everything wrong with free software

 "obedience breeds foolishness"

### can-utopianism-be-anything-other-than-self-defeating *originally posted:* aug 2022 pretty much everything on this website applies in some way to free software and the state of free software, and this will be no exception. while i do want to (once again) arch a little bit over the core ideas, i want to respond to some things i heard recently and relate them to free software and "free society" in general. the first point i want to make is that utopianism doesnt hold a monopoly on making the world a better place, nor on trying to imagine what a better place would be like. the following is a response to the idea of utopianism as a solution to "doomerism"-- i would like to see doomerism solved too, but im not sure that presenting "utopianism" as the antidote is anything other than superficial. like with many social drugs, im less concerned with the benefits of utopianism (if there are any) than the side effects. once we have a reasonably firm grasp on the risks of course, im happy to weigh those against the side effects. you could define irresponsibility as the focus on benefits with disregard for risks, so if someone can find a brand of utopianism that is actually responsible, please point that out. marx, who was concerned with practicality and the material, to be very certain took inspiration from hegel, and if you ended it there it might only prove that idealism was sound and good. i have always considered myself an idealist personally, but i dont know how often (outside of mysticism) these are considered two parts of the same coin, and that when they are out of balance they fall apart. surely theres a day of the year where a hegelian view is more practical than a materialist one? i really dont know. a failed approach leads (tautologically) to failed results, and i think its safe to say we want a successful approach. this isnt just about lowering expectations or giving up on your dreams-- i think its a mistake to file all of those things under "utopianism" actually, but i also think it matters HOW we dream or how we apply our dreams to our goals. it might be fair to say we havent succeeded in everything yet, but i do think that theres a science (or can be a science, if we are reasonable about it) in looking at past successes and learning from them. to be certain, focusing exclusively on this would lead to its own biases-- some new successes will require somewhat new approaches, and we should look at past failures and learn from those as well. i think maybe the biggest problem with this is that its surprisingly difficult for many people to do. a utopian approach tends to become the ultimate distraction from solving problems-- and thats the second biggest problem with it that i can think of. the biggest problem would be the results of that distraction. i am positing the idea of utopianism as a drug with harmful side effects. perhaps then, the real problem with the idea of utopianism isnt the nature of the drug itself, but the dosage, usage and addictive nature of the substance. is it only harmful when used irresponsibly? or is it so addictive and are the effects so strong that it should be avoided entirely like crack or bath salts? i honestly dont know, but i will advise caution. maybe the simplest refutation of idealism is that when solving real world problems, we should be grounded in reality and not detach ourselves from the world where those problems exist. imagine a surgeon trying to operate on a patient while laughing and saying how stoned he is: "wow, man-- is that like his heart? thats just SOOOO COOL! hey wheres that scalpel, man? oh! haha, its in my haaaaand!" ive been stoned a few times, and i think its fine for most people at least. there are probably good surgeons (im just guessing, you know-- i could be way off here) whose skills have not been blunted by a safe level of recreational drug use provided the timing was an appropriate distance from doing their actual job. the biggest opportunity i see for utopianism causing harmful side effects is if it leads to people being effectively "stoned" all the time-- even while trying to operate on society and its ills. and again, we dont need to blame the "drug" itself if human foibles are simply too much to use it responsibly. but coming back to the "same coin" argument, i do think that-- IN BALANCE, materialism and idealism can (do, even must) coexist. this would suggest that if utopianism is harmful, its because it is inherently (or inherently becomes) out of balance with the material. now lets talk about real life examples. in doing so, i may inadvertently refute (or weaken) the entire argument with examples that prove something other than what i intended. THATS OKAY actually, because even if im an idealist, im an idealist with great sympathy for the material-- and really, lacking enough sympathy for the material is nearly my greatest concern with utopianism. im not interested in creating a straw man here-- im interested in the results in real life. science begins, arguably, with study and hypothesis. i love this, because the hypothesis is the natural enemy of militant advocates of scientism. by necessity, its a leap past what we know. you cannot move forward (not deliberately) without a destination, even if its simply one foot in front of the other. how do you know which direction to move in? with the hypothesis-- the leap ahead. it can be an INFORMED hypothesis, and the next step is to evaluate it, but since the point of it is to learn something it inherently begins with what we DONT know-- or at least, arent certain of. even the most competent scientist must look ahead. lets look