Burning Man Jumps the Shark

shark burning man sfbg

Today’s headline in the SF Bay Guardian:

Burning Man jumps the shark

How a high-minded countercultural experiment ended up on everyone’s bucket list

08.19.14  | Steven T. Jones

Steven Jones (Scribe) wrote an excellent book in 2011 called the Tribes of Burning Man. He’s a veteran Burner, and has also covered the event for a long time at the SF Bay Guardian.

Burning Man is the cover story of their latest issue, and like San Francisco Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Salon before them, they have declared that it is official: what three years ago Scribe described as “the premier counter-cultural event of modern times”, has now jumped the shark and become a caricature of its former self.

It’s not all bad:

let me be clear that Burning Man is still one of the greatest parties on the planet. The Black Rock Desert is a spectacular setting, much of the art created for Burning Man each year is innovative and mind-blowing, and the experience of spending a week in a commerce-free, open-minded temporary city can truly be transformative, especially for those doing it for the first time

He sees shark-jumping as perhaps a philosophical question, which is interesting since Larry Harvey is now Burning Man’s CPO – Chief Philosophy Officer.

The question of when Burning Man jumped the shark is a matter of perspective, or perhaps it’s a philosophical question, but these are waters worth wading into as burners pack up this week for their annual pilgrimage to the playa.

art car sharkThe meme that Burning Man has jumped the shark — that is, that it’s gotten ridiculous or strayed from its original ethos — circulated more strongly this year than most after conservative firebrand Grover Norquist last month tweeted that he was “off to ‘Burning Man’ this year. Scratch one off the bucket list.”

But burners and media commentators have been saying it for years, sparked by developments ranging from the increasingly top-down control over a temporary city built with volunteer labor from the bottom-up to the sheer scale and inertia of an event that is now pushing 70,000 participants.

True. I first went to Burning Man in 1998, and already people were saying “it was better last year”. To me, I think Malcolm in the Middle was a shark-jumping moment for the party, as funny as the episode was. South Park’s epsiode with Cartman and Satanic god Cthulhu burning all the hippies at Burning Man was the pinnacle of Burning Man’s cool factor. After that, we had the ever increasing media blitz, where the Vogue photo shoot was followed closely by the Krug dinner and the Spark Movie. Spark will be screening on Showtime this Thursday night – just to get Burners super-excited for their trip(py) home.

Burning Man Founder John Law was over the whole thing by 1996:

John Law, who co-founded the artsy Nevada desert bacchanal, walked away from Burning Man after the deadly and chaotic 1996 event, believing that the commercial and regulatory structure that followed was antithetical to the countercultural, DIY values on which burner culture was based.

The population of Black Rock City then doubled in size within two years, and doubled again within four more, prompting some burners to say 30,000 people — including a growing number of straight-laced newbies drawn by mainstream media coverage — was just too many.

At the end of 2004, dozens of the event’s marquee artists and performers launched a high-profile revolt against how Black Rock City LLC was running the event (see “State of the art,” 12/20/04). “The fix must address many issues, but the core issue for the fix is the art,” they wrote in a petition that ran as a full-page ad in the Guardian. “Art, art, art: that is what this is all about.”

But little changed. Burning Man had caught fire and the LLC was more interested in stoking the flames than controlling the conflagration. It promoted more regional burns around the world, created new offshoot organizations to spread the burner art and ethos, consolidated control of the brand and trademarks, and spelled out the “Ten Principles” that all Burning Man events would live by.

The burner backlash against that trend took many forms, but the most fiery dissent came on Monday night during the 2007 Burning Man when Paul Addis torched the eponymous Man to bring the chaos back to an event that he felt had grown too staid and scripted.

bm shark jumpingBurner officialdom responded by simply building a new Man and helping secure a four-year federal prison sentence for Addis — both decisions made without soliciting any input from the larger burner community. Coming after some corporate-style chicanery earlier that year involving control of the event’s trademark and logo, that’s when Burning Man seemed to peak, like the ramp that launched Fonzie over the sharks.

