If self-appointed Libertarian overlord Grover Norquist, a Harvard graduate with a 13-year-old’s understanding of government and economics, ever had his policy preferences enacted fully, it would lead to worse lifestyles and shorter lifespans for the majority of Americans. He’s so eager to Brownback the whole country he’s convinced himself, despite being married to a Muslim woman, there’s conservative bona fides in Trump’s Mussolini-esque stylings and suspicious math.
In 2014, Norquist made his way to the government-less wonderland known as Burning Man, free finally from those bullying U.S. regulations, the absence of which allows Chinese business titans to breathe more freely, if not literally. Norquist’s belief that the short-term settlement in the Nevada desert is representative of what the nation could be every day is no less silly than considering Spring Break a template for successful marriage. He was quote as saying: “Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature.” Holy fuck, who passed him the peyote? Norquist wrote about his experience in the Guardian. Maileresque reportage, it was not. An excerpt:
You hear that Burning Man is full of less-than-fully-clad folks and off-label pharmaceuticals. But that’s like saying Bohemian Grove is about peeing on trees or that Chicago is Al Capone territory. Burning Man is cleaner and greener than a rally for solar power. It has more camaraderie and sense of community than a church social. And for a week in the desert, I witnessed more individual expression, alternative lifestyles and imaginative fashion than …. anywhere.
The demand for self-reliance at Burning Man toughens everyone up. There are few fools, and no malingerers. People give of themselves – small gifts like lip balm or tiny flashlights. I brought Cuban cigars. Edgy, but not as exciting as some “gifts” that would have interested the federal authorities.
I’m hoping to bring the kids next year.
On my last day of my first Burning Man, at the Reno airport, a shoeless man (he had lost his shoes in the desert) was accosted by another dust-covered Burner carrying sneakers: “Take these,” he said. “They are my Burning Man shoes.” The shoeless man accepted the gift with dignity.•
In an excellent Financial Times piece, Tim Bradshaw broke bread in San Francisco with Larry Harvey, co-founder of Burning Man and its current “Chief Philosophic Officer,” who speaks fondly of rent control and the Bernie-led leftward shift of the Democratic Party. Grover Norquist would not approve, even if Harvey is a contradictory character, insisting he has a “conservative sensibility” and lamenting the way many involved in social justice fixate on self esteem. An excerpt:
I ask if he feels, after 30 years, that Burning Man’s ideals are starting to be felt beyond the desert. “I’d like to mischievously quote Milton Friedman,” he says, invoking the rightwing economist. “He said change only happens in a crisis, and then that actions that are undertaken depend on the ideas that are just lying around.” With the “discontents of globalisation” set to continue, he predicts that crisis will hit by the middle of this century. “I think there really is a chance for sudden change.” However, I struggle to pin him down on exactly which Burners’ ideas he hopes will be “lying around” when it does.
Most Burners are fond of recalling tall tales of fake-fur-clad excess, elaborately customised “art cars” and monster sound systems. This year’s art installations include a 50-ft “space whale”, the head and hands of a giant man appearing to rise from the sand, and part of a converted Boeing 747 that its new owners say is now a “mover of dreams”. Harvey likes to survey the art — and the rest of his creation — from a high platform close to the centre of the event at First Camp, the founders’ HQ. But instead of recounting hedonistic tales, he is much more eager to talk about organisational details, such as Black Rock City’s circular layout, “sort of like a neolithic temple”.
Indeed, Harvey insists he has a “conservative sensibility” and is “not a big fan of revolution”. “Do I sound like a hippie? I’m not!” And he bristles at being called anti-capitalist, although he hung out with the hippies on Haight Street in 1968. “I was there in the spring, autumn and winter of love, but I missed the summer,” he says, due to being drafted into the US army. “It was apparent to me that it was all based on what Tom Wolfe called ‘cheques from home’. The other source that shored it up was selling dope. I thought, that isn’t sustainable.”•