• 50,000 people circling a wooden effigy, with 1000 people spinning fire and 500 more playing drums, all encircled by 200 art cars — and then all roaring in unison as the effigy is set on fire. via Huff Po
• a temporary city, devoid of religious and socially-constructed boundaries, where one is as “free to be” as possible in America, even if only for a short time. A quick check of historical Google records indicates that few serious sexual incidents or crimes occur at Burning Man.
• a ritualistic community confire where people join together putting the past behind them. Old love letters and divorce decrees — perhaps a passport or two — are tossed into the trash heap by people determined to let go of negative memories forever.
• a non-capitalist economy. Burning Man is expensive (between $150-350) but no one gets paid inside. There are no vending carts. Inside, it’s a “gift economy”.
Jay Michaelson writes in The Truth About Burning Man that it’s a place for self-reflection and self-transformation — whether substance-aided or not. I agree with Michaelson that mushrooms aren’t always a bad, bad food.
I’ve never attended Burning Man, although I did send a writer once years back. What impresses me about Burning Man is that conservatives and fundamentalists would argue that total anarchy will reign among the participants — because folks can’t be trusted to “behave” in a fluid environment.
Granted, some folks can’t self-manage: Jim Collins, Serena Williams and Kanye West, to name three just this week. Each of their FOR SHAME moments reflect an individual’s inability to self-legislate his/her own behavior.
At least two — Collins and Williams — come from tightly-disciplined, focused backgrounds. I know nothing about West. Self-discipline are heritage badges for Collins and Williams, although Maureen Dowd writes that Collins comes from a part of the world where “silence implies consent”.
Hence “outburst” under any circumstances is legitimate.
Our three FOR SHAME, THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING personalities this week weren’t at Burning Man. Each was in a structured, socio-cultural situation with rules and boundaries for “appropriate” behavior.
Each chose to create moments of chaotic behavior and all three involved attempting to intimidate another person, while on the world stage.
Quite frankly, I’ll take the crazed, immoral inhabitants of Burning Man any day. Clearly, they know better how to behave in public. Perhaps personal values, not rules and behavior boundaries, are a better predictor of good behavior than conservatives and fundamentalists believe.
One of my friends told me last week that he heard Bill O’Reilly correct Ann Coulter in a healthcare interview on Fox news. Coulter was up to her “same-‘ol-same-‘ol” rants and O’Reilly said: “That’s not what Obama’s proposed bill would do.”
“Really, you’re kidding!” I replied. “Bill O’Reilly actually said that?”
Burning Man Documentary 2009
Maybe next year, another 50,000 of us should make a trek to Burning Man, or perhaps we launch Burning Woman on the East Coast.
The day Bill O’Reilly corrects Ann Coulter on Fox News, there’s still hope that our world won’t self-destruct. Let’s get going. Anne
Read: Jay Michaelson: The Truth About Burning Man Huffington Post