by Whatsblem the Pro
We’ve written about children at Burning Man before, and asked our readers to vote in a poll at the end of that article. The debate and discussion continues, and the poll numbers are running heavily in favor of people who think Burning Man is “a wonderful environment” for children, but there may yet be more to think and talk about on the subject.
Regular contributor Elias Has Wanderlust provoked a lively discussion in the Burning Man group on Facebook recently, by flatly asserting that Burning Man should be for adults only. Thus spake Elias:
“Burning Man should clearly be an 18+ event — the city is not safe for children.”
Elias’ declamatory salvo brought forth a lot of frank anecdotes about kids on the playa, and some really good points on both sides of the debate. Interspersed with a modest dose of snark and some fairly irrelevant emotional appeals like “there is nothing more beautiful than a playa covered burner baby,” people actually started saying some interesting, illuminating things about bringing children to the playa.
It really is a thorny problem that people butt heads over readily. That should tell us that there are some contradictions in play, depending on the angle from which we approach the question of children at Burning Man; doesn’t radical inclusion make room for children? What about the inhibitory effect that children can have on adults at play? Isn’t Burning Man dangerous, particularly for children. . . but don’t we want our children to be raised in our culture, even if it is dangerous?
Some pros and cons to bringing children to the playa:
The real problem is that only two very partisan solutions have been proposed, and they’re both completely unacceptable to large swathes of burners. If we ban children, we ban a huge number of burner parents by association, and deny them the opportunity to transmit burner culture to their children early in the most meaningful way they know of. If we continue to allow children, they will continue to inhibit us when they show their faces outside of the Kidsville age-ghetto, and let’s face it: it’s only a matter of time before something ugly happens and someone’s child disappears and/or falls victim to one of the many, many hazards.
People who think the answer is simple and obvious are merely displaying their bias and perpetuating the conflict. It’s disingenuous to say, for instance, that Black Rock City is a city like any other, and needs to have children in it. Burning Man’s municipal analogy is often usefully apt and sometimes beautiful, but it breaks down completely and easily in a dozen different ways when you start testing it. It’s a bit blinkered to say that Burning Man is just a big adult party, too; it’s also an arts festival, and a DIY theme park, and a great deal of it is very kid-friendly. . . or would be, anyway, if there weren’t so many heavily-intoxicated people around, and if it wasn’t all set in a context of overt sexuality that often goes way, way beyond mere nudity and into some territory that might actually disturb the minds of the innocent to witness.
We need an innovative solution that includes everyone, without putting limitations on anyone.
Maybe there should be separate events, geared for younger age groups? Burning Teen, Burning Tot? If we want to spread the culture, then spawning a few new events might be killing several birds with one stone.
We’d like to hear your ideas. How can we safely include the underage set and their parents in Burning Man, without muting the bacchanal for the adults?
What we don’t want to hear: more anecdotes or opinions about how it’s fine for kids to be out there, or about how it’s unacceptable for kids to come to Burning Man. We’ve already heard those positions, again and again, and they’re both too simplistic to lead to anything but disagreement and a standoff. We’re asking you to think outside the box and find a solution that everyone can live with.
Keep in mind that not all parents behave responsibly, but some do. . . so please don’t bother sharing anecdotes about the children of attentive, sensible parents having a great time on the playa, or anecdotes about dull-witted earth mamas walking around in dust storms cradling tiny infants. Both of these things happen, and much more, and that’s why we need a better solution than just banning or allowing children.