Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Party's Over

It's true. Burning Man is over. The city is all but disappeared and what is left are the crews that will continue to tear down the infrastructure and then gleen the playa of traces that we were here. Although we always pass the BLM inspection in the end, I always find traces of the previous year's burn when we arrive the next year. Usually it's small bits: Coins, an earring, a washer. 

It's these small bits that may tell our legacy. A place where people came, for I don't know what anymore. Yes, there's art, and a temporary community, but the event is growing and changing rapidly. Radical Self Entitlement is real. It feels like there is less participation and more consumerism, not in the commerce sense, but in the sense of those who come and take from the community but contribute little more than trinkets that end up in the bottom of dusty bins and backpacks. For many this is merely a place for self gratification where resources and natural beauty is squandered or commodified for the sake of adulation.

For the last few years I've worked a few other festivals with my burner friends. Some were great. Joshua Tree Music Festival is one I'd do again. The crowd was great, the event was small, and the music ranged from Techno and Dub DJs to new folk Mexican music. Then there were the not so great ones. Symbiosis was like working with the Burning Man D-list where several members of their crew had actually been fired from Burning Man DPW. The crowd there was entitled and decidedly shit-show.  Maybe I'm just getting too old for such recklessness. 

In contrast, the crews I work with at the Burn try very hard to get it right. Yeah,there are egos. A majority of the workers here are type A personalities who believe that their way is the right way. Getting so many of folks such as these, myself included, to work together is one of those things that I think qualifies as Playa Magic.  But still there are melt downs, miscommunications, even malicious behavior. We're human after all. Ultimately, we all know that sun rises and the sun sets providing us with beautiful sights to behold. It's part of what keeps us returning every year. But, I can't help but think the sun rises everywhere and that there are many more adventures to be had. 

At Burning Man one of our Principles is to leave no trace that we were here. But we have left many traces. Beyond the small bits and pieces that get buried in the playa only to resurface at the whim of the wind and rain, there are traces of this counter culture throughout the world now. Dub step can now be heard in TV ads. There are multiple regional burner events, and I heard that in a recent panel discussion, event organizers were grilled by other event mavens to grasp at bits of wisdom to make other festivals more participatory, more like Burning Man.

Burner culture is out there. I can only hope that it's the best of what happens here that gets blended into the mainstream. I'm still thankful for this experience, but ready to see what's next.