13 Feb Encore Magazine
The rapid growth of Burning Man brought problems. San Francisco has very stringent fire-prevention codes which would never allow a forty foot pyre to be burned within city limits. The fourth Man had to be raised and ignited in a hurry, just before the police arrived. The following year the police arrived in time to stop the man from being lit, which nearly caused a riot.
The angry crowd of spectators made a listing impression on Harvey. “People were screaming, we were nearly lynched. But what disturbed me most about this mob was its passivity. One minute they were about to go on the rampage, the next we’d managed to pacify them with a juggling show. Nothing really mattered or meant anything to them except [the juggling] was another distraction, a new thrill. Provided they were being fed entertainment, they were happy.”
It struck Harvey that the behavior of the crowd was symptomatic of something in general. “Culture and meaning should be something we create through our interaction with one another as we take part in the life of a community. But modern society discourages active participation and encourages us to be passive consumers. Instead of a community, we’ve become a mass. As a mass, we don’t create culture, we just consume it. But this culture we consume makes little sense to us. Its context in community in the interplay of human beings has been forgotten. None of what we consume has any inherent meaning or value to us, so its no surprise that we’re constantly hankering after the next big attraction, the next big thrill. Consumption doesn’t lead to satisfaction, only to more consumption. If we’re to break this cycle, we must somehow recreate community and create culture out of that community.”