Radical Self Expression, Meet “No DickHeads”

2015 burning seed

Baron de Merxhausen just posted this on the Burning SEED Australia Facebook group. It’s interesting to see the Regionals struggling to get to grips with the Tin Principles That Are Just Guidelines, and very real issues like Consent and Decent Standards of Behavior to each other that don’t even appear in the principles. There were also some serious health concerns at this year’s event, which I will discuss at the end of the post.


by Baron de Merxhausen

I’ve noticed that the Radical Self-Expression principle has been getting a lot of air time, and as someone who likes to talk about anarchy, I thought I’d drop in my two cents about ideas of freedom and liberty and how they relate to RSE.

I’ll try to keep it as succinct as I can, but I’m a very flawed person so it will probably be very long and there may be some ranty bits. You might enjoy reading this if you ever find yourself wondering about what any of this hippy nonsense actually means.
* Feel free to interrogate any and all assertions made.

My feeling is that Burns tend to adopt a ‘liberal’ model of operation – people enjoy both positive liberties (I can fulfil my own potential aka freedom TO) and negative liberties (I won’t be interfered with aka freedom FROM). Liberties are like freedoms, except freedoms do not imply a limit, obligation or boundary while liberties acknowledge that we are social and therefore have to reconcile our obligations within a community. In other words, liberties have implied *potential* limitations. RSE would be positive liberty- the freedom to express yourself in whatever way you please. That it is a liberty and not a true freedom, the implication that it has boundaries remains.

Image: Nomakim Photography

Image: Nomakim Photography

There seems to be some tension where RSE is unclear on how much it is restrained by other people’s negative liberties – what exactly are we entitled to be free from? Which is another way of asking what non-interference actually means. How safe are we when people can express their inner psychopath?

There seems to be some consensus on consent being key, but where is the line drawn?
Consent was a really big focus this year, because consent is essentially about establishing where we are placing the boundary between what we don’t have to put up with and everything else.

There’s an added complication on this boundary when we take into account the tension between what is ‘offensive’ and what is ‘harmful’. That’s a really big discussion, and it varies from person to person, though for the sake of our community (principles 6+7) we need to try and do our best to make these lines consistent.

My personal feeling is that although there seems to be a strong call-out culture, emotional resilience is a trait we should try and cultivate so that the world isn’t quite as big and bad. I think many of you will agree that letting kids build cubbies and play in the dirt is a good thing for their development, despite it containing elements of risk. The same is true of our psychology; a little bit of muck, confrontation, repair and tolerance builds a versatile character.

So we have to ask ourselves when something is happening to/around us – is this thing *really* harming anyone? Is what I am doing going to hurt someone? We do these kinds of little calculations all the time, but there are times when we’ve got to dig a little deeper because of some nagging doubt, or someone shoots us a certain kind of look or gesture.

I do not subscribe to the position that a sense of a trigger alone is harm, and I think part of fulfilling our negative liberty is to allow others their space if we can see it’s not going to do any real or significant harm to ourselves or others, in which case our communal obligation might be to just walk away. With that said, I think the fundamental rule should be that if someone tells you to leave them alone, you should do just that.

This kind of discussion is especially relevant to issues such as ‘inappropriate’ jokes, cultural appropriation, et al. For example, a rape joke does not make you a rapist, they are seriously and qualitatively different things, and despite the cultural impact of such utterances (normalising, victim-blaming, etc) are bad, they are not in-and-of themselves particularly harmful. Does that mean the person should be treated like a rapist? No. Does that mean they’re good? No. Can you talk to them about it? Of course.

So in the context of a Burn, Radical Self Expression is there to try and say in a fun way, ‘do whatever the fuck you want so long as you don’t hurt anyone/thing**’.

This can be a double-edged sword because people have a fair degree of liberty to be dickheads within this framework. Of course this can be a bad thing, but it has a tendency to favour those who are positively expressing and cause those who are negatively expressing to both lose cred and see better examples. Compare this to the Meredith Music Festival’s model of ‘No Dickheads’, which, when someone is officially called out, will see them booted from the festival after a single warning. Not much opportunity for the kind of rehabilitative learning we’d like, but then, there’s also less dickheads (relative term).

