Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Irony of Burning Man

Burning Man was created as a cultural experience. In an effort to revitalize human interaction, co-founder Larry Harvey designed an experience that would take people away from restrictions of society. In the modern world, we supposedly lost the rituals and practices to be self aware. We've lost the connection with our inner self. Burning Man can help foster that connection, whether through self reflection or creatively engaging with others. Burning Man was primarily a philosophical experience.
It represented a departure from modern society, and for this reason it became very popular among counter-culture individuals. The event welcomed anyone who wanted the experience. There was no specifications that participants needed to be part of a specific group to attend. Anyone who had the means to go, was able to go. Though they didn't turn people away, Burning Man was designed only for those to have a profound and enlightening experience. But those arent the only people that go to Burning Man now. Now the event is for anyone with $390 in their bank account. College students, trust fund kids, anyone and everyone can attend Burning Man. And they do. In the beginning years when Burning Man was indeed about discovering your true inner nature, it didn't have the national recognition it does today. I, myself, heard of Burning Man now as jokes on TV shows and movies. The way TV shows explained a certain character was a real "free spirit" was by saying they went to Burning Man. By "free spirit" the shows mostly mean the character is adventurous in terms of experimenting with drugs and orgys. Burning Man has turned into a giant drug filled orgy in the desert in the eyes of the public now. There was a Funny or Die article entitled "13 Things to know about this year's Burning Man festival." These were the entries:
  • Warning: There might be drugs there.
  • Remember to bring Sunscreen to Burning Man! Sunscreen is the name of a dude who lives in a teepee on Redondo Beach and still needs a ride to the festival.
  • Burning Man is the nation’s top destination for people to creatively express their trust funds.
  • The festival culminates in the burning of a structure called The Temple, followed by the crowning of that year’s Burning Man King and Queen.
  • Little known fact: The manlike effigy that’s burned each year and gives the festival its name is actually a likeness of America’s Funniest Home Videos host Tom Bergeron.
  • Any child born at Burning Man shall be confiscated by the hoard, dipped in body paint, and named something like Crowbeak or Xanduth or Greg.
  • Jeremy’s parents will be back on Sunday night, so everybody needs to be out by then, cool?
  • For $900, the Burning Man Premium Pass gives you a complimentary pink body-morph suit, round-the-clock access to all 10 mud huts, and your own personal weirdo.
  • This year, hula hooping is not allowed. Just kidding, of course hula hooping’s allowed. Spooked ya, though, huh?
  • Once inside, no money is exchanged, so trade with your neighbors for food, art, and commodities futures.
  • The gate to the festival is guarded by two magical statues that will incinerate anyone who shows fear. Or maybe that’s The NeverEnding Story. Honestly what’s the difference.
  • The festival will conclude with extinguishing the Burning Man in the most ambitious ice bucket challenge to date.
  • A business-casual dress code will be strictly enforced this year. Please plan accordingly.
While I'm sure some people still go for the original purpose, now Burning Man just seems like an excuse for anyone to do whatever they want for a week. It's lost its meaning as it has grown in popularity.
As the festival has grown in popularity, it has also disregarded one of its 10 main principles- decommodificatiom. It claims that commercial actions exploit their culture and that impedes the whole purpose of the festival. But in becoming so popular, Burning Man has commodified itself. How can an event that charges $390 for one ticket not be considered a commodity? It can be bought and sold just like any other commercial item. The irony is that Burning Man has grown to be what they originally set out to avoid. 

1 comment:

  1. Do you think that there might be practical reasons for making it as expensive as it is or even selling tickets at all? Perhaps for space allocations, security, or safety?