Nothing to fear from the truth

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

I’m in Beijing, China, for the first time.

What an interesting experience. The city is modern – spacious, well organised, clean. The people are gracious, relaxed and open. Yet this is clearly a tightly managed state. This hotel broadband connection links me to about half the internet – the rest is conveniently firewalled off. Surfing the net for news is painful, many sites and stories just time out. Others are blazingly fast. The firewall rules decide who can see what.

There are closed circuit video cameras all over the show, and they obviously and actively track the pretty girls. Because they’re obviously a clear and present threat to national security. I’d take that line too, if it was my job to monitor the damn things.

This is a country that will certainly take its turn as the dominant global superpower. Again. History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes, and the pattern of the ages is that major cultures each take their turn at the top. Of course, China has been there before in days gone by, and if modern history had been written by the Chinese we might all be more aware of their great early discoveries, exploration and civilisations. But that’s history now, the important thing is the future. And the future here is bright. China is moving fast.

The story of recent Chinese “management policy” is interesting. Many concepts, such as the one-child policy, are outrageous or offensive to Western sensibilities, but they are widely supported and well regarded here. And frankly, they make a certain amount of sense. Keeping the population growth rate down has made the economic growth rate contribute more directly to personal well-being. Having come directly from India, the contrast on that front is immediately obvious. There may be a billion Chinese here, but they each seem to have a reasonable amount of space, and less pressure on resources means fewer reasons for domestic tension.

In practical terms, the West will likely end up adopting similar policies. While we all have the right to do what we like with our lives, there are likely to be increasing consequences for behaviour that has a social cost to it. Most Western countries are banning smoking in public places, because your right to smoke doesn’t give you the right to harm the health of others. And I think it’s likely to go further (sensibly so) to reflect the fact that self-induced harm should not be the problem of the state. Countries are going to say to obese people: you lose your rights to free health care unless you take care of yourself. Same goes for smokers. Here in China, the one-child policy is similar. You can technically do what you like, but if you don’t help the state manage itself, then the state won’t help you. Fair enough.

What I find more difficult to understand, though, is the restriction on speech and access to knowledge. A free country has nothing to fear from the truth. That’s something we need to remind ourselves of today. In the USA, there are awkward signs of the truth being surpressed when its politically inconvenient. NASA’s climate scientists are getting told to keep the facts of global warming to themselves – by a 24 year old who lied on his resume about actually having a degree, but who proved his political loyalty during the Bush campaign. Journalists who probe allegations of White House impropriety face censure and are ostracised. Their employers come under pressure to silence them or fire them, or face economic sanction in subtle but meaningful ways. As much as the White House would love some things to be true, the facts don’t always cooperate. A mature leadership recognises that and adapts its plans to reality. An immature leadership tries to manipulate the presentation of reality to fit its ideas. So it’s not just in China that we see the systematic suppression of the truth.

But in China, the filtering of information reaches a new height. And I wonder how the transition to an open society will be made. Because sooner or later that transition must come. In cities, people have ever increasing wealth. They find it easier to live with things like the one-child policy, because their modern lifestyles make fewer, smarter and better educated children a sensible strategy. They share increasingly Western values – and sooner or later they are going to expect Western-style freedoms. Their rural peers, however, are on a different track. So much as there is a widening economic divide, there is a widening divide in values, needs, and expectations. The people of the cities may well want to get a real say in what happens long before the rural communities are comfortable with that idea. Or before the state is comfortable with the rural community vote. And that will make for an interesting transition.

It must be an extremely difficult responsibility, that of the future of a nation of one billion people. And we should be impressed with the results that this management team has delivered in recent decades. An economic transition from central planning to rampand capitalism is under way, and it’s been much better handled than the same transition in Russia was. Well done. I wonder if the information transition will be as well handled. And I wonder what the country has to fear from the truth. None of us has a monopoly on the truth, but it’s only in letting each of us speak our individual truth that society creates its consensus view.

45 comments:

  1. Chaitanya Gupta says: (permalink)
    February 11th, 2006 at 5:30 pm

    “Having come directly from India, the contrast on that front is immediately obvious.”

    A policy like that would help us so much, but population control is such a contentious issue here, I don’t know wether such a thing would ever come up. It certainly doesn’t increase a politician’s votebank…

    A really good article. Looking forward to more from you.

