I dunno what it is about long weekends - drinking too much, eating too much, toking too much, or just the feeling that it's all too little, really, the taking of a short break out of the usual dull grind of default life - but somehow I usually wind up feeling a little tired and deflated after them. Today I came into work with really nothing to do (a situation that I actually dread), and so have wound up reading blogs and articles and other online ephemera related to last week's major events at Burning Man, and have come away feeling a bit worse for it all. The problem is that I've grown quite tired of the culture of hate that has come to surround that event, and which seems to have permeated so much of the conversation about anything that takes place in San Francisco.
The hate around Burning Man starts first with Mr. Paul Addis himself, whose statement is full of absolute contempt for all those "swine" he has come to see as spoiling his good time; then there is the commentary from "old guard" Burners such as Summer Burkes who whole-heartedly congratulate Addis on his move and join right in with their own contemptuous screeds. But then you spin it around, and you can find comment after comment on SFGate where all "burners" are hated upon just as hard as the in-crowd hates all the "ravers."
I probably wouldn't be quite so down about all this hating if it wasn't for the fact that I'm one of those people getting hated on from every side; I'm one of those johnny-come-lately raver techno lovers who likes to dress up and make costumes that are the absolute antithesis of the "real" burners like Addis and Burke, as well as an employee of a technology company who makes okay money and is just a "weekend hippy" as characterized by other haters. I guess being gay should be enough to get me used to being hated by complete strangers for reasons having to do more with their own preconceptions than anything I've actually ever done, but somehow that hasn't inured me to the general wilting influence of being hated on.
I would like to think that all this hate seems so abundant just because I've encountered it on blogs, where hating is easy and an obvious way to get attention. Sometimes I think what blogs have really done, rather than opening up utopian dialogues, is to just let all that bile flow when it normally would have festered unnoticed. But so much of San Francisco culture, right now, seems to be about polarizing opinions and attitudes, where you're either in or out, you get it or you don't, you're one of them or one of us. And somehow, I always seem to be attracted to the wrong pole; it's not really much fun to see how many perjoratiave characterizations that have been throw around in the past few weeks could be applied to me. After all, I am one of those people with a technology industry job who looks forward to Burning Man and other events as opportunities to refresh my view of myself and the world, which makes me a yuppie weekend hippy who should just go back to making money for my corporate masters.
I think that all this polarizing hate is a symptom of what San Francisco is going through right now, as it transitions from having been a sleepy counter-cultural city to one of the four richest cities in America. Everybody is feeling pressure in the housing market, everyone is worried about their futures, everyone is worried about what the city is becoming; that Burning Man becomes a stand-in for the city of San Francisco as it undergoes its own growing pains should probably not come as any real surprise. Look at the invective being hurled by the old-skool Burners against what Burning Man has "become" and you can see the same worries about how San Francisco is being overtaken by monied classes and changed into something more corporate and less progressive than it used to be.
It's Tuesday afternoon after a long holiday, and I'm tired; tired of the polarization, tired of the hating, tired of feeling that the life I'm trying awfully hard to live in a way that brings me happiness and security is an ongoing object of derision by people who don't even know me. I hope that sometime soon all this hating might turn unfashionable, and that people will discover that they can use public forums as a means for interacting with others in civil ways that engender mutual respect; in the meanwhile, though, I'm afraid that the assholes will rule, because it seems so much easier to think that being an asshole is about being strong and honest and true, about living up to a macho ideal, than to see it for narcissistic sneer of contempt that it really is.