Theme Camps and Burning Man

Burning Man hopes that as a future citizen, you will learn about and embrace the culture. The process of learning is known as acculturation, and its important to know certain things as you ponder joining a theme camp.

In Burning Man’s early years, there were almost no rules. Absolute freedom was a wonderful idea that could have been preserved if attendees always behaved responsibly. Though most participated with good intentions, over the years there have been many who harmed to the event or the land. Every rule and policy in place now is a direct reaction to misdeeds, which have been embedded in the culture.

Burning Man culture is a reflection of the attitudes most responsible for a successful event. It guides attendees toward being better human beings in an alternative society. Self-reliance and radical expression are just two of the guiding principles, but are particularly important to understanding the role of theme camps and their members.

There’s nothing easy about being a theme camp. There are only 1,400 theme camps in the temporary town of 70,000 known as Black Rock City and twice as many are rejected placement. Those selected are chosen for their wow factor and contribution to the entertainment and gifting ethos of Burning Man. This is an event where far more entertainment and interactivity is provided through volunteer participants than by the Burning Man organization itself.

The objective of a theme camp is to unify the collective efforts of members to produce art and interactivity. When there is full participation, all good things that are given circle back as gifts. This, we call Burner Karma. Attendees who fail to contribute through gifting and active participation are more like tourists, draining without replenishing the system. Burning Man ultimately wants everyone to be a participant and experience the fulfillment and wonder of Burner Karma. Our aim as a camp is to enhance this as much as we can and have a great time in the process. Every effort and accomplishment by our camp is part of the journey.

Put another way, purpose of a theme camp is not to provide comfort and services to members. Burning Man flatly rejects any theme camp that acts this way. However, they understand that being fabulous should be rewarded, so they allow camps to offer some amenities that make life little more pleasant for camp members. Basically, they don’t care that we do extra things for our members as long our members give back to the event through our projects.

Don’t join a camp expecting services. Anything a camp can offer you beyond nothing is an incredible gift to cherish. We’d be lucky if we recover enough from donations/dues to be reimbursed for half of what it costs to implement this camp. Somebody has to pay, no matter what, and it is usually  small number bearing most of the strain. Approach them with kindness. gratitude and try not to increase their burdens.