Drienok, festival of fake alternatives

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

First, I have to say that this article reflects my own opinion and impression based on my single experience.

After 3 years in Slovakia, I finally participated in the Drienok festival. All my friends had told me that people there are like me, engaged and ecologists, and that I should really go. That was a good advice. Even though I did meet many people “like me”, and I did enjoy very much the festival in general, I was quite disappointed with many specific aspects, which for me greatly spoiled the positive aspects.

Drienok is a festival organized by Projekt Život (Life Project), who describes itself as a “community project connecting informal groups of people who give priority to natural lifestyle in tune with nature”.

With a such a project, you would expect the festival to be quite advanced in terms of sustainability. What I saw would make me feel very shameful if I was the organizer.

Here is what I saw, or didn’t see.

– Chemical toilets, when any such festival would implement dry toilets.

– More space dedicated for shops that for workshops or music. There were a lot of small, honest, and interesting arts, crafts, and food, that were worth and good giving a chance to sell their products. But the general feeling was that Drienok was more about consuming (mostly superficial things) that for actual personal growth or awareness raising. I sometimes felt like in shopping mall…

– Workshops. Except for a few esoterism and scientifically doubtful practices, most topics where actually very good in my opinion: meditation, yoga, mindfulness, various healthy mind and body practices, how to survive in nature, recognizing wild edible plants… My problem is that I feel like many people in Drienok had interest in it out of self-congratulating “coolness” rather that actual will to become a better person. I felt like many people didn’t understand what they were doing during the workshops.

– I was impressed by the number of cars. I don’t know the exact proportion of people who came by car over those by bicycle, bus, or train. But even with fully loaded cars, they were so many that cars had to park where otherwise tents could have been.

– Food. Many actually very good bio, vegetarian and local food were present. But I saw as well a lot of the exact opposite: industrial, meaty, non-bio, exotic. And everywhere, the food were coming in disposal one-use plastics and papers, creating an enormous amount of waste.

– Waste. Despite the will to separate and recycle, trash bins were scarce around the festival area. When you could find them, they were mostly not about separating the trash, and even if you did find a bin with separation of trash, your trash was sometimes not recyclable because soiled with oil. Recycling is a laudable thing, but reducing the amount of trash beforehand is what any respectful such festival would do. Giving reusable glasses with caution instead of a plastic glass for every drink is the least to expect from such a festival. Similarly, giving actual plates to be washed by the users after use should not be too hard to implement. Besides, the kind of people that attend Drienok would be more than willing to participate in the effort.

Beyond that, my mixed feelings about this aspect of the festival were reinforced by some participants. I saw countless white people with dreadlocks. When you are white, you don’t get to wear dreadlocks, because it shows ignorance and disrespect for people of color and their struggle.

As Annah Anti-Palindrome puts it in her excellent article, the message to people of color from a white person with dreadlocks could be summed up like this:

“Your legacies of cultural resistance are so irrelevant that they’ve become nothing more than a fashion accessory to help me evade the expectations of white womanhood!”.

She says “womanhood” because she speaks about feminism, but you could well replace this word with “society”.

And then, when white artists sang: “I’m a rastaman”, speaking about internal revolution while acting like showmen in an entertainment show, I really felt uncomfortable. This was as if these artists were removing any political aspect out of their lyrics, as if their lyrics were just a show, an amusement, insignificant, nothing to be serious about.

I realized that many of those supposed-to-be alternative radical people are just unaware of what they are saying and doing, and in what society they live. Maybe.

My impression is that many people pretended to be someone there are not. And by extension, I feel like the festival is pretending to be something it is not. That upsets me. I hope I’m wrong.

Drienok appeared to me a bit like a Pohoda for fake radicals. For people who live ecology more out of fashion rather than conviction. Taken individually, most people I met and talked to were great and true to themselves. But as a group dynamic throughout the festival, I had a totally different picture before my eyes.

If it was a mainstream festival like Pohoda with no ecological ambition, I would have been okay with it. But when you are call Projekt Zivot, I think it is quite shameful. Especially when another festival like MišMaš in Czech Republic, whose aim is just about music, is quite exemplary in terms of ecology.

Drienok seems to represent a good example of how ecologists have been hacked by capitalism/liberalism, or rather how ecologists tend to embrace and be comfortable with the exact same logic that they used to fight.

That is my first impression right after my participation to Drienok.

This article is purposefully provocative in order to generate reactions. I hope my article will reach the organizers, and those who worked for Drienok, so we might have a better picture, and hopefully a more balanced view.

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Posted in Society
One comment on “Drienok, festival of fake alternatives
  1. Vlado says:

    Very good and constructive criticism. Thank you very much, sir.


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About me
I'm passionate about sustainable lifestyles and urban agriculture. I believe that community-supported initiatives and bottom-up policies are key to foster necessary societal changes. I'm an advocate of degrowth, agro-ecology, sharing economy and participatory democracy. Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, I like learning, reading, writing, sharing, hiking, dancing, eating, and celebrating.
Nicolas Giroux
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