Sep 25, 2023·edited Sep 25, 2023Liked by Eneasz Brodski

This is a good observation, but note that burning man takes place in a desert where nobody's ancestors were ever able to live, in the heat of August. It is much worse than being cast into the wilderness. There's no water, no shade, and no food.

Also note that burning man is /artificially/ bad on top of that. If it were an anarchy, there's be a barter economy, and people in the desert selling cold water and showers, and you could rent a place to sleep with a mattress and an opaque roof to keep the sun off. But it isn't anarchy; it's authoritarian--there's a committee that decides all the rules.

By mandating a gift economy rather than a money or barter economy, they create a sharp class division between people who brought Stuff (literal truckloads of equipment, food, and water), and people who didn't. Burning man's philosophy is supposedly anti-materialist or egalitarian in outlawing money, but what this actually does (and what not using money did historically in societies with private property) is create sharp a class division between the haves (people who own resources, eg feudal landowners) and have-nots. The person who flies into burning man with just a backpack has to mooch off of others for the entire duration, because he can't carry enough food and water to survive, let alone be comfortable. The fact that you're not allowed to use money means you can't buy or work for food and water; your survival depends on the largess of the aristocracy of Burning Man, which is the people who brought trucks and prefab shelters and showers.

And then everybody goes around pretending that exactly the opposite is happening; and the people who are at the mercy of the upper class pretend along with them that they're all equal because they've abolished money. The combination of deadly environment plus no barter or money is maximally un-egalitarian. In reality, it's a place where people who care enough to organize and spend lots of money on Burning Man can be feudal lords for a week.

Now I'm wondering what Burning Man says, if anything, about the relative merits of feudalism vs. the free market for producing art. There's a meme that says that feudal patronage was a better way of producing great art than the free market. I'm ambivalent about it. Burning Man produces lots of amazing art, but it is mostly variations on a small number of theme, eg, huge flame-throwing mythic animals made out of metal. It's really a lot like Pennsic that way: a huge amount of creativity and effort being funneled into a channel that appears from the inside to have enormous variation, but from the outside to be quite narrow.

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This is a really good point, and I can't disagree with any of it :)

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Sep 25, 2023Liked by Eneasz Brodski

This is very much what military training seeks to instil.

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