Just what ARE Burning Man's Core Values?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

Postby Bob » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:11 pm

im just doing it for da coynes...
Amazing desert structures & stuff: http://sites.google.com/site/potatotrap/

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Postby Bob » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:14 pm

Got a driver's license in your pocket?

Take it out.

Look at the address.

Go there.
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Postby ramen » Sun Sep 28, 2003 11:41 pm

Survival practice, art, acts of unusual kindness, and a good spectacle to round thngs off.
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Postby Bob » Mon Sep 29, 2003 12:03 am

no experiment
like waddaya want from life
baby's apple arm
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Postby Tiara » Mon Sep 29, 2003 10:42 am

Has the "network" document been drafted yet? I'd be interested to see what core values, requirements, etc, are included in it.
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Postby TestesInSac » Mon Sep 29, 2003 10:44 am

Does Burning Man have a mission statement?
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Postby blyslv » Mon Sep 29, 2003 4:28 pm

I think a lot of people are dissatisfied with whatever they perceive to be the core values of the dominant American culture, and BM provides a venue to express that. So maybe one of BM’s core values is “unfocused personal protest” against something or other.

I think it is also a ritual, a temporarily created sacred space where people can slough off old, creaky personae and create new ones, or get deeper within existing, yet unexpressed aspects of their personality. So maybe a core value is not just radical self expression, but “radical self re-creation.”

“Art, creating for the sheer joy of it” is a core value.

Being open to everybody, even if ultimately you decide they are not for you is something I’ve taken to my 2 burns, so I would include “radical inclusivity” as a core value.

“Self-sufficiency” is also a core value, but let’s face if folx. It’s a fucking CAR camping trip. Want to be radically self sufficient? Go off into the woods for a week with nothing but what you can carry on your back, leave no trace, do it in winter.


Badger, nice question and not just because I've been thinking about these issues the past weeks and I like it that great minds think alike. It really is a great question.
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Postby Kinetic » Mon Sep 29, 2003 4:46 pm

Car camping with a nice little jaunt into the middle of nowhere when you take Jungo Road. Anyone can take 447, it's paved. Jungo will shred tires, equipment, if you don't prepare for it it's a long walk out. I didn't mention that but it's a very integral part of the BM experience for me. I love seeing the playa from up there on the edge of the mountains, and the remoteness makes me feel like I'm really out West....no cell phone signals, and no one in front of me or behind me. Driving on Jungo to get to BM is when it hits that I'm really going to BM and you know that it's time to be serious. Failure to prepare means your going to pay. The price can be money, time, or maybe worse.

I just found more damage to my trailer from the last section of Jungo...it did a nice job on my 4 inch steel C channel on the back of the trailer. So much for being bomb proof. That road is tough.

Blyslv's post also strikes a chord with me, especially the radical self re-creation. I did that this year and found acceptance that I honestly didn't expect.
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Postby PJ » Mon Sep 29, 2003 6:16 pm

blyslv wrote:...a lot of people are dissatisfied with whatever they perceive to be the core values of the dominant American culture, and BM provides a venue to express that...



B.Man LLC is a vacation experience outfitter that's discovered a unique niche market, and its owners are attempting to grow that market as broadly as possible. What's un-American-culture about that? Compromises must be made as they grow down-market (no drive-by-shooting range or fire cannons any more, and the like) but it's often the case that when any company expands they lose their original loyal customers to new start-up boutique operations. However in this case there is no alternative. Yet.

Maybe the new smaller startup could be called Stick Man. Rumors suggest that name isn't desired by the established enterprise.
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Postby Kinetic » Mon Sep 29, 2003 6:29 pm

I'm very curious to see the reaction to PJ's post as it hits on some key issues.
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Postby stu » Mon Sep 29, 2003 10:07 pm

[quote]when any company expands they lose their original loyal customers to new start-up boutique operations. However in this case there is no alternative. Yet. [/qutoe]

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Postby III » Tue Sep 30, 2003 7:01 am

>However in this case there is no alternative. Yet.

sure there are. plenty of alternatives.

but they're boutiques. they just don't take out full page ads in the yellow pages, so if you're looking for other megacorporations, or franchises, you'll scan right past em.

aside from that, though, i think pj was pretty spot on
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Postby blyslv » Tue Sep 30, 2003 9:40 am

PJ wrote:B.Man LLC is a vacation experience outfitter that's discovered a unique niche market, and its owners are attempting to grow that market as broadly as possible. What's un-American-culture about that? Compromises must be made as they grow down-market (no drive-by-shooting range or fire cannons any more, and the like) but it's often the case that when any company expands they lose their original loyal customers to new start-up boutique operations. However in this case there is no alternative. Yet.