    BTW, I too was at the Linuxasia conference. Even got to ask you a couple of questions after your keynote. Really admire what you are doing with Ubuntu. Keep it up!!

  2. george donnelly says: (permalink)
    February 11th, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    > Here in China, the one-child policy is similar. You can technically do what you like, but if you don’t help the state manage itself, then the state won’t help you. Fair enough.

    BS. There are serious consequences for people who have more than one child. Your apology for China’s disrepect of individual rights is slick but overlooks a lot.

    In the USA the censors are canned, in China they are promoted. Not very similar is it now?

  3. Lloyd Hardy says: (permalink)
    February 11th, 2006 at 7:38 pm

    “You can technically do what you like, but if you don’t help the state manage itself, then the state won’t help you. Fair enough.”

    I anticipate that you were not discounting the needy in society, who are unable to ‘help the state’. Whilst I understand your position, it is surely only a balanced view to accept the fact that not only some many members of society are unable to ‘help’, but there a varying degrees of ability. Even someone who initially has no physical or psychological difficulty in ‘helping the state’ may easily become a product of the pressures of ‘society’.

    It is perhaps more of a question of ‘how can we organise the state to be helpful to the diversity of its citizens and enable them to feed back into the state’. It must also be accepted that citizens must have varying degrees of access to ‘help’ the state, some methods being in a fundamental, highly controlled manner and others being at a level of the freedom and abstraction that causes inclusion and thus optimal innovation. Perhaps too many restrictions can lead to the field of that view being narrowed. (i.e. too many ‘exclusive’ requirements…)

    It is a question of the suitability of our various implementations of democracy. Whilst it implicates that everyone has a vote to decide how a state is managed, does that mean that a majority decision is the ‘right’ thing to do. Using smoking as an example, if you were to select a section of society where the majority were smokers, it would be feasible to consider that they may democratically decide that a public area adjacent to them be ‘smoking’, for whatever reason – outdoor climate makes it unsuitable to smoke externally, a baby at home makes it unsuitable to smoke there and they are unable to smoke in another public area. Just because a decision a society makes is ‘democratic’, does that make it ‘right’? For example, possession of cannabis remains illegal in many countries, yet alcohol is legal in many of the same. Is this not just because the majority of a society drinks alcohol? How do we classify someone who has taken an immediate overdose of alcohol with that of a long-term drug user? Where is the priority in the health system? It is not as clear as it may at first appear from an abstracted position. For example, should taxes from tobacco sales not be used solely for health services for smokers? You may find that governments do not want to make ‘smoking’ itself illegal, beacuse of the great loss of revenue that would certainly occur if they did. I propose that it should be illegal, but we had better find something else we can tax at 80% (in some countries)…

    I suggest that perhaps a statement saying “You can technically do what you like, but if you don’t help the state manage itself, then the state won’t help you. Fair enough.” is logical, as long as that statement continues to say “in _as_such_ as every voting member of society has the same educational access to be able to understand the arguments behind of a point of contention as the next.” In reality, this does not happen. Perhaps there are many problems in western society that need to be resolved, like the responsibility of the state to provide every member of society with a good, balanced education before deploying even more responsibility on citizens to ‘help themselves’. In short, perhaps, in many instances, we have not given these people the tools or (positive) motivation to do so.

    Upon closer investigation, the pressures on many health systems are not in fact induced by the actions of individual citizens themselves, but mismanagement of resources by an influential few. It is the problem of corruption, on all levels which must be addressed globally before we start to give individuals a ‘broken solution’, don’t you think?

    And that’s before we get to a state that’s already bankrupt… I appreciate your obvious good character and that the statement was a generic one. I just felt it necessary to highlight these factors, as the subject is perhaps not a simple one.

    In some instances, regarding management of governments, it is not purely the access to the truth that we require, but that the truth not be what it is.

  4. Mahesh Markus says: (permalink)
    February 12th, 2006 at 6:29 am

    Publish the truth – but the whole truth is needed. Leave it to the reader/viewer to decide.

    It is eays to distort the “truth” with the 10 second sound bite – Michael Moore where are you on this?

  5. Stiennon says: (permalink)
    February 12th, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    For China to be free it must act as Poland did. A revolution must take place. If the totalitarian government is tired of its role it will give way.

