[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]
“Somewhere past these gravel roads and high on castle’s tower, a rich man dreams of paradise and sees a life like ours.”
– Antsy McClain of the Trailer Park Troubadours
Rosie Lila deftly stated “We were all newbies once” just recently in a post titled “Radical Self Reliance and Rich People at Burning Man”. Burning Man is an event that takes years of practice. One can actually tell a five-year Burner from a ten-year Burner. You never stop learning as the “social experiment in the desert” is ever changing. It seems that our grand tree of evolution has sprouted a new branch. It’s the much discussed topic of “turnkey camps” or “plug and plays” that seem to fly directly into the face of our principle of radical self-reliance. It’s even sarcastically been nicknamed “radical self entitlement” in rising grumblings.
It was about four years ago when I saw my first “plug and play” camp. From my perspective my initial impression of a camp of all brand new trailers in a horseshoe with no real social area, nothing but a giant generator and a trailer loaded with brand new bikes in the middle, and the “campmates” barely knowing each other seemed like aggressive cancer to me. The only social interaction I witnessed at the time was a worker in a pickup truck knocking on one of the trailer doors and an arm briefly jabbing out to hand him a bag of garbage. The door slammed shut and the shades were drawn. My Burner blood dropped several degrees – I immediately wanted to form a lively group of welcoming troubadours to welcome the shit out of them!
Easy now – baby steps – we were all newbies once.
Nineteen seasons ago, I was a newbie. My entrance into Black Rock City was decidedly different from someone landing in a chartered flight with ground support to the fully stocked trailer and gassed up art car waiting. It was just me with a duffel bag. Over these last nineteen Burns, I’ve built my camp into many rotating friends and family, a wife, two children, and two nannies. It has also swelled into a rich and welcome home to a village’s worth of friends bringing music and art with a plentiful horn of loving foods and grand cheer. This hearty hearth of endearment could only have been built from several seasons of embracing the gift giving, sharing and inclusive principles of Black Rock City. It’s a constant study of participating in the moment in a community that wants to cooperate instead of compete. There’s no way an entrepreneur would be able to include this level of communal love into the line items offered in his turnkey camp. It must be worked for.
But the game has been upped considerably because inherent in the mindset of a turnkey camp is one of entitlement from the start. The troll of greed lies just under the bridge. He is a patient fisherman. A client shows up expecting to get his money’s worth with little concern for what happens to the camp after they have left the playa. In the events when the mighty playa huffs and puffs and foils the plans of all Burners, those who sold the “desert vacation of a lifetime” find themselves having to abandon Burner principles – no matter how planned for – in order to cater to the “bought and paid for” entitlements of the “clients”. It’s a mindset that seems doomed from the start.
But there’s hope – they can also learn and acculturate their camps – one rosebud at a time if need be. We must help them. It’s our civic responsibility to do so. Tempers may flare and money fingers may get pointed with contempt when things don’t go according to plan, but somewhere in that camp, someone went to Burning Man. Someone got onto one of the waiting bikes and ventured into Black Rock City. That person is ready to learn and we veterans must reach out and bring them in. Rosie Lila mentions the lifestyles of the wealthy as they live behind walls of gated exclusive communities, insulated and static. Imagine the departure from the world they are used to when they enter the intimidating but enchanting embrace of BRC for the first time – when they venture into the power of our community. A rich person spends much of his life beating back the jackals. It might take em a few to make that leap of faith into a world where folk can give without expecting return.
The camps of the wealthy are here to stay and we can’t exclude them any more than they should exclude us from the greeting areas of their camps. The walls that they build breach from the gated worlds that the wealthy tend to live in, their foundations seated in fear. Who better than us to find a way to hack into their hard drives and install the software of the vibrant principles of our hard fought community? They must learn that to be a part of us, they must hold themselves accountable to the same standards that make our camps and villages flourish. Through this, they may find that getting their hands dirty ain’t so bad after all. It just well may be the point.
My wife Mel had said this about the DPW years ago, as many wished to join our team. She said, “Hard work is sexy!” It’s got a lot more pheromones than a stack of cash.
The newborn wealthy camps of BRC must bring more than their money and they will find that given half the chance, the power of community can blow the crap out of capital gain, every time!