The 10 Principles – as we really live them

Do as he says, not as he does

This “adjusted” list of the 10 Principles of Burning Man was written by Melinda Green for the 2012 Boston-area regional, where I understand they were part of an art exhibit.

They’re funny enough to repeat.  So, with Melinda’s permission, I present (just in time for Burning Man’s Global Leadership Summit):  the 10 Principles – as we really live them.

Remind you of anybody you know?


Radical inclusion

We want to show you how welcoming and open we are as a community, how much we accept and love everyone. Oh crap. We don’t want all these people here.


Only one letter separates gifting from grifting. R you in? Everyone loves getting things from others, so do as little as possible and take as much as you can at all times.


Sometimes, all of us want things manufactured and/or sold by corporations who offend our sensibilities. When this happens, just steal. And then remove or conceal any identifiable branding so none of your radically-inclusive friends will know you like new items with brand names.

Radical Self Reliance

People bearing hugs or gifts should always be viewed with suspicion. Regardless of what they say, you only have yourself to rely upon.

Radical Self Expression

Express yourself and your greatest desires. Wear your emotions on your sleeve and grab the world by its balls. But please try to keep this sort of thing under wraps if you’re not particularly attractive.

Communal Effort

We value creative & cooperative collaboration. This means you eagerly help while following the orders of those who have been here longer and know better.  It may take a village but a village is nothing without a dozen project managers.

Civic responsibility

We value civic society. Look around at those next to you. What are they doing? Just do exactly as they do but try to wear a better costume.

Leave No Trace

Always be aware of your environment.  Do not leave any clues you were once here. The vast majority of your peers do not want to pick up your shit, so prey on the kindhearted to do it whenever you forget.


We achieve through doing and we achieve through play. Everyone’s contribution is key. Participate often and tell everyone how much you participate so they are aware your participation is always the only reason anything happens.


Like now. RIGHT NOW. Not 5 minutes from now. Or even 5 seconds. Why the fuck you still reading? GO DO IT NOW. Whatever it is you have been told to do, GO DO IT NOW.


About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat Magister

A member of Burning Man Project's Philosophical Center, Caveat served as the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca from 2008 - 2013, and the lead writer/researcher for Burning Man's education program from 2016 - 2018. Caveat is the author of the The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

26 Comments on “The 10 Principles – as we really live them

  • dust bunny says:

    Radical inclusion:
    Except for single males because they are all potential rapists. “Private Party – no single men welcome” is a sign you will see at the entrance to many so-called parties.

    Especially your free labor to the corporation. The corporation will gift you 10 spirituality points for every day you spend laboring in dangerous situations. What, you really don’t think all those trinkets you’re handing out will get you closer to the BM Spirt Plane, do you?

    As long as all financial transactions happen on the BM Black Market (meaning keeping it on the down-low), then everyone can pretend that only coffee and ice is sold at Burning Man.

    Radical Self Reliance:
    Meaning, don’t become a burden on the infrastructure. Stay out of trouble (avoid sudden bursts of spontaneity) and do what you’re told. Obey all laws, rules and suggested behavioral guidelines.

    Radical Self Expression:
    Whatever. Just don’t get into trouble. If you’re unattractive, do not take your clothes off. It’s all been done before, so it’s best if you stay close to your camp, preferably in your RV when you are not working/sacrificing for the corporation.

    Communal Effort:
    For men, this means catering to and caring for the women in camp. This includes building everything and taking everything down, because the goddesses in camp are too busy with their costumes and makeup. This also includes cleaning up after them and calmly dealing with their daily emotional breakdowns. This also means not getting upset when your girlfriend or wife doesn’t return to camp for 3 days.

    Civic Responsibility:
    Burning Man is nothing if it is not a civic environment. Your duty is to the civic first, and to yourself second. Although no one obeys this principle, it works well as a sort of guilt trip to use on anyone in camp who is having a better time than you.

    Leave No Trace:
    Clean up your shit because the corporation loses profit when they have to do it. But make no mistake – you can leave your broken down RV out there and your girlfriend locked in the back bedroom, and someone WILL take care of it for you.

    The same thing as volunteering. Again, you can’t reach the Burning Man Spiritual Plane without supplying many hours of free labor to the corporation. The more you sacrifice for the corporation in blood sweat and tears, the quicker you will get your Nirvana merit badge and sex with a salaried employee of the corporation.

    No one knows what this really means. Basically, you can use it to criticize anyone who isn’t doing whatever you want fast enough.

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  • Liz says:

    What’s wrong Dust Bunny? Couldn’t get laid at last years burn?

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  • Skye says:

    on Radical Self Expression:

    For the ladies, these self-professed ‘goodesses’ (cock teases), a popular form of radical self expression is to stand on any corner to receive narcissistic supply from every frat boy and other horny desperate guy who walks by. If you don’t want look too slutty, try two pieces of black electrical tape over each nipple – this will show all the men that you are radical, but not too radical. It also expresses to other burners that you might actually know what electrical tape if for, and thus useful in an emergency (which is good for making new friends).

