My friend Sergio has just posted about his questioning himself about being a radical when it comes to software freedom. I find that choice of words may be a complicated matter. Although radical would finely describe someone who goes to the root of the issue, it brings so many bad feelings to people's minds, like stuborness, bombs, etc, that one should better avoid it. I have been called by names that designate a religious faction of some religion I don't follow, and I think people really don't know much what they are talking about. But maybe our position is close to religion after all.

I strongly believe in some values, like freedom of knowledge, transparency, no centralization of power, reciprocity of rights and obligations, human and individual control over the machine. I should expand on those some other time, and there are some values that are in conflict with each other, so we need to be careful of those grey areas, but make clear that there are areas where we have a right for privacy and others where we have a right to know.

I think we cannot let go of those values, and we need to fight for those. What we may question is our actions to get there. People call radical those people who seem to never compromise. But we need to compromise all the time, because we don't live in an ideal world. Unfortunately, there are people who say they defend software freedom and they not only compromise all the time, but don't do a single thing to try to change matters.

Throughout the years, I found that a lot of people and groups fall into a trap. A binary trap. They think they can either only ship free software or not ship it. They debate on what is free software and what is not and go to those grey (or not so grey) areas, where people disagree. They don't consider to find a different solution, a third or a fourth way, and a timely compromise, to get us into those clear areas where we believe we are doing the right thing.

Let me try to make it clear by an example. The free software community has debated a lot about devices' firmware. Debian has taken a long time to split the non-free firmware files from the linux package in its main archive. Now, it's shipped in the non-free sections of the archive. The Free Software Foundation says Debian is not a free software distribution because they have the non-free section of the archive. The trap here is that the community has always debated whether they should ship the non-free firmware or not, whether the non-free section should exist or not. To be fair, Debian has decided on a timely compromise, to include the non-free firmware in the release that was about to happen, but remove it in their next release. But that decision has been repeated over and over. And the user would still find oneself in the situation where some devices would not work anymore. Instead, what I think we should do is find a way to work with those devices with only free software and free firmware. Fortunately, we have seen a lot of that happening lately, with people doing a lot of reverse engineering on devices, or even some vendors releasing some of their code under a free license, or some documentation. I would like to expand on that topic, but I will do it another time.

Let me go back to our main discussion. We need to be radicals. We need to be the ones people look up to as role models when it comes to defending free software. Because otherwise, there will be no one else for them to look up to. Or there will be those people left, who compromise all the time, and always push the community to the wrong side. At the same time, there are those who are pulling our society to the wrong side, and we need the people to counter-balance that.

At the other hand, in order to be role models, we need to take care of our actions and take care of ourselves. We need to be happy. We can't stand being grumpy all the time. So we need to understand that not all people will follow what we believe is right. And maybe they are entitled to that. And sometimes, it's part of what we are defending, that people should be able to make some of their own choices. But we can't stop trying to educate them on important issues, and allowing them to make a conscious decision. And when it comes to decisions we may consider harmful to society, we need to give people altenative ways to do what they want to do. We need to build the world we want to live in. That is not going to happen overnight, and, in the meanwhile, people will live, and we will live. And if we can do that happily, let's do it.