CLUELESS, WHITE.

I'm tired of making fun of Objectivists. Let's make fun of Burning Man.

Having known of the existence of this "event" for decades, I never paid the slightest bit of attention to it. My knowledge of its workings was limited to the idea that it's a bunch of people getting stoned to the tits, listening to horrendous music, and watching something burn in effigy. Then, upon learning that someone I once knew is willingly attending this spectacle, I devoted five minutes to learning more about the event.

Holy shit.

I have seen dumber things and I have seen bigger wastes of time, but never have I seen a stronger, more desperate effort to dress up selfishness in the language of nobility. It actually calls itself "an experiment in radical self-reliance." If that is not enough to make you wish that everyone involved had one face and you were punching it, let's look at their idea of self-reliance and environmental responsibility.

First, the event is held in the middle of a pristine desert, one that certainly benefits from having a few thousand people drive into it, burn a lot of stuff, and camp there. But everyone packs out their own litter, so it's all OK! (note: every year there's a mountain of litter left behind). Second, it emphasizes its ecological responsibility by banning driving – which, you know, is kind of pointless since there's no need to drive once your there. And people drive hundreds of thousands of miles (collectively) to get there. So, yeah, after you drive 1500 miles to get there from Kentucky, no driving. Give Momma Earth a hug.

You know what else Momma likes? Gigantic wood fires. Those are environmentally friendly. Or the "artwork" created in 2007 which burned 900 gallons of jet fuel and 2000 gallons of propane to shoot flames everywhere. Even for hippies, watching this and talking about environmental responsibility is impressively stupid.

And now the best part.

The event is also an experiment in "decommodification", i.e. no cash transactions. Oddly enough this noble policy does not extend to the $300 admission fee. Cash is OK for that. At the event, though, in lieu of cash participants are encouraged to participate in a "gifting economy." Without saying so explicitly, I can think of no more obvious sign that you are going to end up blowing some guy named Chad for shrooms. Saying that the event's "economy" is based on "favors" is about as subtle as that massage parlor on the highway that offers "full service" massages.

People think I'm prudish when I go on this kind of rant but I should emphasize that I don't have a single critical thing to say about people going to the middle of nowhere, listening to godawful jam band shit, getting higher than Jesus, and circulating herpes. If that's what you want to do, by all means do it. What I find offensive are efforts to dress up such behavior in the pseudointellectual language of social consciousness. Burning Man attendees are no more going to the event to experiment with radical decommodification than sorority girls are going to Cancun Spring Break to experience foreign cultures. You are not being environmentally friendly or in any way making a political statement – you are going on an expensive vacation to do lots of drugs and blow strangers. That's great. Embrace it. Stop trying to assuage your consciences by pretending that it's a spiritual quest or a social experiment. Experiencing decommodification does not cost 300 good ol' American dollars and driving a thousand miles to watch an enormous open fire is not saving the environment. If you gave a shit about either of those issues you'd stay home.

But therein lies the rub. At home, who would be watching to validate what a good, crunchy progressive you are?

33 thoughts on “CLUELESS, WHITE.”

  • Ugh Hippies! Is there anyone who holds our cause back more than hippies? They dress up and play progressive but are some of the most selfish people I have ever met. Their rhetoric is hyperbolic and unproductive and we get left holding their bag of stupid. They are our Palin, vacuous and intellectually lazy.

  • I think the best North-versus-South California drama I've seen since getting here was seeing The Night Marcher play a couple weeks after last year's Burning Man:

    John Reis addressing crowd: "So, San Francisco. You guys all enjoy Burning Man? Huh?"
    Crowd: BOOOO
    Reis: "Yeah, sorry we couldn't make it. We were on tour. You guys probably enjoyed it for us."
    Crowd: NOOO!
    Reis: "Yeah, maybe we'll make it next year."

    Reis went back to it a few more time, taunting San Francisco and NorthCal for having Burning Man. His audience was distinctly non-Burning Men.

