A guest post from our reader Sandstorm. The email he’s responding to is shared at the end of this post.
Like many members of the Burning Man community I’ve spent the past 2+ months feeling justifiably concerned about the topic of Commodification Camps (aka Turnkey Camps aka Plug And Play Camps) and their place in and impact upon Burning Man and the Burner community. Like many other Burners I’ve voiced my concerns about this subject on websites such as Facebook (FB) and Burning Man’s ePlaya bulletin board, as well as in the comments sections of some of the relevant recent entries on the official Burning Man Blog. I’ve also used my artistic skills to address what I call the Commodification Camp Controversy (CCC). I’ve recently created a handful of light-hearted satirical images that speak to this subject and I’ve posted them in the unofficial Burning Man group on FB. I’ve included one of those images here.
2 days ago I and countless other Burners received a fundraising email from the Burning Man Project (BMP). I was not pleased when I read that email and that’s because until now Burning Man’s official response to the CCC has been at best lacking and at worst inept. After reading that email I carefully drafted and then sent a reply email to the BMP. I then posted the contents of that email in the unofficial Burning Man group on FB and also on ePlaya. I did so because I wanted to share with other Burners how I was trying to constructively address the CCC. I was honestly surprised by the amount of positive response that I received to those posts.
At some point on Thursday evening the owner of burners.me reached out to me on FB via PM and asked me if I’d be willing to post on his site my above mentioned email to the BMP and some of the CCC related images that I’ve recently posted on FB. I asked him to let me think about the matter before I said yes or no to him and I did so for a variety of reasons.
Although I’m a 6 time burner I believe and know that I’m a nobody in the Burner community. I’m sure as hell not a spokesperson for this community. I’m also neither an attention seeker nor am I someone who seeks to or enjoys to stir up discord about sensitive topics. Given those facts and given the amount of debate surrounding both the CCC and burners.me I was initially reluctant to share on this site the reply email that I recently sent to the BMP. That said, I know that I wrote that email with integrity and honesty and thus I’m comfortable with sharing it here.
My reply email to the BMP seems to have resonated with many of the people who’ve read it. By posting that email on this site there’s a chance that my email will reach a wider audience and perhaps inspire other burners to find their own ways of peacefully and creatively confronting the CCC. I refuse to remain silent about that topic and that’s because I love Burning Man so much. The event and the community have changed my life in so many positive ways and even if this post ends up having no impact on Larry Harvey & Co. I at least know that at a time of crisis in the Burner community I spoke up for the values that are meant to be embodied by Burning Man.
It’s important for me to state here that I do not have a broad spectrum dislike for BMORG. I can only imagine how many wonderful people work in that organization. In this situation my dislike is directed solely at a specific group of people within the Burning Man power structure. I am displeased with those who run or help to run the event in ways that clearly run counter to the stated ethos of the event and the actual ethos of the people who physically and/or creatively build and run Black Rock City.
I want to send out my sincere thanks and respect to the countless people who make Burning Man a reality through their labor, passion, time, money and principles. The truth is that YOU are Burning Man, YOU are Black Rock City.
I want to thank the owner of burners.me for the opportunity to write this post. I also need to thank the Burners who took the time to read and respond to this post before I published it on this site. Dusty hugs,
From the unofficial Facebook Burning Man group:
“I thought that I’d share this with the group. (Note: If you’re a member of the tl;dr crew then just move along because these are not the droids you are looking for.)
So, yesterday I received an email from the Burning Man Project asking for a monetary donation. After I got some feedback from some fellow burners I sent the below email to the Burning Man Project.
I hope that this finds you well. I’ve taken some time to thoughtfully respond to your fundraising email regarding my potentially donating to the Burning Man Project. As a point of reference, I’ve known about Burning Man since late 1996 and it’s been a huge part of my life over the past 7 plus years. I’ve been burning since ’07 and I’ve been to Black Rock City 6 times in total. Since I’ve started burning the only 2 burns that I’ve missed were in ’09 and ’14, the former by choice and the latter due to my being unable to make the trip.
During each of my burns I’ve volunteered my time to groups such as The Lamplighters, Arctica, Center Camp Cafe, The Temple Guardians and a variety of theme camps and art projects. During that time I’ve made numerous monetary donations to groups such as Black Rock Arts Foundations and Black Rock Solar as well as to individual art projects and the 2013 Temple build. During my time as a burner I’ve repeatedly sold to other people Burning Man tickets that I did not need or could not use and when I did so I sold those tickets at below face value. On 4 occasions I’ve gifted Burning Man tickets to other people. In 2013 I helped half a dozen people I didn’t know acquire the Burning Man tickets they needed and I did so free of charge. I did that because Burning Man meant so much to me and I wanted to use my time and contacts to help other people make it HOME to Black Rock City.
