29 July 2008
Why file sharing is a good thing
Yes, I love peer to peer as well, although not as much as my teenage son. That said he's pretty lucky in that only about ten percent of Mexicans even have a telephone line at home, and out of a population of roughly 110 million, there are only about half a million individual and corporate internet connections in the whole country. The lad's got one, but that doesn't stop the rest getting el cheapo music, because just about every street corner has its little man selling disks at about 50p each. Some are pirate copies of a particular album, but most these days are unofficial compilations that involve a certain artist or music genre.
I was reminded of this when I read the news that Britain is planning to introduce tight new laws on file sharing. The point here is not the laws, because Mexico has them as well, the point is that most British people are pretty bovine, and accept the legitimacy of those laws. The Mexicans don't, and neither does most of the world come to that, which suggests to me that the rest of the world is way ahead of the UK when it comes to figuring out what the boss man's game is all about.
You might argue that the British working class are pretty much on the ball when it comes to sussing out the boss class and its games, but in Mexico even people who would be regarded as well entrenched middle class don't believe in capitalism's tales very much.
I remember about 15 years ago when I was teaching English to a major company's head of personnel. When an edict was issued by the board of directors, this guy not only had to send out the new rules, but he had to actually take a copy of the memorandum to each and every head of department and get them to sign for it. If he didn't, then they would claim that they had never received the memo.
Now we are not talking here about rank and file workers. We are talking about the heads of department, with each man being responsible for several hundred people who were his underlings. In Mexico, and the third world in general, they don't give a shit, either.
Countries like Mexico are not governed by the likes of Sod's Law, they are governed by Herod's Law, which states that you fuck or you get fucked. In fact, so engrained is Herod's Law that the Mexicans even made a film with that title about a decade ago - it was, needless to say, a very popular hit.
That helps to explain why the third world is the way that it is, but it also explains why western style capitalism will never take off in these lands. People are just too sophisticated to believe the lies that people in Britain swallow with their mother's milk. Here even pretty senior managers know that the owners of capital don't give a shit about them, so they return the favour with interest.
What has all this got to do with file sharing? Quiet a lot, actually, because our job as socialists is to help undermine that bit of capitalist hegemony which states that we as a class gain something by following the bosses' rules.
So file sharing, in its own little way, helps chip away at a tiny amount of that hegemony. It's also good fun - and if you can't have a laugh and a joke when you are smashing the state's power, when can you?