“The Learned Helplessness of Windows”

LinuxPlanet – Opinions – The Learned Helplessness of Windows – Where are the Pliers?

I don’t think I’ve written a single dedicated pro-linux post on this blog so far — not because I don’t think that way, but because I haven’t really had anything I have needed to communicate about, beyond the obvious.

This article from LinuxPlanet, however (in two parts 1 | 2), is the best presentation I’ve seen in a long time of the fundamental problem with Windows.

The post is “based on a true story”, as it’s called: Woman has a jammed garage door. Friendly Neighbour comes by and offers to fix it if she gets him a pair of pliers.

She told me her husband was not at all mechanically talented and she was even worse. Her husband had told her they were probably safer with no tools in the house than running the risk of trying to fix something themselves.

Best not keep any tools around. Better call the maitainance guy and pay him a couple of hundred instead. Better safe than sorry. No pliers in the house.

I don’t know what is worst in this story: the extra expense of having to pay someone who charges indecent amounts of money every time something needs to be done, or the self-imposed mutilation, the “Learned helplessness”?

What made me react to this particular article, was the level on which it operates: pliers. Pliers (image by Dori, courtesy of Linux Planet It’s not about operating a steam drill or a chainsaw. Sure enough: Linux provides you with tools to bring down the house if you want to, but as an average user you’re not even likely to know that you have them, and you don’t have to use them (unlike what the persistent myth about Linux keeps telling us). But a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, a hammer…

The post reminded me of a column I read, I think in the now defunct Tux Magazine. The author had been asked to name the main reason why he used Linux. Sitting down and thinking it through, he came to the realization that it was not because it’s free, even though that’s nice; not because of the politico-ideological aspects of open source as an instance of freedom of speech; not necessarily because it’s always better than Windows or Mac (which it sometimes is, sometimes not); but because he had control of his computer.

My sentiments exactly. I spend several hours a day in front of this beast. I interact with the world around me through it — it’s an extension of my body. The best thing about linux is that it gives me the possibility to control it on a day-to-day basis, and the tools to do so. If I break a leg, I’m glad there are doctors around to take care of that. But thankfully I don’t have to go to the barbershop if I need a shave, or call a carpenter if I want to hang some pictures on the wall.

I’ve got pliers, and I know how to use them.


3 thoughts on ““The Learned Helplessness of Windows”

  1. I love it – as I’m sure you can tell by the icon next to my name ;) Actually, what I really love is how it’s sandwiched between guitar lessons!

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