  • It's a bit of a soft target, though, isn't it? The next step, I suppose, is making fun of Scientology, and then you might as well buy a "V" mask and a cheap suit and be done with it.

  • What holds us back more than hippies? Let's just say Rich Whitey is holding us back from the other end. Have you spared five minutes for the book "Eat, Pray, Love"? It should have been called "Eat, Pray, Love Myself to Death."

    Apparently spiritual enlightenment (i.e., self-absorbed ego massage) is best attained through world travel and living high on the hog. Hearing people coo over this is nauseating. I am bored limp by performance art and find desert camping uncomfortable, but I deeply loathe the privileged rich when they can't shut up about how deep they are. Cue "I've Never Been To Me" and fade to fucking black.

  • Hey a bitch session about white priviledge on the Internet. How original! Let's all make fun of the dirty hippies and an event we have never experienced. Sure, out of 50,000 people you get your fair share of chowder heads, but reducing the event to the lowest common denominator and labeling it just a drugged out sex party in the desert merely flouts your ignorance. You make it plain that you hated the event to begin with, so my guess is you were merely looking for more fuel for your fire so to speak. Good luck with your blind assumptions about people, hope that works out for ya.

  • @Ezra: if you had said anything to refute Ed's actual complaints, your gripe might have been more substantial. It's not the activity itself that's a problem, it's the self-serving hypocrisy of the packaging. (My own bitch isn't with white privilege, it's with those who confuse self-infatuation with Man's Search for Meaning — the difference between performance art and real art, if you will.)

    Personal bias-against may be involved, but unless you can point out something worthwhile, you're doing the same thing.

  • okay- lets start with the experiment in community. A good friend of mine, a Burner (that is slang for someone who attends burning man) and a member of DPW (the department of Public Works- they help to construct the infrastructure of the city) was recently involved in a horrible accident while traveling in india. Through her community of artists, activists, performers, and yes, Burning Man participants, we were able to rasie nearly $100,000 in 3 weeks to fly her home from India and get her into state of the art medical care here in California. That is the real life result of the intentional community that burning man represents for many. The process of seeing so many people come together out of selfless love for a fellow artist and performer has been one of the most satisfying and beautiful experiences of my life. For more information about her story check out the blog that here good friend Eliza has been keeping http://www.friendsofhollis.blogspot.com/
    the community that helped to bring her home is the same community that helps to put on burning man. I am not here to speak for every on of the 50,000 + participants in the event, nor for the org itself, but merely for the community of like minded artists and performers that put a lot of loving energy into making the event happen. If believing in love and the power of community makes me a hippy, then damn straight I am a hippy.

  • Main Entry:
    1flout Listen to the pronunciation of 1flout
    Pronunciation:
    \ˈflau̇t\
    Function:
    verb
    Etymology:
    probably from Middle English flouten to play the flute, from floute flute
    Date:
    1551

    transitive verb : to treat with contemptuous disregard : scorn intransitive verb : to indulge in scornful behavior
    synonyms see scoff
    usage see flaunt

  • @ladiesbane-
    are you telling me you have never experience performance art that is about mans search for meaning? Although performance art may not be my favorite genre of the arts, I have certainly seen my fair share of meaningful performances in my lifetime. And for the record, the community of people of whom I speak are largely performers and artists themselves, some of whom do quite well and many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. As with any city, BRC (that is Black Rock City, the semi permanent autonomous zone constructed for the burning man festival every year) has a wide variety of denizens, rich and poor,creators and consumers. I can certainly see some of the hypocrisy of the event, it has grown to a scale with its own Bureaucracy. That is no reason to discount the totality of the experience, or to reduce it to a single one dimensional view. Some of the most amazing art I have ever seen, be it performance or otherwise, was at burning man. La Contessa was a gorgeous piece that really could not have come into existence anywhere else. Look into it. Or not. Cheers.

  • Thanks, Ez, glad to see you can barely work a google search for a one-syllable word. Now stop blowing Chad in exchange for shrooms, and pay attention.

