Could Geographical Perspectives be Limiting our Cooperation?

I wonder if there is a geographical disconnect at work here? Many of the fediverse dev folks getting grants from NlNet etc. are coming from an EU perspective. The older Foundations supporting Free Code projects (the FSF and many others) are more of a US thing, and people whose ideas on Free Code development were strongly shaped by them may be coming from a US perspective. For example, If Stallman had been European he may have used language of software rights rather than software freedoms, although the underlying concept would be the same. Another example, US history has negative associations for federalism for both the political left (the Confederacy) and right (perceived federal government overreach), whereas it might have more neutral or even positive associations for a European.

As a person born in Aotearoa who has lived in China for a couple of years, I’m coming from an Asia-Pacific perspective. My thinking on software freedom takes inspiration from both US and EU perspectives, as well as from an almost completely separate set of Open Source movements in Asia (surfaced by events like FOSSAsia and the PCC conference in Hong Kong).

Part of the challenge for all of us is trying to create global institutions to support all our work. Here’s a thought experiment. Our opponents have support from multilateral institutions like WTO and WIPO. Could having a World Software Organization or World Networks Organization help us?

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Yes, this is a very interesting perspective. And a very relevant observation on the important role that cultural difference play.

Some other, different examples of cultural frictions, there’s also the frequently seen references to “privileged white males” as a group dominating the Fediverse and FOSS culture, and where - while the observation is likely accurate - the discourse often isn’t constructive, but rather divisive and confrontational.

(PS. In response to Drew Devault’s critique on FSF I’ve seen the argument made that FSF should deliberately take a more radical, purist position, even if that makes it less accessible for many projects, so they are a beacon of where Free Software ought to be. I do not have a particular opinion on this)

I think this is a great suggestion, and that there exist such need. It would be hard to get to this point, and organize it, but having a global organization representing the interests of Free Software movement is an inspiring idea.

I agree the misuse of identity politics by Bad Actors to sow division or control the direction of a community is a problem. One that seems even harder to resist in infrastructure projects than in activist campaigning groups. It seems to me that corporate entryists have realized that superficial identity politics is a great camouflage to use while trying to disrupt or co-opt grassroots movements.

I disagree with Drew. For one thing, joining the dogpile on Stallman suggests he’s as blind as the FSC and others about the above. Holding the line - and the long term vision - has always been FSF’s role. While Open Source movement Foundations compromise to different degrees to achieve incremental progress. Within reason, there’s a place for both.

Edit: having read Drew’s article, I’ve modified my reference to his views, to more accurately express my thoughts on them.

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I want to be clear what I mean when I talk about “misuse of identity politics”.

I recognise that many people face discrimination for neutral aspects of their identity, like gender or ethnicity. As well as individual bigotry, this can be expressed as bias in institutions (eg police, news media), and it’s necessary to organise politically to work on that. People doing that work have developed language that describes this work and why they’re doing it.

But just because this work is valid, that doesn’t mean that anything that justifies itself using that language is valid. The language of activism is sometimes co-opted as PR cover for more self-interested actions, and as with greenwashing and openwashing, we have to watch out for ‘identity-washing’.

The attacks on Stallman are a classic example, as Leah Rowe of LibreBoot explains in her letter to the software freedom movement. More details on the assassination attempt on Stallman’s character and why its claims are false can be found here: