Letter to Jim Tananbaum
You posted your letter recently explaining your side of the Caravancicle debacle. We don't know each other, and though I have a friend who stayed in your camp, I didn't visit it and so have no first-hand experiential knowledge of it, to be clear.
You're getting pretty overwhelmingly negative feedback on your post, based on comments on Facebook, the Burning Man blog, and the ePlaya forums. You may be wondering why and thinking to yourself that the Burning Man community was going to deliver harsh judgment no matter what you wrote. That's probably partially true, as there is a small contingent of Burners that simply react poorly to anything that smacks of wealth greater than their own. I'm not one of those people, however.
Perhaps unlike some others, too, I'll grant that you meant well in organizing Caravancicle and that you meant well in posting about it today. I know others don't believe it, but I'm fairly certain you had no reason to care about making a profit from a Burning Man camp even had you intended to - the opportunity isn't particularly large or attractive (much less scalable) and you've had enough success that you don't need it. Beyond that, it's obvious you're a huge Burning Man fan. Nobody comes 6 years to cross something off his bucket list. Tourists come once, possibly twice.
But the entire camp, and your response to the controversy, comes across as a bit tone-deaf to me:
Here's my feeling: As Larry and many others have pointed out, the Principles are a reflection of the principles of the community in 2004. I'd suggest you consider that what you did with Caravancicle has deeply offended a good portion of the core, repeat-attendee Burning Man community, which should tell you that what you did probably does not reflect the principles of the community in 2014 (or 2004 for that matter, but that's ancient history).
I think you're a highly successful guy used to dealing with people who like to be pampered. As such, it may not seem weird to you that you are literally lauding fully-functioning adults for washing their own dishes or picking up their own trash. The level of "gaaah!" is pretty high for the rest of us though.
You would have been better just saying nothing, or, if you wanted to actually take responsibility, doing so in a forthright manner, simply apologizing, and pledging it won't happen again. Instead you've left us with a bunch of defensive-sounding justifications and no reason to believe it won't happen again based on what you wrote.
You obviously love Burning Man and you're passionate about it. I'd imagine you're going to be involved with running or contributing to camps in the future, as so many veteran Burners are. I hope you'll consider what I've said (not that you have any obligation to) and just think about whether you want to build a camp that is designed to bring people into the Burning Man culture, or one that is designed to make it easy and painless for people to come play tourist.
You can reach me at email@example.com if you want to chat about how to get your newbies to high-dive into the culture like champs rather than tip-toe around the edges. I'm friendly!
Dr. Yes / Matt
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I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!