    Do not forget the spector of Tiananmen Square though. A peaceful uprising, brought about by access to information via fax machine was brutally put down by the slaughter of thousands of unarmed people. (2,600 murdered, 30,000 wounded)

    Next time you are invited to a conference in China ask yourself if you would have participated in a conference in Munich in 1938.

  6. Scott Dier says: (permalink)
    February 12th, 2006 at 6:08 pm

    When I was there about a year ago I didn’t feel the internet filtering was very extensive. In some cases the broadband at some hotels are filtered differently, I think. Also, the targets change from time to time. I actually didn’t use the filtered connection very long, opting for an ipsec connection back to the university (which they do not block).

    Obviously, any blocking of information is bad.

    Some areas of Beijing have made the full tilt Western conversion. Wangfujing Dajie (~2 blocks east of the Forbidden City) in paticular is the place I remember to be most ‘Western’ looking.

    http://www.ringworld.org/~dieman/photos/2005/china/3/dscn0085.jpg

    However in making the city more Western the goverment is eliminating some of the history and feeling of the city. Some of the oldest housing is being torn down to put up essentially western looking apartment buildings. It’s slowly making parts of Beijing less unique.

    http://www.ringworld.org/~dieman/photos/2005/china/4/dscn0067.jpg

    That photo was an area that was not even in the map of the recently published Lonely Planet I had with (copyright 2005). It had been recently (in a year or so) bulldozed and converted into identical blocks of housing. A new street was literally pushed through in a way I don’t think could be easily done in any US city. (see the freeway they’ve been trying to build in LA for decades, I forget its name, but there have been so many holdouts they are thinking of selling the property that the state has collected so far and tunneling instead)

    1000 cars are added daily to Beijing’s streets. It’s apparent that traffic is already a problem and that pollution, however the government does seem to give some lip service to, is here to stay. Cars are (according to a PBS/Nova special) only manufactured to decades old European standards, and not the newer cleaner standards required in many countries to save manufacturing costs.

    http://www.ringworld.org/~dieman/photos/2005/china/5/dscn0111.jpg

    Luckily the people of the USA have a way to fix the policies of the current administration, we can vote this year and in two years to radically change who is in office. The people of China are not afforded such luxury.

  7. adel says: (permalink)
    February 12th, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    “A free country has nothing to fear from the truth” what a wise thing to say!

    whatever… in Arabic Gulf, it’s the same case…. the governments reason is “to protect people from the evil behind the internet (pr0n) and things that rule agaisnt our godma/religion”, but people use proxy to get around it and access “evil” web sites… which by the way, includes flickr, yahoo-groups and google images.

    where I live (Morocco) there no big brother!

  8. ModMeUp.net » Great post says: (permalink)
    February 13th, 2006 at 1:25 am

    [...] Mark Shuttleworth – Billionaire, Philanthropist, Open Source Business man, SABDFL and a damned fine politician in the making. Mark is the original power house behind Ubuntu, the linux distribution I use. He is also the worlds second Space Tourist and a guy that knows how to say it like it is. He posted to his blog recently about his trip to China, and what he saw there. It’s well worth the read on a pretty frank review of China’s policies. Why can we have guys like this making political policies? [...]

  9. Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon says: (permalink)
    February 13th, 2006 at 6:15 am

    Well said! I especially like the line “A free country has nothing to fear from the truth.”, by which definition Americans should be worried about recent trends in their country and thinking about how to prevent their society from falling into a dictatorial theocracy.

    Lyle

  10. Jimmy says: (permalink)
    February 13th, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Welcome to China.
    Are you first in China, I found you understand China well, you just cought the point exactly, what you talkingis now the focus in China.
    First, I myself hate firewall in Internet, my blog is closed 3 times for my unwelcome articles there. :(
    I understand what is China government now thinking, yes they are fearing about someting that is truth. They are afraid that people will
    see too much dirty things and take back their power . So they are hurry to improve themslef,try to be better enough before totally shutdown the filter.
    I personally support what they are doing. After all, we people in China don’t like to be second Rissia, or worse, fall in war.

    For my so so English, did I tell clear enough ? If you stay longer, you will understand China better.

