Once, a decade ago - on September 1, 2005, just around sundown, to be exact - I tried to incite a global revolution. The incident remains one of the proudest and, at the same time, one of the most humiliating events of my life. It was inspired by a potent psychedelic catalyst, and Hurricane Katrina.
I was at the Burning Man festival at the time. As almost everyone knows by now, Burning Man, a massive annual anarcho-libertarian pseudo-utopian art event, takes place in the Black Rock desert of Nevada every summer. The festival has grown rapidly over the last years. It has captured the attention of the global media as celebrities and Silicon Valley billionaires flock to it.
I remember, after my plane landed at the Reno airport, passing TV monitors showing satellite images of Hurricane Katrina's ominous octopus arms, its vast spiraling dimensions. On the news, weathermen were plotting its likely course toward Louisiana. The emergency seemed surreal to me, an event that had nothing to do with my life.
By the time Katrina hit New Orleans, Burning Man was going strong. Thousands of costumed revelers danced each night, roaming the city during the day. Back in those days, nobody checked the Internet while at the festival. There was no cell phone service either. I found out about Katrina from friends who arrived on the playa late in the week. They described its devastating impact. I learned that the government had corralled 15,000 poor people, mostly African American, in the Louisiana Superdome, in unsanitary conditions without water or power. Riots were spreading across the South, according to the news they brought with them from the "default world," and National Guard reserves were being called up. It seemed that America - long a simmering cauldron of racial hatred and class conflict - was on the verge of boiling over. Nobody at Burning Man knew - or cared.
Riding across the desert that day in a dusky purple haze, I entered a state of messianic megalomania, outside of the normal constraints of time or personal narrative. No longer held back by any sense of linear progress, or any concern for future consequences, I believed that the fractally rhizomatic Now was the only moment that mattered - the only moment that ever was. I felt fury at our failure, as a species, to overcome the “system” - the military industrial complex, Wall Street, the corporate mega-machine. This system was not only corrupt, creepy, and hypocritical. It was also destroying the biosphere, and with it, our shared human future.