We’ve covered some of the John Law and Paul Addis legal run-ins with BMOrg in:

The Laws of the Desert

Monday is the New Saturday

Getting The Last Word: A Year After His Death, a Burner Speaks

Now Scribe gets into the crux of the matter: why say now that it has jumped the shark, when a Giant Man is being built and the event is nearly 30 years old?

jellyfishif jumping the shark is an idiom based on when things get really ridiculous, a point at which self-awareness withers and something becomes a caricature of what it once was, then the events of 2007 were just warm-up laps for the spectacle to come.

when an organization asserts a set of high-minded utopian values, it’s only fair to judge it by those standards. And when it claims the economic value of the labors of tens of thousands of voluntary participants as its own company assets, questions of accountability and commodification naturally arise.

Exactly. They tell us we’re making the world a better place, OK then…some of us want to know how. We want to see some evidence, not just hear appeal-to-the-masses rhetoric.

For example, Burning Man has always asserted the value of “Decommodification,” which is one of its Ten Principles: “In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation.”

sk8 logoYet the LLC has closely guarded its control over the Burning Man name, logo, images, and associated brands, resisting efforts to place them in the public domain and even waging legal battles against longtime burners who try to use them, including a current conflict with Canadian burners over how much the company can control a culture there that it didn’t actually create.

Licensing of the Burning Man brand and images has been a secret source of income for the company, which doesn’t publicly disclose its revenues, only its expenditures. In recent years, those brands and commodities have been transferred to a new entity controlled by the original six LLC board members, ironically named Decommodification LLC.

We’re not sure that all expenditures are completely disclosed in the Afterburn reports. The non-profit entities must file public documents, and from them we can see the charities all have substantial annual expenses for accounting, legal, rent, and travel – all areas that are also large numbers in Burning Man’s Afterburn financial charts. It’s not clear if the expenses of their charitable subsidiaries are lumped together with BMOrg costs in the Afterburn expenses. The various charities charge other members of the group for consulting, and claim consulting costs as program services. Decommodification, LLC’s payments are not disclosed, and neither are the cash-out amounts to the founders. They have effectively sold Black Rock City, LLC to themselves, operating from a tax-free non-profit called the Burning Man Project. We have covered this here:

Where Does Your Ticket Money Go

The Great Cash Out (guest post from reader A Balanced Perspective)

The value of these transactions is potentially in the tens of millions of dollars. No wonder Larry and Anti-Tax campaigner Grover Norquist are such good buddies.

Next, Scribe turns his attention to the Tin Principles. Tin in the sense that they are very malleable, and can be bent in whatever direction suits the upper echelon of this organizational structure. We’re told “it’s the dynamic tension between conflicting principles that makes them so good”, or some such waffle.

Some of the other Burning Man principles can seem just as farcical, including Radical Inclusion (“No prerequisites exist for participation in our community,” except the $380 ticket), Communal Effort (but “cooperation and collaboration” apparently don’t apply to decisions about how the event is managed or how large it gets), and Civic Responsibility (“We value civil society,” says the organization that eschews democratic debate about its direction and governance structure).

mirror hatMeanwhile, Harvey and company have promised greater transparency and accountability at some future point, through The Burning Man Project, a nonprofit organization formed a few years ago ostensibly to take over running the event from BRC LLC

But it hasn’t exactly rolled out that way. As I’ve reported, the original six board members have maintained tight control over all aspects of the event, appointing new nonprofit board members mostly for their fundraising ability and willingness to toe the company line, rather than seeking representation from the various constituent burner communities.

bm-mirrorsEven then, with a board hand-picked for its loyalty (which apparently goes both ways, given how the LLC has supported hagiographic Burning Man film and book projects by two of its new nonprofit board members), Harvey still remains wary of “undue meddling” by the new board, as he put it to me.

That’s the nature of this machine they’ve created inside our event. Not even its self-appointed Board can meddle with it.

On top of that sundae, add the cherry that is Harvey’s public admission that all six board members have, as part of this transition, awarded themselves large financial settlements in amounts that will never be disclosed, and one might expect burners to revolt.

But they haven’t. Most just don’t care about these internal company dynamics (except for a few brave souls at the excellent Burners.me blog), no matter how questionable, as long as their beloved Burning Man still happens on schedule. And that’s why I think Burning Man has truly jumped the shark, launching from the ramp of a high-minded experiment and splashing down into the tepid waters of mass-consumed hedonism.