at my favourite example of materialist failure, a certain mister j. stalin. i dont know if its fair to paint him as utopian, but i think his leadership demonstrates a sort of worst case scenario for the faults of utopianism. when the reality of marxism/leninism proved too much trouble for stalin to succeed, he simply abandoned them for what is rightfully called stalinism-- and what hallmarks can we find of this philosophy? under stalinism, truth becomes subservient to authority-- this is idealism at its very worst. the biggest religions are guilty (at the very least, the biggest institutions of those religions) and its a known casualty of war. its tempting to summarise stalinism as "fuck reality, get back to work!" even when he (very possibly) believed it would lead to a better world, stalins sense of "materialism" was that "if its not working, just do more of it" and this meant shallowly (but BROADLY! oh, so many acres!) plowing the soil right into some of the biggest famines in written history. soil is about as material as it gets-- without soil to grow food, humans die. but stalin was more concerned that enough of it was being plowed, and this transformed the very earth itself into something that cannot grow food, but leads to starvation. i think utopianism is a lot like this. no matter how well intentioned, when we avert our gaze too far, too long from the reality of the situation, we make every philosophy into a childish and naive fantasy. for stalin, it wasnt enough to starve his own people-- the SHOW MUST go on! he understood, correctly, that people would be CRITICAL ("hey, you! get off my cloud!") about his big plans. but the biggest threat to his fantasy were the very people who knew from experience what it would take to succeed-- people who had been there before and fought as hard, or harder than he did. so he had them all killed! i mean, that SORT OF solves that problem. or you know, it solves one of the big symptoms of that problem. superficiality of philosophy and a superficial way of engaging with reality permeates the reign of stalin. superficiality is probably the most dangerous side effect of utopianism-- it leads people away from real causes, effects and sound theory-- to a bunch of "the same old bullshit". i would be tempted to go as far as to present a horseshoe-topian theory: that the more earnestly (and passionately) you aim for a utopia, the faster it becomes dystopian. this is not an unreasonable (it may be a false) conclusion if the true nature of utopianism is (or leads to) a divorce from reality and an embrace of fallacy. that would (in the broadest terms) explain stalin and the resulting fall of the soviet union. it needs to be stressed here, that these things BEGAN with the practical-- and NOT with a quest for perfection. fascism too, strives for its own (very weird and to say the least, completely unreasonable) quest for "perfecting" humanity. it has no idea what perfect means, and perhaps this is the ingredient that dooms utopianism altogether. when i suggest that utopianism is doomed, i dont mean that its pointless to strive for a better world. what i mean is that we wont get there by pressing a button on willy wonkas glass elevator-- though the world is full of people who (with varying degrees of sanity) are offering to install them so we can attempt precisely that. "hmm, thats odd... perhaps you didnt press it right?" many of these people are capitalists, but utopianism is not (or is no longer) solely the purview of the left. it certainly isnt only capitalists that are capable of having this philosophical issue. my favourite example of glass-elevator-itis is thought policing. stalin was wild about it, and marx and lenin (incredibly) never proposed it. trotsky was highly critical. the fake left would make stalin shed a tear of joy. i should hasten to mention that even some of the people i LIKE are very tempted (or otherwise, simply feel coerced) to pay ROUTINE homage to such bullshit. i think its absolutely fine to try to be considerate of others, but thats not what this is about. this quickly becomes about PERFECTING speech, which is impossible from the start. and like stalins plowing quotas, it covers the most ground in unheard of time, and leads to the beginnings of an intellectual famine that takes us farther and farther from what matters. when the worlds most CONSIDERATE revolution comes, you can say i was wrong about this and ill be happy to admit it. but in practice, i see this INCREDIBLE distraction convince all but the most grounded individuals into thinking corporations are good and everyday people are terrible. thats surely NOT what the fake left intended, because i believe at least some of them really believe theyre moving society forward-- as they desire. instead, this is a failure in theory, before it becomes a failure in character. doubling down on fuck-awful ideas, having your entire leftist movement hijacked by corporations, and ultimately forgetting what your revolution was even about-- these things happen in real life, and some brand of naive utopianism is always there. i suppose we have only demonstrated correlation so far, and thats fine, its really all im setting out to do here, but it would be better for someone to show the true cause and effect relationship. lets talk about superficiality and free software so i wont be a liar for promising to connect the two: gnome is both a counterrevolution and a fine example of utopian bullshit. they are true enemies of free software, and have done as much as any organisation (except maybe, debian or osi) to destroy everything free software worked for. aha, you have a very nice operating system, but what it needs