This article originally appeared in the 2020 edition of the BRC Weekly http://www.brcweekly.com
As literally hundreds of you have snickered and pointed out on the internet since the minute Burning Man 2020 was cancelled – this is all my fault. See, in last year’s BRC Weekly, I published an article entitled Burning Man Needs a Year Off. At the time I wrote it – Burning Man was engaged in a boiling cold war with the Bureau of Land Management (the uncool BLM) over the future of the event, specifically the terms of a 10 year contract extension between the event and the government. The details are well documented if you wanna look them up, but the short version looked for all the world like mob style extortion at legislative gunpoint to an awful lot of people, myself included. There’s a saying in crime circles that you should never take a hostage you aren’t willing to shoot, and the government was looking to make that point, and probably would have if it hadn’t run out of time. It was gross, and at the time – I wasn’t entirely sold that the event wouldn’t cave on some critical points that would have made this even more of a psychedelic cops and robbers Hunger Games style competition for your freedom to be an absolute lunatic for a week. We’ve demonstrated in the past that fairly consistently you can send us virtually any bill you want so long as we can continue help facilitate a large group of (mostly) white people’s ability to run around higher than Geddy Lee’s voice with their pants off – and we’ll gladly pay it. But this was getting dark. Essentially, tucked away among a usury grab bag of something like 20 million new dollars of blood money being demanded under the guise of “environmental mitigations” and something to do with terrorism, was the tacit acceptance of signing off on the poaching rights to even more of the slower antelopes around the watering hole in the form highly invasive drug searches performed by some 3rd party agency unbound by 4th amendment at the gate. The event made it pretty clear this was going to be the glowing red line, and I really want to believe them. Fortunately for all of us, the clock ran out on this hostage negotiation before last year’s event and both sides agreed to hobble through the year on a delicate balance of terror for the sake of the children, and the ocean of money that Burning Man happens to flood Northern Nevada with every year. The only give was agreeing to the BLM’s population cap and the attendant nosiness that comes with it. But no sooner than Resto was picking up all the bullshit you left behind because half your camp ghosted you Monday morning and the only competent line sweep the remainder could execute involved a rolled up dollar bill and an empty CD case – it was right back to loggerheads. In fact – you’ll be surprised to know that if COVID 19 hadn’t happened – the chance we would have been out in the desert right now touching each other’s bathing suit parts and making ungodly racket at unreasonable hours wasn’t especially great. Despite a concentrated and coordinated pushback from The Burning Man Project and its entire community at town halls, public comment sections on the BLM website and in the press – the government hadn’t budged an inch off of virtually any of its ridiculous asks, including turning Gate Road into even more of a shakedown street than it already is. COVID just gave everyone the convenient excuse not to have that fight once again this year. Or you know, all this could just be the secondary and tertiary reasons why Burning Man isn’t happening behind the fact that a 50 year old Burning Man staffer / hack writer for the BRC Weekly is getting old and bitchy about having to bust a grumpy hung over in triple digit heat in an unventilated porto every day for a month. I’m happy to take that blame. I said then, and I’ll say now – this cancellation is a gift. It’s going to teach A LOT of people just exactly what they were getting out of this event and at what cost. Maybe this was your substitute for an organized religion. Maybe it was the only gainful employment you get all year that doesn’t involve a tiny pair of scissors and listening to hippy chicks talking crazy bullshit that would make Gwyneth Paltrow blush. Maybe it was the one thing pushing your annual books into the black each year. Whatever it was – it’s gone for the moment, and if you didn’t know before – you know exactly what the fuck it is now. Go take a long hot shower, and roll around in clean sheets. Strap on that Oculus Quest you told yourself you’d return next week and try not to get motion sickness flying over BRCvr. Take what you can get. It’s the only thing in all sides of this story seem to have in common.