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A comment worth repeating

July 21, 2011

OSCON 2011
Next up: OSCON. Get there if you can, and give them my regards because I can’t make it this year :-(

[BLOGGER’S NOTE: This comment from Simfox in Rwanda came last night around midnight my time. Rather than have this very poignant response sit in the comments section of the previous blog post, I’ve taken the liberty of reposting it to a new blog item, including my response to it. I have not changed any of the text, but I have changed the formatting to provide paragraph breaks to make it more readable. Thank you, Simfox, for this insightful comment to my blog. –LtFSG]

Submitted on 2011/07/20 at 11:59 pm

Generally agree with the sentiments re MS, and the logic upon which they are based, but disagree with the Nazi reference.

I work with Genocide survivors and perpetrators in Rwanda and view our human predilection to evil as both reversible and redeemable. We often encounter extraordinary instances of reconciliation and forgiveness here, but they are always (and I repeat, ALWAYS) based upon full and complete recognition of the wrong that was done, an attitude of contrition backed by consistent, long-term acts of restitution, and a humble, determined desire for forgiveness.

It is real, and it happens, so even a Nazi supporter can, with a genuine change of heart and mind, find himself a welcome guest in your local Synagogue.

Which brings me back to MS: what would they have to do to earn my trust as a long-term Linux user? Well, let’s see, where have I encountered this before? Step 0: recognition of wrong-doing. Step 1: acts that palpably demonstrate this change of attitude. Step 2: humble requests for forgiveness/reconciliation.

In my assessment MS can achieve this without GPLing their IP, but their latest actions vis Kernel contributions are no indication of incipient rapprochement

Butare, Rwanda

Submitted on 2011/07/21 at 8:22 am | In reply to simfox.

As I mentioned in the blog, this is a controversial position and I have received the same reaction that you make in your comment whenever I make the Nazi analogy. I don’t make it often, and I don’t make this assessment flippantly or casually. I understand the gravity of the comparison. But as hardline and dogmatic as it might be, I stand by it.

The Nazis in Germany called the Jews and Judaism “a disease” and, I would assume, that those who still advocate for Nazism still do. Microsoft calls Linux “a cancer” and hasn’t, to my knowledge, retracted that statement. Microsoft has made it clear in word and deed that they are out to exterminate Linux and any other competition. They have failed here on many fronts, thankfully. I find it hard to believe that they would change this policy no matter how conciliatory and how much repentance or restitution they might perform (and again, I’m not holding my breath for them to do this).

Further, my hat is off to you for your opinion that the “human predilection to evil as both reversible and redeemable,” especially since you lived through the recent horror in Rwanda. Perhaps you are right, but I find it very difficult — bordering on impossible — to forgive anyone who participated in genocide. As an aside, I think my capacity to forgive is wide, but not wide enough to include such blatant and horrible sins against humanity. I believe that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who have participated in genocide, no matter how much they admit their wrongdoing, how much restitution they make, or how conciliatory they are.

Which brings me back to the comparison: Is my comparing Microsoft to Nazi Germany “too much?” It could be. But the point I hope I’m making — the point that spurs this comparison — is that Microsoft, in a corporate and societal sense, is acting in a way that mirrors Germany in the ’30s and ’40s. By no uncertain terms do I mean to belittle or take away from the grave horror of the Holocaust or any other genocide.

Regarding Microsoft earning our trust: Assuming they did take Steps 0 through 2 as you outline, history has shown that they have gone back on their word before, so to have them open their code and license it under any variety of licenses — having their remorse and restitution in writing in a legally binding document — seems to me to be the only way to approach this.

Further, I think this exchange probably deserves more than to sit here in the comments section of my blog, so I am taking the liberty of posting your comment — probably one of the best I’ve received ever — and my reply, verbose as it is, as the next blog item. Thank you, Simfox, for sharing these thoughts and I salute you for your candor and courage.

Larry Cafiero
Larry the Free Software Guy

This blog, and all other blogs by Larry the Free Software Guy and Larry Cafiero, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND license. In short, this license allows others to download this work and share it with others as long as they credit me as the author, but others can’t change it in any way or use it commercially.

[FSF Associate Member] (Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software in his new home office. Watch this space.)
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