Burning Man Out

I have seen it in other people and I see people bounce back from it with a variety of results. I think I am feeling really done in by this thing and I am struggling to get a grip on it. I struggled to be part of the Burning Man community as a leader/do’er/or anything meaningful because I really immersed myself.

When I joined the Burning Man community in 2008 I come in through the Las Vegas Burner community and became integrated and began participating from day #1. Captain Bill put me in charge of some drunk idiot and I made sure he stayed out of trouble for the night.

His wife (Captain Bill’s) Amber gave me my playa name; Toaster. I think it happened a short while after my arrival as part of their decompression (or something like that) which was a launching platform into a new life for me.

I found spirit and rejuvenation for the first couple years, but as politics and hypocrisy began rooting deep into what I thought were good things all I could see was a cancer growing out of control.

One of the owners of burning man once told me I was a “burr under her saddle” and she padded it to imply there was a good and bad side to that. I called out shitty behavior that I saw happening and in the end it just buried me.

I left Vegas partially because of the drama and craziness of people who were supposed to be leaders in this community.

It’s so much about the drugs and sex and it is not the hippie love fest people think it is. There is homophobia, sexual assault, and practically condoned alcohol and drug abuse rampant out there; at the BRC or in the community. I am not innocent about these things, but I think I have gone as far as I can.

I have huge projects that need to be given to someone who cares, but the level of ambivalence and narcissism with leaders and community members is deafening. They say it is like herding cats. I say it is playing dodge-ball with 50,000 Hellen Kellers.

So, I am seriously considering bowing out entirely and with that clsing this chapter of my life. Not sure it is for me anymore.


Before I left Las Vegas I thought it was a good thing for me to “help” some local members of my Burner Community who I saw as being treated unfairly. This started somewhere around September 2010 and I just could not get the local support I needed, so I went to Burning Man themselves for help and ended up with egg on my face.

The people who stood up and offered their support were only the people directly or indirectly affected by the issue. Meanwhile, most of the community would only talk in whispers about the issue and really no one had the core to stand up say that this was wrong.

In the end I think I have come to terms that it is all perception. Yes, I think the women affected were being treated unfairly. The spin the offenders were making around the issues and their close association with Burning Man ended up really making the whole thing into something other than what I was trying to convey; admittedly I could not have communicated it very well.

I do like someone’s answer to me why my words were falling so short and their lies and misrepresentations were so much louder: “The greater the lie the more believable.” When I went to the Burning Man Leadership conference in April a letter written by one of the offenders was read out loud and gave the details generally accurate, with some conveniently placed assertions what were just fiction.

  • the independent group of people who read and analyzed the complaint basically sided with my argument and I thought suddenly I had some weight to say; let’s make peace now
  • later that day I talked to one of the owners of Burning Man about it and I was told that: “I understand your intention, but your approach was all wrong” …it was echoes by a couple more people at the conference from my region and I had to reflect on where I went wrong… I still have not figured it out
  • after the conference Burning Man basically said …tough shit, you people figure it out on your own.

Las Vegas does/did not have a way of handling community issues. We had Napoleon at the helm and no one at the wheel. I left that community in May 2011 for San Francisco feeling very disenchanted with Burning Man.

During the conference and the section on community conflict resolution a majority of the leadership offered “shunning” as a solution. It seems there is a generation of Burners who’s only solution to community issues is ignoring them.

“Shunning” was such an offensive term and concept. It reeks of ambivalence instead of reaching out and making sure that some effort in conflict resolution is really there. “Radical …” whatever includes self-expression, self-reliance and apparently only if it is stoned, high on ex or tripping on mushroom; don’t mess up our high.

Shunning took place in Vegas a couple of times and in one case I was not aware until later. In another case it was related to the three women being excluded from the community.

It was not my battle and apparently what I was supposed to do is let those people stand up for themselves. In the end I am left feeling very dis-enfranchised with Burning Man when once I felt like it’s biggest cheerleader.

There is NO DOUBT that Burning Man is a life changing experience and without drugs, without sex, without booze, without the never ending raves, it has a heart at it’s core that beats strong for the right reasons. It brings inspiration and it brings community.

I can’t say if it is missing something and I can’t say it the organization itself is wrong. I do not agree with some of the leadership who have made their own rules that are, in my perception, in direct opposition with the 10 principles we opt in with when joining this THING.

I left Vegas feeling a lot of resentment to that community as a whole. While many showed support in private more cowed to hang out with the popular kids and rush to become part to the click and get the nice pat on the head. In the end the shunning and the lies generated by this were never really addressed to my knowledge, just quietly swept under the rug. I was sad beyond words to leave so crushed under the wheels of some people and not have my pleas – real pleas for help answered.

