This as-ted-to essay is based on a conversation with Violet Metcalf Trott, a 28-year-old British postpartum doula who attended Burning Man 2023. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I almost didn’t go to Burning Man this year, I made the decision to pack up and join my camp with only weeks to go.
For the fifth time I was returning to the Nevada desert, where I camped with the same camp I had gone with before. Since I was on the leadership team, I arrived on Friday, August 25th to help with the build.
On Friday, September 1, bad weather set in; winds and torrential rains engulfed the campsite, leaving us to walk through mud, plastic bags taped around our ankles to protect our shoes. We went down and continued the party. Being with Berners who have been to the event 10, 15, 20 times really calmed the nerves in our camp.
Once the rain stopped we went into crisis management mode, stocking up on all our food and water and making the best of the muddy conditions. It wasn’t easy, nor was it pleasant, but we got through it, and that made it the best experience I’ve ever had.
After the rain stopped, people began to rest
People were getting messages from friends saying they were going out or just leaving or driving even though there were strict orders not to.
The ultra-rich community that now attends Burning Man had the means to simply call a helicopter to get out of the mess we were all in together.
Diplo has been known to walk through the mud and hitchhike to get out.
I think we all feel that this is not in the spirit of the event. You give up and also probably don’t make a very good effort with Strike and probably leave a lot of crap behind.
The way the various classes handled the chaotic scenario highlighted what’s wrong with Burning Man
I think it really highlights one of the big imperfections in Burn. One of the big controversies is that there are these camps where people are provided with everything and it’s much more like a customer experience.
Of course, that’s what’s seen on social media because that’s who’s posting all the time and what’s getting attention. But this is really a misconception. When you go, the majority of people are dirty old burners, and it’s not like everyone you see looks great in RVs and these turnkey camps.
But we all felt we had the best time, we had the best Burn. So it was kind of their loss that they couldn’t embrace her, they couldn’t see her beauty. And to me, that was like the ultimate act of civic responsibility and community effort, which are two of the principles. And it brought us together in ways that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for that.
The difference between what happens at Burning Man and a festival like Coachella is that at Burning Man, the majority of people don’t think of themselves as customers of an experience they’re given. They see themselves as creating experiences at the whim of Mother Nature. This is very much part of the ethos and part of the understanding of the majority of Burners.
Burning Man must try to prevent the growth of these ultra-rich camps
From my point of view, I think it is important for the organization to limit and set certain rules to try to prevent these types of camps from growing.
I still think it’s great to have people from different backgrounds, different opinions, political or otherwise, because if 20,000 people come who really don’t get it and don’t follow the principles, but 1,000 people go home with having experienced something that changes their worldview or changes their understanding in some way, then it is a success.
If all people had the same mentality and way of thinking it would not be a transformative event for the world as a whole, whereas I feel it has the potential to influence people in a very powerful way and often does so for the Better.
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