If Marie Antoinette’s now infamous edict, “If the people have no bread, let them eat cake,” was the catalyst for the 18th century French Revolution. Will Paris Hilton’s Instagram photo of her and celebrity friend Carla Delevingne be Burning Man’s?
Established in 1986, this annual event began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice, when a few friends met on Baker Beach, San Francisco and burned a 9-foot effigy.
Fast-forward 20 years and a few friends have become 70,000 and the effigy 105-foot.
The event is described as an experiment in community and art – being guided by a set of principals it encourages all ‘burners’ (people who attend the event) to follow. These principals include; community, artwork, absurdity, revelry, and Decommodification.
You may not be surprised to know that it is this last principal Decommodification, that has ‘original burners’ crying out has been lost. For these devout few have seen the price of a ticket alone rise from $33AUD in 1992 (prior to that tickets were free), to now $622AUD. With reports tickets online selling for well over $1325AUD.
It has clearly splinted these once loving and unified patrons, into the age-old categories of the haves and the have-nots. Everything Burning Man sort out to eliminate.
Reports on the ground have confirmed that a quasi-uprising occurred this year, against the harshly labelled ‘parasites,’ (the Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires that fly in by private jet). When the well-known luxury camp ‘White Ocean,’ owned by Timur Sardov (the son of a Russian oil magnate), had its power cords cut, property destroyed and trailer doors glued shut.
With all revolutions however, there is never a single flashpoint that ignites this sort of behaviour. For those who have been following the event closely, they say the commercialisation of Burning Man has been steadily increasing over the last decade. With it taken to a new level in 2009 when the festival established its own airport.
I do suggest that these ‘original burners’ tread carefully, as history tells us that when you suddenly pull ‘elites’ (people with money), out of a system that has become to depend upon it, a crash is evidently what follows. If these sorts of acts continue, it will also only serve to further damage what little Burning Man still represents of its original 1986 concept. It will end only as most revolutions do, with the uprises worse off than when they started.
I have decided to end with one of Antoinette’s unusually onpoint quotes “there is nothing new except what has been forgotten.”
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