At this point in time I have no desire to contribute a single cent to BMORG or any of it’s affiliated agencies. That is due to the fact the since the end of this year’s burn BMORG has hid from the Burner community as many of it’s members have eloquently and repeatedly voiced their concerns about the commodification of Burning Man via BMORG’s enabling of commodification camps such as Caravansicle, which was apparently run and funded in part by Jim Tananbaum, who currently serves on the Burning Man Board of Directors (BOD). There is ample and credible evidence on the Internet that indicates that various members of BMORG, the Burning Man founders and the Burning Man BOD have been engaged in behavior that runs contrary to Burning Man’s 10 Principles and to BMORG’s mission statement. Huge swaths of the Burner community are deeply concerned by the fact that there seem to be forces within the Burning Man power structure that are willing to commodify the event in the name of personal and organizational profit. In light of this controversy BMORG has maintained a level of radio silence that makes many Burners believe that BMORG is simply buying time to get its story straight about the Commodification Camp Controversy, buying time to let BMORG’s lawyers talk with the lawyers for various Commodification Camps and Burning Man BOD members. From this side of this situation BMORG seems both corrupt and inept beyond all belief. This situation makes the 2012 Ticket Lottery Fiasco seem like a small clerical error on the part of BMORG.
Before the Commodifcation Camp Controversy rose up I was identifying next year as one which I’d spend my summer working on the Temple project. I was planning on realizing a personal on-playa dream of mine, which is a mobile, deep playa pop-up bar. I was also planning on volunteering with the Resto team. While all those ideas are still meaningful to me Burning Man itself is no longer as meaningful to me as it was just 2 1/2 months ago when I watched large chunks of the burn via the official live video feed of the event. My lessened passion for the event is mostly due to my sense that elements within BMORG itself are willing to corrupt the event in the pursuit of profit and power and that BMORG is willing to ignore the concerns of the very community that builds Black Rock City and provides its creative content.
I took the time to write this email because I want you to know that the actions and inactions of various people within BMORG, the Burning Man founders and the Burning Man BOD have made me feel that the Burning Man Project is undeserving of my money. I sincerely wish that wasn’t the case. To be honest, it’s galling to receive a fund raising request from Burning Man at a time when BMORG is continuing to ignore the concerns of the Burner community. Like many other burners, I’m not buying BMORG’s company line that they are listening to the Burner community and (that BMORG) will get back to them as soon as possible. Whether or not my perception of that situation is accurate I have been given no indications that BMORG values the event and the community as much as the community values the event.
The Commodificaton Camp Controversy is not about poor burners versus rich burners; it’s about the fact that certain members of the Burning Man power structure have misused their positions in such a way that they have introduced class warfare into both the event and countless Burners psychological relationships with (both) the event and those who are meant to protect it. Shame on them for doing so. The event and community deserve better than that. Dusty hugs,
David / Sandstorm”
Here’s the email that was sent out by BMOrg:
From: Burning Man Project <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 8:00 AM
Subject: Now You Can Gift Burning Man to the World
|Remember your first day at Burning Man? Remember how it felt to bring someone to Black Rock City for the first time? While not everyone can be on the playa every year,Burning Man’s year-round programs make the Burning Man experience accessible to all, year-round and across the globe.Burning Man strives to help people live more creative and connected lives year round and around the globe. Our programs in the arts, in civic engagement, and our investment in the leadership of a global network of regional events have inspired millions to embrace a shared value system that promotes thriving artistic endeavors, increased civic involvement, emerging social enterprise and stronger communities.Everything we do is driven by community participation, communal effort and gifting. While the annual event in Black Rock City is paid for by ticket sales, the work we do through our year-round programs depends on your generosity.Your support provides vital resources needed to keep our core programs running, such as our Regional Network which nurtures 240 members in 125 regions across 31 countries. Additionally, our Art Grants Programs provide close to $100,000 in grants for the creation and public exhibition of art in communities around the world and helps artists raise additional funds through fiscal sponsorships. Your generosity also supports our Civic Engagement Programs which provide leadership and funding of community based initiatives through micro grants and volunteer organizing.Together we can turn our growing potential into programs and experiences that will help transform people’s lives throughout the world. We need your support to make it happen. Together we can build a more creative and connected world.
Burning Man Project is a 501(c)(3) organization; all donations to Burning Man Project are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.