Capitalism Man

Some excellent footage taken at the Burning Man offices in San Francisco. It’s a long video, but well worth sitting through, mainly because it makes the Burning Man employees look like childish, insensitive idiots with no social or cultural awareness. (Something I have long suspected of Burning Man attendees in general, actually.)

Essentially, a set of folks who work for Burning Man on the ground at the event were protesting unsafe working conditions and poor pay. Yes, some people who work for Burning Man do volunteer, and that’s great…but paid professionals work there too. Both workers choose to work for Burning Man because they care about the event, but that doesn’t give Burning Man grounds to exploit them. If the claims of the protestors are to be believed, Burning Man is an extraordinarily hypocritical organization:

  • Worker pay has allegedly been cut in half in the last four years.
  • Workers work in highly unsafe conditions without access to basic sanitation.
  • Workers who bring up the issue of safe working conditions and reasonable pay have been fired.
  • Workers and volunteers are required to sign extensive liability waivers, including a death waiver.

These seem like valid concerns to air. From what I see, Burning Man is a very, very troubled organization right now, from a number of angles. I would hope that the trustafarian attendees care at least a little bit about workers’ rights, and might be interested to know that the people who make Burning Man possible risk serious injury in hazardous conditions and feel exploited.

So here’s this protest, right.

And about halfway through the video, Burning Man employees come out of the office to hassle the protestors.

“Do you know about the issues these people are talking about,” the film maker asks.

“Nope,” the Burning Man staff proudly say. “We’re just here to protest the protest!” Or “we heard there were going to be paper bags, and that sounded like fun!”

This is not really a great way to project a positive image of your company. Indeed, it kind of makes these people look like…well…children, honestly. They apparently had no interest in what the protestors were gathered to talk about, and didn’t want to learn more. I hope their bosses are suitably embarrassed by the image these people have left me with, along with the bitter taste in my mouth. Way to demonstrate that you don’t care about worker’s rights, or basic safety, guys.

The protestors were peacefully gathered to get people thinking about issues…and representatives of the company there were protesting came out and made complete asses of themselves.

Thinking about going to Burning Man? I hope you think again, because what I’ve learned about it is not terribly favourable. I encourage you to go out and do some research on the company and their practices before you go shelling out hundreds of dollars for the event they host in a fragile desert ecosystem every year…and maybe you might come to the decision that those funds could be better used in other, more productive ways, or at very least that you do not want to support an organization like Burning Man with your hard earned money.

But don’t just listen to me: do your own research…and let me know what you think.

[Burning Man]
[workers’ rights]