Posts for category The Ten Principles


March 19th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Education is Everything: Better Behavior Through Learning

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Here’s what I remember being surprised by the most during my first visit to Black Rock City, in 1998: No garbage cans.

I had come utterly unprepared, and had little idea what going to Burning Man meant. Traveling separately from my only other friend who was going, I grabbed a spot on the Green Tortoise, packed a couple of bags, and made my way to the playa.

Danger Ranger, Burning Man Cultural Ambassador, 2013 (photo by Mark Hammon)

Danger Ranger, Burning Man Cultural Ambassador, 2013 (photo by Mark Hammon)

Even today, I frequently recall wandering the Esplanade during Burning Man 1998, a wad of garbage in my hand, and simply not grokking why there was no place to throw my trash. Having failed to read the Survival Guide, that just didn’t make any sense to me. Not that I was the kind of person to blithely toss crap on the ground, but I had no idea what to do. Eventually, I found a nook in some wooden structure crammed with others’ refuse, and jammed mine in alongside.

That was more than 15 years ago. But just a few weeks ago, I was walking through my local farmer’s market with some trash in my hand and no obvious place to put it. I spotted a cigarette butt in a small bin underneath the leg of a merchant’s Easy-Up, and mistakenly thought I was in luck. The merchant was not amused, harshly letting me know the bin was no garbage can: it was a weight holding down the Easy-Up. Read more »

March 19th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Why The 10 Principles Will Never Help You Win Your Argument About Burning Man With The Shirt Cocking DJ You Hate So Much

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Worst.  DJ.  Ever.  I hate him so much!

Worst. DJ. Ever. I hate him so much!

Someone recently told me that he knew his camp had become an important part of Burning Man culture after someone accused them of ruining it.

I laughed for a solid 10 minutes.  It’s that funny because it’s that true.  For every person who is active in Burning Man culture, there’s a Burner convinced that person is selling it out.

Is this a “teachable moment” – or are we just assholes?

Anthropologists and historians remind us that “culture” is not a monolithic thing – it always contains cross-currents and subcultures and family feuds.  There is no single “American Culture,” or “Christianity” or “Hollywood” – there are only currents, united to a greater or lesser degree by a common history, sensibility, or project.

There’s no reason Burning Man should be different, and even a casual glance at the playa revels that under the blinking lights we are a community diverse enough to be divided.  Not so much by race or creed, but by whether we like dub-step, whether we know our enneagram score, and whether we want to prank the world or save it. Read more »

March 4th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Radical Inclusion: That’s So Gay?

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Photo by Steph Goralnick

Big Words by Laura Kimpton, Burning Man 2011. Photo by Steph Goralnick.

Of all the Ten Principles, I think the one most of us struggle with at one point or another is Radical Inclusion. Usually, that’s because it is in near-direct opposition to Burning Man’s North Star, the ideal that brought most of our bedraggled, bedazzled butts to the Black Rock in the first place: Radical Self-Expression.

Usually, when I think about Radical Inclusion, I think about the way we judge other Burners for doing it wrong in various ways: Too much oontz oontz or a preponderance of yarn dreads…wearing cargo shorts instead of hot pants…watching the event through the window of an RV…marching around screaming CHIIIRRRRRRRP when other people are trying to sleep. There are a million ways to do Burning Man, and just about any way you choose to do it, somebody’s going to have a problem with it.

But recently, my perception of the Radical Inclusion debate shifted, when I realized that we as a community might have an inclusion problem on a much more basic level.

Read more »

February 13th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

What does it mean to have “Decommodification” as a principle?

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

(de)Commodification

Read more »

February 5th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

A few ground rules for talking about the 10 Principles

We can talk about this stuff all day.

We can talk about this stuff all day.

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Okay, anyone who read the headline to this post and asked “Who the fuck are you to set ground rules for talking about the 10 Principles?” gets a gold star.  The rest of you need to stay after class and clean the erasers.

Anyone in the second group who just asked “Who the fuck are you to make me stay after class and clean the erasers?” is beginning to get it.  Nice work.

The rest of you need to dig a hole and stick your heads in it.

I can go on like this all day.

What I’m doing is setting some context … background information … for when I talk about the 10 Principles.  It’s how I think about them.  Your mileage may vary, but I think these are good and useful axioms that help orient the 10 Principles in the larger universe of Philosophy and Epistemology.

Those of you who don’t give a damn about philosophy and epistemology may want to dig a hole and stick your heads in it.

I swear I’m not going to stop until someone sticks their head in a hole they dug themselves.

