Midburn Arrival

THE LONG ROAD HOME, 2 – PERMITS, NUDITY AND CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY // GIORA (GIO) ISRAEL

As I type, we’re finally wrapping up several months of intensive negotiations with the authorities about its licensing terms for Midburn. Our biggest challenge along the way and in the passing years has been to show that we represent a different type of event, we represent a different culture. In our DNA we take full responsibility for the peace of the community, and we are convinced that order and discipline at the event must come from that aspect of our inner sense of responsibility as participants – and, if necessary – by internal systems we employ.

One of most the amazing things I’ve encountered so far in the process of working with the authorities is the sprouting of an understanding that this event really is a different kind of event. The standards we set for safety, preparation, and the responsibility we take for our security of our community are no less than amazing. In the next couple of days, the Rangers (Navadim) will complete their training, and at the end of the process there will be nearly 300 qualified Rangers on the playa whose authority and power come from us, the community: we recognize them and the importance of their role and, as such, the Rangers become a significant balancing force devoted to maintaining peace, quelling the need for “external” intervention.

For the past two years, the Midburn event has come and gone without any emergency events reported by the police, an unprecedented achievement for what is defined by police as “an outdoor event with large crowds” . In addition, Midburn goes beyond many licensing requirements, and even several times beyond many standard safety requirements. Our clinic is outfitted with staff and equipment that could match a small hospital; not to mention our communication systems; our control team who have trained their volunteers to an insane degree; our incredible investment in creating clear and efficient work processes; the sheer number of volunteers involved; they are simply unparalleled in our local, cultural landscape.

We are pleased to announce that we were able to bridge the gaps with the police regarding the majority of their’ licensing conditions. It indicates a positive direction that we welcome with open arms, and we additionally welcome the fact that these negotiations increase the personal responsibility of each and every one of us as participants. The police, who are very strict about the security of the event participants, wanted to ensure we are preparing accordingly; and we were able to successfully prove how seriousness we are regarding public peace and safety as well.

We’re also thrilled to announce that this is the first time our Rangers are being recognised by the police for their training and position. Regarding the subject of nudity, which we know is a sensitive issue: on the one hand we have our Midburn value of radical self-expression, and on the other, a local law which is very clear and prohibits public nudity.  In this case, we must respect the law, and understand that nudity may lead police to take action. At the same time, and like last year, in private and designated areas, nudity will be permitted.

Regarding the preparations we have made for the arrival of citizens and their entrance into the city, a large amount of resources has been devoted to developing comfortable and secure arrival routes, and the security check at the entrance has been designed to operate smoothly, of course all of this hinges on our participation and respectfulness toward one another, toward the Gate volunteers and toward the police stationed at the gates of the city.

This year, as there was last year, there will be a police presence at the event. We accept their presence and see them as part of the city; we recognize their role and importance to the event and hope that cooperation and positive communication with them will continue before, during, and of course after Midburn ends. Other specificities regarding licensing conditions are being communicated to the community through our main usual communication channels, directly to theme camps and other relevant departments.

As in many moments in our lives, in this event there exists a tension between our need as individuals to express ourselves in whichever way we choose and the work Midburn can only accomplish when each individual community member accepts the other, and works together as a united community. We tend to think that Midburn and Burning Man too, are fringe movements, existing outside of society. The desert, the isolation, the feeling that you are part of something extraordinary difficult to explain to those not participating, helps to enhance that feeling – but the truth is, it is not so.

If you ask the founders of the organization, they will tell you that Burning Man is here to change the world. As part of their strategic thinking, The parent organization in the US a began to look at their work within a scope of 100 years, and the goal is clear – to leave a positive trail behind us. It is in this scope that we find the principle of civic responsibility. Civic responsibility is the line bridging radical self-expression and the feasibility of practicing radical self-expression at an event of such magnitude. We emphasize this principle because, “We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.”  Therefore, any official Burning Man event takes place and will take place in a legal way, and we as a community are committed to civic responsibility and in turn contribute to the size and greatness of the event, inflating its significant and its positive influence beyond our wildest imagination. Self-expression and civic responsibility nourish each other and this contrast we continue forward.

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