Hey, that’s us! Aw, shucks. Right back atcha, mate.

Scribe voices something that I think is on the mind of many Veterans:

bucket list cartoonToday, almost every bucket list on the Internet — those things that everyone is advised to do before they die — includes Burning Man. It has become the ultimate commodity, a product that everyone, from all walks of life, is encouraged to consume. Doing so is easier than ever these days.

After tickets sold out for the first time ever in 2011 — and a flawed new ticketing system unilaterally created by the LLC in 2012 triggered widespread criticism and anxiety — the company opted to just increase the population of Black Rock City by more than 20 percent, peaking at 69,613 last year.

Everyone felt the difference. Popular spots like the dance parties at Distrikt on Friday afternoon or Robot Heart at dawn on Saturday reached shit show proportions, with just way too many people. And this year will be more of the same.

In the old days, going to Burning Man was difficult, requiring months of preparation with one’s chosen campmates to create internal infrastructure (shade, showers, kitchen, etc.) and something to gift the community (an art car, a bar, a stage and performances to fill it, etc.).

But with the rise of plug-and-play camps in recent years, those with money can fly into Black Rock City and buy their way into camps that set up their RVs, cook their meals, stock their costumes and intoxicants, decorate their bikes, and clean it all up at the end. Such camps have become a source of employment for entrepreneurial veteran burners, but they cut against the stated principles of Participation and Radial Self-Reliance.

burning_man suitsAnd what of the Founders? They’re not planning on going anywhere. They seem to be sitting in the same chairs and performing the same roles within BMOrg, and are building that up as a new organization with a new strategic objective. Their focus seems not so much on this party that they’ve thrown quite a few times already, as it is on all the other parties they now want to go to and link into it (and own under the one brand).

While LLC board member Marian Goodell told me that “we’re big into listening mode at the moment” as they decide what’s next for Burning Man, she also claims to have heard no concerns from burners about the event’s current size or direction, and she denies the nonprofit transition was ever about loosening their grip on the event.

We’ve never talked about turning Burning Man back to the community,” Goodell told me last week, accusing me of misinterpreting comments by Harvey when he announced the transition, such as, “We want to get out of running Burning Man. We want to move on.”

Marian’s statements hark back to the time before all these LLC’s and legal fees, when Burning Man was very much in the hands of the community. The 6 people who are cashing out of it now – but remaining seated at the table  – were the ones who turned it away from the community after about ten years, and into their own hands via a corporate structure. They sold this LLC at the start of this year. To themselves. Creating a non-profit foundation which they completely control is just like Bill Gates and the Rockefellers did before them. Their table for the “next generation of The Project” now includes billlionaires, Hollywood heavyweights, husbands and wives taking a seat each, and representatives of the highest levels of wealth and power in the world.

In my opinion, good on them – it’s the American way, they created a popular thing and we live in a capitalist society. They’re entitled to their cash out, and best of luck to them with their plans for the future.

money bags desert islandBut I’m a corporate guy. I like deals, I like good business. I like innovation and commerce and the entire Burner ecosystem being able to make money off this movement. Not just Burning Man’s owners. I like plug and play camping and people spending $100,000 on fireworks just to shoot out the ass of a Trojan horse. Make it rain! I like art cars where the door alone cost $25,000, or the sound system cost $600,000 and requires a busful of amplifiers to run a wall of speakers that can play to 20,000 people. These things don’t happen at poor hippy parties.

I know a lot of Burners see things a bit differently. They see that this party used to be about freedom, and getting away from the world of money and authority. In an all too typical Silicon Valley tale, the corporate interests turned it away from that beautiful initial vision and gave the power and money to themselves.

First they started selling tickets. Next they formed corporations and registered trademarks, and then they came up with unique photo policies where they had to own the rights to everything “so they could protect us”; and then a few years later, they started monetizing those IP rights. Movies, soundtracks, photo shoots, gasoline, scarves. Ticket prices kept going up and up and up, the event got bigger and bigger, there was an insatiable thirst by BMOrg to find new blood to attend. The more the dollars went up, the more the rules came in. Lately it seems that their main event is sliding down a slippery slope of commercialization. Decommodification, the LLC is not helping reinforce the idea of Decommodification, the Principle.

