Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's political?

The personal is political. In the sixties the (american) left redefined what politics are - in the timespan between 1964 and 1974 being black, being a woman, being an american indian became political. Identity politics were born. The left might have faded, but identity politics have remained. How many of us who cheered for Obama know, or even care, what concrete matters he plans to use against the financial crisis? We gladly forgive him for continuing all George Bush's wars, we forgive him because he looks like one of us, because he is saying the words we want to hear - Yes We Can!

What can we? Doesn't matter! We can, we are young, we drink Starbucks coffe and we use Twitter! We want a president who uses Blackberry!

I am an everyday Linux user, who compensate lack of knowledge with passion for the potential impact of free software. As a member of the Linx User Grup Bulgaria's mailing list I got an interesting mail a few days before the EU elections. Bogomil Shopov, the prominent blogger who candidated to the EU elections for Zelenite, asked the group members to support his campaign. As the mailing list is usually about some concrete network management problem, I was more than pleased to read something that actually interested me.

Bogo is also a very prominent figure in the Bulgarian Open Source community. I would guess that zelenite is one of the biggest parties in this community, but within a few hours I got another mail, from a user who politely pointed out that zelenite are very nice, but the Linux User List was not the place for political propaganda.

Which raised the question: What is political? Is Linux political?

On the one hand it is. I think almost any Linux user will try to convince you that the world would be a better place if official institutions applied open source solutions. On the other hand - while you find few Socialdemocrats in the open source community, you do find some. You find even more from the far left, libertarian rights or greens. So whatever is political about Linux doesn't separate thinkers of contrasting ideologies... Just like you will find all political convictions represented in any minority community.

To separate the political from the non-political is an outmost delicate matter. Identities, like being black, are political. Choices, like using Linux, are political. Identity, and values are highly political. But they only might, or might not turn into politics...

To maintain an un-political sphere of life, without falling into apathy, is maybe the greatest challenge of democracy.


claudia said...

what if all of it is political? whether you use microsoft or not, whether you recycle or not, all of it? i am thinking more and more lately that these divisions we make between what is political and not are a real threat to changing our lives in a more fundamental way. the separation of the political from other spheres of life, like the social and the economic, is what makes us become disengaged. in a sense, a conclusion from your examples, is simply that the fault lines are not the same: we are green and therefore we use open source or vice-versa. though they belong to the same anti-profit, community-oriented thinking trend, and they could coincide, this does not always be the case. but i just wonder whether politicizing it all is not the challenge of democracy, rather than the opposite. i just wonder, i don't know. in any case, great blog!

Maladets! said...

Thanks :) I don't have any quick answers either... And I tend to lean towards "everything is political" some days, other days I lean in the other direction.

I think one point could be that political is not the same as politics in the strict sense... I think it is important that people know what they are choosing between and what not in an election. For exemple we may vote for or against membership in the European Union, but we don't vote about free speech or other human rights.

On the other hand politics in the strict sense, or voting, is hardly what decides our life. The choices based on values, such as using linux or recycling is what actually makes up the world we live in. Separating the political sphere is definitely a way to prevent the social status quo.

As you see, I don't have any clear answers :)

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