their word for it that it’s a real place – New Hampshire is one of the dozen or so States I haven’t been to visit yet.

Porcy’s Events include “make your own black powder rifle”, “family shoot” (featuring advanced AK-47 handling) and “field expedient medical kit class”. Last year they managed to get shock jock truth-teller Alex Jones and Libertarian Presidential Candidate Gary Johnson has also been a speaker there. Veterans Today, a site not normally concerned with Burner events, wrote a story on this year’s Porcfest entitled “Liberty or Death – the New American Revolution Begins in New Hampshire”…which is giving it some pretty big props. I mean, how many art cars, lasers, sound systems, and flame throwers can these people possibly have? Sure, they got guns…but we’re in Nevada, we’re an open carry state too, we can have silencers and Ak-47’s too. Anyway, when it comes to 60,000 people fucked up in the desert, guns don’t make the party. Usually, anyway…

What do you get if you mix marijuana mavens, gun-lovers, unschoolers, computer hackers, bitcoin evangelists, survivalists, tax heretics, cop-blockers, cop-watchers, civil disobedience practitioners, gray- and black-market entrepreneurs, anarcho-activists, nullification enthusiasts, freedom theorists, sovereignty rebels, love-our-freedom Muslims, truth terrorists, de facto defectors, and other self-described enemies of the state?

The answer: Porcfest – as in porcupines, not pigmeat. Porcfest, a.k.a. the Porcupine Freedom Festival, showcases the Free State Project, which asks freedom-lovers to move to New Hampshire. Their goal: Make the “live free or die” state live up to its motto. If New Hampshire becomes a haven of liberty, these folks believe, it will not only be a really fun place, but it might even spearhead American Revolution 2.0. and help save America, and the world, from the forces of tyranny.

no, Colombia didn't get one of those indoor ski slopes like Dubai

no, Colombia didn’t get one of those indoor ski slopes like Dubai

In ten years, the Free State Project has convinced more than a thousand liberty-lovers to move to New Hampshire. Their goal is 20,000 – which they calculate would be enough to radically change how business and government are conducted statewide. While they haven’t liberated the whole state yet, I can testify that the Free Staters have set up a wildly successful week-long Temporary Autonomous Zone here in the White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire.

The sweet smell of weed hangs over this place, rivaling the pungent woodsmoke from campfires and spicy meatsmoke from barbecues. All kinds of people are packing serious heat – not just holstered pistols, but also semi-(?)-automatic rifles slung casually over a great many backs. (That may be one reason visible law enforcement has chosen to stay away.) Some of the gun-toting guys look like hippies; a few even wear skirts. Others are skinheads in camouflage.

If you want magic mushrooms, you won’t have to wander around any cow pastures to find them. Unlicensed bars and lounges, some in plushly-furnished tents right out of the Arabian Nights, will serve you up just about anything you might desire, from absinthe to homebrew, from top-shelf wine and liquor to Miller Lite. (Since I’m a love-our-freedom Muslim, I prefer the equally luxurious gourmet tea-house next door.)

porcfest 2013If the fear-mongering media stereotypes were true, PorcFest would be a terrifying place. During this week-long wild-and-crazy party, the official laws governing drugs, sex, firearms, currency, taxation, licensing and regulation are effectively null and void. All of us here at Rogers Campground are at the mercy of our fellow freedom-loving citizens. The state apparatus that normally “protects us” from each other is conspicuous by its absence. And yet somehow I feel safer here, among the pot-smoking survivalists with AK-47s slung over their backs, than I did at the normal campgrounds I stayed at while driving here from Wisconsin, where cops and park rangers are on duty to make sure you and your fellow campers follow all the laws…and if you don’t, they’ll kidnap you and put you in a cage.

It makes you wonder: Do we really need all those uniformed guys with badges threatening to kidnap and cage us, and beat the hell out of us or even shoot us if we resist? To borrow a phrase from police-beating victim Rodney King: Can’t we all just get along…without them?

Here at PorcFest, the answer is: Yes we can.

Not only do they have economics there…they take Bitcoins. It sounds like an interesting place and a great Zone for experimentation and adventure. This is what the Burner experiment should be about – pop-up civilizations, mobile tribes, spontaneous destinations. Flash villages.

bitcoins2No wonder so many PorcFest participants have phased US dollars out of their lives, and are using Bitcoin and commodity currency (mostly gold and silver) for all of their market-exchange transactions.

Could the crypto-currency revolution bring down the government? That is what many here hope. Their forecast: Because crypto-currencies offer privacy and stable value, all rational economic actors will gradually move out of fiat currencies into crypto-currencies. The dollar, and all other fiat currencies, will collapse. Governments will no longer be able to print currency or tax their subjects. Bankrupt, they will wither away, replaced by mechanisms of voluntary association, beginning with the free market.

In preparation for that day, the Freedom Movement is big on agorism: Entrepreneurship in gray or black markets. Agorism basically just means starting a business – except you do it in such a way as to minimize or eliminate taxation and regulation. If possible, your agorist business will also help spread the word about the movement.

A PorcFest event called The Agorist Pitch offered prizes worth thousands of dollars to those with the best business ideas. The winner: Davi Barker’s plan for crowd-funded follow-ups to the Milgram and Stanford Prison experiments on obedience to authority. Runners-up included an educational game and a chicken farm.

Unlike the 1960s hippies who camped out and partied at places like Woodstock and Altamont, the folks here at PorcFest are not using “freedom” as a vague and mystical slogan. Their intellectual heroes – people like Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and of course the overrated Ayn Rand – offer a rigorously analytical libertarian philosophy and economics. Personally, I’m not convinced that these ideas always have straightforward and unambiguous real-world applications; like PorcFest speaker David Friedman, the son of famed Chicago School economist Milton Friedman, I think we need historical observation and empirical reality-testing to complement and sometimes contradict all of the wonderful libertarian theories.

But if the anarchists finally won their argument with the Marxists, as I think history shows they did, it was for a reason. The anarchist critique of government is correct.

“Professional rabble rouser” Adam Kokesh, who advocates among other things “marijuana civil disobedience”, is also part of this crew. A coming together of people interested in changing the world? An event based on liberty and freedom, without many rules? Hmmm….sounds like a good excuse for a party.

Fertility Love Fest

Every year seems to bring us more Burning Man videos. KJ & Stefan Spins are up to 3 now, using the popular “everyone sings a song” format – you probably remember their 2011 “home” one. Their 2012 edition brings us a whole bunch of love from Burners singing along to Michael Franti, a song he wrote in Woody Harrelson’s bathroom.

A great video to get you psyched up for Burning Man this year.