A Labor Day lesson from Burning Man

The weeklong desert festival offers deep insights on sustaining a cooperative movement.

For most Americans, Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer. In union towns and sometimes elsewhere, it’s also a chance to celebrate the role of organized labor and the average worker — more than a few of whom founded credit unions as well.

In the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, Labor Day is a time to burn The Man.

If you know about Burning Man, it’s probably as a week of Bacchanalia — music, art, and a laissez-faireattitude toward social convention — a product of the ’80s northern California counter culture.

You’re not wrong. Over the years, and not without some irony, Burning Man has become a celebration of excess, but it started as a protest against the commoditization of modern society. Today, the burning of the large sculpture of a man that ends each year’s event is more a performance art expression of anti-materialism than a political statement, but the event represents so much more.


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