Thursday, September 4, 2014

Grover Norquist went to Burning Man and doesn't understand how it works

Ugh, more Burning Man stuff.  Sorry.  Just ignore this if you want.  It's just been bothering me and this is where I let my grumpy-old-man-writing-letters-to-the-editor hang out.

Grover Norquist is a noted ultraconservative and anti-tax crusader who famously declared that "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."  Like a puppy you don't want!

Anyway, Grover decided he wanted to go to Burning Man because "There's no government that organizes this. That's what happens when nobody tells you what to do. You just figure it out. So Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature."

Right off the bat, Grover has a few misconceptions.  It's not like 60,000 people just materialize in the remote Nevada desert and organize themselves into a semicircle of camps.  While it's not controlled by a "state" per se, the Burning Man organizers most certainly do serve as a "government."  There are SHITLOADS of rules about what you can and can't do.  Here's a whole page of them. No tampons in the Porta Potties.  Never start a fire on the playa.  No audio systems stronger than 300 watts.  All cars must be licensed.  MAN I AM FEELING THE BOOT OF THE GOVERNMENT ON MY THROAT.  Grover's apparent idea that it's rule-free libertarian wonderland is a fantasy.

So he went and wrote about it for the Guardian.  His article has all the usual first-timer wide-eyed crap about naked people and drugs, but a few passages stood out to me.

A community that comes together with a minimum of “rules” demands self-reliance – that everyone clean up after themselves and help thy neighbor. Some day, I want to live 52 weeks a year in a state or city that acts like this. I want to attend a national political convention that advocates the wisdom of Burning Man.
If you want to live in Burning Man for a year, Grover, be my guest.  I have a few questions, though:  Who's going to bring in the food and water you'll need for a year?  After 3 or 4 months, the camp next door is going to get sick of you showing up every day with your plate out.  Who's going to pay for that food?  More importantly, who's going to maintain the roads that whatever vehicles that bring the food will travel on?  Will Burners leave and voluntarily go on road-paving details?  Because government bad.

What about if someone gets sick? If there's a doctor at Year-Long Burning Man, he's going to be working his fucking ass off providing gifted health care to everyone.  Is that fair?  Who's gonna pay for medical supplies?  What if the person who gets sick doesn't have any money or any shiny beads to trade?

What if Year Long Burning Man gets attacked by the Cliven Bundy Ranch Militia?  You can't bring guns to Burning Man, so who's going to defend you and your fellow Free Society lovers?  Certainly not that bad old government.

(Incidentally, I wonder if Grover, the author of "Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government's Hands Off Our Money, Our Guns, Our Lives" knows that he is NOT AT ALL FREE to bring guns to Burning Man.)

Also, the Burning Man political convention is too silly and juvenile an idea to discuss, but it would make for great TV.  I'd fucking love it if Mitt Romney gave a speech about how everyone in the audience had lizard heads with fountains of pure light streaming from them.

Don't get me wrong, a lot of what he says is pretty true, about how you need to be self-reliant at the event and everyone gives of themselves.  I think he's trying to make the point that this kind of attitude and behavior could be writ large in society and we'd all live in a government-free boho paradise, but this is the kind of thinking that most people leave behind when they start high school.  The fact is, Burning Man is a tightly controlled, self-selected community where everyone knows they have to provide for themselves.  When I went, I spent about $2000 to do that.  That money didn't come out of thin air.  In Grover's Burning Man fantasy, what about the people who don't have $2000?  What becomes of them?

Of course Grover Norquist is welcome to go to Burning Man.  Anyone is.  But trying to promote it as some kind of tax-free libertarian fantasyland is ridiculous.

OK, that's it for Burning Man for this year.  Hopefully all years.


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