  11. Michael T. Richter says: (permalink)
    February 14th, 2006 at 3:54 am

    I really wish that people who spend practically no time in China — and who spend what little time they do spend cloistered in Beijing — would really either a) stop commenting on things altogether or b) use this as a springboard into investigating more before commenting on things. (Some local friends of mine once opined, “Foreigners come to China, spend a week, write a book. Foreigners come to China, spend a month, write a magazine article. Foreigners come to China, spend a year, spend the rest of their lives learning.”)

    Mr. Shuttleworth, you’re a humanitarian (of sorts) and a really all-round cool guy. I find such facile thoughts coming from you a little shocking. Before you start passing judgement on the country — or even the government of said country — could you please actually spend some time with the people? Most especially the people outside of Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Shenzhen? Preferably in a small city or even the countryside?

    You complain about the closed-circuit cameras. Have you been in London? New York? LA? I’m sure you have — yet I don’t see you talking ominously about the order of magnitude more closed-circuit cameras in these cities. Why the double-standard? About the only fair comment you made as regards those cameras in Beijing is that they track pretty girls — an understandable sentiment. (It’s what I did while working as a security guard in Ottawa. Oops. Another city with thousands of cameras everywhere….)

    You complain about the web restrictions. Yet every SCHOOLCHILD in China knows how to get around the laughable Great Firewall. If it makes the dinosaurs running this country happy and it makes little to no difference to the people using the Internet here (who know all the tricks to circumvent when they need it), what harm does the Great Firewall do? And, I might add, what’s the difference between the Great Firewall and the various Net Nannies, corporate firewalls, etc. that (ineffectively) plague the western world? I have had far more restrictions placed on my network activities in Canada by corporate policy than I have here by government policy. (I can already hear the counter-argument: “But you can avoid the corporate firewalls by using a private internet connection.” Before you utter that one, let me point to the part above where anybody with a clue can circumvent the Great Firewall with ease….)

    How will the information transition be handled? The same way any government in history has handled it. A series of blunders and eye-openings. About the same way any government in history has handled any situation, come to think of it.

  12. itisme says: (permalink)
    February 14th, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    Being a chinese, I absofuckinglutely agree with you. China is a very controlled state but for most of the people I know, they see the truth but are just too busy to bother the western standard of freedom. but it is not suprising that alot of the information may be filtered by the government, but through different means, people always get to know them. it is inevitable that one day the country will become like any other western countries. i think it is just the flow of our societies and our lives.

  13. Jaya Kumar says: (permalink)
    February 15th, 2006 at 11:34 am

    > of sense. Keeping the population growth rate down has made the economic growth rate contribute more
    > directly to personal well-being. Having come directly from India, the

    Mark,

    Certainly, the past population growth rate in India has not been something that we’re proud of. However, the good news is that the population growth rate has been dropping rapidly over the past 30 years in all but a couple of states. In southern states especially, the drop has been dramatic. For example, Karnatka’s population growth rate is hovering steadily at replacement or just below replacement rate. Tamil Nadu’s is only slightly higher.

    > access to knowledge. A free country has nothing to fear from the truth. That’s
    I feel India’s greatest advantage is that all it’s weaknesses and it’s strengths are visible for all to see. The problems are openly visible to everybody from the fruitseller in a jugi-chopdi in Calcutta to non-resident Indian entrepreneurs living in Rejkavik. Both foreigners as well as capital flows in and out freely. India’s wounds maybe numerous but they are all open sores and while some are deep, they’re all being patched and fixed in the open. That resonates with me. In a way, even the population demography is now a plus from my viewpoint. We’re a country that is going to be young throughout this century rather than a graying one. Suffice to say, I feel very optimistic about our chances to fix our infrastructure, bureaucratic and resource problems.

    jayakumar

    ps: I look forward to reading about your thoughts on problems and issues you observed while in India as well.

  14. N van Wyk says: (permalink)
    February 15th, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    I really enjoyed the thought. I think that all people are somewhat afraid of the truth and free speech though
    The more free speech is promoted the more it is used against the people. Free speech has been practiced for ages but its the laws and governments that uses it to controll the masses. It is up to the individual to decide what that freedom of speech and knowledge and even opensource software means. For me it means responsibility, trust and ability to do what i think is right for me but that might not be whats right for you.

    For instance, imagine the world wakes up to the thought: “We actually dont need to be reliant on OIL” Obviously the people who have everything to loose from it is not going to think of the freedom of the people and is fearing for the truth.

