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Thoughts on my first Burning Man

September 9th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

Ok, so here’s my Burning Man post. Please, ignore it if your feed is already filled with people in the desert, mutant vehicles, and other annoying BM stuff. I would like to share some of the thoughts about my first experience in this unique event. Tl;dr: I had a blast. If you haven’t been to BM and have a chance to go, go. If you have been, isn’t it sad that it’s so full of white/privileged people?

Pros:
* Largest art museum I’ve been. Its location (in the middle of a vast desert with unpredictable weather) and its extended length (8 days if you stay for the whole thing) are part of the experience. After a few days there, every feeling is amplified, and any connection you make, any food you eat, any installation you go, any music you dance, any event you attend, will be enhanced times a hundred without the need of drugs. Among other things: I cried, I laughed, I danced, I sang, I performed, I mourned, I felt happy, I felt sad, and I fell in love.
* It’s actually two museums: one by day and one by night. Extremely different, yet both mind-blowing beyond words.
* Not having a capitalist economy makes you challenge the way we currently live in our societies. There’s something highly liberating about going out without money, knowing that you’ll offer and be offered everything needed: food, drinks, music, and other tangible and non-tangible goods.
* As a straight white cis-male in the top of the privilege pyramid I will never fully understand this, but: living somewhere where *everyone is welcome* is truly remarkable. No matter what you do, who you are, what’s your race, gender, religion, sexuality, aspirations, kinks, drugs, etc, you’ll always be welcome in any event without being judged (as long as you respect others, of course). It was so beautiful to see that a society like this may be actually possible.
* Likely, the cleanest event I’ve been by far. Generally, people really care about not leaving trace.
* One of my favorite moments: in the middle of the desert, around 1am, surrounded by an amazing Rodin-like sculpture of a man thinking with a large illuminated ball on top of his head, next to a 17th century porch-like vehicle, and in front of this large steamboat vehicle where 3 highly talented musicians were performing the most fascinating blue-grass/balkan music I’ve ever heard. All in the middle of a surreal dust storm.

Cons:
* It was hard for me to stop thinking about how only a small percentage of the US/world population, basically the most privileged, made it to BM. Besides being rare to interact with/see people of color, most white people I talked to had lives that the vast majority outside BM would only dream of. I tried to keep a low budget to go to this event, and yet I ended up paying way too much money between the food, the transportation, the ticket, the camping tent, the camp itself, the lights, the batteries, etc. No wonder why the only families I saw there with their kids were white: it’s a financial undertaking to get to BM, at least when you go for the first time when you’re likely to over-pack.
* Around 60% of the times I overheard a conversation, it was about drugs. Often times with a very “broh-y” tone. “Oh broh, yesterday I did shrooms.” “Oh broh, acid is way cleaner than mushrooms.” “Oh broh, yesterday I did ketamine with molly and a micro-dose of LSD, broh.” I’m fine with people doing whatever drugs they want, but this showing off was honestly annoying, and reinforced the notion of BM being a gathering of 70k white people doing crazy amounts of drugs in the desert (which is not really true, for the most part).
* I saw several white people with native American costumes that made me feel quite uncomfortable. Cultural appropriation is real in BM.
* While the whole event is extremely clean, I still saw people peeing in the desert, porta-potties full of cans/bottles/other non-decompostable material, and other small pieces of trash in the desert, especially during the last two days.
* A lot of bullshit in the established vocabulary: the “real world” is apparently the BM, and the “default world” is the rest of the world. Made up names like “Gentleman” are common and used by people (aka Playa Names). Or MOOP, Matter Out of Place, which is essentially trash. I mean, is there really anything out of place in the universe? Or, the other way around, isn’t the crazy carbon footprint left in BM by the thousands of cars and the massive fires also out of place?
* Fucking dust. Really, it’s not only terrible for your skin, but also for your lungs. So shocking to see so many people (including kids) not wearing masks during the few storms we had.
* Way too much EDM.
* Way too many techies (me included) :D

Again, I had a blast, and I was able to ignore several of the “cons” (e.g., almost every time I go to a metal show I also reflect on how very little POC —or women, for that matter— are in the audience, and yet I usually have a great time). Not sure if I’ll go back to BM, but it was certainly a beautiful experience that I wish everyone, at least once, would experience.

Finally, I’m extremely grateful for everyone who helped me survive (and live!) all of this. Especially Luisca, Kata, Susie, the people at Camposanto, Playa Choir, and Pandora. You’re all titans.

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