Weekly paradox

24 Oct 2005 » permalink

Eric, you’re not the only one to find the Lessig’s presentation amazing. I've seen it again yesterday and got impressed as much as I did when watching it for the first time. I find two points particularly interesting in what Lessig says:

1) Mass-culture started it’s existence when copyright laws were invented. There would be no Britney Spears, no Hollywood, no Disney without all the strict laws to protect the artist’s intellectual property. The whole thing was made up to benefit the creators, but now we all know that it’s the distributors (production companies, resellers) that get the biggest piece of the cake. The artist is always on the end of the queue. It’s a paradox that a law/idea that was introduced to protect the individuality of the artist resulted in a massive de-individualization of art.

2) When hearing Lessig speaking it always strikes me how the idea of free culture (and free software) resembles existentialism. I find atheist-existentialism exceptionally inspiring myself, and I agree with the definition — “freedom is a constraint”. Freedom comes at the price of responsibility. You can’t be free without being responsible. The two are always tied together. Freedom limits freedom, and the freedom of others is an important constraint. Either my freedom will subdue yours, or yours will subdue mine. But you can’t be free without making others free.

Now if you think about GPL, you will see an analogy here. “You may use/modify this software freely BUT you have to guarantee that right to others (publish changes)”.

I'm far from being an RMS fanboy, but there is something about freedom that makes it useless if it’s not shared. Freedom is not a permanent state. It’s a temporary paradox, but still it’s worth fighting for.

Same thing applies to tolerance. A “popular” definition of tolerance goes in the lines of — “I accept everything you do, as long as you don’t violate my personal space”. In other words — “You can do anything you want, as long as you don’t limit/touch my freedom”. This definition is very comfortable to apply because it doesn’t require one to pay anything for his tolerance. It comes at no price. It’s cool and trendy. It’s about ignoring things one doesn’t like.

But the true tolerance is about paying. It’s about accepting your freedom being limited, so that others can enjoy it too. Tolerance is not just “be cool and relax” (“Come as you are” hippie stuff). Tolerance is a pain in the ass.

Tolerance: I hate what you say yet will defend your right to say it.

Given that it’s sad that the guy who made gay parades illegal in Warsaw has just become the president of Poland.