Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Hypocrisy of Burning Man


It's that time of year again. 70,000 people invade a fragile desert ecosystem - during a historic drought, no less - paying at minimum $400 a piece. That's not a typo; admission price has increased at 16 times the rate of inflation over the last 20 years. This doesn't include the price of travel, food, water and anything else you have to lug out to the desert.

There, people participate in an entirely for-profit corporate event and pretend to practice "radical inclusion" and "decommodification", all while failing to see the painful irony of excluding those who do not have the privilege to afford the price of admission and stay, nor the ten days off from real world responsibilities.

If Mark Twain were alive today, I am certain he would be verbally demolishing the Burning Man phenomenon with his trademark razor-sharp wit and acid-tongued critiques he reserved for the worst of hypocrites.


For what we have here is the very definition of hypocrisy. This is also the reason why Burning Man has become a sad joke among those out on the front lines of social change and social justice conflicts, in the real world.

Newsflash: You cannot change the world by pretending that the ever-worsening socio-cultural, economic and racial injustices in this country and on this planet don't exist. You are attending a very expensive, very elaborate, drug- and alcohol-fueled party in the desert, and you're privileged to do so. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. At least have the self-insight to admit all that. Drop the gag reflex-inducing Burning Man rhetoric about how special it all is and how anyone who criticizes the glaring contradictions of Burning Man culture doesn't get it. (Yeah, I know. Not gonna happen.)

I get it just fine. I don't begrudge anyone their ten days of sex, drugs, music, art and narcissism while rolling in alkaline desert sand; spend your vacation money any way you like.

But don't delude yourself into thinking you are better or more evolved than anyone else because of it. Attending Burning Man and conforming to its culture is anything but a radical act. It merely reflects the larger reality of life in America in 2015: The growing divide between rich and poor and the tenaciously destructive habit of the privileged to escape, ignore and erase the marginalized and non-privileged. 


In the span of one year, #BlackLivesMatter - in which anyone can participate for free from anywhere - has done orders of magnitude more to dismantle white supremacy in this country than Burning Man has done in its entire existence.

You can take that, Burners, and throw it on the ash pile of your privileged self-indulgence.


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