Hari's Articles

OMG Linux is political! I never knew!

"Linux is Political? OMG, I never knew!!!"

This is a reaction you see when most new Linux users suddenly discover that Linux does have politics. Reactions generally vary from mild surprise to shock to disgust when they learn that there's a lot of politics within the Linux user and development community. In fact, it's been there right from the beginning.

For the uninitiated, this seems a terrible thing. They feel that politics is undesirable generally and they want to use a distribution that's absolutely and completely free of politics. Well, I got news for them - they probably need to create their own distribution and keep it all to themselves if they want to avoid politics.

My answer is this - I'd like them to point me to a single example of a substantial group of human beings who have come together for achieving a common purpose and have remained completely free of politics. No matter what human beings do, politics is inevitable and unavoidable. In the case of Linux, politics is even desirable to certain extent because politics was what gave the Linux and the FOSS movement direction and politics is what has sustained the efforts of hundreds of thousands of developers throughout the world and focussed them towards achieving common targets.

It's one thing to hate politics. It's another thing to try and understand the reasons behind politics. Like some great man said, it's politicians who've given politics a bad name and not the other way round.

I forsee that politics will continue dominating FOSS development because FOSS, by its very nature is community-driven and where there's a community, there's politics. Whether the end-users appreciate it or not, software developers will continue disagreeing on philosophy, development methodology, technology and other aspects till the end of time. Maybe this fear of disagreement and debate is what makes us end-users feel so vulnerable and helpless and deep down there's some kind of insecurity that provokes us to fear and hate politics.

The only way that end-users can get rid of this fear of politics is by becoming empowered with knowledge. It's not necessary to take a particular stance on any issue, but ultimately understanding the motivations and the conflicts within FOSS will help us understand why politics (when it's not destructive) is not such a bad thing after all.