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History Goes in Cycles

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software at 7:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Better to swim

Summary: Just like antiwar activism was ‘quelled’ or ‘pacified’ half a century ago nowadays we’re led to think that software freedom is just fine and there’s nothing left to argue about (except words and other petty nonsense)

THE history books tell us about robber barons. Where did they go? What about slaves? Did the barons willfully disappear themselves from this planet? Did slavery in all its forms stop? Was it outsourced? Was it reshaped and redefined? Those are rhetorical questions of course and the answers may vary somewhat depending on who’s asked.

“Did slavery in all its forms stop? Was it outsourced? Was it reshaped and redefined?”As we’re not a political site (not in the ‘pure’ sense of it) we aren’t going to debate those points though we recently expressed concerns about the ludicrous idea that banning some words would magically resolve the problems those words refer to. It’s idealistic and short-sighted… if not utterly misguided. Think this is old news? It’s not. Only 3 days ago Phoronix published “Mesa To Join Other Open-Source Projects With “Main” For Primary Code Branch“; most comments on this article sound a lot like ours. Just because Mesa has no “masters” anymore (well, technically it still has masters and they’re large corporations) doesn’t mean that slavery or domination over people is a thing of the past. As someone explains earlier on in the comments (there are now 75 comments!): “The word “Master” conceptually has nothing to do with slavery. A slave-master is a specific term, with a specific meaning. Likewise, a master blacksmith, or master electrician, or “Head Master”.”

There’s lots and lots more like that (among so many comments; it’s a very heated debate/subject).

I have personally not met (even online) people who are supposedly ‘offended’ by having to commit to a “master” branch. Are they fictitious people being spoken ‘on behalf’ of? “Slave” isn’t a good term; but in Git there’s just master, not slave. So who does all the complaining anyway? Maybe I am wrong and some people are genuinely offended by a “master” branch in a Git repository, but I’ve not seen them yet, nor have I seen evidence that they exist (except hypothetically, in theory, some time in the future)… I’ve actually seen black people condemning this whole charade, which helps them not even as a token of appreciation.

The sad thing about it all is that it occupies a lot of development time, it raises the risk of code breaking (especially where one program connects to another), and it solves just about nothing except cosmetics.

“Just because Mesa has no “masters” anymore (well, technically it still has masters and they’re large corporations) doesn’t mean that slavery or domination over people is a thing of the past.”A long time ago I watched a decent documentary about the ‘Hippies’ (whose term is it?) and how their antiwar movement was basically captured and co-opted; they were led to believe that their mission was “accomplished” or whatever because the fashion industry adapted somewhat (shades of “open source has won”-type statements, typically alluding to Microsoft capturing code in proprietary GitHub, commandeering the world’s developers).

If we all fight over language and waste a lot of time removing words that in no way imply slavery (“master” is a very generic word), can we find energy to tackle bigger issues? Last week we wrote about nuclear bombs (two were dropped on civilians 75 years ago) and the role IBM played in that. It’s still playing a huge role. Did anyone in the media bother mentioning any of the corporations that participated? Not the corporate media…

“If we all fight over language and waste a lot of time removing words that in no way imply slavery (“master” is a very generic word), can we find energy to tackle bigger issues?”‘Hippies’ is what some people nowadays call Free software enthusiasts (it’s rarely justified; they don’t even look alike) and seeing how the antiwar movement was suppressed after the Vietnam war (in which millions were killed; quit counting only American casualties) I worry that software freedom advocates are being pushed to surrender under the guise of “mission accomplished” (when in fact we have the least digital freedom and technical rights we’ve ever had). Turn on the listening device (a.k.a. “smart assistant”), access “the clown” (military-grade US surveillance) and try to boot the operating system that refuses to even start because the hardware does not “trust” you (thanks, Microsoft and Intel, for UEFI ‘secure’ boot). And then repeat after me: I. Am. Free!

A family that gets a hydrogen bomb over its roof could not care less if the code in that bomb was developed in a “main” branch or a “master” branch.

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