When we first saw the signs that things were different we knew that it would come to this. It was years ago, things had already changed, but it wasn't out in the open. Then something happened. What was once on the fringes of our gift-giving and sharing gnawed its way right into the heart of the celebration.
The powers that be started to change their tone.
We had the start of what those on The Board called "a conversation." It was about for-profit camps operating in the midst of what was a celebration of giving. In corporate and political speech, this "conversation" was just another way of saying "get used to it, this is the reality now."
They primed us for what was to come by embracing Plug-N-Play camps, which unabashedly ran thier businesses at Burning Man. They gave these Plug-N-Play camps prime placement, allowed them many mutant vehicles. They allowed these Plug-N-Play camps the opportunity to trade participation for an opportunity to profit.
In 2014 we had placement and special favors given to businesses not even pretending to trade participation for profit.
These businesses were able to sidestep the procedures that those who gift their offerings to the community have been bound by. For over a decade those who wished to share with the community have had to follow guidelines to gain access to the limited resources of placement, early access, and more. Above all one had to give. These businesses were not required to give. They likely took the place of those who intended to give, so that they could profit off of those that were already giving.
When for over a decade one had to give and suddenly, if one knew the secret handshake, one could buy their way in and not give a thing we had to be stupid to check for an update.
But, we refreshed your blog. We emailed you feedback. We commented on your BBS. We scorned you on social media.
We were told that real reforms were coming. We were told that we were being listened to. But what could undo what was done? Certainly any reform to come will only make these for-profit operations resemble what happens at Bonnaroo, with for-profit corporations such as Garnier-Fructis offering theme-camp style participation, such as free a hair wash, under their corporate banner. Where the participation is a means to make profit.
We knew things changed years ago. We knew. When we saw Decommodification become a for-profit LLC, we knew.
We knew, but we hoped that those who are allegedly the founders of this movement, this culture, wouldn't have sold out so cheaply and easily. So we spoke out. We kept checking for an update. We hoped for good news. But those who had their ears to the ground knew that something already had changed. We couldn't go back. While we hoped for better news we knew, whether we refreshed that blog looking for an update or not, we knew. It was going to be us, the ones who knew what was already lost, versus them, the ones who were fine with pissing it all away.
But, in a way this is how it has always been. This is how it's been even before The Founders started this thing. It is always going to be us versus them. So, why did we keep checking for an update? We hoped that it wasn't going to happen again.
Correction: An earlier version of this article made reference to a camp which has been removed. The organizer of that camp does not wish their camp name to be associated with this piece. Any information regarding that camp has been removed. To see what started this plug-n-play conversation head on over to the Burning Man Blog entry from 2012 and watch the video.