Create, Not Hate on the Playa

Posted by CODEPINK Staff


Never could I have imagined in my role as an online organizer for CODEPINK that I would land a free ticket to Burning Man and be able to connect the dots between this incredible cultural event and my anti-war activism. I entered an Antiwar Art Contest hosted by Fresh Juice Party, an action group demanding accountability in government, explaining how I would bring a collaborative art project on behalf of CODEPINK and Fresh Juice Party, to Burning Man. It was thrilling to be awarded two tickets to the sold-out event! I offer my deepest gratitude to Fresh Juice Party!

Armed with an embrace for the unexpected and our "Create, Not Hate" message I landed in Black Rock City on a beautiful morning just as the glorious sun was rising. Throughout our time on the Playa my partner-in-peace, Magalie Bonneau-Marcil, and I ventured out to ask people to share with us what life-affirming activities they contribute to the world. The response was beyond belief: people embraced our message with open-arms and open-hearts. They gave us an offering of their soul by filling in the blank of what they Make___Not War:

Make truth, knowledge free, stillness, experiences of pure liberation, leave no trace, sweetness, friends, healthy children, community, compassion, music, beauty, outdoor adventures, beauty, midwives of peace, light, sense Not War!

The outpouring of support and appreciation for our anti-war work was heartwarming and showed us what we knew all along: We the people are of and for peace. These encounters naturally lead to a discussion of our current US Foreign policy and everyone we talked to was outraged at the continued occupation of Iraq and the unjust war in Afghanistan. They expressed their frustration at the economic situation at home and how our irresponsible military expenditure was bankrupting the country, leaving in its wake high levels of long-term unemployment, a deteriorating education system, and a health care system that’s out of reach of the majority of Americans. Their message was clear: end the immoral wars and bring the war dollars home to be invested in domestic priorities!!

My burn experience was transformative and my life has been changed forever. Burning Man is a magical phenomenon where people are embraced and accepted for who they are without judgment, where the us/them dichotomy is discredited in favor of a belief that each and every one of us is a beautiful expression of the divine, and where we care for each other like one big human family. In addition to that it is an incredible cultural experience where people’s creative spirit has unlimited potential and is manifested through wonderful camp themes as well as grandiose artistic projects whose beauty and ingenuity boggle the mind.

This beautiful experiment is not without its faults as it occurs amidst a consumption-heavy party in the desert and for a short period of time. Its positive impact on society cannot be denied however as burners emerge out of the experience with a different understanding of what it means to be part of a community and with a stronger conviction that a different world is possible.

A great example of how this vision is spreading beyond the Playa is Burners without Borders, a group of participants who embody the Burning Man experience year around spreading the values of communal coexistence in the default world (i.e. outside Black Rock City). The inception of BWB occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when burners were compelled to lend a hand. They first rebuilt a destroyed Vietnamese temple in Biloxi, Mississippi and subsequently “gifted over $1 million worth of reconstruction and debris removal to the residents of Mississippi”. BWB functions based on principles of finding needs in a community that are unmet by existing systems and filling them.

Burning Man provides a wonderful alternative template of how we could live if we genuinely cared for each other and were not blinded by greed and societal pressures to be or act in a certain way, to conform to gain acceptance and love. These are certainly not novel ideas but based on ancient teachings that burners seek to embody and spread. The way I see it Burning Man is changing the world one burner at a time!

You don't have to be a burner to participate in the Make___Not War movement. Join us at Create, Not Hate and share with us what you Make. Burner photographs will be featured in a giant quilted mosaic of pictures, so be sure to make your own photo to contribute and send it to pinkteam@codepink.org

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