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Tango'd Up In Blues

A Story About Sam Wolanyk and a Burning Man Theme Camp

Fun philosophical question:

Imagine a Burning Man theme camp is created by a large group of people.

Imagine that there are some issues with building, so someone steps forward as a new leader to save the day.

Imagine that this leader does a great job bringing everyone together to get shit done.

Imagine that this new leader agreed with the founder of the camp that they will buy the camp for $1 and take ownership of all of the camp's gear.

Imagine that this is actually completely unknown to the rest of the camp. The rest of the camp that has spent all the money in camp dues that actually bought most of this gear.

Imagine that camp is rebuilt under this new leader and things are going well. Except that camp dues stay the same $300+ that were needed for the rebuild, and when asked about the availability for funds for projects that will improve the camp, the leader's response is that there's little money left.

Except now imagine that the reality is that lots of money is left, but this leader has been pocketing half of the camper dues to the tune of $13000 or more over a couple years.

And the burner camp accountant doesn't want to put up with this anymore, and wants to tell the camp, and the leader asks him not to, because this information should not get out.

And it does get out. And people complain. And one by one they are "kicked out of camp" by the new leader, who has now fashioned himself after a fascist dictator, instead of after a leader of a community of people who work like a family.

So the town won't have it. The town removes the leader from his position. Does the leader give the money back? Of course not. But even better, the leader claims ownership over all of the town's gear and won't let the town use it. The gear that they bought and paid for, the gear that the leader hasn't paid for, except perhaps for that initial dollar that he put in, minus the $13k he took out of the camp's profits.

The camp wants it's gear back that it paid for and is now being claimed by the person who took half of the camp dues to pay himself for his work, thereby removing any excuse he might have for ownership of any of it? Well that's okay, he's willing to sell the gear to the camp for $4000. Or rent it for $1500, with a deposit. What kind of person do you think would do something like this? A businessman. But a businessman who is trying to ultimately maximize his profits and power at the further expense of the community that he screwed over.

He demands everything. Not just the camp dues he took, but all the gear, and the connections with the BMorg (as if they'd be interested into talking to him), and the domain name and email and blah, blah blah. Amusingly enough, this domain name, which is the actual name of the camp, is not owned by the camp. So he doesn't get that.

The leader's excuse? He ran the camp like a business and it ran well, so there were profits, like you would see in a good business, and he owns it all. His view is that he's the only one capable of running this theme camp, regardless of the fact that there are plenty of other people in the camp who have successfully run theme camps and art projects of a much larger scale that this camp. But that's not a concern to the worldview of someone who thinks he created and owns and deserves everything.

Now you don't have to imagine. Because the story is true, but fortunately the story has a happy ending. The town rebuilds, again, and stronger, with a vision of transparency and clear community ownership. Because Burning Man is not about maximizing profits, it's about maximizing an amazing experience amongst a huge family that comes home to the playa every year. And the town is built better and stronger, with better leaders than Sam could ever have been, even without all the embezzlement.

Burning Man Camps are not businesses. They should never be run as a business, whether it's with the consent of the camp or in secret. And this isn't just my opinion, the BMOrg has made their position on the matter clear on this.

From: https://burningman.org/event/camps/payticipation-paying-people/

"Camps should not be profiting from their Black Rock City-related activities. Camp organizers (meaning everyone involved in managing a camp, not just the designated camp lead with Placement) should manage any camp dues for the benefit of the camp, and not for anyone’s personal gain."

Can't wait to see you at home, unless of course your name is Sam Wolanyk. Don't need to see you there, Sam, because you don't have a fucking clue what Burning Man is actually about.

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