Last night my friend C.K. and I were catching up about our respective Apo experiences, and the first question she asked me was, "What was the best thing that you saw?" It struck me at first as kind of a strange question--why would what I saw be the most interesting thing to ask me about?--but as I swallowed my initial impulse to waggishly respond something about some cute little raver chick, I realized how odd it was that the question struck me as odd. It used to be that you could basically count on seeing something surprising, remarkable, and even fantastical at a festival.
I hesitated for a few moments as a new recognition of this change sank in. I answered, "You know, I had a lot of fun, but I can't say I saw or experienced anything particularly magical." And C.K. agreed.
The jaded old Burner who grumbles about how the festivals used to be better is a tired cliché in the Burner world, and I've noticed that when I ask people from the new generation if they're having a good time, they are always extremely positive about the experience. But it is deeply hard for me to imagine that they're experiencing much in the way of magic. What the festival seems to provide now is a great party, and the new generation seems to be there for that. They're mostly raver kids. You see it how they dress, how they hold themselves, how they spend their time.
Right now you're probably ready to accuse me of being that boring, jaded old Burner who can't shut up about how it used to be better, but I don't think that's quite accurate, not this time. I think the new generation is completely content to have the festival be nothing more than a party because that's what they're expecting. Why is that? When my generation came back from our first Burns, we said we'd seen a vision for a new world. In the festivals, we saw a model for a more just, more beautiful, all around better society. We believed our culture could change the world.
I don't think the narrow, good-times expectations of the new generation reflects their failure. I think it reflects ours. The new generation doesn't have deeper expectations than big, noisy fun because that's what we brought them. We came out talking about changing the world, but we didn't change the world. All we really ever did was throw great parties.
On Sunday, I re-entered the regular world to the news that a madman had gone to a nightclub in Orlando, FL, and used a big gun to kill 49 people. Allow me to offer this reflection: if ever the world needed some changing, now is the time.