Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

The delicious schadenfreude of Burning Man

Burning Man festival attendees sit on a muddy desert plain, 3 September 2023 (Getty Images)

If any readers are having those September, back-to-work blues perhaps I might offer them a sure-fire palliative? Just go online and watch videos of this year’s Burning Man.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Burning Man is a week-long festival of music and ‘self-expression’ which takes place in the Nevada desert. It is especially popular among libertarians and Silicon Valley types. Think Glastonbury, if you must. Like the Somerset atrocity, it is a place where people pay huge sums of money to take drugs and imagine that they have had some unique insight into the world. Often they come away believing that if only all of life could be like this, the world would be cleaner and kindlier. Naturally each year they leave behind a toxic wasteland which requires hundreds of workers to tidy up after them. But I digress.

Some of those at the Burning Man festival called on the government to declare a state of emergency

If Glastonbury can occasionally be a washout, it can never have been anything like this year’s event in Nevada. Because last week there was particularly extreme flooding in the area. Two months’ worth of rain fell in just 24 hours. All of which reduced the desert Nirvana to something more closely resembling Verdun. No sooner had festival-goers started to arrive than the deluge came. Attendees were ordered to ‘shelter in place’ and ‘preserve resources’. With tens of thousands more people still due to arrive, the camp’s gates were locked.

Even in a good year Burning Man has its difficulties. Thanks to the fact that the nearest city is almost 100 miles away and that temperatures frequently reach more than 100°F, the festival suggests what attendees should bring. The list includes lip balm, toilet paper, fire extinguishers and a ‘poop bucket’ in case rain makes the portaloos overflow.

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