I think the most experienced failure of RSE is where people aren’t (what others might think) just being jerks, but when they’re genuine creeps. That seems to me to be an intentional misinterpretation of RSE made by creepers, and why consent became such a big issue after last year’s Burn.

It’s a hard argument to make when your Expression, Gift or Effort harms someone, that it’s really coming from a positive place. We’ve heard stories of people given drugged food, without consent, and we’ve heard stories of people aggressively ‘sharing’ their personality with others-that did a lot more than offend someone.

In my view, Civic Responsibility is about acting on a considered and communicated negotiation between how we let people be their fullest selves and how we get together as a community to prevent ourselves from harm. This negotiation is an ongoing thing that changes along with the needs and desires of the community… but what do I really mean by this?

Is this is a Tree Wizard with a magical pied piper flute? Image: Nomakim Photography

Is this is a Tree Wizard with a magical pied piper flute? Image: Nomakim Photography

One of my serious peeves is with fucking *Tree Wizards*.
I apologise to those wonderful Tree Wizards out there for using this as my pejorative term for people (usually men) who espouse an esoteric way of life full of peace and love, but do little to critically analyse, engage with, or otherwise act upon the stuff they are talking about. Further, they act in ways that are fundamentally opposed to what they’re talking about.

In a vacuum, this problem of mine should be for me to grow up and deal with, but in my experience (and I’ve said this before) all the people I’ve met who’ve claimed to be gurus or shaman I’ve found to be not just charlatans, but genuine creeps.

There’s something both deluded and dangerous tied to the solipsistic belief that your word is the most profound around. It’s why they avoid any real critical evaluation within any proper or even basic philosophical or scientific framework – because it would expose them for what they really are: the hollow sophists and politicians of the hippy community, caught up in a massive ego trip, and using a few flowery tricks to snaffle sparkle ponies. It’s like the Game for Confest dudebros.

We allow these wolves-in-sheep’s clothing far more passes within our community because they don’t speak like, or look like, your serial Stereosonic fare, but my feeling is they are much more dangerous because they are insidious.

In my opinion, Civic Responsibility is helping both giving people tools to see if people are full of shit, and also responding appropriately to behaviour that is fucked.

What do you think that would look like?
If people can come up with responses, that is the community negotiating.

Soz for the long post.


Thanks to the Baron for that thought-provoking piece, and for giving us the term Tree Wizards. You can follow the discussion on Facebook, there are some great comments.

Burning Seed, one of two Australian official Regional events, opened this year with a deadly disease scare. Many people are reported sick after the event. Some attribute this to swimming in a dam, which apparently was prohibited in the Survival Guide. The organizers are emphasizing on Facebook that swimming in the dam is explicitly against the rules in their use of the property.

BMOrg, with their nearly three decades of experience in throwing events at remote locations, could offer a lot to their Regional Network in helping them deal with biohazard and consent issues. More established doofs in Australia like Rainbow Serpent and Earthcore don’t seem to have these problems, but they have little incentive to help an emerging competitor.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.48.09 Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.50.09

Screenshot 2015-10-11 11.52.27

moat interesting man burning seed

Downsize Your RV, Upsize Your Cool Factor

gidget beach

This is how we do it Down Under

Thanks to Burner SnowAngel for sending this in. Playa ready?

It may look small, but the Queen size bed fits a 6’6 person. The front slides out, the grill slides out, the fridge slides out, it even has solar panels.

Find out more at thegidget.com.au. If anyone brings one of these to a Burn please send us a photo.

Gidget-Teardrop-Trailergidget grill gidget out gidget closed

Global Drug Survey 2015 Results

The Global Drug Survey 2015 is the biggest survey of drug use ever conducted, with results from 102,462 people in over 50 countries.

And the winners are:

Image: The Independent/Global  Drug Survey 2015

Image: The Independent/Global
Drug Survey 2015

The previous year’s results (2013) were based on a sample size of 78,819:


Previous Year’s results, 2013

LSD, Amphetamine, and Cocaine use have all dropped. MDMA and Ketamine are about the same. Weed has grown from 48.2% to 55%, perhaps because of the major public moves towards decriminalization and legalization of marijuana all around the world and the accompanying boom in “good news stories” about positive medical benefits.

