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[Bali life] Learning from Burning Man on weirdness & dangers of turning a community into a business

A friend of mine wrote in a chat about Burning Man, and I thought about it a bit. Burning Man is an art festival or event where people build a city in the desert in the US for three days every year and "act to share". Canggu in Bali is where many hipsters live, and there is a loosely Burning Man-like culture and people who seem to be close to dressing like that. I know a few people who have attended Burning Man. In Bali, there is an annual art festival, which has a similar vibe in its emphasis on community.

A friend of mine mentioned in his chat that he is interested in promoting diversity. Maybe they are also interested in it as a business. But I don't think Burning Man will spread variety, and I don't think it will be a business on its own. That's because Burning Man is not (yet) a festival with a base. To add to this, Burning Man is not trying to be an event business. If you just copy the festival part of the Burning Man community and don't think about the groundwork, it probably won't be a business. There is a difference between a commercial event like a concert or a sporting event that provides value, such as music or watching a game, and a festival that provides human connection and rituals. I don't think we can charge such a large amount of money for this kind of human connection because I feel that it is suspicious or dark in the heart.

Let's think a bit more about community events. Burning Man is not about doing a business out of it because we don't see it as a business in the first place, and if we were to create a business based on the same concept, this festival alone would probably not be profitable. This Burning Man is not a business like a concert or a sporting event but a festival created by a community. The difference between this Burning Man and a traditional village festival is if one has an ongoing community underpinning it. Even though many say "Burning Man is an event to attend, not to observe", not many people are involved in the event's operation every year. But, on the other hand, many don't think of Burning Man as a business event, so it would be difficult to charge a fee commensurate with the scale of the event. At under $500 per person, it's a low price for a three-day, all-night event. In fact, it's so expensive to run that it's hard to see how it can be even break even. As with a traditional village festival, you can't charge that much for a community-oriented village festival event. This low price is because it feels like you're turning a human connection into money. Suppose you set a substantial amount of money just for running a community without offering anything of value other than the human connection. Will participants trust their relationship to the person running the event? A traditional village will want to generate revenue from the festival to earn a living. The village has a separate budget for running the village, and the people who organise and run the festival in the village are not likely to charge a salary. Therefore, villagers will run traditional village festivals without any problems. Burning Man is not looking to turn this into a business, so it will not be a problem, and maybe in the future, an online community village will develop and become the basis for a Burning Man village. The problem is that not many people would be willing to pay a lot of money for just the festive part of Burning Man and turn it into a business.

The groundwork is so necessary because you have to justify the festival and give continuity from a financial point of view. Not so different in history to Burning Man is the Nebuta Festival in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. This festival has only been around for a few decades. But, I don't see anything fishy or dangerous about this festival, and I'm sure it will continue to be run by locals who have other jobs that allow them to earn money without the festival. I think Burning Man will be similar in the form of an online village, but without that community, it won't be easy to keep the festival going. The art festival in Bali is also a business event. Still, it is run by foreigners and has no grounding as a community event, so there is a danger that it has to be legitimate and that it has to be profitable. I heard that quite difficult to make a profit on the event.

Awareness-raising and advocacy is an example of the dubiousness and dangers of chasing the event's glamour without foundation. People who have made their mark in history have a background in advocacy. For example, Martin Luther King Jr. of the Civil Rights Movement was a minister. What he did had the legitimacy of being a minister and the stability of not having to put his life on the line for advocacy. When someone who has no basis for what he says and no basis for his life says, "I'm going to make a career out of advocacy, and I'm going to ask for money," it seems suspicious and dangerous.

Finally, there is the question of diversity. In the first place, people who are outlaw-like think that they are diverse because they are away from the average. But, these outsiders are also not diverse because they form groups of similar people. The fact is that people who were considered delinquents in high school and biker gangs speak and dress similarly. Furthermore, when the community is online, it's easier to join and weed out those who don't fit in. So you're going to get more people who look like each other. So if you have something like Burning Man, you're not going to get a lot of diversity; you're going to get a lot of similar weirdos. The people who go to Burning Man are rich hippies; they're similar people. There will be no introverted bookworms 😉 . If you could form a community, like an authentic village, where you have to accept everyone born here, and you can't expel them, then that community and their festivals would be diverse.

If you're doing business at an event like Burning Man, you should also look for ways to generate income outside of that event. Either way, there will need to be economies of scale, as it is dubious to make money out of human connections. In the end, it's going to be a cheap online salon, and from my own experience, it's hard to find diversity there.

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