When does a gift become an obligation?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.
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samdu
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you guys rock!

Post by samdu » Mon May 02, 2005 3:43 pm

you guys have all come through for me, again! here i was, feeling bad about myself because i disappointed some people, and you've all made me feel better. thank you so much, everyone.

since last year was my first year, i just wasn't sure who was in the right. now i know, it's my gift to do with what i wish. i'll do exactly what i did last year- BIG pot of soup, serve until it's gone, and if somebody didn't get there in time, too bad, so sad. i'm not obligated to see to anyone else's needs. and as eleanor roosevelt said 'nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission." i hereby revoke permission for the few "takers" to make me feel inferior for not taking care of them. (same thing to the people who showed up and bitched that i didn't make any vegan soup. it's MY soup, i'll make what i want to make, you DON"T have to eat it! the people who don't like seafood didn't bitch on gumbo night, they just went somewhere else!)

plans are already in the works for the "wheel of seconds" (thanks, sputnik, for the great idea!)

and i now have a better idea of how to deal with some of the not-so-beautiful souls who show up and get ugly. i really love "the kind that we are graciously giving away for free" answer, Miss Nev, that should really help people put it in perspective. i'm borrowing that one! i'm not one to get really confrontational, and that works beautifully!

thanks again, everyone!


sam

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Shinxy
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Post by Shinxy » Wed May 11, 2005 11:00 pm

Burning Man is about self-reliance. It's not your fault if people can't take care of themselves and come to depend on your graceous gift. Gifting is voluntary- you don't owe anyone anything out there, and those ingrates should have thanked you copiously for all the times before when you fed them! You don't have to run a soup kitchen out there, and I'm sorry that those two bad experiences made you feel bad about what you were doing.

For next year, I'd agree with other comments on this board and make the soup dependent on some kind of trade. Make them earn it- through performance, through art, through a kind deed, however you can think up. This tends to weed out the spectators. Of course, the whole point was that you were giving soup to everyone that came, and that is an act of generosity like no other. You should be proud and know that it's people like you who make Black Rock City better.
aka Twin, Luminary BRC Lamplighters
'04, '05, '06, '07, '08, '10

Janka
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Post by Janka » Thu May 12, 2005 1:52 am

Since you agree with "other comments" suggesting trade, I'd like to repeat that I for one do not like the idea of requiring a gift to give one. I find that it diminishes the idea of giving gifts, recuding them to barterning.

Will
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Post by Will » Thu May 12, 2005 7:46 am

Ooh, and signs on sticks. Have everyone eating judge the donation of the 2nd taker to determine if the gift was acceptable for more soup. Or thumbs up, thumbs down, that sort of thing.
Will
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samdu
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Post by samdu » Thu May 12, 2005 8:43 am

Janka wrote:Since you agree with "other comments" suggesting trade, I'd like to repeat that I for one do not like the idea of requiring a gift to give one. I find that it diminishes the idea of giving gifts, recuding them to barterning.
and you're right, that's exactly what it does. the plan is not to do "give me something, i'll give you soup", it's "here's a bowl of hot, homemade soup, because you look hungry/cold/strung-out/like you need a little love right now." the "trade" part comes in when someone shows up and asks for a 2nd, 3rd, or 5th bowl. that's when MY gift stops being a gift, because it hasn't been offered, it's being asked for. i think, when you ASK for a gift, you should be required to give something back, because the mere act of ASKING (especially if you've already had a gift given to you, and you're ASKING for another one) creates a non-gift situation.

and, i'm not going to be asking the people who want 2nds for a bauble or trinket. what i'm asking for in return, is that they give something back to EVERYONE who is around at the moment, something that all the people watching can enjoy. tell 2 dirty limericks. strip. show us your "most amazing human body trick" (i can move my eyes independently, show me something like that). sing us a song. here's some music, strip! show us your best tattoo/body piercing. do your best james brown impression. act out a scene from your favorite movie/play. please keep in mind that all of the people who showed up asking for 2nds and 4ths got it, and people who showed up later got nothing. my policy last year was that anyone who wanted soup, got soup. unfortunately, that meant that there were people who didn't get any, because of the ones who came back for more than one bowl. the first bowl is still on me, with MUCH love and good will and joy. the 2nd bowl, you have to earn.

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Post by Janka » Thu May 12, 2005 11:57 am

samdu, ok, put that way it sounds fair enough and even wise. You sound like a very nice person. :)

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samdu
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Post by samdu » Thu May 12, 2005 12:49 pm

Janka wrote:samdu, ok, put that way it sounds fair enough and even wise. You sound like a very nice person. :)

so do you!!! i appreciate the fact that your argument was reasoned and reasonable. come by this year, grab a bowl of homemade love. you won't regret it! that goes for all y'all. maybe this year i'll make it to the e-playa meat-n-greet, along with a big pot-o-love!!!


samdu

mo_corleone
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Re: When does a gift become an obligation?