Research chemicals may be increasing in popularity in the US EDM scene, but the survey shows their use is declining around the world – except maybe in Poland. 


Research Chemical Use, 2014

Image: globaldrugsurvey.com

Image: globaldrugsurvey.com

This year’s results show that the closure of Silk Road in 2013 did nothing to stop drug sales on the Darknet – in fact, quite the opposite. More than a quarter of respondents bought drugs for the first time online in 2014.

Image: The Guardian/Global Drug Survey

Image: The Guardian/Global Drug Survey


The Global Drug Survey has been tracking the rise of e-commerce for drugs for some time now.

British addictions psychiatrist and survey founder Dr Adam Winstock said the safety and quality online drug stores provide is also attractive to buyers.

“Buying things online gives you product range,” he said.

“I think there is an opportunity of getting improved quality. I think some people would perceive it as safer and certainly a lot of people say it’s safer to buy drugs online. There’s less risk of, you know, getting involved in face to face dealing.”

Dr Winstock said while the shift to online may attract new buyers, it is mostly existing dealers making the move at present.

“What we’re seeing is simply a displacement of people who would otherwise buy drugs on the street,” he said. [Source]




2015 how-has-accessing-drugs-via-the-darknet-affected-the-drugs-you-use

Molly and acid were particularly popular for online shoppers.


Image: globaldrugsurvey.com

Image: globaldrugsurvey.com


Buying drugs anonymously over the Internet is much less likely to lead to violence and threats than buying them in person from criminals. The downside is, you may send the money but the product never shows. If it does arrive, you are much more likely to get what you paid for.

Screenshot 2015-06-10 02.37.05



Image: globaldrugssurvey.com

Image: globaldrugssurvey.com

For the first time, the Global Drug Survey compiled a “Net Pleasure Index” from more than 22,000 respondents.

Image: Global Drug Survey 2015

Image: Global Drug Survey 2015

One somewhat surprising finding of the survey was that Hippie Crack aka Nitrous Oxide is the second most popular drug in the UK.

Police intervention was one of the least likely reasons to make someone stop taking drugs.

People who stopped using illicit drugs tended to give responses suggesting they had grown out of using them: 38% of cannabis and cocaine users; and 42% of MDMA users said they made no conscious decision to stop and that “it just happened”. Common responses included “I do not like the effects anymore” and “using it doesn’t fit with my lifestyle anymore”.

Almost no respondents cited police intervention as a motivating factor in stopping. Less than 1% of respondents said they had rethought their behaviour after being caught by the police, and worries about getting caught were cited by only 3% of those who stopped taking cannabis and 2% of those who stopped using cocaine or MDMA. [Source]

In Australia, the high price of imported drugs is leading to a boom in crystal meth, with all the associated negative social issues.


According to the survey, Australians are among the biggest users of prescription drugs.

“The Americans remain the world leaders in prescription drug use but Australia’s not far behind,” Dr Winstock said.

But Australians are increasingly misusing prescription opioids, benzodiazepines, and sleeping tablets, Dr Winstock said.

“I think, in part, that’s because other sorts of opiate drugs that are available in Australia are really expensive,” he said. That’s the other thing that probably characterises the Australian drug scene more than anything else … your really expensive drugs.

Dr Winstock said Australia’s strict border security meant drugs were more expensive because they were harder to get into the country.

“It’s really difficult to get anything into your country,” he said. But the high drug prices in Australia mean many often choose to buy cheaper alternatives, including crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

“The fact that you’ve got one that’s incredibly dangerous and is causing havoc for a lot of people’s mental health and well being is a bit unfortunate,” he said. “I think the reason Australia will probably be protected from running into serious cocaine problems is because [it costs] about $350 a gramMost people are probably going to think there’s better ways they can spend their money.” [Source]


Image: globaldrugsurvey.com

Image: globaldrugsurvey.com

Ecstasy in Australia costs about double the global average. Despite this Australians lead the chart in pill-popping.

2015 ecstasy-mdma-dose

Read the official findings for 2015 here.

More videos can be found here, including Alcohol, Synthetic Cannabinoids, and Nitrous Oxide.