20 April 2010

Richard Stallman: "I Wished I Had Killed Myself"

I received a review copy of Steven Levy's seminal book Hackers back in the 1980s, but never read it. I did, though, keep it, because it looked interesting and important. It came in very handy when I wrote Rebel Code, since in some sense my book is a continuation of Levy's story, and his meticulous work provided me with the context for everything that happened afterwards.

So I was naturally intrigued to read Levy's recent encounters with some of the key hackers he wrote about back then, in his new Wired article "Steven Levy Revisits Tech Titans, Hackers, Idealists".

Sadly, it is rather disappointing, the meandering parts never quite adding up to any satisfactory whole (and the section on Gates seems overly complaisant.) But it's worth reading (a) for the photos of hackers as they were then, and (b) for the following revelatory confession of RMS:

In our original interview, Stallman said, “I’m the last survivor of a dead culture. And I don’t really belong in the world anymore. And in some ways I feel I ought to be dead.” Now, meeting over Chinese food, he reaffirms this. “I have certainly wished I had killed myself when I was born,” he says. “In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived. And so I guess, if I could go back in time and prevent my birth, I wouldn’t do it. But I sure wish I hadn’t had so much pain.”

This "pain" that Stallman says he has endured makes his decision to champion tirelessly freedom and free software for all these decades all the more remarkable - and our debt to him for doing so all the greater.

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74 comments:

mr. mike said...

"In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived."

That's one hell of a statement.

glyn moody said...

@mr mike: I'd say it's factually true. imagine a world where Stallman hadn't lived...no GNU, no Linux, maybe no free software movement, at least not in its present form...

no Wikipedia, no open content, no Creative Commons, no open access, no open science...

9600 said...

@Glyn Moody: It is a somewhat arrogant statement, but I'd have to agree. And without the GNU/Linux poster child you can bet that there would have been no serious driver for the open source definition/movement, and that all the permissive licensed stuff would have remained in the shadows.

glyn moody said...

@9600: yes, I think so

Jeff said...

It is beyond a terribly arrogant statement. Stallman has a God complex. To think that creative freedoms would have been champion-less without the birth of RMS is laughable. I often wonder where OSS would be now if the spirtual leader would have been less of a nutjob.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see his comment as "arrogant." Each and every one of us, in some way, leave a mark on the world because of our lives. Often, we touch others without even being aware we have done so and I'm sure that can be said for Richard Stallman's life, just as with every one of us.

Jason said...

No doubt RMS impact has been and is profound and likely the statement is entirely accurate. To read into this though that even the likes of "open science" would not exist is absurd. Id actually go so far as to say its absurd to assume nothing like open source would exist. In its exact form. Unlikely. Not at all. Unlikely. I for one am glad RMS is around and I thank him and everyone else who has carried on this fight but dont treat it as more than it is.

Anonymous said...

There is an argument that it doesn't really matter what anyone does in history as someone else would have filled their shoes, but I don't buy it. Individuals CAN have an effect on the world. If that wasn't true, then there's hardly any reason to do good. Heroes really do inspire others and shape the world. If only a little on the whole, it's still a lot for one guy.

And while RMS and the GNU don't sway the majority of the world, they're a vastly important minority. I think Richard needs to get out and remind himself of all the appreciative people he's helped. I'd certainly buy him a beer or 10 if he was in town.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me, that he has affected...

Anonymous said...

God complex or not, he is correct. We all owe a great amount to his efforts.

As for where things would be? Lemme think.....how about 20 years in the past from where they are today? Or worse, maybe sharing code would be frowned upon, or even illegal?

knewter said...

Jeff,

I feel you don't properly appreciate what the GPL provides. It's an elegant and powerful document, and one of the better hacks I've ever witnessed. Creative freedoms, without pretty much exactly this hack, would've gotten nowhere near as far as we've gotten. You can argue someone else might have come up with this hack, but you can't argue it any other way as far as I can tell...

candtalan said...

