Is freedom useless to "the majority of users".

Rainer Trusch rainer.trusch at
Tue Jul 2 20:29:18 UTC 2002

Hi Richard,

Some comments on your subject line. As I wrote to Bernhard you
shouldn't mix up things that have nothing to do with each other. I was
talking about a 'useless' argument and not freedom. I hope not having
to explain the meaning of the term 'argument', but I give you a hint:
It's not the same as freedom ;-). I didn't even mention the term
freedom in my mail. Why are arguments that don't fit into the scheme
always smashed with the huge freedom hammer? By the way, this a good
method to convert the term 'freedom' from woolliness to uselessness.

I like to give the general advice to everyone to take a few steps back
sometimes and listen to yourself, as well as giving some general
reflections on the whole issue from different ancles. Many great ideas
got stuck in itself and sometimes I get the impression here is some
stagnation as well. Call me arrogant, unpolite or whatever, but I'm
absolutly serious about it and I'm not doing this just to entertain

I have no use for the all in one term 'freedom' and it reminds me a
lot of cheap Hollywood films. My use is limited to certain subject,
but as it seems to be the most important term, someone can easily
answer two small questions:

What is freedom?

What is freedom for?

On Wed, 26 Jun 2002, Richard Stallman wrote:
>     RMS: Free software means you control what your computer does.
>     Non-free software means someone else controls that, and to some
>     extent controls you. Non-free software keeps users divided and
>     individually helpless; free software empowers the users.
>     I read this argument quite often and think it's pretty useless
>     in a broader few. The vast majority of users can't programm and
>     is still depending on someone else.
> Those who do not program depend on others to program, of course.
> There is a big difference between depending on a community and being
> at the mercy of a specific organization.  Except for Robinson Crusoe
> and a few survivalists, we all depend on a community.  But in a
> society of freedom and equality, we are not at the mercy of any
> specific person.

Good that you mention the community, which seems to be in many
arguments just a minor aspect, but this is the most intriguing part of
the free software thing. Licenses and legal issues are just the
framework, not more or less, but the community is running the system.

"Imagine there is free software and no one is taking part"

The community is living the freedom, but I'm more likely to use
different terms. It is about tolerance, fairness, respect, helpfulness
in a democratic structure. One aspect is in my eyes the most important
one: It doesn't matter if you are writing a hell lot of code, just a
bit of documentation or simply helping someone else with a problem,
everybody appriciates what you are doing and gives you the feeling
being needed in a community. This aspect can't be overestimated. So
many problem over the whole world, in many different varieties, derive
from a lack of this or are influenced by it. Even a democracy can't
prevent that, because it works on a different level. Especially in our
success-orientated, I'm-so-important mainstream, there is is a
desperat need for a different way.

This is not just mawkishness, but the main reason for productivety and
efficency of the free software movement. I can't think of a more
desirable synthesis than this one.

It seems to me, I have a different priority than the majority in the
list, which is definatly centered around the community, with all the
mistakes and differnt views human beings have. Free licenses are an
important basement and I absolutly agree with the four freedoms,
because it wouldn't work otherwise properly and in my opinion
knowledge should be a common good, but they aren't any abstract ideal
in itself. I also agree that legal issues have to be dealt with, but
you won't run or change a society with a legislation or in front of a
law court. It's the other way around. We have all the problems with
useless or dangerous laws, licenses, software patents, etc because
something is going wrong in our societies, in our heads. Keep that
always in mind.
>     If I tell many of the ordinary users about this they are most
>     likely rolling their eyes or burst into laughter. It is a very
>     programmercentric view with an elitest touch.
> When people say that, they are looking at the issue too narrowly.
> Anyone can learn to program, and even though not everyone will do
> so, everyone should have the right to do so.
> Compare with freedom of the press.  Not everyone will write articles
> for publication, but everyone should have the right to do so.



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