Read more »

January 29th, 2014  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Coyote Nose the 10 Principles – Red Wagon

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

di-as-po-ra noun 2. the dispersion of any people from their original homeland

Lakes of Fire encampment, 2008 (photo by Tony "Coyote" Perez)

Lakes of Fire encampment, 2008 (photo by Tony “Coyote” Perez)

It should be no surprise that Flipside was the first Burning Man regional event. Of course it would be the Texans to be the first to secede. I remember feeling slightly cheated on when we started catching wind of their “anti” event. How dare they just dump us like last week’s boyfriend and have a burning event of their own! Even the name, “Flipside”, implied that they were some sort of Yin to our Yang. Like jilted lovers we started watching close while pretending not to care. But as we watched, something new started to occur to us. Maybe they weren’t defecting – maybe they were just simply taking our seeds and planting them into new pastures.

Burning art at Lakes of Fire, 2008 (photo by Tony "Coyote" Perez)

Burning art at Lakes of Fire, 2008 (photo by Tony “Coyote” Perez)

It was as if we now had a twin and through this we were seeing the threads of similarities. Both were amassing communal bodies that were gaining strength in numbers with a refreshing free-spirited mindset. But because of this grand flourish, both were starting to feel the fast mounting pinch of growing pains. We could see our two events busting their seams and things were starting to spin out of control. They were taking off at an exponential gallop and the buckboard was getting away from us as the horses started racing toward the mirage – and like a mirage it was in all directions. Isn’t this the part of the movie where the wagon wheel flies off and the buckboard smashes into the ravine? Scrambling to find the reins, we were trying to pull the horses into a direction, but which direction? It was becoming clear that if we were going to right our spinning compass, we were going to have to polarize our energies and define its sources.

Why were our events growing so rapidly? What was it that was becoming literally life changing for so many? Why was the most popular conversation in camp about next year’s Burn? Watching the vitality of spirit burning in people’s camps was like peering into a kiln and seeing the glaze of our credos baking into the pottery. You could see a principled nation forming and needing guidance. Read more »

November 12th, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

Commerce & Community: Distilling philosophy from a cup of coffee …

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Center Camp Café, 2005 (photo by Brad Templeton)

Center Camp Café, 2005 (photo by Brad Templeton)

Sometimes the exception to a rule can deepen understanding of a principle. For example, some critics of Burning Man insist that by allowing coffee sales in our city’s Center Camp Café we violate a tenet of our non-commercial ideology. They say that this is evidence of deep naiveté or demonstrates hypocrisy. My reply is that we’ve never espoused a non-commercial ideology. To be against commerce is to oppose the very existence of civilized life. Even hunter-gatherers engage in trade in order to survive.

When most people say that any thing or act is too commercial or has been commercialized, very few of them mean to say that the practice of commerce is necessarily bad. Instead, they are expressing the feeling that something essential — something that should never be bought and sold — has been commodified. This is why we have always been careful to use the words commodify and decommodify.

Our annual event in the desert is meant to provide an example of what can happen in a community when social interactions cease to be mediated by a marketplace. Until quite recently, all societies have provided many different kinds of rites and rituals – set apart from daily life – that rehearse and reaffirm certain core spiritual experiences that are held to possess an unconditional value.

For example, in the culture created by Burning Man, the value of a gift, when rightly given and received, is unconditional. Nothing of equivalent value can be expected in return; this interaction shouldn’t be commodified. Likewise, love – the love of a parent for a child – should never be commodified. This, too, is an unconditional value, hedged round by a kind of sanctity, and can never be measured in dollars and cents. Read more »

November 12th, 2013  |  Filed under The Ten Principles

How The West Was Won: Anarchy Vs. Civic Responsibility

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

Legends of America, by James Cole, 2008 (photo by Stewart Harvey)

“Legends of America” by James Cole, 2008 (photo by Stewart Harvey)

During our early history in the desert, in the mid-90s, there was a lot of infighting about what the event was for—that struggle culminated in 1996. It concerned what our city was for, and who the entire event belonged to. We started out on the beach in 1986 as a small group of people that I came to call the Latte Carpenters. These were carpenters with a liberal arts education. I was friends with a builder named Dan Richman, who was an artist, though he didn’t pursue it, a talented painter who played flamenco. He convened a little salon of sorts at his house. He’d play the guitar; we’d drink and joke and talk about philosophy and art. It was a little bohemian scene, and that’s how I met Jerry James, with whom I built and burned the early versions of the Man.

Around 1989, members of the Cacophony Society turned up at our beach burns. Cacophony was somewhat amorphous; a “randomly gathered” network of eccentrics united by a publicly distributed newsletter that always stated, “You may already be a member.” Anyone could do events; these were often pranks, or might appropriate a feature of the urban landscape as a venue for guerrilla theater. For some, this was inspired by Dada, and for others it eventually came to be defined by the writings of Hakim Bey, chiefly a book entitled TAZ [Temporary Autonomous Zone]. In the early 90’s, this was widely adopted as an intellectual framework throughout the San Francisco art underground. It seemed to partially explain what was occurring, and that is why this particular book is so frequently referenced in regard to Burning Man. Read more »