Nanice Ellis – While you might think of Burning Man as the greatest festival on Earth, it’s actually an epicenter of consciousness where 70,000 people from all walks of life gather to build Black Rock City in the harsh desert. For one week each year, Black Rock City becomes one of the biggest cities in Nevada, USA, with its own airport, hospital, and post office. Currently, it is the largest “leave no trace” event in the world.
It is essential to understand that Burning Man only exists because people from all over the globe choose to participate year after year, and in fact, expert staff and thousands of dedicated volunteers have successfully built every facet of Black Rock City for decades.
Now, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management threatens to change all that!
As proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the U.S. federal government wants to replace Burning Man’s staff and volunteers with federal agents who will oversee and manage areas of Black Rock City’s operations.
Furthermore, as a condition of entry into the section of public land where Burning Man is held each year, all 70,000 attendees must submit to an unwarranted search for drugs and weapons – without probable cause!
The proposed level of government surveillance and involvement in operations is both unprecedented and unwarranted.
If these regulations are allowed to go into place, Burning Man will inevitably face death by oppression!
While this represents civil rights issues in the U.S., what happens now with Burning Man will inevitably impact the world!
Why is Burning Man So Important to the World?
As a global event, Burning Man is a consciousness raising experience, and for many, Burning Man is a place for healing and awakening – often resulting in complete transformation.
Society teaches people of all ages to suppress expression and hide who they really are, and because we are encouraged to rely on various social systems, self-reliance is discouraged. Consequently, the combination of these dynamics perpetuate individual and collective disempowerment. Moreover, if we look carefully, we can trace every world issue back to disempowerment.
No doubt, there are few places in the world where people can express who they really are while also learning about self-responsibility.
Since 1991, Burning Man, located in Black Rock City, Nevada, has been one of those exceptional places.
As a place for self-exploration and radical self-expression, Burning Man not only invites participants to be self-expressed and self-reliant members of the community, it demands it!
And this is why I began taking my sons to Burning Man in 2015, and why we’ve been returning as a family every year since. Since Burning Man offers them a safe place to explore who they really are, they have discovered the freedom to express their authentic selves while taking responsibility for their lives.
Since radical self-expression and self-reliance leads to both self-empowerment and an expanded sense of consciousness, my children return home each year significantly more empowered, confident and secure in who they are….and this ripples out to their friends and communities.
As they represent the rule rather than the exception, when most Burning Man participants return to their respective homes, the ripple effect is exponential, and this means that the awakening of individual consciousness at Burning Man leads to the awakening of collective consciousness around the world.
Unfortunately, if it’s up to the Bureau of Land Management, this will soon change!
“Search and Seize Procedures” Threaten to Kill Burning Man!
By demanding “search and seize procedures” for all 70,000 participants, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) not only wants to strip participants of their fourth amendment rights, they want to create a “dome of suppression” that will inevitably suffocate the life out of Burning Man.
For the following reasons, “search and seize procedures” will result in forced oppression:
First and foremost, case studies have shown that “search and seize procedures” are experienced as a physical and emotional violation. So not only will participants be forced to give up their civil rights, they must also submit to this violation before they can enter the event. While they have free-will to refuse a search, anyone who does not comply will be denied access.
Since most participants must endure several days of tedious travel along with a substantial financial investment just to arrive at the gates of Burning Man, when they discover that they will be denied admittance unless they submit to a search, there will be tremendous pressure to comply against their will.
Does this sound like free-will or does this sound like a covert and unethical form of manipulation?
So, maybe we should ask ourselves, if a person is coerced into consent under these conditions, is it really consent?
Direct and Immediate Impact Results in Mass Oppression!
Unfortunately, there are significant consequences to BLM’s proposed “search and seize procedures,” and in fact, the direct and immediate impact is the mass oppression of attendees!
By virtue of being searched, everyone is considered guilty until proven innocent – and since this
naturally triggers feelings of shame and humiliation in many people, it often leads to a deep sense of unworthiness and powerlessness.