    You said Ed's "labeling it just a drugged out sex party in the desert merely flouts [his] ignorance". As you bravely copy-pasted, "flout" means to treat with contemptuous disregard. One flouts convention, or the law, or society. So are you accusing Ed contempuously disregarding his ignorance. It seems the word you meant to use was "flaunt" which, as you capably copy-pasted from Google (well done! you're 2-for-2!) means to ostentatiously display. You flaunt your ignorance, or your fancy Ivy pedigree, or your hot girlfriend.

    The words are near-opposites – one means to publiccaly reject, the other to

    English is a tricky language. Feel free to learn some more of it before coming around here again.

  • Thanks, Ez, glad to see you can barely work a Google search for a one-syllable word. Now stop blowing Chad in exchange for shrooms, and pay attention.

    You said Ed’s “labeling it just a drugged out sex party in the desert merely flouts [his] ignorance”. As you bravely copy-pasted, “flout” means to treat with contemptuous disregard. One flouts convention, or the law, or society. So are you accusing Ed contemptuously disregarding his ignorance? That makes no sense. It seems the word you meant to use was “flaunt” which, as you capably copy-pasted from Google (well done! you’re 2-for-2!) means "to ostentatiously display". You flaunt your ignorance, or your fancy Ivy pedigree, or your hot girlfriend.

    The words are near-opposites – one means to publicly reject, the other to publicly embrace and display.

    Surely you meant that Ed was making a conspicuous display of his ignorance of all things Burning Man (which makes sense, particularly in context with the rest of your posting), and not contemptuously disregarding his ignorance (which makes no goddamn sense whatsoever).

    English is a tricky language. Feel free to learn some more of it before coming around here again.

  • @fmguru
    maybe you should try reading before posting

    . Use of flout in the sense of flaunt 1 is found occasionally .
    transitive verb 1 : to display ostentatiously or impudently : parade 2

    he is parading his ignorance.
    as are you.

  • Mmm, yes. It's not part of the definition, it's part of a usage note that points out that it comes from a mistaken usage that has become somewhat commonplace, but is still wrong. It's still a mistaken usage. We have higher standards around here. You have Chad and his shrooms. So it all balances out.

  • I was merely trying to state that any gross over generalization is just that. It is like saying that everyone who attends a football game is a total jackass right wing alcoholic. There is always an exception to the rule, as the world is really much more complex than black and white. Are there hypocritical rich white folks that go to burning man? Sure. Are there inspired creative artists that bring their passion for creating to the festival? Yes. Are there drunken frat boys looking for drugs and sex and burning man? why yes, there is that too. But try as you may, you will not be able to boil down the festival to one type of person, as it is truly a microcosm. Try opening your mind rather than closing it, there is a wide world out there. Cheers.

  • you have higher standards here? please. Spouting nonsense about Chad and his shrooms is your definition o "higher standards".Language is all about usage. I am glad you somewhat know how to use it. So now that you have started a flame war- what is your real point? Burning man is a bunch of drugged out hippies? Your simplistic logic will get you know where in the end. I went for years listening to the naysayers, and when I eventually attended the festival it was nothing at all like I had expected it to be. The cross section of humanity that I saw there was staggering. I saw a lot more punks than hippies, and even more people who I couldn't confine to subcultural boxes. It is easy to close doors, but it will benefit you more to open them.

  • @Ezra: Sorry to have digressed; the topic was Burning Man, but my own foray into rant was the book "Eat, Pray, Love." I should have put quotes around the other book I mentioned, which was "Man's Search for Meaning", by V. Frankl. And truly, all the performance art I have ever witnessed (or been party to) was self-referential obscurism, or whimsy, or (again) trite self-massage. I think it's called art because there is no craft involved.

    But I still endorse Ed's point that calling Burning Man environmentally friendly, for example, and doing more harm than good to the environment, is self-serving bullshit. Even if I liked everything about the experience I would still have to call BS on that.

