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Friday, July 28, 2006

Frivolous?

This was a post I made to a Burning Man mailing list, after some back-and-forth about how ethical it was to spend all this money on goofing off and being high and mighty about it, and about how, despite our 'no commerce' rule on the playa, there's a huge economy that goes on beforehand that a lot of people try to make money off of.

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There seems to be this underlying assumption that Burning Man is frivolous.

This event has deep personal, spiritual significance, more than church to a lot of us I'd bet, but if somebody needed to raise funds to get to a church, we wouldn't dare call that frivolous.

This event has a lot of unique art, a lot of experimental technologies, yet mostly it's okay to have art fundraisers or to apply for research grants. Patents have been granted to things that were invented just for Burning Man, things that are now used outside as well.

Most importantly, this event has a larger impact on the public consciousness. Whatever you might think of American conservatives, they have gotten very, very good at impacting the public consciousness, and that's why they're winning right now (disclaimer: I'm mostly progressive, but I don't like either party; they scream too much without actually saying anything, nor really standing up for anything I care about). Read this, the first chapter of "Don't Think of An Elephant" by George Lakoff:

http://www.chelseagreen.com/images/DTE_Sampler.pdf

It's great not only because he gives a more fair consideration of both parties than most people who fall so clearly on one side (liberal, in his case), but also captures the importance of those psychological effects that are so often below the radar. Likewise, maybe Burning Man doesn't directly feed people in Darfur, but indirectly, it might save a lot more people from suffering in the long run, if we believe in it and promote the ideals it stands for. So don't say it's just
frivolous.

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I got one reply of 'amen, sister', and another along similar lines. I don't think most of the participants believe it's frivolous; rather, a few people just take speculation ("would this money be better going to Sudan to feed children?") as a challenge instead of an opening for thoughtful discussion. Sigh. I guess if anybody in a group thinks this and is vocal, it's going to come up. If you're the type to be set off rather than thinking, you don't need much impetus, and you'll go off in any setting. Such is the way of crowds.

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