To make matters worse, when people are coerced into consenting to being searched, they often feel out of control, and this can make innocent people feel anxious, guarded and unsafe.
As demonstrated throughout history, when people are violated, manipulated and treated as if they’re guilty until proven innocent, “search and seize procedures” always result in mass oppression.
Reports and Case Studies:
To support these views, the following reports and case studies demonstrate how TSA policies have negatively impacted airline travelers.
According to the New York Times; after aggressive TSA searches in 2010, travelers gave graphic accounts of genital contact by agents, resulting in “a general sense of powerlessness and humiliation.” After investigation, it was found that the TSA agents in question were simply following the normal guidelines for a pat down. Therefore, this means that “aggressive genital contact” during a body search is not only acceptable, it is to be expected.
According to Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., “People are being exposed to the close contact with federal officials that many people don’t expect from anyone other than their sexual partners.”
According to civil liberties advocates, pat-downs can be nearly sexual in their intimacy.
In 2007, a research scientist measuring the physiological stress levels of passengers at Heathrow airport claimed they were on a par with those experienced by fighter pilots and riot police (Richardson, 2013).
Tomalin et al. (2014) are the first to examine standard and elevated-risk security measures and their influence on enplanement intentions. The results indicate that while both are similarly considered by travelers, elevated security measures introduce added concerns regarding personal privacy, and the heightened potential for humiliation; this caused the perceived dignity threat for elevated procedures to exhibit much stronger negative relationships with perceived safety and with enplanement intentions (Tomalin et al., 2014).
Furthermore, for women and men who have a history of sexual assault, “search and seize procedures” can trigger traumatic memories that set off post-traumatic stress reactions and panic attacks. For instance, an anonymous rape survivor described being searched as, “intimate and horrible.” She went on to say that she felt as if she was raped for the second time.
No doubt, if “search and seize procedures,” are implemented at Burning Man, a similar impact can be expected.
In fact, it’s important to keep in mind that according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), statistics show that one in three women and one in six men in the U.S. were once victims of sexual assault. Therefore, this means that if 70,000 participants enter Burning Man, assuming there are an equal number of males and females, approximately 17,500 people are subject to post-traumatic stress reactions and panic attacks associated with “search and seize procedures.”
Since this can result in additional trauma, it’s to be expected that many “searched participants” will experience anxiety, depression and even suicidal ideation during the event or thereafter.
However, let’s be clear, the trauma associated with “search and seize procedures” is not limited to sexual assault victims, and therefore, every “searched participant” is potentially impacted.
The Dome of Suppression!
Even if ticket holders pass “security measures” and are allowed to enter, the trauma associated with “search and seize procedures” (aka violation, manipulation and presumed guilt) can linger for days, weeks, months and possibly impact their lives indefinitely.
Consequently, when people are made to feel powerless and out of control, they do not generally demonstrate the type of creative/innovative qualities and attributes that Burning Man has been built upon for decades. After all, it’s impossible to be radically self-expressed and self-reliant when you know that a government agency is monitoring your every move ….and you’re subject to various control tactics.
In summary, if we allow a “dome of suppression” to eradicate Burning Man’s core principles, we will inevitably allow it to burn and die for the last time.
Loss of Civil Rights = Loss of Freedom
While the BLM says that they want to enforce search and seize procedures in order to “protect Burning Man participants,” we already know that there’s a huge cost for government protection – and that cost is our freedom – the freedom of expression. Although U.S. citizens have allowed this to happen time and again, I believe that the large group of like-minded people known as “Burners” will not.
History demonstrates that we don’t have a right to freedom until we claim it!
Personally speaking, if Burning Man becomes a government sanctioned event that treats participants like criminals, my children and I will choose not to attend – and I’m quite sure we will not be alone.
However, I’m very hopeful that this will not happen, and instead, Burning Man will continue to thrive…. and one day, I will be able to introduce my grandson to this wondrous world of infinite possibilities so that he too can learn to express his best self – and discover who he really is!
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