An Open Holy Land
Saturday, October 21, 2000 by Dave Winer.
And happy Saturday.
The last piece about Transcendental Money was a big hit, so I thought why not write another one like it. So I did. Here it is.
It's about peace. Being at peace instead of war. Same topic. Money and war are pretty closely related topics. Here we go.
On Monday I will go to the Holy Land.
As a member of the Baseball Religion, and a lifetime Mets fan, how could I stay in California when it's all happening in NY?
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani did something funny and philosophical. At yesterday's baseball rally in Bryant Park, he put on a hat that had the logos of both teams. Grroan. This is bad. Then he said so.
"This is what I call the coward's hat." Then he tossed away the Mets portion to reveal a Yankees cap, which he donned along with a Yankees jersey.
OK, he's a Yankees fan. Now I know why I don't like him. But it's infinitely better than being ambivalent. In baseball, there's no fun in not loving some team and hating others.
The human species evolved around clans and loyalty and total one-sidedness. Evolution weeded out humans who didn't have a strong loyalty gene. But in the current configuration of our species, where within 24 hours you can be anywhere on the planet, it no longer makes sense to hate people based on affiliations or history. Like it or not we all have to live together. We have big planetary-level problems to solve.
Baseball is a fun exception, a relaxing way to revert to our genetics, a simulation of our past, but we all must know that the world will go on even if the team we love loses. That's the Mets philosophy, we're steeped in love that's not conditional on defeating the other guys. The Mets in the early 1960s were very futuristic in that way.
Alex Cohen, a good friend, an American Jew like myself said that the Israelis and Palestinians are missing something important. They have to live with each other. There's no way around that. I've been listening to Palestinians. It seems they have the same values of intelligence, education and humor that Jews have. But when I was growing up in NY I was taught that Palestinians are bad violent nasty people. This was not a good thing to teach.
I recall with a tear in my eye what Shimon Peres said at Davos. "Peace is hard work," he said. Part of the hardness is undoing the past, and the walls that were built to keep us from seeing the goodness in each other. How can you miss it in the Palestinians? They *are* good people. Just listen.
Switching gears, I get pushback every time I write about open source on Scripting News. They ask Why do you hate open source? Why are you scared of open source? Why don't you stop writing about open source? Now there's a wall. There's some fear. My philosophy is, if it's safe to do so, to go right through the fear without hesitation.
Let me tell you why I write about open source. Like the land of Israel, independent software developers like myself occupy a postage-stamp size of the market's consciousness. Most people are happy to use the stuff that comes from big companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, etc. They figure this is the best stuff the industry creates.
So it's hard to get people to listen when we say that we're making better software in some ways than the giant companies do. Most people can't hear it. Ask yourself if you believe it. How do you know we don't kick butt? Would you trust our software with your ideas? See what we're up against.
This is the same problem the open source people have, and most of them, like the Palestinians, are very thoughtful, fair, honest even humorous people.
So think of small commercial developers as Israelis and the open source people as Palestinians. We have to share a capital, like it or not (the sooner the better). We're the small guys.
Now the open source guys like to take shots at Microsoft, this gets them press (for a while), they aim big, but long-term it's stupid. They must not know how deeply rooted Microsoft is. I have a better idea than some because I remember when Microsoft was smaller than Red Hat, twenty years ago, and I watched them build their network, and it's a big one.
To take shots at Microsoft is as ridiculous as the Palestinians declaring war on the US, although you could hardly fault them for doing that. It would make a good headline, but it's hopeless. Remember the movie The Mouse that Roared. The little guys won the war but that was just a movie. It doesn't happen like that in real life. It's not like the Mets in the 1969 World Series. The Mets had the same number of players as the Baltimore Orioles, the team they beat.
It'll take twenty years of really aggressive cut-throat competition to displace Microsoft, and they're not stupid people and they don't want to be displaced. They have a lot more players than we do. A lot. And the Young Bill Gates was something to behold. As Lloyd Bentsen said to Dan Quayle, "I knew Bill Gates, you're no Bill Gates." (Nor should you want to be.)
Doc Searls has been in this column many times. He's an editor at Linux Journal, but he's not a geek. His column is called Linux for Suits. He's also one of four authors of the wildly poplular Cluetrain Manifesto.
Doc is in a business that depends on usable software. He's a writer and a thinker and playful man. He's exactly the kind of person the software industry as a whole should be supporting instead of undermining. He should not be in the middle of a power struggle between the Forces of Evil and the Forces of Goodness. It's so silly. He needs a good emailer, text editor, presentation organizer, Web browser and file system, maybe a nice draw program. This is software, not the Mets vs the Yankees in the Subway Series.
Focus on that.
My philosophy, which seems to be shared by very few, is to have an Open Holy Land. That we don't cast out any honest developer who wants to make things better for all of us, that we don't build concentration camps to define bad people, or bad software.
The people who cast it as Open Source vs Everyone, the Holy Jihad of Software, are not doing any of us a favor, because like it or not, we have to live together.