Stallman has been an inspiration to me, it is a bit unfortunate that his uncompromising approach often seems to lack subtlety. But then, I see him as a prophet, and the world is often out of step with prophets.

I 'discovered' Stallman fairly recently, after watching a series of 14 Youtube videos (each 10 minutes) of a talk on FOSS he gave in India somewhere.

I certainly appreciate his influences, although on occasions he does not do himself too many favours.

I am sad to hear he finds it so painful.

Anonymous said...

@Jeff-

It is a terrible thing to equate a man's reasonable wish to find value in his contribution with the world with a 'God complex.' Whether or not you feel his actions merit gratitude or celebration, I'm disappointed that you'd besmirch his right to feel good about giving his time and effort for a cause he believes in.

Calling it "beyond a terribly arrogant statement" to say that it's a good thing that one lived is, in my eyes, a far greater sin. I should hope that you find something to believe in, Jeff, and learn how much better it feels to contribute than to criticize.

Anonymous said...

RMS's positive effects are negated by their negative effect on the value of technology, and mooted by pure human nature. Yes, some large corporations don't own us all outright. However, many small corporations, and millions of individuals, have had their creative value cut out from under them by product that is produced without compensation and distributed without cost. The number of creative persons is reduced, and the number of persons who struggle to eke a little income by pushing prepackaged junk around the technological economy is increased. I feel sorry for him for his suicidal apprehensions; those need professional help; at least psychiatrists aren't open-sourced and he can get some, instead of having to rely on half-cooked solutions on a public forum.

Anonymous said...

the statement is certainly true. Would you like him to modestly "lie" and be just the same kind of phony as many other well-known persons? He didn't say that he's a god. He told us the truth.

Anonymous said...

There was free software before Stallman and there will be free software again.

I use tons of open source software every day. The only license attached to it is usually a comment by the developer "Feel free to use it and modify it as you see fit, just credit me if you redistribute it."

Anonymous said...

@Jeff,

not to pick on you (one could say the same about myself!), but hey, I'm glad Richard Stallman exists. He is an important person to us. Whereas for you... (or for myself, see above).

Sibyl said...

Good gravy, people. When a guy is suicidal enough to wish he hadn't lived, he's clearly had a terrible, painful life for nearly all of it.

Now that he has the temerity to think it (and he) might have all been worth it, you want to shoot him down?

Sometimes truth is just truth. In terms of effect on the world, it's very good that he lived. I see nothing arrogant about that statement.

Don't waste your energy here. Spend it to make sure you can say that about yourself someday.

Anil Wang said...

Jeff, the truth is, other people have stepped up, Linus, Bruce Perens, ESR, RedHat, Larry Wall, and Miguel (before he went Mono), Theo, Tridgell, Lessig, to name a few. But none cared about "the big picture" like RMS. None cared about everything from the low level firmware all the way up to the user issues like "The right to read" or the practical things like licensing.

He was certainly ahead of his time, championing these issues as early as 1985, back when these issues were virtually nonexistent on the personal PC.

If you think that someone else would have stepped up, show me. I don't see anyone coming close.

50iemeLise said...

I agree that this is terribly arrogant (even if its mostly true).
Does Mr. Saint Stalman see himself as the Christ of free software ? He was so miserable but he saved us from the M$ Devils. He has "opened" the door of the paradise!!! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Come on Richard... Get a life...

Anonymous said...

@Jeff: You seem to be trying to say that the world would not be any worse had Stallman not made such an effort to champion his ideals. Whether or not you agree with every position he takes, it seems unbelievable to me to suggest that he hasn't made some kind of net positive difference in the world.

Anonymous said...

It is a very arrogant comment. I am one a contemporary of RMS, who has known him for 4 decades. The open source movement existed prior to RMS coming on the scene, will survive after RMS exits the scene, and would have thrived without RMS.

There were many more people than just RMS doing open source in the 1970s. Most of these, contrary to Levy's claim, live in obscurity because they never sought wealth, fame, and/or power...and rejected it when it was freely offered.