  • If a bunch of like-minded people want to pay to get together for fun and then try to justify their meaningless fun with highfalutin language, they should just join a political party and attend the convention. The difference between Burning Man and a major party convention is that at the party conventions you sometimes have to take someone back to your hotel room to see what they look like naked. Also, Burning Man is every year.

    I've never attended, might this year or next, and don't have the slightest aspirations that I'll be part of a Very Important Community. In fact, the last thing I want in life is to be part of a a Very Important Community. If I want to wander around naked, see things I'll never see anywhere else, meet artists, and do a lot of yoga, I can do that at home in Tucson. Except the naked part.

  • Ladiesbane-
    thanks for the honest reply. Here is a link to some quality performance art, with a message. Rev billy and the church of stop shopping- some of the most relevant performance art around at the moment- though still only a drop in the bucket. There are many artists working now who use elements of performance art in their work (lets not even start talking about musicians and actors who are, by definition, performance artists..)
    While I agree with you about calling Burning Man environmentally friendly, I would also point out that the whole idea of carbon offset was introduced by folks at burning man (see http://www.coolingman.org) to try and reduce the impact of the festival. I don't see this sort of consciousness at Nascar rallies, political conventions or space shuttle launches yet. While I do not deny their may be some of this high faluttin BS within the greater organization, I acknowledge that their are many dedicated indivuals that are willing to look at their actions and how they affect others and work at trying to change that for the better.
    @jon- while there is some nakedness at burning man, not every one goes naked. You still may have to take someone home to your tent, rv or whatever if you want to see them naked. Personally I do not find the hot sun and dust conducive to a lot of naked activity- I prefer to keep myself covered so I don't burn. I find it a little sad that the last thing you want is to be a part of an important community- as that is what I have found to be one of the greatest strengths of the event- the wide and diverse selection of creative individuals that I have come to know through working together. I must say also, that Burning Man is nothing like a political convention or Tucson.

  • @grendel: Yes, it's a soft target. It's NPF. It's also hard to make fun of something challenging every 24 hours. Sorry.

  • Making fun of hippies=way over done, lame
    Making fun of Burning Man by talking about hippies=terminally clueless

    Look, make fun of Burning Man all you want.

    If by hippie, you mean a dreadlocked, unwashed, patchouli drenched pothead, then you're not going to find many hippies at Burning Man. If you mean something else by hippie, you're going to have to spell it out, but I suspect you're definition of hippie is pretty meaningless in that case. Hippies go to Bonaroo, Rainbow Gatherings and Phish shows (and the ones at Rainbow Gatherings are well aware of the hypocrisy involved in spending $300 to go to a decommodified event).

    Hippies at Burning Man are vastly outnumbered by Objectivists and leering frat boys. Not that there are many Objectivists and frat boys. The typical burner is a cubicle-dwelling yuppie who thinks that taking some drugs, listening to crappy techno (not jam bands!) and having sex with strangers 1 week a year makes them some kind of edgy rebel.

    They're not stupid though; they know perfectly well that Burning Man is nothing more than an expensive drug and sex filled vacation. The LLC (OMG! Hypocrisy! Burning Man is run by a corporation!!!) can spew whatever bullshit it wants about social consciousness, but it's not fooling anybody who goes to Burning Man. The only people who are taken in by the BS are the clueless bloggers who think Burning Man is full of brain dead hippies.

    Please update your stereotypes accordingly.

  • I love how the bulk of this thread consists of an dick-waving argument over the dictionary definition of "flout". It's so… postmodern!

    Ezra: I don’t see this sort of consciousness at Nascar rallies, political conventions or space shuttle launches yet.

    Kind of lowering the bar there, aren't you? I don't think anyone said that Burning Man was less environmentally conscious than a Nascar rally, just that it tends to attract insufferably smug "performance artists" too drunk on their own sense of importance to see how ridiculously self-absorbed they are.

