February 27, 2001

Linux people don't need to be protected

Author: JT Smith

- by Tina Gasperson -
In most families, it goes something like this: kids think mom is a dork. Kids slander mom behind her back. Neighbor says something derogatory about kids' mom. Kids beat the crap out of neighbor. It's a well-known fact: we can talk about our moms, but you better not. Sound like anyone we know?It's logical, but stupid, that the most vocal supporters of Linux follow this model. We can complain about Linux, but when the neighbor kid has a bad experience and mentions it, he's: A) a complete moron; B) a Microsoft shill; C) a troll; or D) all of the above. Not only that, but if he ever comes face to face with a Linux constituent, he'll probably get his eyes poked out.

We have scouts who go before us and make determinations about whether a particular article is 'safe' to read. "Nothing here to see," they tell us. "Don't bother, it's just FUD."

We have thought police who write letters to editors calling for the dismissal of staff members who dare to point people to dissenting opinions about Linux, saying, "Things like this aren't newsworthy and shouldn't receive publicity."

We have entire publications whose mission is to publish nothing but good news about Linux, and nary a jot or tittle is written that contains anything but cheerleading chants for the home team and slams against the other side.

When my kids were very little, I sheltered them. I protected them from anything I felt would influence them in a negative way, because they weren't wise enough not to just believe anything they heard, good or bad. And we want to protect our babies from bad stuff.

Are Linux people really babies that need to be protected from bad stuff? Are they really only ready for yummy pabulum spoon-fed to them from scouts and thought police? No. Linux people are smart, supposedly. We should credit them with enough intelligence to read, examine, digest, consider, and harvest from all the different points of view that exist in our wide world.

Centuries ago, Roman Catholic priests performed religious rituals entirely in Latin. All the bibles were printed in that dead language. That way, only the clergy and other select individuals could read the Scripture and understand the rituals. The unwashed masses had to be content with simply accepting what they were told by these higher-ups. They were effectively barred from exploring the bible on their own and coming to their own conclusions.

Why did the priests do this? Maybe it was a power thing. He who has the knowledge has the power. Or maybe they were afraid that the peasants would find out that they were full of shit. Perhaps they truly believed that being a peasant meant you were on the left side of the bell curve and unable to handle a full plate of information.

Either way, the priests and powers saw their worst fears realized when Martin Luther said I beg to differ, suckers, here's what the bible *really* has to say, and he started the Protestant movement - a fork in the code, if you will, of Christianity.

Do the Linux scouts and thought police fear a Martin Luther in the ranks? They must. Their knee-jerk reactions to the dissenters remind me of the kid's arcade game -- the one where you take a mallet and smack the gopher heads as they randomly pop up. It goes faster and faster until you just can't keep up any more. Our mallet-wielding protectors must not believe in the superiority of Linux as an operating system. If they did, they wouldn't so ferociously attack every disagreeing word that pops up. They'd be gracious, because true winners are gracious, wise, and deliberate.

Winners and smart people do well to follow the exhortations of a leader who once said, "Be as wise as a serpent, but as gentle as a dove." What might we learn if we became doves and kindly encouraged the complaints and criticisms of the world? What would they tell us that we've been unable to hear so far? Wise serpents learn about themselves by seeing what they look like through the eyes of others. They allow criticism to make them better.

Those who block out the flow of information become stagnant and full of themselves, like a dead sea, and can support no new growth or innovation. That could happen to Linux if we cover our ears every time someone says, "I beg to differ."

We encourage Linux users to explore, examine, think, and criticize in a free flow of positive and negative information. We believe that Linux users are intelligent enough to decide for themselves what is useful. We think they want to grow and become stronger. They don't want scouts and police to filter out the bad stuff, they don't want what someone recently dubbed "teen fanzines." They want the whole picture and they're big enough to handle a full plate of it.

Welcome to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Serve yourself.

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