RMS' record is mixed. He has some talent as a programmer (not as much as his reputation would have you think); but his real talents are in organization and leadership. However, as with Steve Jobs, it comes with rigidity and megalomania.

In some ways, RMS has held the open source movement back. Innovation and new creation has been stifled. The past 20 or so years have been spent in reimplementing what has already been done for no reason other than RMS not liking the license terms of the existing product.

It would be nice if we stopped fretting so much about which open source license is "better" and concerned ourselves more about advancing the state of the art.

Anonymous said...

"Stallman has a god complex" Wrong. Stallman IS god.

Grant said...

I don't find his comment arrogant. Of course, we all (or at least, many of us) want to leave a positive mark on the world. He has. No question. Sure, in his absence others may have stepped up to the job, but in this world, he did. We can sit and imagine all we want that with a different leader, FOSS would be better. But, that doesn't change the fact that we have him to thank for so very much.

Anonymous said...

It's really a sad quote. But I understand him.
A life in pain is very hard to live, and there are few things that make you keep going.

Bob said...

Sure he's arrogant, but we should cut him some slack- he is one of our true heroes. Long live Richard Stallman.

glyn moody said...

belated thanks for all those comments: sorry I didn't pick them up earlier.

HappyBirthday1488 said...

LOL.

Anonymous said...

Without rms and GNU.... *BSD, anyone?

This is a case of ego creating a false dichotomy. If it weren't for Stallman, someone else would have done it, and there were alternatives around long before GNU.

I'd wager that de Raadt's work on OpenBSD and OpenSSH have been more relevant to more platforms and the Net community in general, than GCC or gmake (and we won't enter the editor wars over the use(ful/less)ness of Emacs).

In any case, rms needs to get over himself. Write more code, spend less time proselytizing.

Paul said...

Sometimes I am ashamed to be part of the open source community. This life is a drudgery for most of us, but we persevere anyway. Don't make it any harder for others than you have to.

I, for one, appreciate RMS' hard work and dedication to the ideals of freedom and openness. RMS has been one of the few people in recent history to stand on principal no matter the personal cost. Other examples are Martin Luther King Mother Theresa, and Mohandas Gandhi.

For those of you who think RMS has a God complex, St. Paul said something very similar (Philippians 1:23): "But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better"

jwwjr said...

Richard Stallman is very right when he says "In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived."

In terms of how all he has accomplished has scaled to help people (and businesses) all over the planet, and is continuing to scale, he is very deserving of a Nobel prize.

I live in North Carolina, but I have been to presentations of his in Boston. He is a genius. He may be eccentric, but he is a genius. He and Eben Moglen have singlehandedly, and with little money, successfully fought the most evil and economy-sapping monopoly in the history of man, and made it so that you have a choice to have a computer and not be bullied.

Anonymous said...

You fuckers think he's arrogant, but look what he's pulled off. It's not like a fucking license is all he wrote. He started the work to build a free operating system in 1983 and contributed to tools such as gdb and gcc himself. How far do you think Linus would have gotten with Linux without a compiler? Or any of the free software projects for that matter? He's not a fucking poster child, he's a doer.

ravenpi said...

RMS may, indeed, have a god complex... but I really have difficulty arguing with his statement. Contrast and compare, if you will, with ESR: ESR is arrogant, intelligent, insightful... but nowhere near the tireless leader that RMS is. RMS is dogmatic, frequently annoying, but he's *THE* visionary that got GNU going, fed the fires of Emacs and F/OSS (before such a term even existed), and has had a huge impact across the board.

Do I admire him? Absolutely. Would I wish to emulate him? Not on your life.

But, frankly, it's awfully hard to overstate his importance. I mean, we could all be running *inexpensive* *nix (anyone remember Coherent?) instead of free *nix. With free X. Reading this content provided by free browsers, sent from free HTTP servers. RMS has, personally, had relatively little impact on any one, individual product, but free-as-in-speech is his baby, almost entirely, a la the GPL. He's earned it. Let him have it.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps not a God complex, but at least a Whiny Jesus complex. Yes, it's sad that he feels such pain, but the massive egotism kicks in where he basically says "I have suffered for you - my pain is for the greater good."

