2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Cargo Cult - Who is John Frum? He is known to us by many names, this Visitor from Elsewhere, dispenser of endless abundance and wielder of mysterious technologies: John Frum, Quetzalcoatl, Osiris, "Bob." His cargo is splendid, his generosity boundless, his motives beyond our understanding. But across the ages and around the world, the stories all agree: one day he will return, bearing great gifts. Our theme this year asks three related questions; who is John Frum, where is he really from, and where, on spaceship Earth, are we all going?

Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Tiahaar » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:03 pm

Most Excellent!!! I saw the theme in the JRS, blinked (who the hell is John Frum???), came over and read the main description and went YEAH!!! Love the Man base, that'll be one for the ages, and shoot I already arrive on-playa in the Starship Palomino...ideas begin!
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby pepomint » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:07 pm

Ugly Douhy,

Certainly, Millenialism is not restricted to Cargo Cults. In fact, Millenialism itself would have been a non-racist way to express this theme, since all that Y2K bullshit was just as prevalent in the white Western world as it was elsewhere, if not so.

So why are we choosing Cargo Cults to focus on? They have garnered way too much attention for what they were - after all, there are plenty of whack-ass beliefs to be found all around the world. It's this extra attention to Cargo Cults that betrays racism.

Basically, in a context of cultural racism (which we are still very much in), extensive attention on Cargo Cults comes across as "look at the stupid brown people", no matter how well-intentioned the attention might be. And now Burning Man is contributing to that. Ooooooooops.

I have a bunch of people of color friends I've been trying to convince to come to BM. With this theme, there's no way they're doing it, not even in future years. I can also tell you that my camp, Poly Asylum (500 people served last year!) will almost certainly back out over this theme.

And we're going to see a lot of negative attention on BM over this. Remember the Native American themed fundraiser in SF that got a bunch of terrible press and was generally a clusterfuck? This is that all over again. There are going to be blog posts and emails all over the place with titles like "Burning Man Decides to Make Fun of Brown People for 2013 Theme". Twitter is already starting.

For real, take this seriously, even if you don't understand the connections yourself. Is there anyone at BMOrg we can contact about this and actually be heard? I'm trying to head off a big old trainwreck here.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Simon of the Playa » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:13 pm

Nigger, please...




hows that for trainwreck...
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Roberto Dobbisano » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:14 pm

oh no you did int.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby H.G.Crosby » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:15 pm

oh yes he did.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby lavender_green » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:18 pm

pepomint wrote: Twitter is already starting.


You mean "I'm already starting to butthurt about it on twitter"? There's not much on there except you complaining about it, and then perhaps one or two of your friends responding.

Some people are REALLY REALLY SENSITIVE and will find reasons to white knight for anything, it seems.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby ygmir » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:I'm not seeing the racism, pepomint. Millenialism is not restricted to Melanesians. "Cargo Cult" is emblematic of our cultural illusions.

By the way, did you leap to condemn the racism of the Floating World?

Burning Man has had tiki bars from the very beginning.


Dougly: I think he's (?) implying, his absence from the event, will impact people "of color" or not, in that he makes the best them camp there, and the Org. will pay dearly in the form of his non attendance at the event, and all the disappointed people protesting same.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Finneganistan » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Best theme in ever years! This doesn't have The Hat's hands all over it.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Thank you pepomint. I get it. Of course I am sensitive to racism, xenophobia and bigotry. It takes many forms: It's more than "poor dark people are being victimized by colonial white people".

I trust burners to find the good side of this, or to go in some stupid direction that I would never have any power to influence.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Mr. Just Right » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:19 pm

I'm super stoked for this theme. And can't wait to return to the playa once again.

Maybe the Man should play this randomly throughout the day.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Simon of the Playa » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:21 pm

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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:23 pm

ygmir wrote:
Ugly Dougly wrote:I'm not seeing the racism, pepomint. Millenialism is not restricted to Melanesians. "Cargo Cult" is emblematic of our cultural illusions.

By the way, did you leap to condemn the racism of the Floating World?

Burning Man has had tiki bars from the very beginning.


Dougly: I think he's (?) implying, his absence from the event, will impact people "of color" or not, in that he makes the best them camp there, and the Org. will pay dearly in the form of his non attendance at the event, and all the disappointed people protesting same.


I hope he's not thinking that by boycotting he can stop Burning Man dead in its tracks.

But if you don't feel comfortable participating in something - then don't. (Which is how I would behave at his poly paradise.)
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Patamon » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:24 pm

pepomint wrote:Ugly Douhy,
I have a bunch of people of color friends I've been trying to convince to come to BM. With this theme, there's no way they're doing it, not even in future years. I can also tell you that my camp, Poly Asylum (500 people served last year!) will almost certainly back out over this theme.