    And be sure to always cary a cup with a built-in cover to radically express to other burners that you’re onto their scheme to drug your drink and drag you back to Rape Camp. Be sure to say, “Safety third!” as you proudly display your anti-rape cup to everyone at the party. This will let them know not to rape you, and will also show that you’re hip to the latest BM memes.

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  • JV says:

    Wow, some bitter burners here. Pretty sure those parties you want to get into but can’t because you’re a single male have some kind of sexual theme to them, meaning as a single dude you’d either just stand around and gawk or try to get total strangers to have sex with you. Both scenarios are immediate buzzkills. I’m a dude myself and have gone both with my wife (wherein we were allowed entry into such parties) and without her (wherein I knew I wasn’t and so didn’t bother). Get over it, dudes, it’s a biological fact of existence.

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  • Slim says:


    Do you really think those parties that exclude single males have anything happening at all? Have you been to Burning Man?

    Private parties were unheard of before 2007. It’s a symptom of the mainstream every day Joe and Mary who run a camp thinking if they exclude a certain segment then the party will feel exclusive. It’s taking Radical Inclusion to a new level: Blatant Radical Exclusion.

    Whenever I see a “private party” sign, I make an effort to enter (as easy as walking around the back in all cases), and it’s always the same scene: People standing around on the perimeter of the tent/dome clutching their drinks and a few people dancing. The same as in any club in any city.

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  • JV says:

    Yeah I’ve been 5 times since 2007, so I guess the private party thing is business as usual for me. At any rate, I was referring to the ones that specifically exclude single males. Those kind, from my experience, are always sex-based, so it makes sense to me to exclude single dudes. And, those parties do have more going on than people standing around. I have seen other generic “private party” signs, and yeah, those are annoying, but I never bothered to poke my head in those because as you say, they seem fucking boring. But I do support you and anyone else crashing those.

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  • Slim says:


    I’m planning to have a private party this year in which we post a sign saying, ‘No Homosexuals’ because this will be a party for straight people doing straight things, and the homosexuals will just kind of ruin the vibe.

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  • Elizabeth says:

    I was drugged and brought back to rape camp in 2009. Its kind of not that funny. As a matter of fact, I was scared as fuck.

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  • notaburner says:

    it sounds like burning man sucks. Elizabeth, I hope you got out okay.

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  • Dick Smoker says:

    Slim I’m going to crash your no queers bash. Give me a ride to rape camp boys!
    As for these 10 ‘rules’ we run our camp like a Home Owner’s Association – we have our HOA meetings with the core group of 10 and the rest that sign up get the honor of learning how to set up clean up behave with political correctness on schedule as assigned, and pay for that privilege. The golden 10 ass sniffing parties are PRIVATE – so now you know.

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  • Slim says:

    @Dick Smoker
    >Slim I’m going to crash your no queers bash.

    That won’t be possible. We will have security at the door that will screen for obvious signs of homosexuality, followed by a special room where each hopeful will be interviewed to determine their true sexual orientation (sorry, no gender-reassigns).

    If our experts determine that a hopeful may be bisexual (thus a risk to our overall super straight vibe), then he or she will only be allowed access to the viewing chamber, but not allowed at the bar or on the dance floor (for obvious reasons).

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  • Tickles says:


    I hope they didn’t make you pay for the drugs.

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  • Bartholomew Burner says:

    Damn! What? No, “No Single Fat Chicks” at these privates parties? And single dudes have it so hard too!

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  • Elizabeth says:

    I was scared as fuck because the guy I was with had no idea the rape camp dude wanted to fuck us. And if/when he understood that, I was afraid my guy would kill the rape camp guy – so then we would be in rape camp/murder camp and Burning Man would really suck…I negotiated an innocuous escape. You’re a hoot, Tickles…

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  • Yellowtail says:

    I am compelled to wade in for the first time at BM blog and comment. Please don’t hide behind snark and wisecracks when discussing date rape drugs and rape. As a primary care physician and a mother I have dealt with this many times over the past 32 years. It is a devastating event, one that takes it’s tole for years to come. Clearly the people who are snarky and lighthearted about this have not been personally involved. Please review the comments written just after BM in September, 2012. Open your heart, help someone, educate yourself , don’t degrade this topic by your snarky comments.
    Let’s all work together to make this burn safe. If someone tells you that they feel far more intoxicated than they should be based on what they drank, that is an immediate sign that they have been drugged. Or if you see this, it is most likely that this has occurred . Get them to safety immediately. They are incapable of recognizing what has happened and cannot fend for the self. Stay with them , the drug takes many hours to wear off. And yes, keep your drink covered and do not put it down.
    Have a nice day!

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  • Slim says:


    >and a mother I have dealt with this many times over the past 32 years.

    Is being a mother a special qualifier, different than being a father?

    The only way of addressing the rape hysteria at Burning Man is with humor. Rape hysteria at Burning Man has become the same as it is in the mainstream world – it is completely pervasive. Half of the population is walking around scared that rape is just around the corner, and the other half of the population is treated as potential rapists. Better to treat all men like a rapist because some men rape.

    By that ‘logic’ it is better to treat all women like murders because some women murder.

