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Re: [Fsfe-uk] Fsfe-uk digest, Vol 1 #164

From: Nick Mailer
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] Fsfe-uk digest, Vol 1 #164
Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 03:55:06 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.3.25i

On Mon, Apr 15, 2002 at 02:08:22PM +0100, Neil Levine wrote:
> This seems to be quite a fundamental concept that needs to be agreed
> on before issues such as the how's and where's can be answered.
> Tactics can only be discussed once the strategy is agreed upon.
> Agreeing to disagree is a delaying tactic only then.

"Weltgeschichte ist Weltgericht". And squabblingly recursive
committees won't even make the trial..

I have seen far too often in protozoic volunteer-based organisations a 
kind of onanistic lust for self-serving beaurocracy that takes over as 
an organisation's raison d'etre. This is happening
with the AFFS before it has even completed its gestation. One might
argue that this beaurocracy *is* its gestation and, once born, the
infant will be pragmatic and productive. The sounds of paper-shuffling
and list-taking surrounding its birth pangs, however, are not 
consistent with such an optimistic prediction.

I worry - no, worry is too strong a term; I am depressedly sanguine -
that the AFFS will be no more useful or genuinely effective in the
broadest and deepest sense of the term "effect" than any other talking
shop whose activation energy is only surpassed by the enthalpy of its
wretched sustenance. Frankly, however, I am not personally bothered by
this. Why? Because in our "tribe", as ESR so irritatingly calls the
loose band of hackers, info-refusniks and digital libertarians, the
truly effective people - people whom Hegel would call "World
Historical" - are those who simply get on with it. The shallowest of
cursory examinations reveals copious examples of this. Think of RMS,
simply sitting down and write an operating system. The FSF and its
philosophy's gestation was forged in the cold authority of beautifully
working code. He just got on with it and did it.
This gave him authority, despite his social maladjustion, to 
influence the wider social and philosophical discourse. 

Think also, God help us, of the Man Who Dare Not Express a
Political Opinion, Mr Torvalds. He simply started playing and asked
the netizens to join him in his play. Thank God he didn't listen to
the more staid, academically "correct" natural beaurocrat, Andy

Think of the successful "Blue Ribbon" campaign in the US to destroy
the Communications Decency Act in 1996. Simple, clear, immediate and

Think, as a diametric corrolary, of the committees, of the
beaurocracies and the talking shops. Who has been more successful in
saving the X Window System from its own hideousness? The Open Group or
Renderman? Who has done more to bring Unix to the desktop? The CDE
Committee or David Faure et al? And whom do you think will be more
successful in determining the actual future of "intellectual
property"? The RIAA or some kids playing with MP3 cutups (clue - look
past Goliath and notice David's charmingly insouciance in the face of
a rain of threatening acroyms)?

So, what about Free Software? Do we need more people to know about its
benefits? Yes. Do we need more people to understand the value of
liberty? Of course, as ever. Must we engage bravely with those who
would make every conception a thought-crime? Not half! Will the AFFS
be the organisation to achieve this? Unlikely. The AFFS will be
setting membership levies; wondering whom to talk with in which
particular educational quango about whose ear is best bent for further
discussions about the possibility of mooting potential discussions.

If the meeting demonstrated one thing, it is that merely talking of
"free software", as if it is Platonic Form, is fallacious. There is,
in a sense, no such thing as "free software" in and of itself. Free
software is merely a specific example of something much deeper and
broader about society. It is meaningless in the extreme to fight for
free software whilst leaving "those other issues" to others. You
either take it all on as a unified organisation, or you act as an
individual. The former requires a coherent and powerfully stated
philosophy and a collection of individuals whose zeal and mindshare
potential is profound. The latter is just a war of attrition; it's a
biffurcation problem, if you will: attend install-days, help your mum
do her web browsing on GNU/Linux, donate a few quid to the Perl
foundation or your other pet free-software project, do a bit of
coding, write some documentation and talk at a LUG. You don't need a
beaurocracy to tell you where, what, how or who.

So, what does the AFFS lack that World Historical individuals like
Stallman and Torvalds have in spades? The answer is simple: chutzpah.
The AFFS, even in its protazoic state, is hubristic, but not
chutzpahdik. And that, my fellow dialectitions, is the seed of its
inevitable entropic dissolution. But that's no tragedy - the geist
needs no assistance from organisations like the AFFS to reach its
inevitable conclusion in Free Software. It just needs People Who Do

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