One thing that is quintessentially American is a “winner take all” mentality. I think BM gives people the opportunity to see a different mentality in action. Many people I meet, or are acquainted with are anxious, and see life as very much a zero-sum game. This creates what I perceive as a sort of “self-interest on steroids”, or maybe it’s just plain selfishness. I don’t think questioning this mentality is un-American.

There also seems to be a leap that protest against certain other American values is “un-American.” While describing BM using corporate, capitalist language is amusing (see e.g. the Costco website), it doesn’t go very far. The vacation outfitters that PJ describes are motivated by a profit motive. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it does limit one’s scope and vision. BM, as far as I can tell is not motivated by profit, and the fact that they want to expand does not make them the same as a Ramjac Corporation. I can see regional events replacing, to some extent BM. There are only so many festivals and bacchanals the average person can go to after all, only so much mind share.

Two weekends ago I went to a local decompression and enjoyed the vibe so much, that I hope it does replace BM to an extent. The openness, the creativity, the sense of possibility were all things in common with the big event. Absent were the 24/7 gennies, and fools with too much amplification. That the LLC is actively helping potential boutique “competitors” in the form of encouragement, advice and branding is not behavior that a profit maximizing entity would engage in. In fact in my job, I see boutiques routinely crushed by large profit maximizing corporations. It is a shame and a horrible waste.

How many people, who have paid big bux for an “outfitted vacation experience” come back from their trek to the Everest Base Camp, Angor Wat, or a dude ranch thinking – “what can I do to find other people of like mind in my town?” “What can I create?” “What can I do to keep this ‘vibe’ going?”

I’m interested PJ, why the question about “un-American”? Why does America have to be equated to unlimited growth? It seems like a bit of a leap. Why are advocates for any sort of responsible limits on growth labeled un-American? BM appeals to me because it forces people to think about value, exchange, contribution out of the “cold cash nexus.” That the exercise is temporary does not reduce its value, it may even increase it because it gives people a change to extend themselves, to step a little outside of their comfort zone, with the knowledge that in a week they can be back scarfing hamburgers, if they wish.

Karl Marx described capitalism as reducing every human relationship to a “cold cash nexus.” BM lets us explore human relationship without that nexus. To me that seems like a bit of a protest against some American values, but it is not “un-American.”

(BTW you may have noticed that I’m a bit of a prickly pear when it comes to “un-American”. My mom sent me an article last night about the increase of unexplained arrests and detentions under the Patriot Act. I’m excepting the midnight knock on the door. Not really, but jeez, this fear, that it would exist no matter how attenuated, strikes me as the most un-American thing by far.)

NB – I am not a Marxist, but I think some of his descriptions are very apt. His prescriptions however forgot to account for human nature and thus were miserable failures. That doesn’t mean we should entirely discount his thinking.
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Postby blyslv » Tue Sep 30, 2003 9:56 am

Kinetic wrote:Car camping with a nice little jaunt ... . That road is tough.


Somebody's gotta try and keep you honest, buddy.
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 10:02 am

(redundant post deleted)
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 10:04 am

blyslv wrote:BM, as far as I can tell is not motivated by profit, and the fact that they want to expand does not make them the same as a Ramjac Corporation.


If the average attendee paid $160 for their ticket, B.Man LLC is almost a $5M/year company. There's no amount of money that can't be wasted or lost, so they'd damned well better be thinking like responsible business people. Calling something "non profit" doesn't mean that, for example, management isn't bleeding it dry by paying themselves well. (Not that I think that's happening at BM LLC, it's just an example.) The legal construct of a "non profit" is mostly useful for tax purposes. Doesn't mean that Honest Joe Six Pack, if he read the books, wouldn't say, "Bullshit--you made $5M--whadidya do with it all?"



blyslv wrote:That the LLC is actively helping potential boutique “competitors” in the form of encouragement, advice and branding is not behavior that a profit maximizing entity would engage in.


Sure it is. It's called "franchising." It's not a bad thing.



blyslv wrote:I’m interested PJ, why the question about “un-American”?


That was merely a quip, shorthand for your point made in your earlier post:
...a lot of people are dissatisfied with whatever they perceive to be the core values of the dominant American culture, and BM provides a venue to express that...





blyslv wrote:...Why does America have to be equated to unlimited growth? It seems like a bit of a leap. Why are advocates for any sort of responsible limits on growth labeled un-American?


