A Word for the Courts

It’s almost two years since I have been living this new religion. It has its own doctrines and dogmas; advantages and disadvantages.

Two years ago, when a matt-finish shiny black Macbook made itself my constant companion, I’ll admit, there was a lingering fear of being able to be as good as I was on my MS-Windows machine.

Two years later (this 23rd, my blog archives tell me) I am comfortable, happy and content with what a Macbook machine can do. In the last 24 months I have even indulged in light banter of the standard Windows vs. Mac and enjoyed teasing Windows-users of how things should work.

Yesterday, I learned of a YALS (Yet-Another-Law-Suit) against Microsoft. Very blatantly it stated: Microsoft Banned from Selling Word in the US. I am not the one to get into deep analysis (I have personally found it a useless waste of time) but in short it means that while this judgement holds, MS will not be able to sell MS-Word in the United States. To my legally-unsound mind this comes across as stupid, notwithstanding the merits of the case, whatever they were. But it’s not about the case, is it? Neither is it about the ban.

It is about how we have come to live in this numb sensitive world. We are to be sensitive to every emotion and feeling of the other that overlaps our sense of being.

One question always manages to surface: why is it that we are never the ones that are the other? Is it me? Why do I feel that my sense of being is always compromised? Why do I have to be sensitive to the loud, out-of-rhythm, crass cacophony of Janmashthami noise blaring in my window, but they never need to be sensitive to my need to have a quiet evening?

The obvious answer being that of: size does matter. But then why does MS get cornered every time when someone feels threatened? Be it browsers or be it word-processors, the Goliath gets struck every time. Success stings. Everyone just wants to get to that level and a very few ever do it on their own accord. How do they make it happen? They go to the court. The court that settles competitive issues is the last refuge of the weak.

I cannot but help being reminded of the courtroom scene in Atlas Shrugged, when Hank Rearden is in the dock. Some of you have obviously read the entire book and may remember this scene. Hank Rearden says:

“I will not help you to pretend that I have a chance. I will not help you to preserve an appearance of righteousness where rights are not recognized. I will not help you to preserve an appearance of rationality by entering a debate in which a gun is the final argument. I will not help you to pretend that you are administering justice.”

“But the law compels you to volunteer a defense!”

There was laughter at the back of the courtroom.

“That is the flaw in your theory, gentlemen,” said Rearden gravely, “and I will not help you out of it. If you choose to deal with men by means of compulsion, do so. But you will discover that you need the voluntary co-operation of your victims, in many more ways than you can see at present. And your victims should discover that it is their own volition—which you cannot force—that makes you possible. I choose to be consistent and I will obey you in the manner you demand. Whatever you wish me to do, I will do it at the point of a gun. If you sentence me to jail, you will have to send armed men to carry me there—I will not volunteer to move. If you fine me, you will have to seize my property to collect the fine—I will not volunteer to pay it. If you believe that you have the right to force me—use your guns openly. I will not help you to disguise the nature of your action.”

The eldest judge leaned forward across the table and his voice became suavely derisive: “You speak as if you were fighting for some sort of principle, Mr. Rearden, but what you’re actually fighting for is only your property, isn’t it?”

“Yes, of course. I am fighting for my property. Do you know the kind of principle that represents?”

“You pose as a champion of freedom, but it’s only the freedom to make money that you’re after.”

“Yes, of course. All I want is the freedom to make money. Do you know what that freedom implies?”

“Surely, Mr. Rearden, you wouldn’t want your attitude to be misunderstood. You wouldn’t want to give support to the widespread impression that you are a man devoid of social conscience, who feels no concern for the welfare of his fellows and works for nothing but his own profit.”

“I work for nothing but my own profit. I earn it.”

I believe you have understood where I stand. As a context, let me tell you that I have used MS-Word since it was v2.0. If I ever have to rank all the software that I have used, MS-Word would top it. Hands down. After two years, my hands itch for the consistency and robustness of that software. Unfortunately, it sucks on a Mac.

I really don’t care what grouse i4i has against MS-Word. It is baseless. For its own “profit” it will deny all future users the experience of using the best word-processor ever.

How is that any different from what MS does? May MS file a case against them tomorrow? Or will being weak and small make people strong in the new world order?

The courts will have to decide.

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