A little practical philosophy: Some things are just destined to be, because they need to be. Somebody should provide them with a legitimate outlet, because otherwise they will seek an illegitimate outlet with disruptive consequences.
A few years later, this topic comes up again. The ePlaya staff never did establish a commercial section, but I've set up a commerce section on my own board
and invited people to use it. It's a calculated risk, an attempt to jumpstart a new forum by providing something that I feel has been long needed, at the risk of attracting people who really are spammers.
What is appropriate commerce in a Burning Man context? At the burn itself, not much should qualify, I think - we're there to get away from business. We do our buying and selling before we go. Given my druthers, I'd like to see us do our bartering back at home, too, but given how far apart we live, that might not be practical. Life is about compromise.
What is appropriate commerce on ePlaya is clear: policy has been spelled out - don't do it, unless you want to get shot down a wormhole
. What is appropriate commerce on unofficial Burning man forums is more up for grabs, so I'll gut my way through the issue here and you're invited to take my blatherings for what they're worth. Obviously, on my own board they make law, but whether or not they represent a good call on my part? Decide for yourself. It's an aesthetic choice, isn't it?
What I have in mind when I talk about the commerce I'd welcome on my own board in the appropriate section
is best typified by somebody and something that got badly flamed on the old ePlaya: Funky Bunny's Sparkle Shack. The lady was making costumes specifically for people going to Burning Man, if I remember this correctly. This wasn't a serious business, certainly not something that was going to become her main source of livelihood. It was just her way of raising money to get to Burning Man, by selling something that would add to the look and the feel of the place.
Yeah, yeah, it's better if we make our own, no doubt about that, but there's a limit to what we have time to do. Some will claim that selling to burners just goes beyond the pale, that it is just unheard of. I disagree and point them in the direction of this page
. There is, in fact, ample precedent, going back for a number of years
. If professionals may sell to us, why not the occasional talented amateur?
Where I would start in defining acceptable commerce on one of my board would be in this question: "In this transaction, is the money a means to an end, the end being related to burning, or is the money the main point of the transaction". No doubt there are some companies that put out fine products of great use to burners, but I'd like to keep a little more of the personal touch by limiting access to my marketplace board
to the people who do for the love of doing and are just charging to pay a few bills - our fellow amateurs. Funky Bunny, yes, Benetton, no. Not even if they do seriously branch out.
The other criterion is whether or not there is a serious and specific connection between the product or service advertised and what somebody is going to specifically be up to at a burn. If some burner is making his own cell phones, more power to him and best of luck with that, but please don't advertise that product on my board.
Last but not least, is the good or service being put to use in a creative or self-expressive context, ie. please don't advertise cheap insurance for burners on my board.
The question to me is "what is Burning". To me, a big part of it is like this. Go back to a time when you were still an undergrad and living in the dorms, and there you were stuck in this radically inclusive environment where you just had to take people as they were, because you guys were going to be stuck together for four years. It was a little early in your lives to be talking about your careers, or to be worried about office politics. Nobody had anything, but in a way, that was the beauty of the experience.
You did things with each other and for each other, not with that ill-at-ease feeling that comes from acting out of any kind of mercenary concern. There were no buyers or sellers, no employees or employers, just a group of people just being together for the pleasure of being, and being able to be on the inside exactly what they pretended to be on the outside. One did one's best at what one was doing, not because one would gain profit from doing so, but because one took pleasure in doing something well, and in the pleasure it was bringing one's friends in this experience you were having together. Was your motivation one of selfishness or altruism? A false dichotomy, because there was no seperating one person's share of that experience from the others - the pleasure of one was pleasure for all.
Then we got into the real world and we had more stuff, but we lost something along the way, that easy familiarity we had with each other when we had nothing, and we weren't just flitting shadows passing through each other's worlds, relating to each other for reasons ill-designed for putting us at ease. Burning to me is a recognition that there is something fundamentally wrong with that reality, and to escape from it however briefly, while we explore what life might be.
Yes, we make compromises. There is no escaping the fact that you are living in the here and now and whatever life may be someday, you have to deal with the practical realities of today, and that includes paying your bills. But we can at least keep those intrusions on our escape to a minimum, both in degree and in their psychological impact. Maybe XYZ Corporation could give me a better product at a lower price than the camp I just bought some LEDs from, but I'm not going to have a personal relationship with XYZ Corporation. I might just have one with that camp.
That's where I'm coming from on that one. Others may differ, and I'm sure a few of them will shortly, quite vocally if past performance is any indication. Why not, they're entitled. This is just how I see things.