Burnin Down the House…

Unfortunately, the rumours of an Anthrax outbreak were greatly exaggerated. Speculation that festival-goers might turn on each other in Lord of the Flies fashion did not come to pass. Apparently, there was little, if any, cannibalism. No verifiable human sacrifices took place. Mere anarchy was not loosed on the world.

Instead, the rain stopped, the roads dried up, and, this past Monday, an exodus from the northern Nevada desert began. The tens of thousands of festival-goers who had been stuck at the Burning Man festival because of flooding got in their vehicles and left. By now, most of the revellers are safe at home – no doubt telling everyone they know how life-affirming and radically self-sufficient their Burning Man experience was.

But for a brief and life affirming moment, large swathes of the internet came together to delight in others’ misfortune. People from the left and the right united in hilarity over the fact that 70,000 tech types were stranded in a desert, covered in mud, and having to deal with a less-than-enjoyable toilet situation.

I’ll be honest, I was one of the people inhaling as much Burning Man content as I possibly could and pissing myself with laughter at the dystopian scenes.. Think about it. The Burning Man Muddening of 2023 was almost scientifically engineered to evoke schadenfreude. The evidence? Why not.

  • Wealthy, insufferable attendees? TICK
  • Climate activists, angry about private jets and single-use plastics at the event, tried to shut down the festival and were jeered at by annoyed attendees, then vindicated by mother nature? TICK
  • A situation however uncomfortable wasn’t at all life-threatening? TICK

Burning Man has countercultural roots and, once upon a time, it was a celebration of creativity and a counterpoint to mindless consumerism. Over the past few years, however, it has become massively commodified and started attracting some of the worst people on earth. Nowadays, it is an excuse for influencers and Silicon Valley types to take a bunch of drugs and party in the desert while pretending they are doing something meaningful that elevates the world’s consciousness. Burning Man is supposed to be about “radical self-reliance”. Right. A number of attendees appear to have been flown in on private jets and shacked up in luxury accommodation with air conditioning.

I don’t care how exotic the drugs or how interesting the art is. Once Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk show up to your party, there is no longer anything countercultural about it. You are not rebelling against the man.

You are the man.

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