January 5, 2002

Community commentary: A manifesto on freedom

Author: JT Smith

- By Ronald D. Stephens -
It is here we take our stand. We are told that we are at the end of history. Like last men looking at last things, we behold a system that is forever beyond us, beyond
our touch, beyond our ken, and beyond our power.

The post-modern, post-liberal system is so vastly superior to anything
that came before it, that it is therefore permanent. It is run by no one,
controlled by no one, and understood by no one. Companies call the
shots; but even the companies are controlled by unseen, omnipotent systemic
forces that cannot be denied nor restrained.

If profits talk, we jump. If "democracy" speaks, we leap. Money is
our God, and in Him we trust.

The word, "democracy" has Greek roots meaning "rule of the people."
But since when do people "rule" that money is their master? We work for money,
yes; but when do we feel, when do we live, and when do we contribute,
and when do we make a difference?

When our lives are ruled by corporations bigger than countries, do
people rule? Are companies democratic? And what about violence?
Democracy may rule the world, I suppose, but people sure don't. This world
is ruled by violence.

So here we take our stand. The Empire is so vast, so powerful, so
pervasive, and so impenetrable, that we cry out for an outlet. Maybe
we can't change the Empire but we can create new worlds, new outposts,
outside the Empire, but partaking of its breath.

We must build something lasting, something worthwhile, something
with dignity, even as we live within the belly of the beast.

We must not waste our breath and our youth and our old age on pointless
protest and dying dreams, no, we must create something new. Create
something together, each in our little household, each in our own

We can, because there is something going on. We don't quite know
what it is yet, but we can smell it; we can't see it, it doesn't seem completely
real, yet we can feel it in our very bones. The more Bill Gates protests
against it, the more the Empire's minions whisper in our ears that "it's
trivial, don't be deceived by something not part of the system;"
the more our guts say no, we will not look away from it.

Open Source is not just a movement, not just a protest, not just
a rebellion; Open Source is freedom.

Freedom doesn't rule the world. What is freedom? Freedom is
not having bigger armies, bigger guns, and bigger bank accounts. Freedom
is not capital, is not capitalism, is not any "ism." Freedom is not
science, is not business, is not the economy. Freedom is not Republican,
nor Democrat, nor Western.

Freedom knows no directions, no borders, no walls. Money is good;
but freedom does not bow, not even to money.

Free software -- free from corporations, individuals, governments,
and markets -- is our future. We will build it one layer at a time,
in one home at a time, one piece at a time. Free software is ours, it is
good, and it is the future.

Each and every hand, isolated and feeble though it may
be, will contribute. No contribution will go unrewarded. No contribution
will be wasted.

When you write a line of free code, you create something. Something
that will not die, will not be traded for next month's profits,
will not be laid waste by armies, nor ideologies, nor powers that be. Free
code may be small, but it is eternal.

No one can stop free code. But the struggle will not be easy, and it
will not be short. So let us here take our stand, one person at a time.

Write free code. Learn Open Source programming languages. Start
user groups, converse via usenet, build free Web sites. Don't let
the corporations control the internet, don't let them entangle
the Web with legal restrictions and kill its very life and soul.

Support Free Software. Support companies that support Free Software.
Buy from them.

When corporations speak out against Open Source software, stop
buying their products.

In little quarters here and there, all around the world, individual
people are hammering out lines of code; lines of code that, when collected,
sifted, improved, re-fashioned, molded, and hardened in the fires
of intensely troubled and soulless times, will change the world.

No contribution is too large; no contribution is too small. Brick
by brick, mortar by mortar, we build something that will stand the
test of time.

Democracy? For whom? By whom? Of whom?

We take our stand here; no one is free unless that person has the
freedom to create.

Yes, we must eat. But we must also breathe ...

21 things you can do to support Open Source and freedom:

  1. Learn to program.
  2. Run a copy of Linux or BSD.
  3. Buy Open Source books.
  4. Participate in open source forums on usenet and on Web sites.
  5. Join or form new local user groups for Linux, Python, Perl, etc.
  6. Buy from companies that support Open Source.
  7. Do not buy from companies that attack Open Source.
  8. Promote Open Source to friends.
  9. Support Open Source in local government and schools.
  10. Teach your kids about Open Source, Linux, and programming.
  11. Support the use of Open Source software at your religious institutions and groups.
  12. Support the use of Open Source at your place of work.
  13. Teach Open Source classes at summer schools and community schools.
  14. Buy magazines covering Open Source.
  15. Talk to your librarian about stocking books on Open Source products.
  16. Create a Web site supporting Open Source.
  17. Write Open Source code.
  18. Use Open Source scripts wherever possible.
  19. Support innovative, grass roots, local groups and companies wherever possible.
  20. Distribute or copy this manifesto.
  21. Create your own Freehold in your own life. No matter how small, make a beginning. Make as many links between your
    freehold and other freeholds as possible. Don't buck the system;
    create a new system around its edges, nurture the links and the
    connections. Breathe the free air ... of the new system....

Stephens' Web site is Python City: Home Free for Pythonistas.


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