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King Benjamin's Virgin Burner Blog | The 10 Principles of Burning Man: Decommodification & R

Welcome back Virgin Burners (and those intrigued by what "this whole Burning Man thing" is about)!

(source: Wikimedia Commons)

This is the 2nd post in a series about the 10 Principles of Burning Man, our shared values that unite our community.

In the last post I covered "Radical Inclusion" and "Gifting" and in this one, we'll move on to "Decommodification" and "Radical Self- Reliance."


(10 Symbols of Burning Man designed by Wick to symbolize the 10 Principles.)

"Decommodification In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience."

- Founder Larry Harvey, 2004

Decommodification is, to me, the biggest factor that differentiates Burning Man from the major commercial music festivals, such as Glastonbury, Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival, etc. These festivals, although great, are HIGHLY commodified, with the primary intention being to sell merch, clothing, goods, food, drink and recorded music (or if not a physical item, to advertise and promote a brand in hopes of a future sale.)

To put it another way: the music one experiences at those festivals is essentially bait laid out by sponsors to gain access to participants' money and their eyeballs.

At Burning Man, we do not buy or sell anything (except ice and coffee, long story, tell you about it later) nor do we accept sponsorship or advertising from businesses. In this way, Burning Man becomes a welcome escape from the oppressive reach of corporations in the default world (world outside Burning Man.)

In the default world, we are bombarded with advertising everywhere we look. There is hardly a space in Los Angeles (where I live) where there's not some sort of advertising within eyeshot aiming to sell you something. This advertising beats us over the head with the idea that our primary function in life is to labor in order to be able to buy and consume products that validate our belonging to our tribe.

Burning Man seeks to find a deeper, more complex understanding of our function and fulfillment as humans, and it demands that our value not be contingent upon our ability to labor or to consume.

At Burning Man, our value is inherent.


(10 Symbols of Burning Man designed by Wick to symbolize the 10 Principles.)

"Radical Self-Reliance Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources."- Founder Larry Harvey, 2004

As Black Rock City is a city without commerce, natural resources or true means of production, radical self-reliance is key to its functionality. In other words: Burning Man wouldn't work if we didn't all provide for ourselves.

As a participant, I am responsible for my own self care in every possible way. Food, water, shelter, health, safety, transportation, etc. Each of us is asked to show up completely prepared to take responsibility for every element of our own experience and survival. In this way, no one becomes a burden on anyone else (and because most people show up with more than enough resources for themselves, and a willingness to help each other, no one wants for much.) Beyond the practical and logistical, this applies to other aspects of our personal experience as well. For example, no one but myself is responsible for my happiness, fulfillment or my entertainment. It is not my friend's, not my camp-mates', not the theme camps', not my lover's(') responsibility to entertain me, talk to me, watch over me, laugh with me, cry with me, or keep me company (although many people will want to do all of these things, especially if I ask, but they are not obligated to.)

This self-reliance strengthens us, it challenges us, and it teaches us about ourselves in really rewarding ways. It also forces us to work for our experience, making it all the more rewarding.

Ultimately, radical self-reliance equates to freedom. When each of us is self-reliant, we gain the freedom to choose into or out of every interaction without obligation. We are free to Burn as we please as the masters of our own experience, powerfully choosing to help one another out of love as opposed to duty.


That's it for this week! I hope you found this post useful! If you missed the first post in this series, you can read it here.

Look out for more Principles to come, and until then, keep the fires burning!

King Benjamin

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