I see it this way: BMOrg can own all the trademarks they want, and sell as many tickets as they want, but they don’t make this party. They provide the infrastructure and the context and take care of the paperwork. Most of the work is outsourced, in particular to DPW who operate much more like a conventional organization, and appear to be skilled and efficient at what they do. The cops do security. Volunteers do almost everything else. It’s the major camps and art cars that make this party, and if a large enough group of them went somewhere else, plenty of Burners would too. Like they already do, at Coachella and EDC and LIB and Ultra and Glastonbury and the hundreds of other festivals that Burning Man Director Chip Conley is tracking and promoting at his Fest300 site. Of course, Burning Man is on the list, and always will be.

Yes, kiddies, the shark has been jumped. But I hope all my burner friends still have a great week in the desert.

As Scribe says, many Burners couldn’t care less and just want to go and get fucked up at this killer party next week. So what are you waiting for? Get up there! Tickets are still available on Stubhub, you’ll have to fork out more than $1000 though. Vehicle passes are now available for less than the original $40.

Read Scribe’s full article and the rest of SFBG’s Burning Man coverage here.

34 comments on “Burning Man Jumps the Shark

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  18. Awesome article, Scribe. Kudos on all your labours in keeping the SFBG alive, and for your numerous articles upon Burning Man, and upon Burner culture. And, kudos, burnersxxx, for your awesome blog.

    Scribe, I heart your penning of ‘… sparked by developments ranging from increasingly top-down control over a temporary city built with volunteer labor from the bottom-up …’ ‘And when it claims the economic value of the labors of tens of thousands of voluntary participants as its own company assets’ ‘… says the organization that eschews democratic debate about its direction and governance structure’ in addendum to hiding their ‘large financial settlements’ from the awesome Burner community, whom has thrown this crowd sourced event for numerous burns. The shark has been jumped.

    There is no rationale of this rubbish, by the BMOrg, other than greed of cash, towards their pockets, and greed of control, towards their ego. It would be easy peasy, of the BMOrg, to pay, towards the awesome artists, all expenses of wood, space lease, and of transportation, in place of solely $14 of each $380 or $650 ticket. In addendum, it would be easy peasy, of the BMOrg, to gift thousands of tickets towards the awesome sound camps, esplanada camps, and towards the owners of mutant vehicle, purposed towards assisting them in bringing their awesome gifts to the playa. There is no other rationale, of this rubbish, of preventing Burner voices upon the board of the Project, of being of top down control over the awesome Burner community, by their bureaucratic ministry of the event, in the place of respecting the voices of numerous awesome Burners whom have contributed mightily, towards the throwing of this awesome crowd sourced party and towards the community for numerous years. The shark has been jumped.

    The community has been stating, in a very loud mannerism, towards the BMOrg, labour hard towards protecting us from the abusive behaviour of the police, resist the numerous rules placed upon the event, there is, at present, little gifting of food, gifting of alcohol, and fire effects, as in comparison towards solely a few burns prior, in due of the numerous rules. In addendum, labour hard towards distributing tickets through the awesome Burner community, in place of selling tickets towards 30,000 newbies and bucket listers, most of whom assist little towards the throwing of the awesome crowd sourced party. Permit the Burner community to throw events, utilizing their connections to the Burning Man event, without the BMOrg, and their representatives within contract to them, being in control. But, the BMOrg does not desire to respect the desires of the awesome Burner community. The shark has been jumped.

    But, the BMOrg desires to hide the numerous millions of cash directed towards their pockets from the donors of cash, labour, entertainment, and art to the 501(c)3 Burning Man Project and to the BRC LLC, doing business as Burning Man, owned by the Project, and within near total control of the BMOrg. In addendum, the BMOrg is doing this rubbish while being a bloody 501(c)3, and most of the party goers, at present, as Scribe states, do not care. The shark has been jumped.