Even if you like the man and his work, you have to admit that this is an absolutely insane level of arrogance. He's pretty clearly mentally ill.

Viksit said...

I agree with the last Anon statement (10:04pm).

Arrogant or not - is a matter of perception. RMS didn't just provide a philosophy or a license, he actually *built* GNU tools and Emacs. The latter alone puts him right above practically anyone else in the software arena.

9600 said...

OK, perhaps arrogant was the wrong word to use, and it might have been better to say that he made a bold statement. I never said RMS was a poster child, but rather that GNU/Linux was, and as such served to build momentum and put F/OSS on the agenda for a great many commercial organisations. RMS deserves a lot more recognition than he gets, and those who try and marginalise his contributions are being short-sighted.

OpenBSD and OpenSSH are extremely cool, but if people suggest that RMS is too extremist... And to compare the effect that these have had compared to GNU/Linux is, well, silly.

Anonymous said...

Stallman is a reality and he has a value in reality.
But to ponder about the reality, to day, without Stallman is a bit silly.
As I see it programming eventually become accepted as a form of art and with the birth of cheap hardware and a large number of programmers fed up with the conditions of commercial software run bye ignorant idiots open source was born and no one person could have stopped it and no one person can claim to have started it.
But Stallman as a reality has had a real value.
It would perhaps have been better if his personality was a bit more like the personality of GNU/Linus.

gus3 said...

If there hadn't been Dr. Stallman, there would have been someone else. There is always someone willing to stand up and do the right thing at the right time, and in this case it was rms.

Jose_X said...

>> However, many small corporations, and millions of individuals, have had their creative value cut out from under them by product that is produced without compensation and distributed without cost.

Are you blaming open source for a failure of closed source to keep up with the times?

Perhaps "piracy" (which has nothing to do with open source) is getting you upset?

You do realize many people are being paid to improve and customize open source, right? Maybe those millions of individuals you mentioned had to change jobs or will have to.

Rats! Horse and carriage and automobiles. Stop progress, Charlie. Screw the standard of living of most people. Forget about all the hundreds of millions that will be more enabled because of open source. Forget about the serious privacy threats and abuses that will be removed by dumping closed source software.

Closed source developers need to realize that the source code has extreme value to the users and to third party developers. Shrink-wrapped closed source developers are not contributing that value to society and they spite those that are.

>> The number of creative persons is reduced

The millions committed mass suicide?

>> the number of persons who struggle to eke a little income by pushing prepackaged junk around the technological economy is increased.]

Open source saves the day. Now you don't have to deal with pre-packaged junk. Customize and improve. Stop being a passive consumer.

...

Maybe RMS should go hide and come back pretending to be someone else. That would relieve stress.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness for RMS! I am so glad he didn't kill himself. If he had he wouldn't be around to produce the cult of wacko zealots that hold Linux back from any sort of success on the desktop. Thank you RMS, thank you, you are god. I would hate to live in a world where I was stuck with craptastic Linux as the leading OS. Hail $tallman!

Anonymous said...

@mr. mike:

Not everyone feels the need to couch everything they say with false modesty.

Ditto to everyone else commenting about RMS's "arrogant statement." The guy stated his opinion and didn't feel the need to preemptively genuflect before the masses of anonymous blog commentators- most of whom have had no significant effect on the world and simply don't matter.

DP said...

I don't consider myself a hacker nor a member of the free software movement, but I do believe that RMS has made a difference to people that consider these things important.

However I really object to pretentious comments such as comparing RMS to "...Martin Luther King Mother Theresa, and Mohandas Gandhi." That is grotesque myth-making of the lowest calibre. As much as I benefit from open-source I can't take some of its proponents seriously. It's a big world out there and RMS and synchophants should get out and enjoy it more.

Anonymous said...

> "In terms of effect on the world, it’s very good that I’ve lived."

