Under 1000 characters version:
Being radically inclusive means involving people from all walks of life in Burning Man: wealthy, poor, and people of all stripes, and tutus. Everyone wants to share Burning Man with their friends.
We object to camps that close themselves, hire staff, contribute little, profit much. Such camps are parasitic on an experience others create.
“…just thinking about money makes people less likely to help others and less interested in spending time with others.” Guardian 2014.
This is the distinction: does a camp provide experiences to those beyond its camp and campmates, or is it merely joy-riding on the experiences that others in BRC provide?
- Burning Man should publish data re: these camps;
- Burning Man should ban camps only for adventure tourists.
- Burning Man should not give directed tickets/early entry to camps w/o community space, participatory art, and camp work.
- Camps with a surplus of wealth could be connected with other camps to share information and innovation.
- Some directed tickets should be low income tickets,
See full comment at (below): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1V8T3nDod9u2GUccbnOUoi9Ven9VfOCSlN5hKrQhjYAY/edit
998 words version:
Que Viva! Camp’s feedback and recommendations on “for-profit” camps.
Being radically inclusive is involving people from all walks of life in Burning Man, including the wealthy, the poor, and people of all stripes, flavors, and tutus.
Que Viva! places strong emphasis on bringing artists, change-makers, and social justice advocates from communities traditionally not represented at Burning Man — people of color, immigrant folk, and activists — to create a more inclusive BRC where everyone’s voice and experience are uplifted.
Everyone wants to share Burning Man with their friends. We don’t object to wealthy people bringing their friends and making it easy for them to come. Participation in Burning Man is good for most everyone; it’s good for society at large, including all of us from the margins. Yet, we object to camps that operate without interactive participation requirements, close themselves away with walls and figurative “no trespassing” signs, hire sherpas (fraught with servitude), and contribute little to the community from which they take experience. We object even more when their producers profit.
“One of the most unique features of Burning Man, relative to other large festivals, is its economy. Nothing is for sale… Subtracting money from social interactions could be a key contributor to the spirit of generosity that permeates the atmosphere. [S]tudies showed that just thinking about money makes people less likely to help others and less interested in spending time with others.” The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2014/sep/26/gifts-in-the-desert-psychology-burning-man-altruism
Camps profiting from selling the experience of Burning Man undercut the gifting economy, participation, and civic engagement. From the stories circulating ( “tabloid” journalism leaves reports less credible than we’d like), not only are the clients denied the experience of the gift economy by being served by paid staff, the “employees” are unable to give to the community because they’re paid to serve a few. The deep red MOOP map area of, e.g., Lost Hotel, shows these camps did not practice Leave No Trace. Their guests merely experienced employees and VIPs, as usual.
Such camps are parasitic on the experience others create and are adventure tourism. The rest of us serve as merely quaint performers and festival stands past which they stroll and sample. Producing a theme camp is too much work to be reduced to what people can get at every art, food, music festival.
Even Burning Man does not sell the experience; it sells access to the venue and infrastructure. Participants create the experience. It is unethical to sell an “experience” created by the collective labor and vision of a community.
Like some turn-key camps, we create a space for some unable to attend Burning Man on their own. Yet, like most theme camps, Que Viva! is participatory, interactive, and civically engaged. We gift tickets and raise required funds. All must participate in Que Viva!’s art workshops where burners create wearable butterfly wings symbolizing the human right to move. Our video booth lets burners tell their migration stories, later projected on playa with real world migration stories. Burners wrote letters to some of the unaccompanied children fleeing violence and now in detention on US borders, connecting immediately to these kids beyond the playa.
This is the biggest distinction – does a camp provide experiences to those beyond its camp and campmates, or is it merely self-referential, joy-riding on the experiences that others in Black Rock City provide?
The wealth generated by these camps should be regenerative, not extractive; it should regenerate Burning Man Project and open playa doors so that more non-wealthy people can attend, or can attend more comfortably. This is how we can collectively build a vision. That is very different than individual profiteering.
Many of these camps don’t encourage self-reliance, participation, civic engagement, or leaving no trace. This is a failure of these camps’ producers. If these camps are given directed tickets or early entry (including tickets for “employees”), then they’re inappropriately privileged and taking more resources from the community.
1) Burning Man should separate fact from fiction about these camps: How many are there? How are they operated, funded, staffed, built? How many attend as part of those camps? How many are paid staffers? Why do they get so much coverage rather than camps that more fully embody the ten principles? Are these camps incentivized with directed tickets, placement, and early entry?
2) Can Burning Man help all camps (globally) get better coverage or tell their stories, something like the It Gets Better Project, eg 2 minute theme camp videos that express how they manifest Burning Man culture on “playa” and off?
3) Burning Man should rule out behaviors antithetical to the culture. It already discourages branding, and has strict rules applicable to media, trademarks, and photography. Similarly, it can impose rules on those who use the event only as a profit making stop for adventure tourists.
4) Burning Man curates themes camps and can incentivize best practices with directed tickets, placement, and early entry. It should not give directed tickets or early entry to any camp that does not demonstrably offer community space, participatory art activities, and require its participants to share the work of operating and maintaining their camp. Producers of turn-key camps must be required to teach their clients how this community lives and operates, and its ethos.
5) Camps with a surplus of wealth could be connected with other camps to share information and innovation. For example, if they’ve developed cost-effective housing models or energy sources for their guests, they could provide some of those housing units to placed theme camp participants who have only tents. Burning Man could facilitate camps connecting with one another to expand the shared economy on and off playa with a voluntary place on its website to make it easier for people to connect. Wealthy camps that connect could be incentivized with directed tickets and early entry for their civic engagement, provided they meet the other standards.
6) Some directed tickets should be low income tickets, so low income people can contribute to theme camp production.
FOR AN EVEN LONGER VERSION OF HOW QUE VIVA! FEELS ABOUT THIS: