"Gift Economy Indeed: The shit is already in the car"

Burning VanGuard
Right now, in the barren desert, an army of 35,000 volunteer soldiers is camped out on an endless tract of government land, armed to the teeth with water, food, shelter, and portable entertainment. The days are extremely hot and nights dip toward freezing. Tomorrow they move out, taking with them all their supplies, garbage, and personnel, taking with them an entire city.

Tomorrow most of them will leave the encampment called Black Rock City to reenter mainstream society, their cars and rental trucks laden with extra water and food, portable shade structures that can withstand high winds and rain, a vast resourcefulness that comes from learning how to cope with strange environments and stranger neighbors, and mobile kits for making crafts, playing games, staging performances, and entertaining the masses.

Why not take the existing volunteer corps to Katrina?

Though I am no fan of the hypocritcal corporation that owns the Burning Man festival, this strikes me as a fine idea, and a great use for lots of resources that would otherwise be thrown away...

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32 Responses:

  1. chuck_lw says:

    Hasn't the Army studied Black Rock City as a model for setting up refugee camps?

    Or maybe somebody could make a last minute decision to leave Black Rock City open.:-) (Now I'm getting images of diabetic granny refugees wheelchair-dancing to the sounds of DJ WhoTheHellEver.)

  2. tfofurn says:

    If there was ever a city in the South whose sensibility would appreciate the artistic side of Burning Man, I'd have to guess it's New Orleans.

  3. substitute says:

    Good luck getting a lot of privileged college kids and hipsters to trade their Dude Ranch Disaster Zone for the real thing. It'd be like getting Ren Faire people to set sail in the Spanish Armada.

    • jwz says:

      If we're lucky, they won't realize what they're getting into until they're already there!

    • tongodeon says:

      Andrew Sullivan from my camp organized a very successful camp-wide fundraiser to which I donated $100. Many of the BLM officers were being recalled to NOLA, and I ran into more than a few people (Org employees, Rangers, DPW, participants) who were going.

      I will be happy to board a plane with these fellow burners tomorrow if you can convince my boss to give me an unpaid leave of absence.

    • mcfnord says:

      I know one van that did this. I didn't think it was a good idea. I assume the government has better facilities. Perhaps that's naive.

      Truth is: People drove from Nevada toward the destruction.

  4. gfish says:

    I have to say, the image of a naked woman with wings on 15 foot stilts walking down a flooded New Orleans street handing out bottled water to refugees would do my heart good. Really, it's about the only way this could get any more unreal without cannibalism and zombies.

    • latemodel says:

      I dunno, I've kinda figured that NOLA already has cannibalism and zombies, at least by now.

      I know this is in horrible taste, but:

      1. There must be at least one person in the city who got hungry enough to eat one of the corpses.
      2. There are certainly quite a few folks with serious drug habits who are either so high or so crashed that they're shambling through the streets like zombies. Mayor Nagin suggested that a sizable portion of the firearms violence that went on was due to just this fact.
    • scosol says:

      agreed- and "art" cars shuttling refugees out- bwahaahah

    • dasht_brk says:

      Actually, there are rumours of cannibalism taking place in NOLA.

      Welcome to reality.


  5. valentwine says:

    Dear Federal Clusterfuck Management Agency,

    Hurry the fuck up. We're all waiting with baited breath for the day we can make Katrina and the Waves jokes.

    K, thx.

  6. dasht_brk says:

    good sentiment but:

    (a) the locals and regionals fell down so badly in NOLA that the seen is now controlled by the army, national guard and feds. Talented amateurs like the burning man core would just get in the way. (Heck, at this point, the NOLA police force is one of the biggest sources of danger.)

    (b) think globally act locally yadda yadda ..... deploy the burning man spirit to prepare for the big earthquake in sf bay area, etc.

    That is all.

    • sfritz says:

      (a) the locals and regionals fell down so badly in NOLA that the seen is now controlled by the army, national guard and feds. Talented amateurs like the burning man core would just get in the way. (Heck, at this point, the NOLA police force is one of the biggest sources of danger.)

      That was almost word for word from the party line! It never ceases to amuse me that they can pull that off.

  7. diemoniker says:

    Where they just fly a bunch of refugees into Burning Man. Just leave 'em at the gates, with all those "welcome" people in bunny suits prancing around and handing out maps of the grounds.

    BM could split up the refugees...a few at JiffyLube, a few at Thunderdome, a few at Camp Glitter, or whatever...anyone left over can sleep at center camp.

    Whenever I mention this to other people they say,"Haven't these people suffered enough?"
    But I'm thinking - it's better than the Superdome, there's lots of free alcohol, and hey...it's pretty fuckin' dry out there.

    Plus, I've always thought their slogan should be "Burning Man: Preparing you for the Shantytowns of the Not-Too-Distant-Future."

  8. chromebishop says:

    I'd heard that the DPW were considering doing just that, going as a group straight down to nawlins.

  9. sweh says:

    I wonder how many burners are going to be shocked at the cost of gas when they leave...

    • mcfnord says:

      Yesterday I finally found a New York Times that explained the Supreme Court, the gas, the hurricane, and the flags to me.

  10. ghosthacked says:

    There was a donation drive for Katrina /Katrina mishandlement victims going on at center camp.