is a DESKTOP, a DESKTOP, it needs to be a DESKTOP! OR ELSE! and thanks to project athena, the operating system has had a DESKTOP since the fucking 80s. but its not just A desktop that is needed-- whats needed is THE desktop! and you better believe, gnome is THE desktop. to say that gnome took over the operating system and the movement is sort of an understatement. even if they had help, even if they couldnt have done it otherwise, they were a driving force in terms of rhetoric and direct action. thanks to gnome, free software is far more superficial today. and they have their tentacles in everything. systemd really shows what it would be like if GNOME ITSELF were an operating system. and theyre proud of this. theyre proud monopolists-- the goal of gnome is to ELIMINATE choice and eliminate indepedence from their project. its in every way the opposite of what free software stood for. and THEY WERE PART OF GNU ITSELF! the only hope free software has, is to get away from gnomes brutally fake left utopian bullshit and to return to what free software was supposed to be about: the freedom to use software for any purpose, to study, share and modify software freely. gnome will never allow this. gnome is not about this. gnome is about plowing itself into our computing and FUCK REALITY, get back to working for corporations for free. gnome is corporate slavery. BUT its ALSO a DESKTOP! so i realise this may seem like a bit of a wild ride, and i certainly dont expect you to consider any of this "proof" of anything, just as a starting point for becoming sceptical of utopianism. you should by all means, try to think of a better world. you should even try to make the world a better place. my hope is that as you become more serious about doing so, rather than becoming a leftist authoritarian who goes around kicking people out of projects because accusations are stone tablets that MUST BE OBEYED AT ALL TIMES, that you QUESTION authority and also, question your most bullshit utopian plans for the future so they dont lead to replacing one authoritarian bullshit with another one. if science wasnt about questioning, we would still be relying on platos "elements" for a scientific perspective and drilling into skulls to let the demons out. or worse, trying to make the desktop like a fucking smartphone on steroids and destroying anyone who doesnt like that fucking dumb bloated bullshit. while selling out to ibm and microsoft and pretending its a revolution. its not that utopianism is idealistic thats the problem. its that utopianism becomes batshit crazy as soon as a few dozen people take it seriously enough. or like i said, maybe theres a safe dosage that doesnt destroy everything. but im a little bit wary and cautious, either way. for too many people, at least in practice, i think utopianism becomes NOT a source of real hope, but a sort of consolation prize. sure, okay, ibm and microsoft still run all our computing-- BUT LOOK how shiny these icons are! sure, okay, there are mass famines and youve lost half your family (even your kids) to the gulags. but look how many fucking TRACTORS we made! this is exactly the sort of thing i mean by "batshit crazy". its a true and ultimately sociopathic divorce from reality IN THE NAME OF A "PERFECT WORLD". the mechanism by which utopianism destroys the world and becomes a counterrevolution to every good cause is a triad of childish demands, rewritten (or sometimes merely neglected) history and cut corners. the problem with utopianism is how much it does to inspire all of the above. above all, if its a better world you truly want, youre probably better off putting down the bath salts, opening a history book, and aligning yourself with SOME theory better than "perfection at all costs". its not that people set out with the "at all costs" clause, rather, utopianism seems to be part of the perfect and insane authoritarian storm. dangerous ideas are fun, but some of them lead only to destruction. maybe the worst thing about utopianism is that its really a divorce from the very (everyday) people who will BE the revolution. the impatience and ultimately demanding nature of utopianism throws out revolution for a small group of people clamouring to be "ideal" in increasingly shallow ways. thats a better recipe for a cult than a functional society, with results that reflect the recipe. so maybe we are better off referring to philosophy as philosophy, and to utopianism as "one false messiah movement after another". id rather say "fuck utopianism" and try to build a better world based on good ideas-- and remaining on some terms with reality. we certainly dont have to settle for things the way they are-- we do have to continually acknowledge reality, in order to continue improving it. if you are going to take medicine, it matters what the real results are. if you are going to take snake oil, you can simply pretend the results are ideal. whether we should abandon the idea of medical care is not even a question. finally, i will say that i think the other side of the coin is also dangerous-- if the real threat of utopianism is a sociopathic divorce from reality, on the other side is the real threat of simply settling for a bullshit existence exactly like this one. there are plenty of people selling that, and its only a cult of apathy and mediocrity. so i suppose, in retrospect, if you need the fae folk just to get you through the day-- by all means, give them their due. but when they ask you to start killing in their name, that is the time to get out the fly swatter. remember always, this is about people. stalin was the unicorn king, and unicorns are a bunch of cunts. => https://wrongwithfreesw.neocities.org