One of my more far-out economic theories is that, in the distant future, indeed the norm will be learning to cope with shrinking markets (not just market shares) thanks to the inevitability of third-world populations finally realizing that smaller, not larger families are the route to long-term family prosperity. Parts of Europe have already discovered this; European big business has not. The US is at least one generation from getting there, especially since the largest group of US immigrants still strongly advocates large families. ("Old Money" families in the US have known this for generations, the Kennedys notwithstanding--but then it's been three generations since their wealth had to be earned.) But for now "grow or die" is how things do indeed work. The B.Man LLC operates on that basis too.

(BTW, 'sustainable non-growth' is a far-out idea in economic circles because it employs common sense. It'll be in (limited) place for ten years before incomprehensible academic papers are written describing it, and then it'll be discussed openly as, perhaps, being possible.)
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Postby blyslv » Tue Sep 30, 2003 10:21 am

PJ wrote:
blyslv wrote:BM, as far as I can tell is not motivated by profit, and the fact that they want to expand does not make them the same as a Ramjac Corporation.


If the average attendee paid $160 for their ticket, B.Man LLC is almost a $5M/year company. There's no amount of money that can't be wasted or lost, so they'd damned well better be thinking like responsible business people. Calling something "non profit" doesn't mean that, for example, management isn't bleeding it dry by paying themselves well. (Not that I think that's happening at BM LLC, it's just an example.) The legal construct of a "non profit" is mostly useful for tax purposes. Doesn't mean that Honest Joe Six Pack, if he read the books, wouldn't say, "Bullshit--you made $5M--whadidya do with it all?"


Yes "non-profit" status is a legal fiction that creates certain tax advantages. Any entity that does not bring in at least as much as it expends will soon cease to be viable. And it's easy to ask "what happened to the 5 million?" But it's also easy to examine the spread sheet and see that it's very much a shoe string operation. That doesn't change my basic point that in outlook and philosophy BM seems very different from you average profit maximizing corporation, I think it has very different core values, despite the similarity of some of their strategies to those of large corporations. After all, both are nothing more then a collection of humans trying to accomplish something.
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 11:13 am

blyslv wrote:...in outlook and philosophy BM seems very different from you average profit maximizing corporation, I think it has very different core values, despite the similarity of some of their strategies to those of large corporations...


Agreed. But for some reason something about the way it's moving makes me feel like it's getting more business-like and less let's-go-burn-stuff-up-in-the-desert. I can't point to anything specific.
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Postby precipitate » Tue Sep 30, 2003 11:33 am

> Absent were the 24/7 gennies, and fools with too much amplification.

See, this is why I find the question of core values so difficult to answer. I
know people who, when attending an event such as the one you describe,
would say something like, "Yeah, it was really boring. No lights, no music.
Just a bunch of people talking."

And that's OK too. I think there are several broad, and myriad smaller,
categories of people, each looking for something different at Burning Man.

The overarching principle seems to be freedom to be creative. And again,
that can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people.

> something about the way it's moving makes me feel like it's getting
> more business-like and less let's-go-burn-stuff-up-in-the-desert.
> I can't point to anything specific.

Dude, didja read the letter to regionals?
Film Festival in a Box as a fundraiser?
Should [regional] groups create an LLC?
"We cannot continue to control this without your cooperation"
"We plan to ask our regionals to sign an agreement"
"We propose to rank these groups by region according to their stage of development"
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Postby blyslv » Tue Sep 30, 2003 11:55 am

precipitate wrote:> Absent were the 24/7 gennies, and fools with too much amplification.

... snip ...
And that's OK too. I think there are several broad, and myriad smaller,
categories of people, each looking for something different at Burning Man.

The overarching principle seems to be freedom to be creative. And again,
that can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people.

> something about the way it's moving makes me feel like it's getting
> more business-like and less let's-go-burn-stuff-up-in-the-desert.
> I can't point to anything specific.

Dude, didja read the letter to regionals?
Film Festival in a Box as a fundraiser?
Should [regional] groups create an LLC?
"We cannot continue to control this without your cooperation"
"We plan to ask our regionals to sign an agreement"
"We propose to rank these groups by region according to their stage of development"


That was a quip that should not be taken too seriously. The reason I will be back if because of the myriad categories and the freedom. I'll live with the unpleasant aspects, 'cuz they really aren't that bad.

This is only my second year, soI cannot comment on whether or not it is losing something. I guess everytime you change or grow, you lose something (I wishI could lose that adolescent akwardness and insecurity), so I don't know. But more and more people are getting there and coming home with a big smile and plans, so that seems good.
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 12:25 pm

precipitate wrote:Dude, didja read the letter to regionals?