  11. drstein says:

    Well, because it's a 'city' of about 35,000 yuppie idiots. I'm sorry, but Burning Man is no where near a 'self sufficient city' at all. More U-Haul trucks and Cruise America RVs than you can shake a stick at. Generators everywhere. Port-A-Potties rented from Johnny On The Spot trucked in. The train of 'hardcore' burners that show up on Thursday and bail on Sunday morning is staggering. Check out the towns of Empire & Gerlach - they love the fact that Burning Man attendees can buy in & out passes now.
    "This army is Burning Man, and they are alredy armed. Their gear is ALREADY IN THE CAR."

    Sorry, the last thing Katrina victims need is a big fucking drug induced group hug with a $250 ticket price tag.

    Commerce free, my ass. Check out the big ass (and popular) espresso stand in center camp.

    • jwz says:

      Well, because it's a 'city' of about 35,000 yuppie idiots. I'm sorry, but Burning Man is no where near a 'self sufficient city' at all. More U-Haul trucks and Cruise America RVs than you can shake a stick at. Generators everywhere.

      Yes, absolutely. But don't you think that N.O. could use some of those generators and RVs right about now? And some of that disposable income?

      • drstein says:

        Oh, they certainly can.. and hopefully now that hundreds of RVs are being returned to the shops, some of them will eventually trickle down there.

        Generators are great if there is adequate fuel supplies to run them, which from what I've been hearing isn't the case in New Orleans.

        Disposable income should go to the Red Cross. I, sadly, have very little disposable income. In lieu of cash donations, I'm sending myself & my emergency medical skills to the affected areas, thanks to the Red Cross.

    • mcfnord says:

      A/C, generators, and water? Ya don't say. Can't imagine refugees needing any of that junk.

      • drstein says:

        Fat lot of good it'll do them if there's no fuel to power them. Also, judging by the massive numbers of equipment rental company logos on the generators I saw, I'd say that calling Big 4 Rents would be a better idea than counting on the 'community' at effin' Burning Man.

        Now what would have been a *really* nice offering is for the Burning Man attendees to offer to return their RVs early so they could be used in affected areas. Didn't see a whole lot of that happening. *shrug*

        • mcfnord says:

          i thought about this thread and idea a bit.

          the truth is, an organized group could have convoyed down and probably done some good.

          it's a matter of timing, though. and we'd have to understand already that the Federal government had no intention of acting decisively. That part shocked me quite a bit. I told the kid with me that going in a van down to a disaster is stupid, because going back to work and donating wages is more effective. I had no idea that Bush had dismantled the emergency response capacity of our government. i hope this is a major issue in the next presidential campaign.

          There are many gas stations between Nevada and the target. And there are many independenly owned generators, shelters, cooling devices, couches, and such on flatbeds of the departing hoardes. Ultimately I've decided that the plan to regroup in the desert and launch resources and people who would have been a not-so-bad idea. It's part of the Bush clan's "thousand points of light", the only response left once Federal force is dismantled and the treasury looted.

          It's annoying that you can find individual scenarios that would not be useful (such as rented equipment, or of course people who would not be able ot modify their schedule) and think there's no value to recruiting among 37,000 people and all their gear, regrouping, and acting in a coordinated way. The President's remarks in the New York Times seem to suggest that it's his expectation that individuals, and not the government he leads, are left to the task of saving lives in disasters. I would have relished the opportunity to help a few thousand people with the basics of life, and the anti-Bush art and commentary we'd include would be just as refreshing as any of our pvc misting gadgets.

          • drstein says:

            Annoying as it is, it's true. If even 10% of the 35,000 folks at Burning Man decided to pool all of their resources and head down there, that might be nice. Maybe not, since actual aid organizations have said that travelling to that area is *not* the best idea right now. More untrained civilians to get in the way of actual relief efforts.
            Sorry, but I don't think that most modern burners (old timers might be a little bit different) give a crap about anything that happens outside of the event. Just take a look at the people that were stuck on the side of Hwy 447 this year while car after car after car just passed them on by. Take a look at the eplaya. Search for "Katrina" and look at the threads. There are folks in there claiming that the media is making a lot of the disaster news up, and then throwing blame around at George Bush. The *one thread* about how to donate has a whopping 2 replies as of 9am, 9/7.

            The best thing that the Burners can do is to donate cash. Trying to truck down whatever supplies they happen to have left over after the Burn is nothing more than 'feel good' idealism. Donate MONEY so aid organizations that deal with logistical trucking companies can get needed goods down there.

            I can't stand Bush either, but bashing Bush and FEMA right now isn't going to solve anything. Doing whatever you can to assist the aid organizations that are already down there will.


            • mcfnord says:

              my companion and i gave $23 at the gate to the Red Cross and I just contributed $253.46 to a refugee family that has relocated to my state. Gosh, maybe i'm not a burner. I'm not one of Those Guys with Their Selfish Values.

              Bashing Bush now and later ties his hands elsewhere and gets closer to the root cause of the failed response. Oh, look: nonsense like the estate tax aren't such hot topics anymore. Congress and the President are going to host dueling inquiries. Chute, I just read the WSJ and NYT, I must not be a burner, in willfull ignorance and vanity. Gotta go consume and lack empathy now! Have a good burn!

  12. mcfnord says:

    I'll use my pvc next year, and I already ate my MRE's. Instead I'm back at work, specializing successfully to earn a high wage which I can send to the American Red Cross. What makes anyone think they're more skilled to handle this than the pros? A van tried to recruit my buddy to head from Nevada to the disaster. I called them catastrophe tourists.