    I will joke about whatever subject I see in society that has gone completely off the rails batshit insane; rape hysteria. This hysteria has continued to more and more insane because people like you, Yellowtail, try to put the PC clamps down on anyone who points out the obvious insanity… one might think people like you have something to hide.

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  • dust bunny says:

    “If someone tells you that they feel far more intoxicated than they should be based on what they drank, that is an immediate sign that they have been drugged. ”

    that is complete bull. the playa intensifies the effects of alcohol. and someone may feel ‘drugged’ without having even a sip of alcohol – dehydration and the lack of sleep can even cause hallucinations at worst and feelings of ‘tripping’ at best, which accounts for almost 100% of these ‘oh my god someone drugged me!’ reports.

    then everyone runs around looking for the person who drugged our dear damsel, and they frequently find some poor guy with a spray bottle and accost him, accusing him of dosing young girls with his spray bottle full of LSD. this is a playa MYTH!! no one is going around with a spray bottle of LSD, and even if they were – it wouldn’t work! you would have to have such a high concentration of liquid LSD in that bottle that you would have to be some kind of serious drug lord to obtain in that quantity. so stop stop spreading this bullshit, folks.

    secondly, what makes up for almost all the other reports of being drugged on the playa are reports designed to bring attention to oneself. after a few days of constant complaining about everything, even the most beautiful sparklepony begins to fall out of favor with the camp, and people start plotting against her. upon realizing that people are falling out of her charms, one sure way of turning things around for miss-complain-about-goddamn-everything is to say, ‘i’ve been drugged’ – that brings everyone in camp to her assistance and all of her bad behavior is forgiven. now she’s an ‘almost raped’ case, and no one can blame her for being a complete bitch during the whole week. everyone rallies together and goes on a manhunt for anyone she’s come in contact with, including guys in camp. the whole thing turns into one paranoid farce, but our little angle comes out smelling as sweet as she looks. this is sparklepony 101 – if you haven’t seen it in action many times, you haven’t been to burning man enough times.

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  • Read This says:

    Pretty! This was an incredibly wonderful article. Many thanks for providing these details.

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  • JV says:

    Slim, applying concepts equally across different situations is a high school philosophy student’s game, but you’re free to play it, I guess.

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  • Yellowtail says:

    Slim, I think being a father is a wonderful privilege. I just happen to be a mom. Not sure how you came to the conclusion that I have something to hide ……
    Dust Bunny, When someone has been given Rohypnol or ketamine they in fact cannot report that they have been drugged. These strong sedatives give you slurred speech, confusion, inability to walk steadily like you are very drunk, as well as amnesia. So the real situation of being given a date rape drug is very different from taking or being given a hallucinogenic / other recreational drug or being dehydrated or just high on the scene on the playa. These people can indeed give a history of what they think happened and be as histrionic as they please!
    So what I said was IF YOU SEE someone or are with someone who has had a drink or two and is suddenly completely intoxicated , that is a sign of being drugged by a strong sedative. THEY DO NOT TELL you anything about being drugged as they are out of it.
    As an aside, being PC has nothing to do with staying healthy and wanting to avoid disasters. In fact, I am not very PC much of the time…..
    Have a nice evening!
    Hope that clears things up!

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  • Stub'burn says:

    Seriously?? Where is all the anger coming from??

    What about respect, kindness, and leaving judgement at the door.
    Meeting people simply for the pleasure of the sharing of ideas, joy, music, art and laughter is amazing! But that’s just me. : )

    There are many different people out on the playa.
    Sex among consenting adults is great!
    Burning man is a sexually charged place.
    It can be difficult when there are mixed messages given by a prospective sexual partner.
    Aren’t these all the same situations that exist in the default world?
    We are all just trying to be liked and accepted.
    We all try to fit in.

    But, just as in the default world, No, means No.

    People who drug others to sexually assault them are shameful.
    I cannot imagine what kind of hurt minds would do such a thing.

    If Burning Man is so disappointing, there are many other places to visit. I for one, am looking forward to the next burn!
    love to you all,
    Please don’t call me a hippie!! LOL

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  • dust bunny says:

    >If you see someone or are with someone who has had a drink or two and is suddenly completely intoxicated, that is a sign of being drugged by a strong sedative.

    it’s also a sign that they had more to drink than you witnessed. it’s also a sign that they are dehydrated. it’s also a sign that they drugged themselves (ya think?). it’s a sign of many different causes. but that you would automatically assume they’ve been drugged by someone, is to assume the worst about your fellow burners. it’s the least likely of all possible causes, but the one you assume first. that’s pretty dark thinking.

    after many years on the playa, i would strongly recommend not playing captain-save-a-ho every time some angel appears drunk or high – SHE DID IT TO HERSELF. let her deal with it.

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  • kendrick says:

    this would be funnier if it wasn’t so sadly true

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  • I thought it was hilarious. Seriously it seems like people’s comments don’t relate to the post a’tall. I guess the people who manage to have fun don’t read the blog…

    Bitter, party of burner, your table’s ready!

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  • xoML says:

    You rock! I thought the post as clever, and don’t read the blog. =)

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  • Wow, this article is fastidious, my sister is analyzing such things,
    therefore I am going to let know her.

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