The popular movements that are sweeping the world, Occupy, Anonymous,
the Indignatos and the revolutionary movements of the Arab Spring are
now treading a path that to someone who has been involved in the free
software movement for more than 20 years seems rather familiar.
Fighting against the machinations of 'evil corporations' is a fight
those in the free software world know only too well.
One of the slogans of the Occupy movement is "Nobody Wins unless
Everybody Wins" - a realisation that we can never have the peace
needed to concentrate on the job of surviving the end of the age of
cheap energy while there is such gross injustice in the world.
In our world, free software can be freely copied. If I share my code
with you we both still have it, and in fact the act of sharing often
makes the thing shared much better for all the parties doing the
sharing. However realists would argue you cannot do that with a cup of
rice. Sharing my cup of rice with twenty other people is of no help if
I mention the cup of rice because as I write this a recent news story
is that the rice harvest in India has been such a bumper one that
there is not enough storage space for all of it and many tons are
simply being left to rot in the open air. Harvested, in sacks but
Why does it not go to feed the poor, better surely than it just
feeding rats? The pathetic excuse was to do so would affect 'the
balance of payments'.
I am calling on you, the people who already know how to co-operate
with others to develop software for mutual benefit. Spare some time in
this time of change to see how your skills and experience could be of
help to the people trying to solve the much bigger problem of making
the physical world - sharing out those cups of rice, work in the same
"It is smart to share" way.
The machinations of corporations over the past decades has brought
into being much 'property' of the intellectual kind that really has no
business being property.
The ACTA treaty that they recently attempted to foist upon is is a
very clear example of this. Yes, we have the motivation to get angry
about it because of the way it could be used by 'rights' holder to
chill any innovation or use of anything similar to their technology or
artistic work without the payment of extortion.
This bully boy tactic would also extend to areas such as drugs and
with the excuse of genetic modification to foodstuffs, allowing the
multi-nationals to have an even tighter grip on the life or death of
the ordinary people.
What is perhaps even worse is the general stifling of free speech and
free debate that measures such as ACTA, CISPA and our home grown
variants like the Digital Economy Act - rail-roaded through in the
last week of the Brown government, and the latest attempts to monitor
and censor or Internet for our own good.
As the Internet is the means by which the human race is finally waking
up to the truth that the control of the world is by a very small
number of very powerful people, is it any wonder they are trying
everything they can think of to neuter its power?
It is too late for that, dissent has reached critical mass.
Here is an example that happened here in London. Occupy held a march
on 11th May ending with a meeting and teach in on the small piece of
land in front of the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. The
Police attempted to break up the meeting on the pretence that it was a
nuisance to residents (what residents?). A few dozen protesters
decided to peacefully resist, linking arms to thwart police attempts
to remove them. There was a few arrests then a stand-off for several
hours, watched avidly by a large audience across the Internet until
the police just gave up and left. As the City of London is pretty
comatose on a weekend the allegation that the people holding a meeting
were being a 'nuisance' would not have cut any ice with a jury until
Monday morning! Occupiers then left as it was time to sleep and the
point had been made. No matter how much those in power wish it to be
otherwise enough people have now lost their fear. The cost of just
doing nothing and hoping that this is all just an 'economic cycle' is
simply too great.
Yes working towards a new system carries risks, but they are much less
than the risks of just pretending the problems will fix themselves.
This is where YOU come in - I think that people who have had the
experience making this culture work in the realm of software will have
a very important part to play. Go find where you will be useful and
You can read the full manifesto of the global freedom movement, which
has already been printed in several newspapers, here
- You really should read it, a great deal of thought and debate has
gone into its production.
And a summary of what is wrong and what is needed to fix it from a
specifically UK perspective can be found in the letter that the
Anonymous sent to David Cameron -
The audio version takes about 25 minutes.