Friday, February 24, 2006

War on Piracy?

The proponents of "All Rights Reserved" copyright law often toss around words such as "stealing", "thievery", and "piracy" to describe those who distribute unauthorized copies of works. Such loaded terms often come with accusations of "unethical" behavior and the need to go to war. Indeed, the very nature of such words implies morally questionable behavior. Invariably, those who push this point of view rarely wish to engage in a discussion on the fundamental difference between rivalrous and non-rivalrous resources. They hold implicit membership in the Church of Intellectual Property - doing what they can to spread their beliefs.

Clearly, if I go to another's home and take a bar of soap without asking I am stealing. I am committing an offensive act no matter how much I may need a proper bath. The ethics concerning such a situation seem obvious. If I take something of yours, you no longer have it. I have deprived you of your soap. You must now find the means to replace that soap. Curiously, this frame of reference is often applied to the field of non-rivalrous ideas.

As an example, let's look at a typical proprietary software maker's mentality to see if "ethics" are really involved...

But first, regarding one's soap: If you told me that stealing your soap is a morally reprehensible act, would you then say - "Stealing soap is morally wrong, but should you decide to steal soap, I would prefer it if you stole my soap and not someone else's"? That would sound strange, no? Borderline insane. So how would a major corporation selling proprietary operating system software react when the same scenario is applied to software rather than suds? You see, proprietary software vendors don't actually want to stop piracy. A corporation like Microsoft will not admit this, though this is an obvious fact. Obviously, Microsoft Windows would be completely eviscerated on the desktop by free software if Microsoft could - and did - put an end to piracy. However, here is someone who will at least be honest with you - Ilene Lang, a former senior vice president of Lotus Development Corporation once said -
"I'm not saying that I want people to steal our software, mind you, but if they should steal someone's software, maybe they should steal ours, because it gets you an installed base and market recognition."
Proprietary software vendors don't want to put a full-stop to piracy. These organizations don't want to end piracy any more than a company like Symantec wants software impervious to viruses and worms. Complete security is not in their interest - it is the struggle for security that they wish to perpetuate. Analogously, the current U.S. administration does not wish to end completely the "War on Terror" or the "War on Drugs". Such artificially created conflict is common in our world. The fight is what intere$ts such organizations. Without the struggle, there is no opportunity for power, control and ultimately, profit.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

My problem is...

Over the past weekend I had a memorable encounter with an acquaintance. I helped this fellow out and he proceeded to bless me and give praise to the lord. He identified himself as a devout christian. He said god would be kind to me. I said, "I don't know about that"

He seemed perplexed at my response and wanted to make it clear that I would be rewarded for helping him. He said, "Don't you think god will be kind to you?"

"I don't think about god", I replied.

He paused. He seemed confused. He then asked me a more direct question...

"Don't you believe in god?"

"I don't believe", I said.

At that moment, his face took on a tortured expression. His wince expressed a deep pain. He seemed to be experiencing angst. In an instant he was resolved to enlighten me.

"Have you read the bible?", he asked.

"Yes", I replied.

"Then your problem is", he said with pity, "that you read it like a newspaper"

He proceeded to tell me how he reads the bible, how he prays and how he has the feeling of god inside of him. I listened very carefully to him expound his religious view. It involved the force of god in battle with the force of evil. He was very animated - he spoke with emotion. For a couple of minutes he delivered his speech and I listened quietly - paying close attention to his words. Although he did not come outright and say it, he implied that horrible things happen to those who do not believe in god. Part of this involved his motivation to do good in the world - that is, in order to get to heaven. I spoke -

"So you act righteously and believe in god in order to go to order to get something for yourself?"

"Yes!", he emphatically responded.

His honesty was refreshing. I would have delved deeper into this response but he quickly continued on about the rewards he was to reap in the afterlife. All the while, birds sang in a nearby tree and the green grass was brilliantly lit up by the warm sun.

"Your problem is", he empathetically stated, "that your culture has raised you to believe that god doesn't exist"

"I don't recall claiming that god doesn't exist", I replied in order to correct his misconception.

He stalled. Again, he appeared confused. Disinterested in clarification, he proceeded to explain what my problem is. He told me how I was raised in a godless culture. This was my problem and was why I didn't have the "feeling of god" in me. He knew I was raised in north america but nothing beyond that. I was curious as to how he had put together this image.

After some time, he seemed to have said everything he wanted to say. I told him I needed to run and thanked him for the conversation.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Offense is Committed in the Mind of the Offended

Update: This post has changed its wording (i.e. from "violent" to "aggressive") to better communicate its point as suggested in a comment below.

Why identify?

When we identify with a religious following or take pride in our nation, we cut ourselves off from humanity as a whole - antagonistically creating a false sense of other. When I say (without a qualifier like "scholar"), "I am a Hindu", or "I am a Muslim", or "I am a Buddhist", or "I am an Atheist", or "I am a Christian", I am thinking violently aggressively. This is then projected by several and called "a society". The identification with nation or religion (or the atheistic reaction) is an escape from fear - and it is avoidance of fear that breeds violence aggression. When we think in parts - seeking some sort of psychological security - society is needlessly fragmented.

Of course, those who identify will say this is not true. They will say there exists no contradiction when they proclaim the identity encapsulating their beliefs or take pride in a country. They speciously call this "faith" or "patriotism" and derive much personal satisfaction in doing so. They say it is the "extremists" - not them - who are the cause of violence aggressors. Them, not us. Those people, not me. However, the seemingly quiet molecule of water at the bottom of the ocean moves with, and is part of, the destructive wave crashing at the surface.

Why identify?

Other than the outward need to carry a passport, why have any inward sense of belonging? Why identify with the nation, a savior, prophet, or guru?

I heard this question the other day regarding the reaction to the Mohammed cartoons -
"Wouldn't you be offended if your religion was ridiculed?"
My religion?

The offense is committed in the mind of the offended.

Why identify?

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