So it turns out that the Burning Man Festival is nothing like what I had preconceived it to be. There are actually some really interesting things, related to design and social interaction, going out in Black Rock’s desert. Along with a large amount of fire, so I understand.
The first thing from the Burning Mans presentation that surprised me was that the festival was first in San Francisco, until it out grew available space, after five years. Next, I was intrigued to learn that the festival was not just a hedonistic ritual preformed every year, as an excuse for a large outdoor party. There is actually an intense effort put forth over a short period of time in order to create an inhabitable city for 50,000 people. This is no small feat for two incredible reasons. The first is that the city is build in the middle of nowhere and in some of the harshest possible environmental conditions. The remote location, the brutal temperatures and severe storms provide for make for difficult living conditions. But also probably, contribute to the festival’s success; because participants are required to coexist and provide assistance when needed in order survive the difficult environment. The second surprise is that the design of the city is done in seven days.
There are Ten Principals to the Burning Man Festival that contribute to its success.
1. Radical Inclusion - which means that anyone can join.
2. Gifting – this is unconditional giving, you give with nothing expected in return.
3. Decommodification - resist consumption, the only things sold are coffee and ice.
4. Radical Self-reliance – rely on inner resources.
5. Radical self-expression – self expression of inner feelings.
6. Communal Effort – cooperation and collaboration.
7. Civic Responsibility – valuing civil society and individual rights and responsibilities.
8. Leave no Trace – leave it like you found it.
9. Participation – transformative, everyone needs to go in the activities.
10. Immediacy – social interaction is important
These principals work for a community that is very short term, but, could not work for a society over an extended period of time. I think that if these principals were used for longer than a week, once the excitement worn off a bit, people would probably become a jaded “gifting” to the same person or exhausted from their “radical self-expression.”
Over all, I was really impressed by the Burning Man festival. There were several facts that left me pleasantly surprised. I is good to know that there are people associated to the festival, that do charitable work year round from the revenue generated by the week long event. The art, cars and all round ingenuity of the participants also was extremely impressive.
Any event that leads to building a three-story duck mobile that shoots fire can be all bad!