Burning Man: A Little Personal Background

Before I go any further in talking about my current relationship with Burning Man, such as it is, I should offer a little background about that relationship's past. Back in 2011 I created a blog here on Free Refills to write about Burning Man and Burner culture. I published a couple of pieces that August, right before I went to Burning Man for the so-far final time, that explained my rather complicated relationship with Burning Man and the culture it spawned. Rather than repeat myself, I'll point you to those pieces now.

Why I'm Writing This Blog
My Relationship with Burning Man

A few observations:

  1. You notice how I haven't published anything on Transformed since those two pieces? If you're a little bit clever, you can probably draw a few conclusions about my experience at Burning Man that year and something of my relationship with the culture since then.

  2. The hypothesis in Why I'm Writing This Blog, that we're "on the precipice of a monumental political crisis and a commensurate countercultural uprising" strikes me as depressingly ridiculous now. I don't know that Americans have any kind of positive political revolution left in them. As a nation, we're basically spoiled children, either demanding entertainment or petulantly fighting over our toys.

    I do stick by my assertion that capitalism and the socio-political structures that support it are beginning to die. For evidence I would point to the paralysis and vituperativeness of our government, its profound inability to do anything in the face of the serious long-term issues that loom before us. From that perspective, I suppose you could assert that the U.S. is in fact in political crisis and has been for some time.

    The old system isn't working. But as far as I can tell, we're a long way from figuring out what's going to replace it.

  3. Having watched the petty infighting and dysfunction of the Burner community in Colorado, and the complacency of the culture nationwide, the idea that Burning Man or some segment of Burner culture is going to lead a movement (in the sense of the term as I grew up with it) is a pretty desperate case of wishful thinking. If Burners truly had a revolutionary bent to their thinking, they would have started by overthrowing their corporate overlords in the Burning Man LLC.1

    That some Burners have revolutionary proclivities is true enough, but they're operating in a different sphere from what I intended in those pieces I wrote in 2011. For examples: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, first went to Burning Man in 1998. They've certainly led a revolution, but to what greater end and to exactly whose benefit isn't entirely clear.

1 The corporate structure of Burning Man is actually a little more complicated than it was back in 2011, but discussion of that is for a different piece. For our purposes right now, how I describe it in My Relationship with Burning Man is sufficiently close to the truth that it'll suffice for now.

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