Thomas Gramstad on Fri, 1 Nov 2019 02:44:59 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Open letter to the Free Software Movement


Thanks to Jaromil for putting forward important considerations
for the Free Software movement.

First of all: No, FSCONS didn't cancel/postpone event because of
anything related to the Stallman incident.
I'm a board member of the FSCONS organization, and also board
chair of FSCONS Norway, a satellite from the organization in

Both organizations are struggling with too few volunteers, the
organization in Sweden being paralyzed; at this point I'm not
even sure if there is a board any more.
FSCONS Norway is still standing and kind of swaying forward, but
the organiztion is not able at this point to organize a 3 track
event by itself alone.

FSCONS is a diversity-inclusive crosspoint of technological,
social and cultural trends, and has always been too edgy to fit
well with commercial and PR interests. I still hope it can be

Moving on to the Stallman incident and what it may mean:

Stallman is somewhere on the autistic or Asperger spectrum. At
the same time he is also a freewheeling hippie -- or he tries to
be, when his autistic control needs are not in the driver's seat.

We, the community around him, have been lenient in letting him
have his way with small (and not so small) autistic control
needs, in order to give him the freedom to create and advocate.
As a result, he developed more than a few prima donna traits, and
also, he failed to perceive certain changes of the times, changes
in tact, mores and general behavior.

Seen from one perspective, he imploded himself due to a lack of
personal sensitivity to others and to the times. Seen from
another perspective, we the community encouraged him to do this,
and actually drove him and rewarded him to go in that direction,
setting him up to inadvertently present himself as an "old pig"
as we would say in Norwegian, while he himself thought he was
defending a friend's memory.

How much can we blame a leader for prima donna traits that we
have encouraged and rewarded all the way?

I don't have the answer to that question, it's a question that
needs to be addressed by and in our community (and, I'm sure, in
many other communities as well).

I'm actually more optimistic in the long run, because on some
levels the current problems reflect that women and minorities are
claiming their seats at the table, creating more diverse and
equitable communities, where big egos must adapt and learn at
least a few basic social skills, and we all can work against the
cultivation of prima donna character traits.

Thomas Gramstad

On Thu, 26 Sep 2019, Jaromil wrote:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: <nettime> Open letter to the Free Software Movement
Date: 2019-09-26 17:02
From: Jaromil <>

This is an open letter to all the people who, in their good faith, are
concerned about the recent events which have shaken the long-standing
leadership of the Free Software Movement and the GNU project.




Dear hackers, first and foremost let us say that, as a collective and
in the true uncompromising spirit of the teachings of Free/Libre
Software/Society, we are capable of doing much better than what has
just happened.

Many of us work everyday towards ensuring that everyone, regardless of
their ethniticy, religion, gender, or neurotypicality, can
participate, learn and share in our communities. We do not claim we
are perfect, we sometimes make mistakes, some of them guided by
systemic patterns and structures of power still entangling us, and
some of them just due to our human nature . But we claim our right to
learn every day how to become better at including all contributions
and opinions, and this implies the ability of making mistakes without
being destroyed by them.

In the past years it has become clear that our movement and our ethos
has transformed the world as we know it, with all the courage and all
the mistakes considered; some of us rose to fame, while some others
wore masks, both as a message and as a protection from the regime of
global espionage.  In any case, many of us have sacrificed a great
deal of comfort in life to change what needed to be changed.

Let us not be mistaken about the cause that brought us here and let us
not forget where the injustice comes from.

Let us not forget then what we, the people, have successfully built so
far, resisting to the incredible pressure that corporate corruption
and military regimes have put on us. Let us not forget that the battle
is still raging and we are losing sight and positioning.

Open Source, as an economic model based on knowledge acquisition by
corporate powers, is part of the problem.

Free/Libre Software, as an uncompromising philosophy and ethics
focused on knowledge sharing and participation, is an important part
of the solution.

The era of benevolent dictators for life in Free software projects is
probably coming to an end. And we shall be relieved as well as
empowered by that: it is now our turn to stand strong, united as a
movement, to defend our values without compromise and to improve the
quality of our interactions. It is now our turn to look beyond
personal responsibilities, to acknowledge that if a context is
poisoned by bullying, machism and sexist behavior, it is not just the
fault of a single person, but of all those who tolerate and support
those conducts. We have now the opportunity to point to the problem
and to solve it and this will improve our movement, the Free Software

What we really don't need to do is to ignore, denigrate or disown the
values of the Free Software movement.

We need to honour the pride of the people of India who had the courage
to stand up against the "free basic" campaign. We need to support the
courage of all those defending network neutrality from attacks capable
of putting under control the political integrity of entire continents.
We need to facilitate the synergy between community networks in Oaxaca
enabled by software written by activists all around the World.  We
need to empower the self-determination of entire populations in an age
in which computing is as pervasive as our own social relationships.

We need to reclaim our freedom from an ever-watching system of control
and prediction that judges us from the algorithmic projection of our
own intentions.  We need to defend our freedom to be able to denounce
all of this and speak freely by means that connect us, all over the
world, without borders, intermediaries and censorship.

We need to be conscious of where we are standing in this fight.

As a trans-national movement, united by solidarity, awareness and
ethics, we shall not negotiate the motivations we fight for.

We would not publish this letter if we would not think it was
extremely urgent to do so. The Free Software movement is losing
ground, grip and resources, and the scarce resources available to the
movement are not even shared equally. Global meetings that are vital
to our legacy and development are at risk of being shut down or
assimilated by corporate corruption: the Free Society Conference and
Nordic Summit (FSCONS) will not take place this year, after many
iterations that have hosted outstanding standards of diversity. The
biggest community-based event for free software developers in the
world, FOSDEM, is at risk of violating many of its foundational
principles by welcoming corporate sponsors, who contribute to the
dilution of meaning and ethical urgency of Free Software by supporting
corporate Openwashing campaigns.

And this is just a small account from Europe. We know that, wherever
you are in the world, if you have been in this movement, you are
probably struggling as well. Believe us now when we say that it will
not help to burn the Man, to obliterate the memory of our cause, to
expunge someone's contributions to it by means of an angry mob; that
would be an act of harassment we cannot be able to accept.

We will start improving as a movement when we show the highest notion
of what a movement can be: capable of reflection, understanding and
healing its wounds, ready to evolve and progress while maintaining the
integrity of its aims.

We are not the problem, we are part of the solution.

The Free World needs the Free Software movement.
 Denis "Jaromil" Roio think &do tank
 Ph.D, CTO & co-founder    software to empower communities
 ✉ Haparandadam 7-A1, 1013AK Amsterdam, The Netherlands
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