  15. Jeremiah says: (permalink)
    February 16th, 2006 at 9:13 am

    Dear Mark, A fellow Ubuntuian here, I too have been to Beijing recently and must disagree with your charactarization of it as “clean”. In Beijing they use coal for nearly every heating and cooking need, and the air quality suffers for it. We had some really bad days of smog while we were there, days that were significanlty worse than anything I have seen in my life, and I have been to Los Angeles, Mexico, Denver, and lived for years in New York City. In fact a good day in Beijing is worse than a bad day in New York. While the streets were generally free of loose rubbish it is true, due to the hordes of street sweepers, yet people defecated on the sidewalks, ate from filthy carts that plied the streets, and were forced to use communal toilets. Finally, the water is undrinkable, even for the Chinese. This is not a clean place, nor a country able to exert significant influence over global policy.

    And while the Chinese economic success has been marked and should be praised, they have a long way to go. They peg their currency to a basket of currencies to artificially keep the yuan low, they have woefully lax accounting standards, and few Chinese companies are successful outside of China. Their brand of capitalism is a state-managed mercantilism which is prone to sharp collapse.

    China is an amazing place, its future full of promise, but the state the country is in today is frightening and repressive. Once you look a little behind the curtain, the Chinese miracle is not so miraculous after all.

  16. Natalian » Blog Archive » Local conditions says: (permalink)
    February 17th, 2006 at 1:20 am

    [...] China is fascinating. I enjoyed read Mark’s post about China. Though China is extremely dangerous if it can manipulate 1 billion of it’s proud inhabitants. [...]

  17. Gerhard Jansen van Vuuren says: (permalink)
    February 19th, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    I would say you are hitting it right on the head. China will be one of the, or the new superpower and that it not too far in the future. They are currently taking over the textile industry as we speak. I think you could draw many comparisons between China now and the old South Africa. The only difference is that the Chinese are only controlling other Chinese and not a bunch of ethnic groups. But long ago the way South Africa did it seemed a good idea at the time you could argue. Since merging different social groups from higher and lower standard would ultimately produce a society of lower standard than the previous highest group. So a separatism development seemed the logical answer without sacrificing too much. But obviously an ethnic group being controlled by another ethnic group is not always a recipe for successes.

    If the Chinese people can keep it together and trust in their state as long as the state stays trustworthy and keep the focus on improving China they might just pull it off. But how do you control your people I suppose its quit simple teach them what you want and expose them to what you see fit. So give them the truth but not the whole truth, many people might not have a problem with this. Like back home in days gone past you knew many thing but they were covered by stars. Maybe one could argue that at every level of society man is relevantly ready for a certain amount of truth.

  18. hot_july says: (permalink)
    February 20th, 2006 at 9:54 am

    chinese sucess in the economic transition just because of control.

    about the information transition,it will come ,but now,some information to chinese just like somebody know that his wife had another man and don’t love him,we can think what will happen ,kill her?
    the information should be controlled,but not stop transiting.

  19. Bartolomeo Nicolotti says: (permalink)
    February 20th, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve posted a link to http://www.beppegrillo.it:

    http://www.beppegrillo.it/2006/02/goolag.html

    Bye

  20. Bartolomeo Nicolotti says: (permalink)
    February 20th, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    One more thing: how can one be sure that the information on a web site are really true? In Italy journalists to write on the newspapers have to be part of an association that punishes who writes false news, up to forbid one to write. In Italy Citizen Bandwidth radio amateurs could not broadcast news, only Radio stations who have a government permission and employ journalists can. What do you think about these restrictions?

  21. Rossy says: (permalink)
    February 21st, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    I was reading about “goobuntu” and I want congratulate you, to share with the people without waiting for nothing in return. Greetings from Panama.

    - sorry, my english is BAD!!!! :( -

  22. Rossy says: (permalink)
    February 21st, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    ooopss!!! sorry! the word is “Ubuntu” LOL!!! sorryyyy!!! :D

  23. AcenTiLLo says: (permalink)
    February 21st, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    That peculiar that until today did not know who gave ubuntu to me which they arrived at house. Another one virgo like I and peculiarly of the same year and almost day, I were born 16 of September of 1973.

    I am glad of have been able to discovered and now I understand that you help
    others of altruistic way, comprises of the characteristics of our own sign.

    If you have curiosity looks for in Internet whichever famous personages are of our same sign that we and it observes its humanitarian professions and qualities.

    A greeting

  24. rank says: (permalink)
    February 22nd, 2006 at 5:30 am

    a true prolem for China.

  25. Cherry G. Mathew says: (permalink)
    February 24th, 2006 at 9:39 am

    I think India chose to beat it out the hard way [1], than to be led to immediate fortune by an authoritarian government. The results are not immediately obvious, but are more fundamental.

    [1] http://www.worldofquotes.com/author/Mahatma-Gandhi/1/
    “Good government is no substitute for self-government.”

  26. Louk says: (permalink)
    February 26th, 2006 at 2:50 pm

    “A free country has nothing to fear from the truth”, I like that words.
    interesting that i just google you out, and find out that you talk about google and visited Beijing. which was my hometown, now livin Istanbul, watching China and the whole world from this interesting city.
    your story is facinating, i loved it.
    added you at my favor, i’ll come here more and comment more.
    that’s the internet i like most.

  27. ana says: (permalink)
    March 1st, 2006 at 7:08 am

    Very interesting! I live in China and often think that I lack in emotional distance to see this amazing country, so, reading you was something I really enjoyed. Thank you.

  28. Jeff Halvorsen says: (permalink)
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Mao created the masses

    Before Communism China was a largely rural diverse society. Then came Mao and he preached about the masses (he had to its a central part of marxism), something large to belong to, something that will offer me value just for being myself. I don’t have to save the world or be super smart and pass all the government exams to be of worth I am worthy because of what I belong to. In my opinion people want to be connected to the people around them, they also want to be valued, and they want to be respected. The average Joe farmer can achieve this by joining the revolution and belonging to mass society. It provides a common point of connection that fights the alienation everyone feels in a diverse society. The feeling that I am not alone. How great would that feel to say I am just like everyone else, I can have a lot in common with anyone I walk up to on the street we won’t argue and fight about our beliefs we can just sit down and have a beer and have a good time. But the reality of this is not too nice as you experienced it means that diversity is oppressed because diversity isn’t what mass society is about.

    Diversity is a tricky thing, it is real and needs to be acknowledged, but it can also bring alienation. I am not a programer but I imagine it is a lot ubuntu. Trying to integrate so many different aspects is a nightmare, why can’t everyone just speak the same language and think the same way. But it is the diversity that makes a great product. Diversity is something that can’t be avoided (like what China is trying to do, which is ironic because of how incredibly diverse the country is) but it has to be dealt with in a way that is constructive, celebrated.

    So the big question is can China learn to truly celebrate diversity? How do you do it at Ubuntu?

  29. Harlin Seritt says: (permalink)
    March 16th, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Hmm… Living in China sounds so much better than living in the United States… forcing people to have a pre-determined amount of children, filtering half of the Internet for them so they don’t have to worry about the bad stuff, allowing people to not have to worry about mundane things like deciding who their leaders will be. I think I like that better — sounds better than living in the oppressive U.S. where you’re forced to have to vote if you want a particular person to represent you. In fact, the only difference between Bush and Hitler is the mustache.

  30. Le Diner de Con — Nothing But Ordinary Geeked Archive says: (permalink)
    March 22nd, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    [...] So I just wanted to post this little link to Mark Shuttleworth website regarding his recent travel to China.  It is rare to read stuff about China that are not written by people driven by Fear/Hate or Fascination/Faith. So thank you Mr. Shuttleworth for thinking Apart/Ahead of the herd. CHINA [...]

  31. Sandy Sandfort says: (permalink)
    March 22nd, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Mark,

    I don’t think it was censorship, but this Indian website thinks you are an Australian:

    http://news.sawf.org/Lifestyle/9368.aspx

    So much for fact checking.

    S a n d y

  32. Timothy Takemoto says: (permalink)
    April 4th, 2006 at 8:29 am

    > A free country has nothing to fear from the truth.
    Neitzsche argued, along with esoteric Buddhism perhaps, that the truth is not very convivial. People like and thrive on dreams, romance, and the avoidance all sorts of nasty truths like dhoby itch and the possibility that Schooltool should be cooperating with other open source projects.