    I have not stated prior, but it is time to do so. There is a simple solution towards the beginnings of the process of healing. Larry, and Marian, despite all their labours over numerous years, must be thanked for their labours, and must retire towards the side, and permit others to take over. They have eliminated numerous thousands of prior Burners from the community by their ministry of the event, sadly, they must be two more. Even Elon Musk, upon being queried in regards towards his future at Tesla, stated ‘he intended to remain CEO for at least four or five more years, but then joked, “Nobody is CEO of a company forever. Eventually they carry you out.” It is of that time, the shark has been jumped.

    • Scribe, kudos on all your reporting. I know you do not desire to report further upon this rubbish, but, might one of your reporters, or might any other reporter, desire to pen an article upon this rubbish, follows is a brace of queries that might be presented.

      query a- The BMOrg stated The space we use is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and our 2013 fees to them totaled $4,522,952. A reporter might verify this number with the BLM. A story is within this numeral, raised from $1.8 million within 2012, either of the BLM is pocketing payments of near 10 per cent of the cash of revenues of the Burning Man event, or the BMOrg is stating an untruth, purposed toward hiding payments of cash, towards their Decommodification LLC pockets, as a usage fee upon their Burning Man(TM) trademarks.

      query b- 501(c)3 law, and the Bylaws of the Burning Man Project, upon their website, state any person might walk into their offices purposed to view, and to copy, the minutes of the board meetings of the 501(c)3 Burning Man Project. The minutes of the board meetings of the Project, of 2013 November to 2014 March, might provide much knowledge. In particular, it would state the positions of Larry, and of Marian, within the Project, their reasonable salaries within 2014, and, of all votes of the board of the Project. In addendum, the minutes of the board, perchance, might state the conditions upon the donation of the BRC LLC to the Project, of which, the Project must obey.

      In addendum, my mate viewed a statement, of particular interest, of within the Bylaws of the Project- solely one person, from the board, might vote in all board members of the BRC LLC, should the board of the Project not vote towards over ruling him, or of her. This permits near full control of the BRC LLC, Burning Man, towards solely one person. Is this person Larry? The answer of this query would be within the minutes of the board of the Project.

  19. Nothing new under the sun. It’s long past time to abandon the now-corporate whore carcass of a long-dying lovely idea.

    Time for a full-on Death of the Burner event, a la the 1967 Death of the Hippie parade? http://www.diggers.org/cavallo_pt__5.htm

    …or as “Burner” Grover Norquist’s fellow travellers saw it https://www.youtube.com/v/6vUm0HPrl8w

    Nothing new under the sun, of course. Burners have just gone underground and all around, and rise and fall again.

    Burning Man is dead, long live Burning Man!

  20. I volunteered for the event for years before I became a paid manager. I didn’t just volunteer, but also helped fund it before ticket sales existed. Larry was a volunteer and funder for over a decade. When it became a necessary step of survival to become a limited liability company, I opted out, didn’t want the burden of responsibility that that demanded, but did get paid, as the time and responsibility involved required a modest compensation. (Every volunteer organization has a certain paid staff). Fucking had the time of my life pretty much every second of the time. And still do as a volunteer/funder again as partici-fucking-pant.

    Volunteerism is a great opportunity for learning and connecting. Look at Dickens Mr. Scrooge, whatever… anyhoo the playa guestbook includes some impressive movers and shakers, whoever attends, if left or right, I’m always curious to see their before and after pictures and stories.

    “Tribe is dead, eplaya is dead, 3playa is dead”

    errr…. as getting out and doing shit, burning elbow grease in the world is growing… it seems bemoaning on the interwebs is whats jumping sharkbaits… just sayin, you lovely volunteer burners.you 🙂

    Also, as a note to ponder, Larry lives in the same place he did as a starving artist, since 1981, and still drives a modest jeep. No estates or lavish frills there… hmmm…

    • Thank you for your efforts, but the key element is trust, and that comes with transparency. As shown by the NSA and Ferguson experiences, lack of transparency compels one to lose trust. With confidential financials and transactions behind a facade of non-profit/volunteer work, in the context of a complete top-down management, with no enfranchisement of those who make it happen, causes a failure of trust and faith in the organization and decisions made.

