Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,


This weekend I went to Resonance, Wichita's local version of Burning Man. It was a nice weekend. The event encourages community and self-expression. There were 70 people or so, and we all camped out at this little church-camp type area with nice shade trees. DJs played electronic music all weekend, but there were other people who brought guitars or fiddles or drums. Everyone was encouraged to share and be friendly, so when you got bored you'd walk around and just participate in whatever the various camps were up to. I learned some poi dancing, and got to tie-dye some shirts, and ate a lot of food. By the end of the weekend you know a lot of people a lot better. There's an emphasis on taking care of the environment and also of shunning capitalism... there were no food carts and no t-shirts for sale. The crafts were not sponsored by Hobby Lobby. Bring something to share with the community and bond. That's nice.

There's another bigger event in Missouri called Interfuse that I've never been to. I worry a lot about fitting in with Marc's DJ friends, who are the main enthusiasts I know. I feel like the uncool tagalong wife, and I can't change that because all my interactions with these people are in a loud club with thumping music and we can't talk so they'll never get to know me. But this weekend there was plenty of opportunity to just chat and walk trails with new people, and I realized some of the DJ friends were in fact capable of interacting without all the decibels of mind-demanding music. When they all go to Interfuse together next year I might have to join them.

Besides Interfuse there's the big actual real Burning Man event. It's in the desert with 50,000-80,000 people. I have real issues with it. Tickets are EXPENSIVE. This Wichita thing was $20 a person and that makes sense. Most of the money went to event insurance, so if someone gets hurt and tries to sue the 4-5 volunteers who put this together those hard-working volunteers are protected. Even without that, it's usually at least $20 to camp out for two nights, anywhere with working restrooms and showers and designated fire pits and level grassy spots to pitch a tent.

But what do you get for a $300 (yes) ticket to Burning Man? You still have to bring your own food and supplies. You're camping in uninhabitable desert. The artists and musicians are volunteers, who bring their own equipment to express themselves. Burning Man does publish financial information so at least it's somewhat transparent, and I admit that if they say they need to spend $700,000 million on toilets and $300,000 to the fire department and $500,000 on insurance, that's okay. But there are other weird things on there too... $3 million on payroll? $600,000 for food at the planning meetings? Seems to me like some people are shunning capitalism more than others. And like with everything, the inner circle doesn't have to do as much shunning as the outer circle does shelling.

And to make matters worse you're not really allowed to ask questions or talk to this with people who are enthusiastic about the event. You bring up the money, they say "It's not about that, man. You just don't get it. You have a problem parting with your money, and that's bad. It's just money." It's not "just money" to the guy demanding it. Don't say you're shunning capitalism if you're on the payroll here. If they want to charge money to keep the event small, or limit late-comers, or encourage commitment, they should do it and say it. If the event has gotten so huge and unmanageable that it can't be run with volunteers, I think it's betraying what it was set up for... getting to express yourself and know people and be a part of something. You can't be a part of something if you're an ant in a sea of thousands, you're an ant. Maybe I don't get it, but that's how I feel, and this is the one place I can just come out and say it. I'll support my local keepers of the flame but you won't find me shelling out massive funds to drive into Nevada, it just doesn't make sense.

I think all the events, even ours, should be more honest about the money issue. There was an article in the paper about Resonance. It had a paragraph about how nothing would be bought or sold because Resonance isn't about money, then in the next paragraph it said tickets are $20. Well to a newbie like me, that could seem like a contradiction. It also seems like a contradiction to act like the event is all about discussion and inclusion, but see people's heads shake when you bring up ticket price. You're welcome to express yourself as long as you're not asking about money? We could just do a better job initiating and welcoming people in, that's all I'm saying. Never shame anyone for asking questions. Socially conscious people have an obligation to dig deep and find out what they're supporting. Money can be very powerful, and just because something looks wholesome or spiritual or anti-corporate, doesn't mean it is. Just because you're getting a valuable experience, doesn't mean the money still couldn't go to something else harmful. We have to scratch underneath the surface if we want this to be real.
Tags: camping
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