Help me understand this.

So..... you have a bunch of friends "of color" who, (I guess?) are from Pacific islands such as Vanuatu? Like some kind of Vanuatu contingent that were on the cusp of coming to Burning Man, until this theme was announced today? Really? Are you trolling or serious? Thats one hell of a coincidence.

Or maybe what you're saying is that you have friends who are Latino's, African Americans, or Asians that would be offended by a dystopian based Burning Man theme with its roots in the Culture Cult phenomenon (Which is world wide, not just in the Pacific) because...... Why again?

Am I missing something here?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby oscillator » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:29 pm

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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby pepomint » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:29 pm

Ugly Dougly wrote:I trust burners to find the good side of this, or to go in some stupid direction that I would never have any power to influence.

Or maybe what you're saying is that you have friends who are Latino's, African Americans, or Asians that would be offended by a dystopian based Burning Man theme with its roots in the Culture Cult phenomenon (Which is world wide, not just in the Pacific) because...... Why again?


It's not so much the Burners I'm worried about (though all the dismissive wankery on here doesn't make me confident). It's how the rest of the world sees Burners that I'm concerned about.

To answer your question, the latter. The theme is Cargo Cult, which refers to a very specific thing, not a worldwide phenomenon. When folks of color see racism of any sort, even not directed at them, it tends to turn them off from an event.

But I've done my due diligence here, and responded with what I think. Time to go hit up some anti-racist organizations and see what they think. I would love to be wrong about the seriousness this, but I've been talking with progressive folks and they seem to agree.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby trilobyte » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:31 pm

pepomint - it's only as racist as you choose to interpret it or make it. I see it as about the impact of advanced technology on a culture (and think it's happened a number of times throughout the millennia). And as with any art theme, it's hardly a mandate that art and theme camps have to adhere to. If you can only interpret it negatively or consider it to be a dealbreaker, then by all means take the year off. I've had gap years along the way, they turned out to be just what I needed at the time.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby lavender_green » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:37 pm

pepomint wrote: I would love to be wrong about the seriousness this, but I've been talking with progressive folks and they seem to agree.


Ah yes, the old "lots of unnamed people agree with me!". I love it. What's next, the discussion about privilege where, despite being a white male, you get preemptively offended on behalf of other cultures? Let's gear up for some Concern-troll Buzzword Bingo!
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Patamon » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:38 pm

pepomint wrote:
Ugly Dougly wrote:To answer your question, the latter. The theme is Cargo Cult, which refers to a very specific thing, not a worldwide phenomenon. When folks of color see racism of any sort, even not directed at them, it tends to turn them off from an event.


According to the internet, Cargo Cults are indeed a Worldwide / Historic Phenomenon. And as we all know, the Internet NEVER lies. :oops:

Via Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult

A cargo cult is a religious practice that has appeared in many traditional pre-industrial tribal societies in the wake of interaction with technologically advanced cultures. The cults focus on obtaining the material wealth (the "cargo") of the advanced culture through magic and religious rituals and practices. Cult members believe that the wealth was intended for them by their deities and ancestors. Cargo cults developed primarily in remote parts of New Guinea and other Melanesian and Micronesian societies in the southwest Pacific Ocean, beginning with the first significant arrivals of Westerners in the 19th century. Similar behaviors have, however, also appeared elsewhere in the world.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Eddaytona » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:39 pm

Simply brilliant! Touches on so many core principles. Artist rendering of the Man is spectacular. Very exciting.

Enjoyed the shout-out to Orthodox religionists too. That's a whole other theme within a theme to explore. For those without the clu about "Frum" here it is: The Yiddish adjective frum (Yiddish: פֿרום; [frum | frim], related to German fromm), meaning "devout" or "pious", is a word meaning committed to the observance of the 613 commandments, or Jewish commandments, specifically of Orthodox Judaism. This appellative is generally, but not only, applied in reference to Orthodox Jews, and used by that group as a self-reference. The opposite of frum is frei (Yiddish and German "free") meaning someone who is "not religious" and "free" from the yoke of the 613 commandments, or feels "free" to do whatever they feel like doing.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Wrath » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:48 pm

pepomint wrote:I can also tell you that my camp, Poly Asylum will almost certainly back out over this theme.

This mean those of us who plan on going have a better shot at tickets?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby westnileraven » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:55 pm

Spam Spam Spam Spam.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Nipple » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:57 pm

Someone posted this on the Portland Burners Facebook. I really enjoy his breakdown of it.

