Afrika Burn 2008 Syncroblog:

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We are back from the burn! Just thinking that causes the dust to rise.

Next Monday 27th October 2008, we are inviting anyone to Syncroblog with us; to participate see this post.

But to get the ball rolling, here is my initial scorecard for AB 08. Bear in mind this view is personal, and I did not visit all the camps and attractions I would have liked:

Communal effort 8/10
Plenty of evidence of people looking out for each other, naturally gifting, sharing resources and lending helping hands.

Participation 9/10
Strong willingness to not merely consume entertainment, but to create it. Even for those who don’t dabble in advanced automobile alteration, a willingness to jump aboard and fill the spaces created by such curators.

Immediacy 8/10
Relationship with the good earth, the great sky, and one another was direct and awe-filled. Many times of respite from the ravages of mediated culture were enjoyed, conversations flowed, time stopped, we shared our common origin – dust – and the hope of a common destiny peeked out from between the cracks of an old culture giving way to something very new.

Decommodification 7/10
The gifting experiment – non commercial transactions – continued showing good fruit. Relationships based on an economy of grace rather than a survivalist economy of gain/loss are definitely emerging. But there is a long way to go to being truly liberated from our addiction to commodities.

Leaving no trace 6/10
It remains to be seen how little trace we leave. Increasing exceptions to this rule have emerged, The Wish (Long may its splendor endure!) for example will remain, as did the Turbine last year, and other structures were applying for exemption too. But ultimately it is not the letter but the spirit of “no trace” that matters, so as long as we can use this principle to increase awareness of the implications of our lifestyle for all living things, past present and future, then we are making progress.

Chief Seattle of the Salish tribes, said in 1854 “The earth does not belong to man: man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood, which unites one family. All things are connected.”

Non-visible traces are key to the equasion. The massive energy consumption necessary for such a counter cultural Temporary Autonomous Zone to exist – is one such example. For all you girly swots out there, see the environmental impact of Burning Man – Cooling Man.

Radical inclusion 9/10
I saw no outward evidence of exclusive behavior. People were highly welcoming, consistently friendly, and seeking to bind others together, or be bound in expressions of community, despite the individualising effects of recreational substances ab/usage.

Radical self-reliance 7/10
Alongside the communal expressions, individuals had to cope with incessant dust, near 40 C temperatures, occasional windstorms, rock hard earth, and mechanical failures, as a backdrop to all the beauty that was experienced. The desert can bring out the best and worst in us, and the best indeed triumphed magnificently. But I think we understand that the AB experiment is not really sustainable – it is an expression of an ideal. Real reliance on the earth away from the trappings of the consumerist supply chain, technological insulation from nature, and our highly abstracted methods of communication, mean that we are still very invested in civilisation.
Radical self-expression 6/10
Compared to AB 07, this year’s outing seemed a little demure, with not quite the energy or flair of the first Burn. But this is the personal view of a parent and theme camper, who was more caught up in matters of nurture than of letting things hang out. But tip of the hat to the likes of the Firebird, and neighborhood naked cyclist. Perhaps some of the expressions were, actually, in fact far more “radical” – less outward, and deeper, such as the fine bos boulangerie baked on site by members of our camp; this was a labour of love and came out of the authentic gifting and vision of our Burner Baker Jeremy.

Civic responsibility 5/10
Moop (matter out of place) nicely limited, very few evil, individualistic sequins or renegade boa feathers.

It has to be said, though, that I question how civil it is to bring a mahoosive military disco within 30 M of a contemplative space, effectively suffocating that space with soop – sound out of place, aka noise. Or the civil implications for sleepers of competing, broadcast dance spaces almost 24/7. Maybe I’m old, maybe it’s my delicate muso’s ear, maybe I’m from the Cultural Creatives rather than party vet faction, but it brings me to the edge of insanity … my biggest burner gripe.

Gifting 10/10
There was a very evident desire to create community by giving. Those with few resources freely gave of them, and these resources included food, drink, cooling, fun, perspectives, spaces and items of clothing. A very fine fruit salad arrived from the heat of the morning in our camp, for example.