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.