"Many of us, and significantly more of us in the general population, have lost the ability to repair anything. This, in combination with planned obsolescence, and our incessant quest for novelty, has left us beholden to the technology companies. "Are we capable of living without the Deus Ex Machina?" is a reasonable and interesting question worth pursuing."

I really like the sentiments behind that.

We're in a modern cargo cult of sorts. We wait for the pretty trinkets to wash ashore and become THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD TO US.

These objects are magic. Whatever spirits inhabit my iPad are able to commune with the world's information.

I can conjure amazing...wanton images to gaze upon.

How does it work? DON'T CARE... MY BENEVOLENT GODS BESTOWED IT UPON ME!

Now, while I don't feel the theme is racist, I think a lot of people can take it do some amazingly racist things with it.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby GreenBurner-NC » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:03 pm

Well, no doubt there are some burners with a lot of baggage. The best cargo I carry in my head is a free spirit! The theme hints that you can create a religious cult out of most anything. Burning an effigy, spinning fire and embracing creative play is regarded by many in our default world as beliefs or practices that are strange or sinister - a cult. We certainly look at the need to live life 'frum' a different perspective!'
I wonder how many Flying Spaghetti Monsters will be seeking BM tickets?! :mrgreen:
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby bmix » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:04 pm

I'll pile on with the agreement--at first blush, this looks incredibly promising, and might be one of the best themes I'm ever seen. It can be interpreted so many different ways... after reading about the actual Cargo Cults, I can see the theme as the intersection between religion and consumerism (AND the intertwining of the two), because it seems the main reason these native peoples eschewed their old traditions and began the new was to get the "cargo," material goods the likes of which they'd never seen before. It makes me wonder what the start of other, more well-known religions looked like, and how they really began. There may be many things to learn here. This theme intrigues me greatly and makes me want to study, which to me speaks well of anything.

As far as racism, I don't see it, only sadness in that these people changed their beliefs so radically for the gain of material goods. But then, most of us do that in one way or another, especially in this country, where our entire economy is based on consumption. The people involved could be brown or lily-white; the same things could well have happened to us, given the right circumstances. Makes me wonder... would Christianity be what it is today if someone presented iPads to the Puritans?
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby knowmad » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:06 pm

Image
so I'm guessing these costumes would be considered "Culturally Insensitive"
not to mention mega moopy
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby westnileraven » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:08 pm

Most Americans believe in a cargo cult already. We emulate the filthy rich and snap up the trappings of wealth in the hopes that we will become richer. My iPhone isn't carved from wood, but my 401k is largely magical.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:38 pm

Eddaytona wrote:Simply brilliant! Touches on so many core principles. Artist rendering of the Man is spectacular. Very exciting.

Enjoyed the shout-out to Orthodox religionists too. That's a whole other theme within a theme to explore. For those without the clu about "Frum" here it is: The Yiddish adjective frum (Yiddish: פֿרום; [frum | frim], related to German fromm), meaning "devout" or "pious", is a word meaning committed to the observance of the 613 commandments, or Jewish commandments, specifically of Orthodox Judaism. This appellative is generally, but not only, applied in reference to Orthodox Jews, and used by that group as a self-reference. The opposite of frum is frei (Yiddish and German "free") meaning someone who is "not religious" and "free" from the yoke of the 613 commandments, or feels "free" to do whatever they feel like doing.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frum

Uh, yeah, no. I doubt that Trobriand Islanders have the same take on Yiddish linguistics. Probably they heard "John from..." and thought it was his full name.

But whatever. :)
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby MyDearFriend » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:40 pm

I am so excited about this theme and so charged up to be discussing a phenomenon (however lightly addressed or ignored by the free people of BRC) a peculiarly pervasive human phenomenon that poisons our consumer-oriented cultures. I see cargo-cultism in my mother's china cupboard, for fuck's sake. You can't get any whiter than her china, Mr. So Upset By This Racist Theme. Let's bring it out and really look at it, together.

I have already got an altar. I am ready. John Frum he come, he bring Booze. 8) 8) 8) And before you start in on that, Mr. SUBTRT, pidgins are the living edges of our languages. Fuck your day.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby retropsycho » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:42 pm

I remembered a Cargo Cult sequence in "In Search of Ancient Astronauts", from 1973 –
Starts at 3:45
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I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone . . . there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
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Re: 2013 Theme - Cargo Cult - thoughts?

Postby Ugly Dougly » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:43 pm

Him bring Spam in a freighter from America.

The best themes are traditionally chosen so that there are at least a couple of interpretations, usually figuratively or literally.
In this case, participants can A) jazz off of the primitive tribal vibe suggested by the theme, or B) the worship of space visitors and the like.
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