People who find this arrogant should think twice before criticizing, because that tells much about the one who throws stones.

IMHO this is a realization of fact -- as an aftermath and if anything, a joyous one -- it's almost like he was somewhat surprised... the "kill myself" part hints about the revealing context.

> That's one hell of a statement.

Yes, without any doubt.

Linus, ESR, Alan Cox, Mr. Morton all are doers, but RMS is on a entire different level. He hacks philosophies; he awakes the good in people which already have the goodwill; it puts the dots on the "i"s when he states holding knowledge is doing evil.

How many can say that?

Though certainly History has known greater men (like e.g. Ghandi, to avoid the religious arena), I'm sure many envy RMS' successful results.

I thank him for all his commitment and hope he can continue his hard work for many decades, for people of such quality are indeed rare.

Morris said...

Stallman is an inspiration, I'm really glad he didn't do it. The GPL will never die, and his legacy isn't done yet, he has yet much to share.

Steve Baker said...

Stallman is a difficult person to like - I don't like him. But he saved the world for true hackerdom. I hate his ridiculous demands that Linux be called "GNU/Linux" - but I strongly acknowledge that without the GNU tools - there would be no Linux.

I can't think of anyone else for whom I have to hold two such opposite views about. He hurts my head!

Keep up the good work RMS...and...er....please stop it immediately!

Anonymous said...

Another attention grabbing headline from some nowhere blog looking for some action. Nice.

Anonymous said...

Free software existed before him and it would still exist without him. He's just not that important.

How far do you think Linus would have gotten with Linux without a compiler?

And imagine what the world would be like if someone hadn't dumped his shallow world view into software licenses and instead allowed people the freedom to do what they would with the code?

Who knows maybe we wouldn't need to dump more effort into clang just to replace a bad license...

gnuosphere said...

Apparently Levy *still* doesn't understand Stallman's position. He continues to claim that Stallman is against the commercialization of software (twice in that article, at least).

Stallman has no problem with the commercialization of software. What he disagrees with is making software proprietary. Unfortunately, these two ideas are interpreted by many as synonymous. This confuses the issues and makes having constructive conversations very difficult.

Anonymous said...

He should go back to GNawing on his feet; he's a total freak.

KimTjik said...

As someone else wrote, RMS results in mixed feelings. Still he has made an important contribution to free software.

I saw some comment here suggesting that RMS forced his license on coders, or that companies got bankrupt because of the idea about free software. That's just silly accusations. Nobody is forced to license his/her code GPL. Linus doesn't seem to agree on with RMS on a lot of subjects, but he did choose to release his code as GPL licensed. There are other licenses as well, something that only emphasizes that using or not using GPL is a free choice.

So who's in charge? RMS? Of course not, the coders are in charge, but thanks to RMS and other initiatives they don't have to figure out and waste time on formulating juridically safe licenses for themselves.

The statement about lost jobs and so on is when examined a totalitarian thought. If a coder wishes to take advantages of a particular license it's his/hers freedom to do so. If someone wishes to get help with the code, but still protect it by a GPL license, and built a business on services based on the code, it's his/hers freedom to do so.

It's cheap to make personal attacks; it costs to do something that benefits others (if so it's just a small group that agrees with you; which obviously isn't the case about GPL).

Anonymous said...

As with so many things in the world, its easy to sit back and take cheap shots. Let's see you do something even remotely close to what RMS has done.

Anonymous said...

Richard, if you happen to read this... other people who are like you notice and greatly appreciate your idealism...also, check out the greatest idealist...God. He is actually perfect, with no compromise.

Anonymous said...

I think his statement about his painful life is far more arrogant than the statement about his impact on the world. What is this pain he is takling about? The pain of seeing people act in ways he doesn't like?

There are billions of people out there with real pain. Pain in their stomach because they haven't eaten in days. Pain in their heart because they lost loved ones in tragic, useless and avoidable ways. Pain in their body because they suffer from a disease for which treatment is denied for some reason. The pain of fearing for ones existance. The pain of having to hide because you are oppressed and have to fear punishment for your sexual orientation, religion or political affiliation.

