The Radical Middle

Can we talk? Depends on we mean by "we". Usually it's just other people who agree with us. That's apparently the case with subjects about which opinions divide into factions.

At Valdis Krebs' Orgnet site there's a remarkable visualization of opposed factions that barely communicate across an oppositional divide. It's titled "Divided We Stand". In this case it's the blogs of left and right, as of several years ago.

It's not mouch different today. (Andrew Sullivan, Daniel Drezner, Thomas P.M. Barnett, John Robb, and Jeff Jarvis are four exceptions that come to mind, though none of those are on Valdis' graphic.

One barely communicative argument is going on right now in my own emailbox, between good friends on either side of the divide between the free software and open source communities. My optimistic take on that one is, Hey, at least they're talking.

Is talking possible, say, between John Q. Wilson and Leon Winer? That question came to mind when I read this piece by Jeff Jarvis, pionting to two speeches, one by Wilson and one by Winer, that George Bush might give. Jeff laments,

This is why wikitorial was doomed to fail. This is how far apart we are on our interpretations of what is happening in Iraq.

The speech George W. Bush gave today is, of course, closer to Wilson's. It was, I thought, a good speech. What was it really about? The words of Andrew Morton echo in my mind. I spent a lot of time hanging and talking with Andrew on a Geek Cruise in October. He taught me a great deal, not only about the Linux kernel (of which he is the leading maintainer), but about other topics, such as politics. Andrew's the kind of guy who listens patiently and then says something that's so clear and final you hardly know how, or even whether, to respond. Two that stand out were "... that's why the left thinks the right is evil, and the right thinks the left is stupid" and "It will be many years before we know". The latter followed a statement, by another thoughtful and well-informed person at a dinner gathering, that the Bush presidency will go down as the worst in modern history.

Asked how he would describe his own politics, Andrew said "I'm a radical moderate". Sometimes I feel the same way.

All this comes to mind this morning after reading this response by Andrew Leyden of PenguinRadio to my post about Chris Locke's inclusion of a Glock handgun on his Christmas list. Andrew writes,

Judging from the hazmat suits and radiation detector, it seems he might be looking for a Glock as part of a home defense situation. I think he can do much better.

Shotguns are very frequently recommended for home defense over handguns, for a variety of reasons. One is aim, in that you are more than likely to get a hit with a spread of shot than a small 9 mm slug, the other is safety, in that a couple of sheets of drywall and insulation can eliminate collateral damage (i.e. a 9mm slug can pass through a few walls, and possibly bystanders, before stopping). Glocks also have a "light trigger" which might be problematic.

I wrote yesterday, with a degree of felicity about my own minimal experience as a wielder of firearms. What I didn't mention is that my own deeper feelings on the matter of home defense were informed by the death of Christopher Baker, a nine-year-old boy who was playing at the house of a friend whose father kept a handgun for protection in his home. The boys played with the gun, it went off, and the bullet went through Chris's head.

Chris was the only child of a couple that was unable to have more children. He was also a friend of my own son, and a really great kid. His family, which were friends of mine, was devastated. His father, Donald, told me "there's a hole in our lives that nothing will ever fill". A quarter century later, that hole is still there for everybody who knew Chris and his family.

My own youngest son is the same age Chris was when he died. My concern for my boy's safety is still informed by what happened to Chris. Which is why the thought of keeping a gun of any kind around the house, no matter how safely it might be locked up, gives me the creeps.

Yet I know there are plenty of stories of lives saved by guns. I know that, in dangerous places, there are good reasons to carry a weapon. And it's plain that responsible recreational use of firearms can be a lot of fun. (A Geeks With Guns event at a LinuxWorld Expo a few years back, led by Eric S. Raymond, comes to mind.)

I don't have a position to take on the matter. Or on politics. Or even on free software vs. open source. Not now, anyway. I just want to observe that context matters. And that there are larger perspectives. And that perhaps the moderate position is the most radical of all. That is, if you want to get something done that works for everybody.

Like, y'know, Linux.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Radical Middle

Anonymous's picture

Is good to hear both sides of a story wheter it's software, politics, religion or soccer...

It's better when the people in the middle participate instead of ignoring or just watching...


Anonymous's picture

the *nixs have already got root. game is already over. except for the fascists who call us communists. now THAT's a laugh considering that they(fascists) don't mind owning/runing 'the People's' Government or setting up offshore tax shelters.

Right or Wrong?