  33. Wynand Meyering says: (permalink)
    July 26th, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Mark Shuttleworth worte:

    “two years learning … the intricate details of playboyhood”

    Playboyhood – Sounds interesting. Any web sites or tips you can recommend?

  34. Wynand Meyering says: (permalink)
    July 26th, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    Comment should be placed under:

    It’s the ability to learn tools, not the tools themselves
    topic

  35. Thomasina says: (permalink)
    October 27th, 2006 at 4:47 pm

    Edi…

    A good name is better than riches……

  36. Thyui says: (permalink)
    November 3rd, 2006 at 11:00 pm

    What I find more difficult to understand, though, is the restriction on speech and access to knowledge. A free country has nothing to fear from the truth. That’s something we need to remind ourselves of today. In the USA, there are awkward signs of the truth being surpressed when its politically inconvenient. NASA’s climate scientists are getting told to keep the facts of global warming to themselves – by a 24 year old who lied on his resume about actually having a degree, but who proved his political loyalty during the Bush campaign. Journalists who probe allegations of White House impropriety face censure and are ostracised. Their employers come under pressure to silence them or fire them, or face economic sanction in subtle but meaningful ways. As much as the White House would love some things to be true, the facts don’t always cooperate. A mature leadership recognises that and adapts its plans to reality. An immature leadership tries to manipulate the presentation of reality to fit its ideas. So it’s not just in China that we see the systematic suppression of the truth.

    I agree although people value their life
    -Thyui

  37. Disturbing-the-universe says: (permalink)
    November 6th, 2006 at 5:35 am

    Mark,

    Interesting post. A pity that I don’t have time to share my point of views here.

    Nice meeting you last time at Ubuntu Release Party and thank you for giving the last opportunity to me. Impressing answer. ;-)

    All,

    Thanks for the concern and attention on China. As a Chinese, as well as an individual of this world who does not have much sense of nationality (or patriotism) but loves her country and culture, my feeling to these comments is a little complicated. Good to hear.

  38. Alexmzmmb says: (permalink)
    February 11th, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Hello, my name is Alex, i’m a newbie here. I really do like your resource and really interested in things you discuss here, also would like to enter your community, hope it is possible:-) Cya around, best regards, Alex!

  39. Hunter-Gray says: (permalink)
    February 20th, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    Just stumbled on this while reading up on the Ubuntu OS.

    “Nothing to fear from the truth”…

    Mr Shuttleworth ,
    with due respect ..
    that’s a nice soundbite…very noble & all that
    but it’s rather blunt thinking from a mind such as yours…? ;)

    Whose truth are you talking about ?

    Western “truth” ?
    ‘Chinese communist” truth?
    Kierkegaard ?
    Baudrillard’s version ?
    Kant’s truth?
    Hegel’s truth ?
    Foucault’s truth?
    Fromm truth ?
    The Buddhist truths ?
    Double Truth ?
    My truth ? Your truth?
    his/her truth ? their truth ?

    “There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil”.
    Alfred Whitehead

    i.e. truth can lie -> half-truths can be deceptive & might lead to false conclusions..
    …in which case “truth” might very well be something to be feared.

    What you’re probably referring to as “truth”, may actually “free access to information” ?
    Not exactly the same thing.Semantics, of course. But important nevertheless.

    Besides, the Chinese governors face the issue ,
    even if they are prepared to open up the floodgates…,
    of how to deliver the access to information en masse
    to people who have systematically been deprived of it for generations?
    In a way that doesn’t cause chaos & destabilise the trajectory/culture/economy of 1Billion people..

    Like an albino who’s spent his life in the cellar …
    do you suddenly expose him to harsh sunlight,
    which YOU may have built up tolerance & discernment for…
    but which he has not…yet ?

    Whatever.

    Seems you’re doing some good work with UBuntu.
    smart export of an african concept word/concept as well..

    Ngikufisela inhlanhla.