There are lots of reasons for pain I can understand. I can't understand the pain RMS is talking about. His pain is that he doesn't know real pain.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the reference by Mr Stallman to pain--does he have a chronic medical condition?
Or is he saying his pain is that he is unhappy in his life?

glyn moody said...

I believe the latter.

Dennis Towne said...

Anonymous: Quite frankly, I think a lot of that 'real pain' you're talking about (starving people in foreign countries) exists because there aren't enough people like Stallman.

The powerful hate transparency and freedom of speech; this is what Stallman fights for. I can certainly see how his life may be difficult as a result, and how it probably pains him to see them work against and tear down his ideals.

Chris Carpenter said...

Quite simply, everyone claiming that Richard "doesn't give coders a choice" and similar things is completely wrong. I have read many of his writings, and many of them say something along the lines of "I think you should do it this way, but I understand if you don't want to, and I'll try to help you do something you think is good for you and benefits the users as much as possible".

Richard cares about the users. He doesn't care about developers really. His ideals are meant to protect the rights of the users of software. I agree, the GPL takes away a lot of freedom from the developer, but it gives them back the opportunity to see their creation used in ways they never even dreamed possible.

To me, programming is about the experience of creating something. Unfortunately, I haven't made anything that is very good, so I don't yet know how it feels to see other people using my creation, and getting work done with it, or having fun with it. However, I can imagine it is an amazing feeling.

Quite simply, if you don't feel in at least a similar way, I feel that you shouldn't be programming. Programming should not be done for purely monetary gain, but for the experience. Money is not what matters in this world.

KimTjik said...

About pain

There's no need to elevate RMS' importance beyond being a mortal man fighting for what he believes in. It's however interesting to listen to his reflection on progress of freedom. I listen to one interview where he did sound very sad about the fact that humankind overall enjoys less freedom while he sees improvements in the field of software, something of less importance. Hence I doubt he sees his own mission as that important as his ridiculers try to make it, and he's genuinely disturb by the unbalance of our world.

I don't know, but it could well be another reason for why he's talking about pain. Maybe the pain he feels by seeing others' pain adds to his state of sadness.

Anonymous said...

The open source movement is about maintaining a read/write culture, far different than the read-mostly culture most of the world lives in where decisions are outsourced to 'experts'. Whatever you think of RMSs' tact, his philosophy upholds a read/write subculture, without this there would be far less ladders to the front lines, and we would have far smaller than a 7% knowledge worker force in the US... It troubles me that so many who have reaped the benefits fail to see why... why?... why...

Suburbanbanshee said...

Apparently, if I'm ever having serious suicidal impulses, I should avoid asking for help from most of the folks in this combox.

Also, they ignore the cry for help, and focus on whether the guy in It's a Wonderful Life is taking too optimistic a view of his importance.

Saying that your life and work has done some amount of good in the world is a modest statement. Most garbagemen and janitors are able to say that much. Anyone cooperating in the work of keeping civilization going is doing good in the world. I wouldn't deny any of you the chance to say that, even the insensitive twits among you. Yet you feel qualified to pronounce the opposite upon a distinguished colleague. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Whatever else he did in his life, he sure inspired a lot more flamewars than open source projects.

Anonymous said...

I always wonder how much of "free" software comes at the cost of countless hours taken from unwitting employers, i.e. theft. It doesn't matter if the employer ultimately benefits (from use of the free software) or if they're too stupid to know that their employees are having more fun working on open source software--it's still dishonest on the part of those working on it (in lieu of other work requested by employer) without employer approval. Although Stallman created the mechanism that makes it fun to engage in this dishonesty, I suppose it's technically not his fault, but I also figure that the software-socialist nut job loves it.

KimTjik said...

Another anonymous wrote: "...it's still dishonest on the part of those working on it (in lieu of other work requested by employer) without employer approval."