Side Note: I was maligned so heavily through that conflict and harassed on a level you could hardly imagine. Some person posing under a pseudonym Jill Gee was posting that I was mentally ill, that I sold drugs, sent email to my mom and other people I know making all kinds of claims. She was using ip masking and it is curious that the person who I suspect was making those posts was taught ip masking by one of the people who were caught up in all this fallout too.

My Burner World

When the year began I started questioning what I was going to do with the future of this Burning Man thing.

  • The politics and hate I have been beaten up with by certain members of the community was really taking it’s toll.
  • This period of waiting while Burning Man back peddled through making a decision on who would be the Regional Contacts for Southern Nevada.
  • The trip to the Leadership Summit
  • Then one of the previously mentioned haters telling people I was a drug dealer and a mental case…

It was all just too much. At the Burning Man Leadership Summit in March 2011 I was there with 7 other representatives from Vegas and it was just a ball of ugly political tension. All I could do was rise above it and separate myself from those who would continue the evil and the drama.

So, I chose to and am building on very positive projects I am hoping will take shape. I am working on a plan to develop grants for artists through a Burning Man non-regional community called nthTribe; based on the Burning Man principles and more added. There are also promises that I hope will fill in some of the cracks that seem to exist in Burning Man as it exists today.

I also proposed something called MAS (Member Action System) that will work like an EAP program and help members of the community suffering from drug and alcohol addiction; also want to include sexual addiction. Yet another thing I am waiting for Burning Man to get back to me on.

The company, Burning Man,LLC, is in the process of huge changes and probably has some higher priorities. It sucks some important processes have to suffer. We are here for the better future of the organization and its principles after all.

Meanwhile, I figured I have had my cherry busted with Burning Man about as much as it could be. Within the world of BM politics I have been dunked and taken a couple in the crotch. But, I stood up afterwards and kept moving.

I also figured I either had to take a new outlook and a new approach or walk away. Why should I walk away when I have come to find so many people in this culture so amazing. There are a lot of fuck-heads, but there are a lot more great people.

2011 Moving Forward

This looks like it can be an exciting year with some of the things I am doing with Burning Man as an event I plan on attending and participating in for 2011.

Me and Monotropolis at Burning ManMy fear is that all these politics of the last year are crushing me and, although the damage seems like it is done, it’s time to just find my own feet and move forward without the interference with the dream killers. It is my own fault, but I have already lamented over this enough.

I have 3 art projects planned for this year and once I get these clicking, I am hoping to find inspiration for more. My flagship project for this year is called Final Passage; relative for the Burning Man theme “Rites of Passage” for Burning Man this year. It is taking great shape and I brought on two partners in the completion of this yesterday. I am seeking one more and then I need to get through the fund raising part of this.

The second project is called “gluttony” and it will deal with some of my issues with self-image and other baggage I am looking to channel into a presentation that is conceivably more simple than Final Passage for example.

Plan for Public Announcement delivered at After-Burn 2010Finally, is “Public Announcement” that I am having a problem conceptualizing. OR!!!!! I have it done already. Sep 2010 I made what my vision was and brought it to our “After Burn” and it did not translate. The delivery method, shown here, was lost on basically everyone. I am wondering if I bring it to Burning Man for center camp if it will translate in 2D instead.

The lessons from last year  trying to get “Monotropolis” to Burning Man resonate with me and I am taking those lessons to the bank. I got a lot of helpful advice from people who are today not my friends anymore and it makes me really sad.

Only hope is the light that leads my way through this journey and I stand radically self expressive and self reliant to get my goals accomplished. All I can do is hope and pray that the journey opens new doors.

Burning Mondays

Burning Mondays happened again tonight over at the Artisan. They plan on doing it every Monday, getting burners together, and discussing various subjects.

I am stuck in a strange place with some people that were there and I  am feeling like the politicing is taking over my Burner experience on some levels and ruining things I thought I was working for. I am going to back peddle a bit and see if I can minimize that, but because I am in such a dire position with Cameron Grant it makes it hard.

Cameron has been as much as a good guy as he has been as asshole to me. And the funny thing is he has no reason to be an asshole. He said enough times he hates Burning Man to enough people that he should have resigned well over a year ago when he was hating on me for another whole other bunch of shit.

I can say that seeing some people more has shifted my position on the race to be a new regional. Some of the people I thought would make good candidates I am rethinking and some of the people I questioned I am feeling really good about. There was effort for people on both sides.

Anyway, more and more I am considering the possibility that if they ask me to be a regional, that I will have to decline. OR… accept the role temporarily for a year and move on. I think it depends on who they offer it to.