El Sherpo: Latina Labor Abuses At Plug-n-Plays

https://instagram.com/p/7ei_n-tkXyYXa5C1yf8un9QsvV2vlHci1-qLg0/?taken-by=mexicansandyballs

(NB: the Burner pictured is a full participant, not a sherpa in any way)

A guest post by Buena Chica. This first appeared in the last edition of this year’s Black Rock Beacon.


 

Everyone has their breaking point – when we sit in silence, break down, and cry on Playa. Sometimes we cry out of gratitude, in awe of the beautiful installations and experiences that have been so laboriously created for our entertainment. And sometimes we cry at the realization that we have been doing it all wrong for so long in our lives.

My own tears this year had a completely different base. I had long heard about those plug-n-play camps: Building a compound surrounded by giant RVs to keep the “peasants” out of the decked-out “members’ only” elaborate amenities. Considering the “Sherpa” phenomenon of last year’s burn, and the promise by Bmorg that these camps would align to our Ten Principles, I was shocked to encounter the construction of one such camp during my own Early Arrival on August 21st.

Let me be absolutely honest, my fellow Burners, and tell you that even now I am crying as I write these words: My shock quickly turned to horror as I observed that this particular plug-n-play camp was being built by Latino laborers. Every day, as all the Early Arrival Burners went on building the city for you, these Latino laborers worked from early morning through the night to build a camp for people who are obviously oblivious of the Principles that have taken so much time to establish in our temporary city.

It took me four days to build up enough courage to talk to some of the laborers to learn about the appalling conditions they contracted to: Low pay and no leaving the camp nor being present on the rare occasion the camp opens its doors to the general population. As more and more Burners started arriving to set up their own camps, I was further appalled by the comments they would direct to these workers. From my own tent I heard on more than four occasions passengers of art cars driving by hurling insults such as “How does it feel to work for rich people?”, “Fuck your Burn, Sherpas,” and “Get out of my city.” So not only were the Latinos brought in to serve a particular kind of people who do not abide by our Principles, but now they were being abused by our fellow Burners who did not understand the situation: They are NOT Sherpas, as at least Sherpas are invited to entertain at parties. The workers were particularly selected to build these kind of camps then stay out of view and not partake in the rest of “our” Burner experience.

We hear it every year: Why are there no minority Burners? Well, here is one answer for you: You bring people who look like me to serve you but not to be seen or integrated as equals.

Just yesterday I walked around Center Camp Cafe to see the amazing artist murals. There is a display of colorful pictures. As I stepped closer, I observed that everyone in those pictures looked like me – Latino, African-American, minorities – who had been killed by cops in the Default World. I turned around to see Burners in various getups and outfits on bikes going in every direction. Nobody looked like me. I turned back to see the mural again; everyone looked like me. And then I remembered the 15 or so Latino laborers at the plug-n-play camp hidden away from view not far from the 9:00 Plaza.

Why are there so few minorities on the Playa? The answer lies within. How do you see me? How am I included in your own lives in the Default World? Am I just your hired help? Or do you include me as a participant in your own community? If you do not ask these questions, then you are Doing It Wrong, not only these abhorrent plug-nplay camps.


This article was written Saturday morning and published in Sunday’s edition of the Black Rock Beacon. On Saturday evening, Buena Chica was at The Temple of Promise and observed the BLM arrive in a procession with pictures of fallen comrades.  A crowd of Burners started chanting “All Lives Matter” which is a total indignation and insult to the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the default world……. but as the BLM receded, Buena Chica finally read the message written by the BLM upon the Temple’s entrance: Police Lives Matter.  She is grateful for the Burners who stood in solidarity and acted with IMMEDIACY to remind the BLM that they are Doing It Wrong and do not fully follow our Principles as well.