      The (non-profit) stone soup organizations I volunteer time to maintain transparency, and to that extent they maintain trust that my time is not wasted. I can see that from the financials, and the effect of the work we do. If the members could not see the general benefit from our efforts to everyone, dues and participation would fail. We do not measure our success by who is involved or approves of our work, but by real metrics of the trends we have created and supported over time.

      • I think it is possible to have an event with both for-profit and non-profit aspects, peacefully co-existing. I like the idea of Burning Man being like the Olympics, small towns competing for it, if they win it’s a big deal so the authorities and local merchants welcome us. If rich people come, great, if they don’t, great. For the participants, all of whom are travellers, it would mean an always fresh adventure, a chance to experience different places.

        To organize that would take money, there is no reason why it couldn’t be based on transparency and other open source principles.

        • What precednet events do you have in mind where profit/non-profit co-exist? The Olympics and the World Cup are two examples of location-shopped events that have had some recent loss of trust due to hidden and nefarious transactions and deals. The 100% non-profit stone soup organizations I vounteer time to do shop their meeting locations and have commercial-show elements, and do have ads in their publications. But these are clearly delineated, and we have not had Olympic/World Cup problems. (Once we had a government guy try to manipulate some of our work and he was called out for his actions and stripped of responsibility.) What seems to keep the other organizations together is the all-volunteer aspect to all the substantive work done. Sure, we have salaried staff to keep things running, paid from our dues, but they never make decisions – that is all done by the volunteers.

          For now – since I have not figured out a way to monetize being at the NV Burn – I see it as flypaper, attracting those whom I would rather not see at other Burns. So, I am happy that it is at the same place every year so they can all go there and be together, get their bucket lists checked, and not bother the rest of us.

          • Maker Faire is one that springs to mind quickly. Although there has been corruption in some sports related to location shopping, Formula 1 too – that doesn’t mean transparency is impossible, or the idea isn’t viable. I think actually most sports have successfully integrated professional and amateur involvement and the needs of owners of venues and the community. Sports has been monetized at the higher levels, but the majority of players are not professional.

            In the open source software world, the free/pro model is well established. Linux is probably the most commercially successful example, in terms of the economy generated around its ecosystem which has created many millionaires. Some contribute their expertise for free and have no desire to become millionaires from it, some care about the money more than writing the code. That’s what built the web. I plan to delve into this area in much more detail next week, when the “coast is clear”

          • We are off-track, partly my fault. You are not citing stone soup events. You are citing for-profit spectator events. I am speaking of events and organizations where the rank-and-file participants are the key. The reason they exist are for the participants to interact, and in my case, generate something for the general good.

            We have problems of commercial interests intruding, which puts the organization at risk of becoming a commercial voice. (They already have their own organization, but they don’t get the participation we do because they are an organization of companies, we are an organization of individuals.) That’s why we have a rule that only one person from any company can be a voting member of any committees.

            So far, you have only cited commercial spectator events. Can you cite any stone soup events or organizations where profit/non-profit work together without the risk of the profit sector disenfranchising the people who volunteer to make (and eat) the soup.

    • Thanks a lot for sharing your perspective! It’s nice to hear about the old house and modest jeep, though not entirely surprising – would expect a person with those ideas to spend their excess money into experiences (travel, etc.) rather than material possessions. It makes sense in terms of personal rewards to volunteer so much just for the fun of constantly meeting new interesting people. But I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with my work being taken credit of by people doing all the nasty community brand policing stuff (e.g. http://burners.me/2014/05/22/canada-draws-battle-lines-for-burner-culture/), or the related camera restrictions (e.g. http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/burningman.html). I guess that’s also somewhat inevitable when being part of a large group of humans, though…

  21. The thing that I can’t get my head around are the legion of volunteers who line up to ‘gift’ themselves to this project. They’re out there right now busting their asses. What motivates them? Do they not question why most of them are not getting paid, yet the company continues to profit, perhaps massively?

    The only thing I can come up with is that they do it for social status/cool points. That’s how they’re paid; it’s the currency BMorg trades in that allows them to exploit the good-will of these volunteers year after year. It’s not altruism and the feeling that if they don’t do it, the event will not go on. If they don’t do it, BMorg will outsource the work to professional event planning agencies, and still profit.