What has that argument to do with free software? Sure, it's always dishonest to steal time from your employer and as has been proven it's for sure not coding that most are doing, but surfing for porn. Or that's OK because porn has always been in the forefront of capitalism, utilizing technology to its full potential? Stealing is stealing and is a totally different subject, that has nothing to do with RMS.

I'm amazed at how indoctrinated some seems to be, when finding political arguments to support untrue believes. The biggest problem isn't that you politicize technology, but that you lack the ability to see opportunities outside the box of a business model that comes closer and closer to a halt. Inside the box you don't even realize that the big push ahead in open-source is done by developers paid directly do write open-source code.

If besides direct corporate interest people choose to write software in their free time, since when did the constitution forbid freedom to do so? A lot of good utilities exist because there's a corporate need for better maintenance of their computer systems, so while it's not monetized it servers to help businesses as individuals to be more productive. To always think in terms of monetizing every bit of code, would eventually halt progress.

To use phrases as "software-socialist nut job" or "right-wing mudslinger" usually indicates a total lack of arguments.

shevegen said...

Well... i am not a fan of RMS but he has a point actually.

He definitely had a big impact on the world, for worse or the better.

I don't really buy the whole GNU crusade notion as extreme as RMS preaches it, and I love to make fun of GNU Hurd (it will be finished next year I have heard) but in overall the FSF is good to have.

Xyzzy said...

The argument over whether he's arrogant or not is silly -- that part is simply a matter of opinion.

Similar goes for comments on how "justified" he is to have a mental disorder. Nobody knows quite what causes depression, or even how to reliably treat it -- the one thing we do know is that it has nothing to do with a person's character, and little to do with how good/bad their life has been. No different, I've learned, from birth defects, autism, migraines, diseases, etc.

What strikes me as more interesting is the *effect* of his depression. The disorder undermines willpower and talents, distracting & discouraging a person from their goals; it also makes them much more rigid & often tactless. If he managed this much in spite of depression, what could he have contributed to the FOSS world if he'd had decent treatment for it?

Anonymous said...

Reason why Stallman said "I Wished I Had Killed Myself" is quite simple.

It's because big lies are still strongly believed by people. Just remember what Hitler has written:

"If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed. "

"Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it."

"How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think."

"The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one. "

-------------------------

So? Isn't it easier now to understand why people like Stallman actually don't want to live in world like this one?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that Linus absolutely needed GNU tools to build linux is crazy. You don't think that someone else might of come up with a free compiler or maybe Linus would of just written one himself? I think that if he could write a whole OS he could get around the compiler problem one way or another. Linus used what was readily available.

glyn moody said...

@anon: well, the point is, he didn't write a complete OS, but the kernel: RMS was trying to write a complete OS, and had done the others bits first - which was precisely what Linus needed to write the kernel.

Yes, Linus could have used another, if there had been one, but I don't think there was. I doubt whether he could have written one - not because he was incapable, but because of the daunting nature of doing that first.

Don't forget, he wrote the kernel more or less by *accident*, not intentionally...

Anonymous said...

Stallman is completely nuts. The open source movement would be better off if he never existed.

The guy eats stuff off his feet, sticks plants up his nose, publicly defends things like animal pornography and necrophilia, gives his condolences to new parents, yells at children for not saying "Ganoo slash linux", his statement of principles is written in the style of the Communist Manifesto, etc. etc.

Could you find a worse spokesperson for a movement? I don't think so. He's done far more harm to free software than good.

glyn moody said...

anon: RMS is certainly eccentric at times, but the key thing to remember is that the open source movement would probably never have existed without him - certainly not in its present form (or with its present success...)

Markus said...

Stallman wasn't being arrogant; he thinks and speaks on absolute practical terms with little or no regard for social conformity.

Anonymous said...

We all should show better our gratitude (and when I say 'we' I mean 99.99% of mankind) to Stallman. Moreover, Stallman most important contribution was to the 'ideal' of free code and shared knowledge.

glyn moody said...

@anonymous: indeed

Leon Horvat said...

Long live RMS!

He is an inspiration to me, and one of the most influential people.