Methylone: Proof The Market Decides, Not The Legality

c/o New York DanceSafe

c/o New York DanceSafe

by Terry Gotham

Continuing the series on “things your dealer cuts your drugs with,” this week I’m talking about Methylone. We’re a couple of years out from peak Methylone (circa 2012), but it’s still popping up in MDMA & Molly across the US, the UK & Australia/NZ. We live in the digital age now, so instead of people being busted for selling it in the club, we’ve got dealers getting pinched for buying it online. Including one who was indicted for murder because a kid died after taking it.

I wanted to use it as a quick case study on how little recreational drug users care about scheduling & legality. There are enough years of data on Methylone vs. MDMA to get a sense of the last couple of years & Stay Safe Seattle has done some anecdotal research which provides a neat explanation of what’s been going on. For more formal information on Methylone, check out this doc by the UNODC (United Nations Office On Drugs & Crime).

Graph c/o Stay Safe Seattle.

Graph c/o Stay Safe Seattle.

The ravers, burners or club kids who have consistently rolled since the economic crash of 2008, you may remember the MDMA shortages that plagued the first term of Obama’s presidency. Because of the lack of viable sources for many people, dealers began cutting their MDMA with Methylone & other legal highs.

Cutting pressed pills or baggies of “Molly” isn’t anything new. But instead of cutting them with Stacker 2, Dexetrim, pseudoephedrine & other grey market stimulants, dealers began adding “legal highs” to the stuff to ensure people still had an oxytocin-filled good time.

c/o New York DanceSafe

c/o New York DanceSafe (Yes, this was a legit info sheet)

This stuff was legal for years, but it definitely isn’t harmless. It’s been implicated in the deaths of a number of people, notably three young people in Florida back in 2012. Remember those two kids who died at Electric Zoo in 2013? One of them had taken Methylone instead of MDMA. Granted, the dehydration/heatstroke was the exacerbating factor in their deaths, but let’s be real about the fact that they probably didn’t know what they were getting.

Of course, there are a subset of recreational drug users who enjoy Methylone & would prefer to take it, even if they had access to MDMA. Unlike other legal highs, Methylone has developed a following across the Western world. The shorter duration, the lack of cardiovascular stimulation, reported empathogenic effects and dose control are preferred to the dice some roll when it come to pills (That pun was awful). Though, when purity of MDMA tablets rose & it was more easily found in a lot of areas, rates of Methylone consumption plummeted, as the graph above illustrates.

At the end of the day, I want to emphasize (like I always do), that the problem is that people don’t have access to the drug that provide the experiences they want to have. When they can’t get what they want, they’ll start looking for a proxy substance that can provide a similar, if not exact array of symptoms.  Of course, there are plenty of people who took the drug, found out they liked it, and were able to correctly disentangle the MDMA experience from the Methylone experience. But that takes time, effort, access to vaguely pure substances and honest dealers. If you’re showing up at a party and you’ve never taken either of these before, you won’t be able to tell the difference, as you have no point of reference.

The drug war forces people to make these choices, simply because they can’t get what they want. Instead of requiring humans to play street chemist & behaviorist, let people do what they want. Legalize, regulate, require branding to disclose ingredients & allow users to discuss effects with their doctor. As opposed to Lupo their street pharmacist telling them how dope the new Molly is & how it’ll have them hugging their friends and grinding their teeth by the time that new Axwell & Ingrosso track hits the deck.

I’ll leave you with this quote from a Playboy in 2013 that documented just how bad it had gotten in Miami:

“According to the Miami Police Department, methylone and mephedrone, along with another synthetic cathinone called 4-MEC, account for the vast bulk of the molly seized by narcotics cops in the area. A DEA spokesperson told me that in the first six months of 2013, the DEA’s Miami field office seized 106 consignments of molly, which contained 43 different substances, 19 of them so obscure even government chemists couldn’t identify them. So much for purity.”

Test your shit folks. Know your source, know your set/setting & do your research before setting off on a new adventure. Tally ho into the wilderness, but we want y’all to come back safe & sound with stars in your eyes. To talk more about this, join me, Ravelrie, NY DanceSafe & Stay Safe Seattle on Twitter at 1:30p PST using the hashtag #M1FF on Friday, Sept. 18th.