Yeah. That's part of it. As are subtle hints of frustration from Ranger and DPW insiders.

For me personally it started just a few weeks before this year's event when I received a form letter E-mail message from Crimson Rose un-inviting people like me from the Fire Conclave. Then there was the oft-mentioned "bad juju" that seemed to flow from the major infrastructure that was still disorganized mid-week. Later after I left things started getting unstrung out at the airport (not that my presence has anything to do with how the airport operates--just the opposite as I'm a mere user-pilot) and then there were the crashes.

Too many little things at once, some of them highly-visible.
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Postby III » Tue Sep 30, 2003 12:59 pm

>part of it.

don't forget the completely fabricated scare story by baker-18 about fcc crackdowns intended to eliminate pirate radio stations.
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Postby precipitate » Tue Sep 30, 2003 1:19 pm

> form letter E-mail message from Crimson Rose un-inviting people like
> me from the Fire Conclave

Heh. I probably missed that because she had my old (now defunct) email
address.
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 1:21 pm

III wrote:don't forget the completely fabricated scare story by baker-18 about fcc crackdowns intended to eliminate pirate radio stations.



They had to go. Pirates were so 2002.
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Postby Tiara » Tue Sep 30, 2003 1:39 pm

>“radical self re-creation.”

As usual, BlySlv, you found eloquent words for something that was flitting around my head in unformed clumps of sounds.

I think there are really two threads encompassed by Badger's question:

1) What does Burning Man mean to *you*? What do you value about your interactions with other Burners? What lessons do you take away from the event?

2) What is Burning Man, as an organization, trying to accomplish? What is its mission statement? What will messages like the regionals letter equate to in actual practice and outcome?

Both are very interesting to me, and I am enjoying many well-thought out responses in this thread.
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Postby Badger » Tue Sep 30, 2003 2:42 pm

Thank you for distilling it down to the essential points Tiara.

That's exactly what I was soliciting for when I started the thread.
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Postby III » Tue Sep 30, 2003 3:01 pm

i'll give my shot at #1. #2 would involve me guessing (and probably pissing some people off).

* self sufficiency: you can't really grow until you know who you are. you can't really find out who you are until you learn to get by without external support.

* individual artistic development: creativity isn't nurtured much in the real world. i feel it's something we need.

* equality: removal of the power structures that dominate everything else. something between libertarianism and anarchy.

* non-commercialism: money is an abstraction that allows us to eliminate most human interactions, or reduce them to a few formalized steps. eliminating it, at as many levels as possible increases human interaction, and thereby community.

* discouragement of passive interactions: riding on someone elses art car is not "participation". building your own is.

i'll point out that i'm not including "radical inclusion". being willing to take in everyone necessarily means diluting all the other values.

i'll also note (as a nod to question #2) that even though the members of the llc profess similiar values to some of what i espoused above, i believe their actions and decisions don't always reflect or encourage those values.
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Postby Badger » Tue Sep 30, 2003 3:05 pm

i'll point out that i'm not including "radical inclusion". being willing to take in everyone necessarily means diluting all the other values.


That's one I'll tip-toe around for the time being. I do think its grist for another future topic.
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Postby clandyone » Tue Sep 30, 2003 3:28 pm

Burning Man may be "radically inclusive" in theory, but its location and timeframe and the amount of financial liquidity one must possess to attend are built-in exclusionary factors.

OF COURSE I'm not going to suggest an org-endorsed "affirmative-action"-type program. (If I had the time, the money and the inclination, I'd start one myself. Why not?) I don't think that the practical exclusivity of the event is a problem at all -- in fact, it keeps a lot of dipshits out. The pool of potential attendees is limited, though, to those who can afford the time and money that the event invariably slurps up. Silly to ignore that, even if nothing is "done" about it on a practical level.

I guess my gripe is with the language of BMOrg agitprop, not with the inclusive/exclusive thing specifically.
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Postby PJ » Tue Sep 30, 2003 3:37 pm

III wrote:...riding on someone elses art car is not "participation". building your own is...


I'm not so sure that's a great example. Some fanatical hosts live to give rides and their art car effort would have be a terrible disappointment to them if nobody rode it.

Conversely, some people build vehicles that aren't meant to be shared at all, merely looked at. That might be a selfish act if that vehicle is nothing more than their personal transportation, or it might be widely-agreed that the (single-occupant) vehicle in question is an artistic masterpiece, the sight of which cheered thousands.
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