How to describe the More Carrot March? Part political protest, part dance party, part performance art, it was intended to be the centerpiece of our week as Carrots.
It also happened to be my biggest on-playa identity crisis.
Our march was scheduled to coincide with the Billion Bunny March, an annual event in which thousands of Burners congregate around the Man wearing bunny ears and other rabbit-themed paraphernalia. Unbeknownst to some of our campmates, Sam, Jennie, and I had stumbled upon the Bunny March at our last Burn. We were offered bunny ears and quickly joined the masses in their protest against humanity.
We’d caught sight of a small bunch of orange-wearing protestors with signs and megaphones, but didn’t pay them any mind. Who knew that we’d be camping with some of those same folks this year?
For the past few weeks, I’d been looking forward to being one of the handful of rebellious Carrots protesting the Billion Bunnies. Jonah had printed out a songbook full of Carrot-themed parodies of popular songs: “We Are the Carrots” and “Carrot’s Paradise”. But my allegiance was compounded by the fact that many of my LA friends had decided to throw in their lot with the Bunnies.
That afternoon, we all gathered at the camp to pre-game for the march and to lure prospective supporters into our entourage. Jonah had made alliances with some of the nearby camps, most notably the Pirates, who had been persuaded to join us after a performance of “Yo Ho, A Carrot’s Life for Me”.
But as I watched my campmates putting on their orange and greens, I felt a growing sense of unease. Maybe it was the years of uniform-wearing that I’d been subjected to in Catholic school. Maybe it was my fear of letting other people define me.
All I know is that someone handed me an orange shirt, and I couldn’t bring myself to put it on. Here I was, in the land of radical self-expression, and suddenly other people were telling me what to wear, what songs to sing, what group to march with.
I hurried out of our Dome and to the Farmers’ Market stall, where Sam and Jonah were passing out carrot-flavored drinks, trying to rally people to our cause.
“Why should we join the Carrots?” someone asked. Jonah railed off a few statistics about beta carotene, improved eyesight, and other talking points that we’d gone over earlier in the camp. I was suddenly unsure of the consistency of our party platform. Did we want other people to be Carrots? Or was it enough to be Carrot-allies? Did we want to avoid being eaten at all, or just not by Bunnies?
I downed a few shots of Carrot of the Sea.
“I don’t know if I can do this,” I said.
Sam and Jonah looked at me.
“What are you talking about?” said Sam. He had just finished passing out drinks to a pair of topless women, and political authenticity was the last thing on his mind.
“I wonder if maybe I should run off and join the Bunnies,” I said.
I told them about my friends from LA, whom I hadn’t seen all Burn. What if I wanted to march with them? I had always bristled against conformity. I didn’t want to betray the Carrots — I just wanted to choose my own identity, not have it forced upon me.
“But you are making a choice,” said Jonah. “Sometimes you can be more yourself by being part of a group. It’s like radical self-expression via group expression.”
Suddenly something clicked. Via group expression.
I picked up a giant orange necktie and slung it around my chest. I took a few shots of Bunny Repellent. I called out to the next pair of topless women who walked by.
I spouted out the lines I’d hear Jonah deliver minutes earlier.
It didn’t matter if I believed every word, didn’t matter if I knew what I was advocating, or even if the people passing by thought I was a brainwashed idiot.
It was all a game — an absurd, surrealist piece of performance art — and the only way to find out who I was outside of it was to find my role within it.
The rest of the camp began to congregate around the market stall, all in matching orange and greens. Jonah picked up the megaphone and lead the first chant.
The March was about to begin.