    If anything BMorg as perfected the art of exploiting a certain demographic, and motivating them to work their asses off for almost nothing, and then profiting from that. I shy away from calling it a cult, but if it looks like a duck (etc).

    • as someone who busted ass “volunteering” for many years.. who at one point had a management role in a department…. I can say many who volunteer don’t give a fuck about larry or the LLC(s) ..many don’t even realize or consider it ever/at all that theyre working for free for a for-profit enterprise.

      …they develop friendships and community of their own within their little team… they are more going to the burn to work with friends and enjoy burning man than to ‘volunteer for larry’ it’s fun… being at burning man is fun, even if you are toiling away all day laboring for someone else.

      but, also, there is (some) division among the ranks, some get paid, some dont.. and while not everyone seems to care, some do… it really can bite ones ass to think of how much you work, and how much someone else works… while one is paid and one isnt…. ..some say “of course im getting paid, i wouldnt do this shit for free” and some say “i just do it because i love it” ..both equally happy.

      cool points has little to do with why people volunteer (im talking the full time volunteers, not the “i worked a shift as a barista for one night!” type), in my mind, in my experience, the only way cool points come in to play tends to be between various departments themselves, not the us and them vs workers and attendees.

      ……. enjoying the company of friends in a crew is important than cool points/status…. (even if getting hot meals, showers and golf carts to ride around is enjoyable)…

      but even that warm fuzzy “i love my friends” doesnt last forever….. at some point, for some people at least, one realizes that working for free is bullshit.

      and not enough people have stepped up to call the LLC on it.

      hell, even the ones who do get paid arent getting a fair deal… (ask around)

      -Signed Anonymous-Nameless-Person-Afraid-Of-LLC-Punishment

      • Thank you for the valuable insight, and for taking the risk. That says a lot itself. I wonder if the fear is intentional or just an unintended consequence of being in absolute control.

  22. All well said. I suppose we differ on the profiting from the work of others. For good reason, the Figment 11th Principle is “Gratitude,” and that is what is missing from the BOrg culture. The top-down attitude takes those who make the event happen literally for granted. Sure, I could predict that the whole thing will cave in, but that is not likely and not apparent from the past few years. No, what will happen is that a certain cohort of the Old Burners remember what it used to be, and will find that elsewhere, like the truly all-volunteer and sometime free regionals and spinoffs. This distilling effect is the demise of the NV Burn as the event I knew.

    Those of us who formerly constituted a majority of the participants were into the stone soup spirit of the event. We kept the event civil if not friendly, and always responsible. You never had your bike stolen, camp art pilfered, and the port-a-potties never doubled as trash cans. And no one came into your camp offering to trade two warm beers for two cold beers.

    But that spirit is gone. Not only is it every person for themselves, we now have professional thieves who dress the part, complete with cute girlfriend/accomplice, who make a living stealing valuables from all the hippies. Oh, and the local governments have more or less done the same, with the blessing and collusion of the BOrg. Rather than fighting for the counter-culture, the BOrg are exploring new ways to profit from it, and learn who to payoff to maintain the status-quo.

    And it has become an annual training ground for LEOs, narcs and undercover cops. They learn to practice the tricks of the trade in a concentrated setting. Where else can you get a chance to hone your skills at lying to the public to dodge their constitutional rights, and see naked chicks at the same time?

    Now it is WWLD – What Would Larry Do. Not only protect and profit from what is yours – or that you can lay claim to, but see how much you can fool the lazy suckers who are desperately seeking a wonderful world of denial. Can you find the profit pea under the altruistic shell?

    It is the sunset of the age of the NV Burn being a place to enjoy art and cooperative counter-culture, and the dawning of the age of commercial slight-of-hand for the business school textbooks.

  23. Now that they’ve put skin on the Man and made him larger than ever, the Man is an amazing target for a drone with a paintbrush attachment. Imagine waking up to find the Man totally covered in pink polka dots, or the words, “Addis Lives!”

    Yes, in the absence of any significant community surrounding the event, there is no culture to speak of. Tribe is dead, eplaya is dead, 3playa is dead. The only place to go is BM’s Facebook page, but what good anarchist has a Facebook account?

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