The Man Behind The Music

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Image: IRDeep via Spin

Spin magazine has an interview with Opulent Temple founder Syd Gris. Some highlights:

The organizers behind Burning Man deny any affiliations of being a “music festival,” but, for all intents and purposes, this is the wildest music festival in the world.

The denial of their identity as a music festival lets Burning Man rely heavily on crowdsourcing the 24-hour, over-the-top productions, visuals, DJ booths, sound equipment, and world-class music performances to ticket holders…

Attendees being responsible for their own entertainment is exactly what separates Burning Man from any other music festival. You bought the ticket, and have to do all the work. 

Gris is the co-founder, lineup curator, and overall production director for more than 13 years with the sound camp known as Opulent Temple. 

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

Opulent’s major objective is twofold: to provide a platform for spiritual dance expression and for DJs to explore the more artistic (and perhaps unacknowledged at other commercial festivals) side of their craft…

 This year, Opulent Temple took a step away from their typical stage build for their popular Wednesday night “White Party.” Instead, they provided attendees a truly magical alternative that captured the true essence of Burning Man by forming a commutative stage consisting of multiple art cars from other camps. The Opulent team set up their DJ stand on top of an art car, outfitted with large speakers, to drive deeper into the open center area of Burning Man. Various cars from other camps outfitted with large speakers met them at a specific location and linked up wirelessly through RF technology to form a makeshift half circle dance floor. While each car was synced directly to the Opulent DJ performance, additional art cars unaffiliated with the camp would drive in and the Opulent workers would link them up to join the party as well.

What was the sound camp scene like when you arrived at your very first Burning Man?
Back in 2001, there were certainly less of them and most every scale of production was downsized compared to current standards of Burning Man sound camps, especially the scale of sound systems. I say that mostly because camps such as “Lush” in 2004 and “Sol System” that same year (fondly known as Sol Henge) were even by today’s sound camp’s standards massive productions, but those were definitely outliers and seemingly burned both crews out because neither ever came back after that year.

Is it true that you fought for the rights of sound camps at Burning Man?
Yes, I organized a bunch of camps in 2008 including representatives from camps like El Circo, the Deep End, Green Gorilla, and others to approach the Burning Man organizers to request some changes and support. The premise was basically that collectively we’ve felt like we give a lot to the event. Which, of course, is fine; it’s why we started creating such camps in the first place. But we hoped we might get more support and resources from the organizers to do what we do since it is our perception the role of the Large Scale Sound & Art Camps had evolved to be an integral part of a large number of attendees experience and reason for coming. What we asked for and what we got for our efforts were different. Spoiler alert: not much!

Did artists like Tiesto find it unique having to purchase their own ticket?
Yes. We are a volunteer and fundraising camp. All the equipment, food, shelter, and electricity comes out of our own pockets, while we all have day jobs outside of Burning Man. He provided a donation to our camp debt after he played for us in 2005, he said, “It’s the only time I’ve paid someone to play for them.”

What did Opulent Temple do to set the standard for today’s music scene at Burning Man?
What we did to raise the bar was really just building on the precedence of the great camps that came before us but taking it to a higher level. We make our own art and the production pieces that make up our camp, and we build new stuff every year to add to our recognizable look. We were the first to have a DJ-operated flame-throwing booth, and the first to consistently bring out an eclectic range of so-called ‘big-name’ DJs, and we did it all year round through volunteers building the camp and making the art.

CREDIT: Photo by IRDeep

What’s the future of the music community of Burning Man? Will the music be too much and eventually take away from the art as it slowly becomes the main attraction?
I think people’s association and experience of Burning Man — unless something drastically changes — is always one of art and music. For now, it is by far primarily dance music. Though it sounds ironic to say, in one light you could say the organization has gone to great lengths to do nothing to support music at Burning Man beyond allowing it to exist. They do a lot to nurture the art scene, so I don’t see it becoming too much.

[Source: Spin]

Read the full interview at Spin Magazine.

Here’s a Syd Gris set from last year’s Halloween.