Burning Man Is Hedonistic but Has Social Service, Too

Burning Man Is Hedonistic but Has Social Service, Too

From LETTERS in the Wall Street Journal
Published on SEPTEMBER 17, 2008

I’m responding to Travis Kavulla’s “Desert Wanderers Find Their Promised Land” (Taste, Sept. 5), an ostensible review of the Burning Man festival.

Being a newcomer to the festival as well as to the culture of Burning Man, it is not at all surprising that Mr. Kavulla sees Burning Man in terms of affluence, conspicuous consumption, decadence and hedonism, for Burning Man does indeed, unapologetically, contain all of those things. But had Mr. Kavulla probed just a little bit deeper than the surface of things — had he, for example, taken just a few more steps around Entheon Village, which he criticizes, and asked just a few questions, he would have understood that there was so much more going on than “just a party.”

Our camp infrastructure was built out of repurposed shipping containers specifically designed for use in disaster relief efforts anywhere in the world, so that first responders and relief workers would have a ready-made base camp from which to operate. This project is a collaborative extension of the work that was begun in 2005 by Burners Without Borders, a social-change/service movement that was born out of the aftermath of our government’s total failure with Hurricane Katrina. Just this week, we at Entheon Village received a call from the Louisiana governor’s office asking for our kitchen to be sent down to Baton Rouge to help feed some 100,000 people displaced by the recent flooding.

Mr. Kavulla characterizes my presentation on “The Secret History of the War on Drugs” as a series of “witless one-liners” and “a preposterous conspiracy theory that blamed every evil on, and attributed every power to, the American government.” This wasn’t my intended message. Based on extensive research, which I thoroughly documented and provided to the gathered audience, I focused on how the American government has created many of the drug problems it claims the war on drugs is supposedly designed to address.

Within and among the miasma of hedonism Mr. Kavulla chronicles are a committed core of individuals and tribes building the foundations for the communities of tomorrow, evolving our purpose to meet the demands of a changing, resource-challenged world.

Charles Shaw