    I will, however, attempt to update my stereotype, per Andrew's suggestion. Good show, there; what haunts the dreams of the average burner even more than the thought that they might be passé would be the thought of being boring middle-class drones, unredeemed by their week in a slightly more expensive Tijuana. Mmm, I can almost taste the flop sweat now.

  • Ezra,

    Carbon offsets were "invented" in the seventies by academics studying earth science, civil engineering, and in the inchoate area of environmental studies.. After you learn to use a dictionary you can learn to use a library. Oh My Gawd, there was CONTENT before the INTERWEBS. Try not to faint.

    Indeed, burning man is basically hippie-free. It is indeed Objectivists wanna-bes and leering frat boys. Please do not insult perfectly good hippies, whose primary self-involvement was an extreme desire not to travel halfway across the planet and die trying to kill other people. And also a failure to bathe.

  • I went to Burning Man 3x. I didn't blow, fuck or stroke any strangers any of those years. My then-boyfriend and I had plenty of sex and a few drugs, but it was nothing more than we would have done at home.

    Burning Man was primarily a cultural experience and an art festival. It was a valuable experience in dry camping (no water other than what we brought) and going without access to the shopping mall or phones or TV or internet for a few days. It was also an interesting experience in that people felt free to go without clothing. It was a safe place for people to experiment with many things that mainstream culture considers taboo.

    Have you been there? If not, STFU.

  • Just Sayin' says:

    "It was a valuable experience in dry camping (no water other than what we brought) and going without access to the shopping mall or phones or TV or internet for a few days."

    Did you know that you can do all these things at a campground near you? Or your yard? And "going without access to the shopping mall or phones or TV or internet for a few days." I call that, "Saturday". Except for the mall part. "Not going to the mall" is something I call, "life".

    " It was also an interesting experience in that people felt free to go without clothing. It was a safe place for people to experiment with many things that mainstream culture considers taboo."

    Yes, one would never see reference to sex or women's bodies used to sell things. Never. Nekkid is so taboo that only places with oceans have nude beaches.

  • @Ezra.
    The white privilege that is inherent in your messages is hysterical… "a good friend of mine, a Burner (so that makes he/she better than anyone?) was recently involved in a horrible accident while traveling in India" and blah blah fucking blah. What I interpreted, is that other white people with decent jobs were able to fundraise to pay her bills and bring her back home to ensure she didn't die of sepsis or another disease that typically kills non-whites. Um, how many Indian, or other South East Asian artists can afford to simply galavant around Europe or North America for their own personal experience and gain? First of all, she had a visa to leave her country's borders… a privilege that working class people from India, or most countries in the region will never have. And fuck, if anyone from my country can afford to travel outside of India at all, their family would be humiliated to ask anyone else to get them out of a jam… pull your heads out of your assses and think about it. Just being able to afford the frivolity of traipsing around a Nevada desert for a week makes you part of the elite. So honestly, burners, go fuck yourselves.
    Love,
    pretty much everyone outside of the States.

    okay- lets start with the experiment in community. A good friend of mine, a Burner (that is slang for someone who attends burning man) and a member of DPW (the department of Public Works- they help to construct the infrastructure of the city) was recently involved in a horrible accident while traveling in india. Through her community of artists, activists, performers, and yes, Burning Man participants, we were able to rasie nearly $100,000 in 3 weeks to fly her home from India and get her into state of the art medical care here in California. That is the real life result of the intentional community that burning man represents for many. The process of seeing so many people come together out of selfless love for a fellow artist and performer has been one of the most satisfying and beautiful experiences of my life. For more information about her story check out the blog that here good friend Eliza has been keeping http://www.friendsofhollis.blogspot.com/
    the community that helped to bring her home is the same community that helps to put on burning man. I am not here to speak for every on of the 50,000 + participants in the event, nor for the org itself, but merely for the community of like minded artists and performers that put a lot of loving energy into making the event happen. If believing in love and the power of community makes me a hippy, then damn straight I am a hippy.

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