Gandhi: Would he have been a Free Software advocate?


Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

May 30, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall


I watched a movie on Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi last night and was once again impressed by this singular man and his life.


I also found a couple of parallels to Free Software.


The first parallel was when Gandhi told the people to spin their own thread, weave their own cloth and make their own clothes. He did this for several reasons.


First of all, by purchasing the finished clothes the people of India were supporting the British manufacturers.


Secondly, by not making the thread, cloth and clothes inside their own country, the people of India were giving up local jobs.


Third, the people of India had become needlessly dependent on the British for their clothing, and were not encouraging a clothing industry inside of their own country. Gandhi (and later the Indian people) felt so strongly about this that eventually their flag bore the emblem of the spinning wheel.


Likewise a country that does not generate its own software internally, whenever possible, sends a lot of money outside their own country as well as not encouraging the growth of a local software development industry.


The second parallel was with Gandhi's famous salt march. The British government strictly controlled (and taxed) the production of salt. Much of India is a very hot climate, and salt depletion is common.


In climates like India salt has to be ingested to maintain the body's salt levels, so controlling salt was very important for controlling the people. By marching to the sea and making his own salt, Gandhi demonstrated to the people that something as simple as salt was being used to control them.


With proprietary software people can be “controlled”. People are told when to update, and how to use their software, particularly when they feel there is no alternative.


Finally, Gandhi used non-violent resistance. Some people mistakenly call this “passive resistance”, but Gandhi was anything but passive. He actively and continuously kept pushing his messages and thoughts. We, as Free Software people, also have to continuously keep pushing our thoughts and ideas on the use of Free Software by our society.


If Gandhi were alive today, I am sure that he would embrace and use Free Software.


Carpe Diem!


  • FOSS is a social movement

    It's funny that you make such comparison. I've always seen the FOSS movement as one of the biggest social moments in history.

    We've developed collaboration paradigms and even codes of conduct. Everyday, we experience the FOSS Effect; we help others like, once, we were helped.

    We collaborate with software and feel joy while giving it to the world and hoping it will become useful one day.

    We definitely are a social movement. I'm glad to be part of it.
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