  40. mizzfang says: (permalink)
    March 3rd, 2007 at 7:30 am

    hihi. i came across your blog because i’m writing a space exploration article. met mrs. ansari last night at ucla (go bruins!) and i guess you guys are the cool young ones who have gone to space. she totally passed her space junkie disease to me so let’s hope more of you guys can finance the private space revolution and help with the democratization of orbital and suborbital spaceflights.

    in regard to china, i agree with Michael T. Richter’s lovely valentine response even though it was a bit harsh. perhaps cupid did not shoot an arrow at him that night. but everyone does know how to get around the firewalls so i guess they are dealing with the information transition the way we do in my chinese american home – by not talking about it! and i’m guessing it will go on until a blatent incident occurs. you hafta remember that the pervading public policy in china is social order. every political, economic and social decision is made with the consideration of surface harmony. we dont want 1.5 billion ppl protesting and causing civil unrest do we?

    plus nobody wants to know the truth all the time, especially in china…

  41. Harlin Seritt says: (permalink)
    March 15th, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Wow… I think it’s important to impress the rest of the world… another report on how China is really being tolerant of the rest of the world:

    BEIJING — Residents were reminded again: Spitting must stop, starting now.

    With the 2008 Beijing Olympics just 500 days away, officials said Wednesday they are prepared to take harsh measures against people who spit in public if appeals do not work.

    “Very soon you will see action to stop spitting,” Jin Dapeng, director general of Beijing’s municipal health department, said. He refused to give specifics, but hinted that fines might be involved.

    Residents say the habit is a reaction to Beijing’s dirty, dry air.

    Jin said the city has been successful in altering bad habits before, as during the SARS outbreak in 2003. “During the SARS period, people followed rules to wash their hands and they didn’t spit,” he said.

    Bad manners have been a constant worry for Chinese officials and leaders who see the Olympics as a chance to impress the world and humanize China’s remarkable re-emergence as a global power.

    Delegates to meetings of China’s legislature and a top government advisory body in Beijing this week have also voiced concerns about manners.

    At a discussion panel Thursday, one adviser, Zi Huayun, listed four key bad habits of Chinese: spitting, not waiting in line, widespread smoking and swearing in the Beijing dialect.

    Dirty toilets and rudeness were added to the list by He Huixian, vice president of the Chinese Olympic Committee.

    “Acting civilized isn’t something you do the day before the games,” she said. “It’s something that society has to absorb in its roots.”

    In another frank admission, Jin said the city had identified 45 possible health risks during the 2008 Olympics. Most centered on food and water safety, he said.

    Jin said Olympic venues would be closely watched for flies and mosquitoes, common summertime pests in Beijing, and a food inspection monitoring system was in place for all the city’s 35,000 eating places.

    He said it was encouraging that no food poisoning cases were reported at street fairs held during the recent Chinese New Year holidays.

  42. Harlin Seritt says: (permalink)
    March 15th, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Stick to Ubuntu and stay out of politics and political blogging — you’re really horrible at it.

  43. Tiger Zhang says: (permalink)
    March 23rd, 2007 at 7:34 am

    Hi Mark,

    A free country has nothing to fear from the truth. – I agree with you.

    But you know, the filter doesn’t wok well. We have many ways to get around the great firewall.

    Tiger

  44. R. J. says: (permalink)
    April 7th, 2007 at 1:52 am

    An old post, but an interesting one.

    Do we even know what the truth is anymore, or is the truth something that we are simply told is the truth and told to believe?

    For myself, I have grown up in a reality that to the vast majority of society does not exist. So what is the truth there, is it that the vast majority of society, that those that shun me are right because they are raised and taught to believe that their way is the right way, or is it that the truth falls on me because I can prove the experiences that I have had all my life through interactions with spirit and alien.

    “A Free country has nothing to fair from the truth” but alas, those that manipulate the truth and society have a lot to fear from continuing to hide the truth from society. But alas, even when the truth comes out do people care enough to do anything about it. Good examples of this is the lies that were told by both the US and UK governments before the Iraq war. The populace of both countries hasn’t really cared about the truth, and alas do not hold their elected representatives to any standards nor demand the truth from them.

  45. Susan says: (permalink)
    April 25th, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    BTW – I must applaud you…
    you could easily vett the people
    who say things in the comments
    which disagree with your view or
    don’t show you up in the best of light,
    but you don’t.

    in cyber-context
    where everyone seems so hyper-cyber-sensitive…
    refreshing to encounter an ego that doesn’t have to react when critique’d
    v. cool.

    you ARE better at the techno blogging
    - but the responses on the politico-social ones are provocative..
    makes for interesting reading.