Culture Belaboured

Posted: June 5, 2010 in Culture, Free / Open Software, Rocker
Tags: , , , , , ,

Rudolf Rocker

This post is an adapted excerpt from: On the Nature of Software Anarchism

Anarchist Rudolph Rocker reminds us that “[p]ower and culture are, in the deepest sense, irreconcilable opposites….”[1] “[C]ulture has its roots in the community”[2] and is a force for creativeness while power concentrates with a select few and “is never creative.”[3] Countless online communities can vouch for the truth of this. Free and Open Source Software development can vouch for this.

But forces are in play that aim to undermine the entire internet freedom project. State-crafted corporate law has unleashed armies of rapacious lawyers slobbering over the money to be made in defending “intellectual property rights.” It is a complete impossibility to devise a software program that is wholly unique; no program beyond the minutely trivial (not open source, not proprietary) will contain all-original code. And yet the software patent system gives licence to the strong to defend their mythical property thereby threatening innovation and freedom among the weaker.[4]

Of course the attacks do not end there. File sharing sites are shut down, down-loaders are sued, banks and governments go after undesirable websites such as wikileaks, and even the internet itself is in danger of losing its neutrality.

Power is never freely given but is always taken by force. As a consequence, the elites of society will always find an enemy in freedom for the masses. And those who possess no desire or possibility to attain power themselves must always be on guard against coercion by society’s controllers and designers. Sometimes the coercion is stark and obvious. It takes the form of torture rooms, or, if we are lucky enough, mere legislation. But often it is sly and difficult to perceive. It is “the tuning of all human feeling to one note, the rejection of the rich diversity of life, the mechanical fitting of all effort to a designated pattern.”[5] It shapes our ideas and sets our biases. It lurks in the language we unwittingly use such as “intellectual property”, “software piracy”, and “theft” limiting our intellectual capacity. We must be careful what we think. We must be careful what thoughts the words we use allow.

[1] Rudolph Rocker, “Nationalism and Culture”, Rocker Publications Committee, 1937, page 85
[2] Ibid., page 81
[3] Ibid., page 83
[4] Richard Stallman, The Danger of Software Patents, Government Model Engineering College, India
[5] Rudolph Rocker, “Nationalism and Culture”, Rocker Publications Committee, 1937, page 165

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