Minister of Free Inquiry (aethyrflux) wrote,
Minister of Free Inquiry
aethyrflux

transforming vandalism into volunteerism

Laura Lea posted her after-burn report of The Greenhouse Project on the playa, this year.
I am truly honored to have been able to participate in this collaboration!
One of my favorite Ernst Junger quotes has returned to me often, since then:
"We are as flowers unfolding, continually becoming ourselves."
- from On The Marble Cliffs

Although, ever since the CCD started almost exclusively in a particular subset of commercial beekeepers in affected areas, I have been thinking more about another of his books, "The Glass Bees."
I hope that you will pardon my spoiling an important bit of info from the story, but I would like to share a relevant allegory:
The title refers to the antagonist/inventor's inability to create synthetic bees that do not over-harvest the flowers!
Here's the introduction by Bruce Sterling, from the most recent edition.

Another powerful inspiration in my life for the past few years has been the Orang Asli culture, from Peninsular Malaysia.
“We want to live slamad, in peace & security. That’s why we don’t steal things. ... The funny thing is that it’s the richer peoples who steal things, not us. We don’t want trouble. Besides, we don’t want to be rich. As long as we have enough to eat, that’s enough. If you’re rich, you get endless hassles, no slamad. That’s why we don’t want to be rich. We want slamad.” ("The Semai of Malaysia.” 214)

Living among the hungry ghosts of this consumer commodity culture, I often wonder how to appease the endless greed that surrounds us. Too many people believe in the conspiracy that "there is not enough to go around, and so you better take it from the next guy, before he steals it from you."

The degree of vandalism in BRC, this year was surprising. And I'm not just talking about pranksters, here... there was some real extreme and completely unwarranted destruction and theft out there without any apparent motives other than fear, hate, & greed. There are a couple of sections in my after-burn report for 2007 that discuss this issue.

My initial response to this sort of thing is philosophical. This is the sort of thing that triggers one of the fundamental beliefs that I have returned to over the years, even in the face of continually questioning my base assumptions. I think that it's rather effectively addressed by The Four Noble Truths.

But, I also know that some people simply have no regard for other people's stuff, and still others don't even respect the very idea of personal property for one reason or another. There's a documentary called Off The Grid, about an 15-square mile area in northern New Mexico, in which about 400 people live in complete anarchy... which was apparently remarkably peaceful and respectful, until:

` ` Shortly before the filmmakers arrived, a cultish group of runaways called the Nowhere Kids settled in. "They were extremists," remembers Randy. "They were stockpiling weapons. They had X's tattooed across their face." The new kids' brand of anarchy didn't sit well with the other desert dropouts. "They act like a bunch of revolutionists," snarls one, a pig farmer who frequently takes in teen runaways. "They cuss the system, and yet they've got their hand out...for everything they can get."

Before long, the Nowhere Kids were stealing food from their neighbors. "We don't want to call the cops," Robbie tells the Stulbergs. "But we've got to do something about this. Some people already got their guns." The film cuts to Moonbow, a man who sees no contradiction in talking like a vigilante while wearing a tie-dye. "If you're not a good neighbor," he says, "then we'll band together and chase you out of here."

The rhetoric escalates. The Nowhere Kids declare that they have a right to take anything they please as long as no one is using it at the moment. They also refuse to be filmed, telling the Stulbergs they'll "put bullets" in their heads if they don't keep their cameras off. The other Mesa residents start counting their bullets as well. An informal group of local leaders meets to plan a response to the thefts. At this point, a cynic might accuse the Mesa anarchists of forming a regime of their own.

But a funny thing happens: The standoff ends with no shootout, no bloodshed, and no new government. The desert residents may approve of vigilantism in principle—"we don't dial 911," says one, "we dial .357"—but they prefered to address the conflict by sending a delegation of unarmed women to reason with the runaways. The Nowhere Kids backed down, and so far the peace has held. ' '

And now I am wondering if this isn't the clearest message I've ever seen in my lifetime from Doctor Dream to the Punks of the The Boomer Bible!

I have said this before, but... "Something that has come to my attention again recently is how that some (perhaps even many, but not all) burn camps are organized around cults of personality, and many that people seem to enjoy perpetuating the associated drama from such hierarchical power structures... While I seem to prefer different dramatic scenarios, based on more non-hierarchical systems, where power is shared equally. As I pointed out in a reply to a comment in a recent entry:

"So, are we to learn from this that a benevolent dictator, philosopher king, or wise caliph can be an effective means of government up to a certain point; but eventually, the empire will crumble from schism?

Although I understand that Meritocracy has been difficult to define, much less enforce, throughout the ages; I tend towards Egalitarian goals & methods, myself."

Command economies are strong during wartime, for example... And although we are living in the era of perpetual 'police actions,' a free market ecomomy (within reason, perhaps with some checks & balances) is supposed to serve civilians better. But rather than being stuck with Malthusian theories, I prefer to foster the growth of 'post-scarcity' systems, such as gift culture, the long tail & the design science revolution!

I could certainly re-invent the wheel, and sometimes it's educational to do so; but often I find that I can go further and enjoy myself more along the way when I heed the lessons of those who have traveled the road before me! ...As long as, even though I seek advice from a multitude of wise council, I am still skeptical enough to determine my own course of action."

I was rather inspired when I attended the first of the Last Sunday gatherings.

Here're a couple of pertinent excepts from the Last Sunday gatherings:

"Professor Robert Jensen has posted his remarks online, from the first Last Sunday gathering. Here is one of the many statements he made early in the evening, that really resonated with me:
'I started to understand that the problems of the world were not simply the product of an inherently evil and stupid human nature, though we can all be evil and stupid at times. Instead, I started to think about how systems and structures of power shape us and channel our behavior. I came to realize that the authority structures that so bend our lives are powerful and deeply entrenched. I also realized that most of the channels that the dominant culture offers us for working to make the world a better place are themselves deeply embedded in those authority structures, so that often the solutions become part of the problem.'"

I just read an article in The Austin Chronicle, about "The Last Last Sunday?" This article discusses some of the observations they have made concerning the discussions in retrospect, and I believe that one is particularly pertinent for me to mention:

"We may be decent people, acting compassionately in our daily lives, but when we live in unjust hierarchical systems, being decent day to day isn't enough. No matter what the specific topic of any Last Sunday, we tried to keep this in the foreground: We live in an imperial society structured by a predatory corporate capitalism, with identities shaped by white supremacy and patriarchy, in a technological fundamentalist society dominated by the faith that we can invent our way out of an ecological crisis."

When I am fortunate, I can find inspirations and revelations about such things through the oracles. For the past eight years, I have been studying binary divination systems. I have discovered profound correlations between the I Ching, from Asia... and the Ifa, from Africa.

The Phoenix became a rather auspicious allegory for many of us at Burning Man this year. Of course, this also correlates with the traditional resurrection of The Green Man, which was also the theme of Burning Man this year.

I camped with Burners Without Borders, on the playa this year. And since I have returned to Austin, we have started BWB projects locally. It is simply amazing to me how quickly we are able to implement self organizing systems!

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Tags: burn culture, i ching, ifa, phoenix
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