Anonymous's picture

Justice(fairness) and punishment(shame) are dis paring words, every man knows what is
fair for himself and can only speculate what is fair for others. Humility also falls on our
judgments , but it is the intent of our actions. Open source, is civilized, very socialistic and has a different market to thrive in. Closed source, makes more money,and
sometimes can have other benefits, but how are we going to educate the poor to use
closed source products? Warez, comes to mind, people must stop looking at the old world, a new world is happening and it will require us to give up, maybe a-little money, and a-little bit of ego, but I can spare, and so can most of my peers in the IT industry, I'm twenty four making sixty thousand or so a year, I have only been working for 3 years, I have no college education. I came to this by being a deviant inside of society, praying off of weak system administrators, and has lead me to a career of tearing down ego and security, either in personnel or information security.

Why do we have guns? It is not only for protection it is also political.
England is no poster child for a free world, nor America, but we strive for a world of people
who are educated,peace full and pros porous. I hope that is what we are try'in to strive for,
if no, what is else is there? Money, greed for all men to kneel before you. This earth is a prize,
yet we do not treat it so, because of the old world we are still killing each other. The human
race has the universe, yet we don 't wonder much further than our own solar system, instead
we kill each other over vanity.


Roger Lee's picture

When discussing opinions I think it's important to remember this: "Just because the person you are arguing with is wrong, it does not therefore follow that you are right."

On guns, as a Brit I find the feeling of safety I get from knowing that the very few people I will unknowingly pass in my life who are carrying guns are professional criminals who, frankly, are not going to waste either the lead or hassle on shooting strangers, is far more meaningful than being allowed to carry any amount of ordnance around with me because I might have reasonable concerns about guns being sold to any nutcase who wants one.

If no one carries guns, then no one needs to.

Everyone is entitled to

Anonymous's picture

Everyone is entitled to their opinions. I applaud that and respect those who wish to voice their opinions. However, I do not subscribe to Linux Journal nor stop by the website every day to read about political subjects. I do those things to keep up on the latest developments within the Linux world.

I have a saying of which I'm particularly fond - "Nothing makes enemies of friends faster than an honest discussion about politics or religion." Keep up the fine work reporting on Linux related topics, but please, leave the politics to others.


Doc Searls's picture

Do you believe there is no politics in Linux development? Or in conversations about free software and open source?

My old friend Craig Burton used to say "In technology there are two kinds of problems: technical and political. And the technical problems are always easier to solve."

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


Rainer Brockerhoff's picture

Hey Doc,
You said in your original post you didn't know where "30-30" came from.
It's a term for a Winchester rifle; in 1973, when IBM came out with the IBM3340 mainframe disk drive, it had 30 fixed and 30 removable megabytes, and hard disks were called "Winchesters" for over a decade after that.

Shotgun Penetration

Anonymous's picture

Ballistics, like computer system performance, is an area where conjecture runs rampant, but hard facts rule the day. Profiling an application is the best way to find bottlenecks and other performance areas. Likewise, testing firearms in controlled conditions is the best way to observe and measure behavior.

A firearm enthusiast calling himself "Old Painless" has built a "Box O' Truth" to test, among other things, the penetration capabilities of various ammunition types against various objects. He's sort of a one-man "Myth Busters" for firearms. See for details. You might be especially interested in, where he tests various shotgun shells against typical housing drywall.

The Radical Middle

Anonymous's picture

Ballistics, like computer system performance, is an area where conjecture runs rampant, but hard facts rule the day

moderates & polarization

odograph's picture

My view as a moderate is that we have a better understanding, or acceptance, of human nature, and that "fringers" only want parts of it.

Knees jerk, and pat answers are given.

But sadly moderates who say "you're both right, sometimes" are never going to get the airplay (real or figurative) of a good zealot. Conviction and simplicity of message are so much easier.

is conviction easy ?

thamane's picture

I agree with your first sentence, and partly with your second. Anybody stating something with conviction will get more attention than somebody saying "Well, there is a truth in what everybody says, and seeing where you are coming from I can relate to your point of view...".

Trouble is, for better or for worse, it is the people who really are convinced of what they are doing, s/he seems to get something done (in the short term, anyway), he seems more energetic and alive and often happier (or REALLY frustrated ;-)

And I actually find it often very hard to find this kind of conviction, I find this way harder than to sit back and just think about it and see other points of view, cool down and do something different...

Actually this really is semi-religious topic, relating to the very sense of life, I think ;-) Conviction comes very close to belief, or rather, in the end, conviction always comes down to some sort of belief...

These comments remind me of

Anonymous's picture

These comments remind me of lines from WB Yeats poem "The Second Coming":

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The only answer I see is for more of us to become passionate about the middle ground - the things we hold in common - rather than the things which divide us. This means listening more, and not being so full of our own ideas that we can't accept anyone elses.