Post by mo_corleone » Thu May 12, 2005 2:48 pm

samdu wrote:i thought of it as a gift, and somewhere along the line, it became a "right" to some people. since this was my first burn, i didn't really know what to say to these people. but, they definitely had a negative impact on my burn.
first of all, let me say that i think your gift idea was/is awesome. i would have worshipped anyone on the playa who offered me hot, homemade soup.

it's odd, today i was thinking about a situation sort of similar to this from my first burn. being there for the first time puts you in a strange position, because there's all the stuff you've read and heard beforehand and then there's the reality of being there. you hope that there's not too much disparity between the two, but when it comes to the "gift economy" unfortunately things are not always as rosy as they are represented off-playa.

in my case, i saw a camp that was "advertising" (for lack of a better term) henna tattoos. i thought that sounded great, and what a cool gift idea! i headed over to check the place out, only to find some scruffy hippie demanding weed in exchange for the henna. i thought something didn't feel quite right, but it was my first year, i was there alone, and i was willing to adjust to whatever the reality was out there. i pedaled back to my tent, grabbed the marijuana payment, and trekked back to the henna camp. the scruffy dude barely acknowledged me, then asked suspiciously, "are you a cop?!" i told him i wasn't and then sheepishly handed over the weed. i got my henna. i left. i didn't have any fun doing it. in fact... the whole thing was really uncomfortable.

i was just thinking earlier how much that experience - which i was excited about and thought would be so cool - ended up completely sucking. i was also thinking about how hard it is your first year to know how to react, so i definitely understand where you're coming from with the people who demanded soup.

what i've come to learn is this: burning man is an alternative community full of alternative types, so what can you do when shit starts to get weird? offer an alternative. in your case, i might have said something like, "sorry, we're fresh out of soup. however, i do have these delicious homemade playa pies if you'd like to try one of those." then i would have put a small amount of water in my hand, grabbed a bit of playa dust, rolled it into a ball, perhaps made a production out of sprinkling salt and pepper on it, and then handed it over. that doesn't sound appetizing to you? perhaps you'd prefer the fiesta playa pie, which is the same mudball dipped in salsa. i'm sure you see where i'm going with this.

eventually people will either get the point or fuck off. even the people who fuck off might get the point later, especially if they try to tell the story to their friends.

for the people who will never get the point, at least you had some fun playing around with them instead of feeling bad about yourself for running out of your gifts.
~ erratically self-sufficient ~

blyslv
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Post by blyslv » Thu May 12, 2005 4:05 pm

Barter is way more interactive then gifting. Nothing gets "reduced" to barter. If anything, only some interactions can be elevated to barter.

What is more noble then two people sitting down and honestly discovering what their respective vaues are for a bowl of soup, a ride on an art car, a blow job or a warm coat on a cold night? Barter means that when you trade, both parties want it.
Fight for the fifth freedom!

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Nightterror
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Post by Nightterror » Thu May 12, 2005 4:19 pm

ouuuuuccchhh - Do we need to revisit the fact that Barter is Commerce and Commerce is not permitted within the walls of our great city.
I express my excitement by brutally interrogating whomever is nearby

Janka
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Post by Janka » Fri May 13, 2005 1:23 am

What is more noble then two people sitting down and honestly discovering what their respective vaues are for a bowl of soup, a ride on an art car, a blow job or a warm coat on a cold night? Barter means that when you trade, both parties want it.
What is more noble? People giving each other soup, a ride, a blow job, or a coat without thinking values. Gifts means that when you give or receive, there are no obligations - not to give back, not to accept the gift, not to match values.

(Please familiarize yourself with the BM ideology. Selling and bartering not allowed in BRC.)

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zachass
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Post by zachass » Mon Nov 30, 2009 11:55 pm

I'm resurrecting this thread. This is exactly how I thought I could easily participate this year as a virgin.

Thank you for sharing your story Samdu. I will take all of the wisdom in this thread to heart. Love the 'Wheel of seconds'. :lol:
Treat people like you want to be treated. Really...it's simple and it [i]actually works[/i]

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Post by Playa Tom » Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:27 pm

My reaction to gifting has been different. On Sunday and Monday I spend a few hours washing the playa from windshields. Many people felt obligated to give me a gift in return although I never asked for any. I have received beer, bottled water, 'special' cookies, and the usual schwag. Two gifts stand out, one man forced a couple dollars in my hand and drove off and one said, "I don't have anything to give you, but here is a rock I found." then gave me a little black stone. I have made the rock the pendant for a necklace and laugh whenever I wear it.

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