Re: A balance of freedoms

aboutblank's picture
Submitted by aboutblank on Tue, 02/03/2009 - 11:13
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This is a response to A balance of freedoms.
"Value your freedom, or you will lose it, teaches history. "Don't bother us with politics," respond those who don't want to learn." - RMS

I think you are confused about how capability, authority and freedom are connected when we refer to freedom. When you accept Skype's "use terms of conditions", you don't gain any freedom. What you do gain is restricted authority to use the capabilities found in the Skype system.

In your attempt to present an example of "balancing freedom", you commit a fallacy known as the false dilemma. Your dilemma of Skype acceptance vs. separation from your community might make sense if Skype was the only way to communicate with your community. In reality, there are plenty of alternatives such as publishing web pages, exchanging e-mail or talking on the telephone. You could even pursuade them to value their freedom and adopt Ekiga as an alternative to Skype. ;)

Most people are happy to sacrifice freedom because they don't value freedom and instead, would rather give up their freedom to get convenience. Most people are ignorant about software freedom and the implications of proprietary software upon themselves and their society.

> there is no point in being able to use/study/modify/share Ekiga (for example) if you are the only person you know who uses it
This statement suggests to me that you don't understand why free software is imperative for a free society. Ekiga may be a communication program but it is still free software.

> In this example we are a bit like crabs in a box but we know that if we get out we will be cut off from our family so we don't even try to get out.
> RMS and the FSF etc. are all on the outside of the box saying come on "Jump out! Come on you can have freedom" but at the moment software freedom isn't the main thing on the minds of the majority of society.

That's a fairly apt analogy of the situation. We are saying, "value your freedom and reject your prisons". Society responds, "What are you talking about? We aren't prisoners of anything". Society misunderstands what we say and in turn, they fail to understand why they should value freedom. I don't blame the society for misunderstanding simply because there are not enough teachers to teach what we (the free software activists) know.

Something that many fail to understand is the fact that proprietary software is designed to divide society. Think about how this relates to Skype. The masters over Skype say, "Come use our Skype software, it is very convenient and it will let you do X, Y and Z. However, you must agree to this set of conditions before you are allowed to install and use Skype onto your computer". Basically, the set of conditions are intended for the masters of Skype to maintain complete control over their software. As a result of when you choose to accept the conditions, you would also choose to give up your freedom.

As a free software activist, you would never accept such subjugation and will therefore, reject the conditions of the software as well as the software itself. The other people do accept the terms are allowed to use the software (under those terms). As a result, you and these other people are now divided: the other people are not living in freedom but are allowed to use that program, whereas you remain in freedom and are not permitted to use use that program to communicate through the Skype sytem.

>Ultimately if we make an informed decision to sacrifice one freedom for another then... well... it's our choice isn't it?
>I support software freedom, however, and I think it is very important for us to all be fully aware of what we are sacrificing and what exactly we are gaining from those sacrifices. This is the only way we can all really come to the realization that it would be better to get out of the box.

This would be fine if people were informed enough to make the decision; most people are not informed. Why should anybody care about conserving electricity usage if nobody understood the implications of wasteful electricity consumption? Society cares for conserving electrity usage AFTER learning what it is and why it is important. Likewise, people don't value freedom because they are not being taught to value their freedom. This is why I take the effort to correct misunderstandings about freedom and teach people to value their freedom. This is the rationale behind the original comment I made as well as this follow up reply.