Do-ocracy Rant

The Participation and Civic Responsibility Principles mean that we operate in a Do-ocracy. If you don’t like how something is being done, volunteer to make it better.

So it irked me when I saw a bunch of online complaining about the new location of San Diego’s Regional Burn, YOUtopia“Oh, really? Did you do some location scouting and negotiating with property owners that was ignored by organizers? Or did you just decide that you don’t like the change and so criticize the decisions made by the people who were willing to do the work?”

Look, I am ALL about being critical and making improvements. Burning Man is an iterative city and gives us the luxury of annual lessons and upgrades. But criticism without an offer to help is pretty empty. Not worthless, but it definitely holds less weight than the opinions of someone who says, “I can see how this could be better, and I’ll take the lead to make it so.”

This is true on micro and macro levels: Within Theme Camps, Black Rock City, the United States, and the world.

Life is a Do-acracy. Speak up and step up.

Below is the video where I got riled up about this. And the transcript is here for those of you who find my face and voice annoying AF. (Or are hearing impaired.)

And guess what? Apparently “do-acracy” is something that often comes up during Decompression. Here is a rant I went on LAST year when people complained about art.

Top photo by Halcyon

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

9 Comments on “Do-ocracy Rant

  • Anon says:

    Thank you again for having a transcript of your videos. It is much appreciated and a welcome act that I wish more would do.

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  • Kiwi says:

    Where’s my ladder?

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  • Aaron says:

    Leadership means being ready to accept criticism and disagreement with your decisions. Sometimes it means hearing “I don’t agree with this, and will therefore choose not to participate”… or… “fine, but I’m going to voice my opinion loudly”. It’s useful feedback if a leadership group cares about direction setting, and much better than people quietly ghosting out or telling others behind leadership’s backs that a thing sucks without giving them a chance to address it.

    The tension in a do-ocracy is recognizing that “do-ers”, especially for positions requiring leadership, innovation, and risk, are a very very small minority – maybe 1 in 100. Combine that with the myriad other shit that needs to get done, someone can have a desire to give input which takes minimal effort, while their primary interests and time is spent elsewhere. That’s just human nature. And so the challenge of people in leadership + decision making positions is – how to best engage the other 99%. Maybe it means directly assigning small tasks. Maybe it means building a process where people can quickly bungee in and out to help as their time and interest allows.

    These are my thoughts.

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    • Halcyon says:

      Good points, Aaron.
      And I suppose there is a big difference between contributing ideas and “complaining.”

      As you said, it is important to not shut people’s voices down by making “action” a requirement for speaking up.

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      • Fearless says:

        You said it perfectly. If you aren’t getting cooperation from others in something you are trying to do, do a new thing! You might be suprised the support you get from new people. Also, there is something to be said for keeping things small and close to your heart. Burning Man would still exists without 300 person camps and 50k art projects but the effort those take to organize is awesome and wonderful but this is about critisism without contribution, not being a good leader and listening to descent. Well put <3

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  • Renée Orth says:

    YEESSSS! You hit the nail on the head. This spectator mindset is the rotten core of the dominator culture. Civic responsibility. Participation. Communal effort. Live them or get out of the way.

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  • William says:

    A very delicate balance between being open to hearing other’s complaints or shutting them down by placing the complainer in a position to solve their own complaint issues. Listening to other’s complaint ramblings does not imply one has to actually do anything about it.

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    • Halcyon says:

      Excellent point, William. It is a fine art learning how to make people feel heard while also empowering them. (And for me, not falling into the trap of trying to please everyone.)

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  • Wraith says:

    It is easy to rant about how other people should make an effort when that lets you dismiss their issues with a decision as ‘laziness’.

    Leadership takes more than being the one to self-assign the job. It takes a willingness to be led on the part of those you work with, and an ability to create sufficient trust that they will offer up that willingness.

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