I'm reading people's comments on Jono Bacon's blog -- he's the piece of work who's Canonical's "community manager," and whose job description is basically "smother people who've been hurt and prevent them from doing anything about it." They're talking about how Canonical is engaged in "brand value destruction," and how it's destroying the Ubuntu brand by taking their volunteers for granted and treating them and their users as exploitable resources.
I once wrote an inspiring, frequently-favourited, sig-quoted post on the Ubuntu forums, that told the people there that they were what the Ubuntu brand was. That the Circle of Friends represented them. I believed in it every time I saw newbies learn how to use Linux. I believed in it when I saw PCs shipping with Ubuntu preloaded. I believed in it when I saw third-world contributors being empowered, local governments adopting Free Software, and all this other stuff that I felt couldn't happen with other "distros" because they didn't seem to care about anyone besides themselves and those like them.
I adopted and advocated Ubuntu not because I thought "Linux on the desktop" was the shiz, but out of solidarity with those people. And everyone else who had yet to be empowered by it.
Somehow, I missed the fact that the ends justified the means for Canonical. They they would do hostile, abusive things to their users, and take advantage of their most loyal volunteers, and justify it with "we're bringing Free Software to the masses." Sometimes they wouldn't even say that, and would just jump right to the "sustainable business model" garbage: "You want us to be able to make money off of this, right?" They wanted to be seen as a charity while they acted like a for-profit business, just like the church I used to be part of.
It's really no wonder I took to Ubuntu so strongly. It promised me the same clarity of vision, the same unambigiously good mission statement, the same visionary and godlike founder, who literally looked down on Earth from above.
All of it was a lie.
Here are the warning signs I think it and my old church had in common. (Quotation marks are used to indicate actual things said by Ubuntu cultists.)
* The ends justify the means. It is so important that we put Free Software on every desktop, that we need to put an open-source keylogger on your computer and bundle it with Amazon adware. Also, would you like to buy a subscription to our Not Free Software online service?
The rules don't apply to the powerful. How dare you ingrates complain. Don't you realize what Canonical's done for you? You need to be more grateful. Also, that stuff you spent the last four months volunteering to make for us for free? We decided nine months ago that we don't want it, but only now bothered to tell you. Surprise!
The founder is a demigod. "This guide is dedicated to Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu visionary and founder of the Ubuntu project. From the bottom of our hearts thank you for making the world a better place."
Apostates are evil and mean, or aren't really happening. "When one looks at what's being said about Ubuntu on the web, one might get the sense that Ubuntu's community has collapsed (or is about to), that people are defecting all over the place, and that Ubuntu has somehow 'lost it's way.' Really? Come on! I'm here to report that nothing could be farther from the truth."
We are nice people, who are always happy and are incapable of hurting anyone. "People generally don't give a 'rat's ass' about display server stacks, rolling releases, and other computer science minutia. Most people just want an enjoyable interaction with their technology and Ubuntu delivers solidly on that."
Don't listen to outsiders. Don't trust them. They don't understand. "The people (mainly journalists) who are deriding Ubuntu, saying that 'Ubuntu has a community problem' are the same people that don't show up for local Ubuntu events, don't bother to get to know Ubuntu contributors, Ubuntu's culture, and generally never gave a flying leap about Ubuntu in the first place except perhaps where it intersected with their pet project - page clicks."
The devil's advocate in me is saying "Oh yeah? Well, you think you're a nice person, and you discredit outsiders, and you think some people different from you are mean, and you even think you're a goddess. You don't get to talk about this."
But pretty much everyone thinks they're a nice person. The difference is what you do when you're confronted with evidence that you've hurt someone. Is your priority to save face or heal them? That's really what the "discrediting outsiders" thing amounts to, as well. I explain why people are untrustworthy or how they've been hurt by others. But a cultist's priority is to make the cult look good, at all costs. They're willing to sacrifice people for it, literally or figuratively. They just want to be seen as good and nice, or at least righteous, for doing so.
People aren't mean just for disliking me. There are people I admire greatly that I've had to cut off contact with, because we're just not good for each other (or at least I'm not good for them). The Mormon teaching that any "righteous" man and woman can marry each other and make it work is not true, and the same goes for friendships and organizational affiliations. People are mean for ignoring others' boundaries and inflicting violence on others.
Finally, I don't demand veneration from anyone, don't promise retribution to people who fail to provide it, and don't ask people to ignore their conscience or senses when talking to me. The Inari I know doesn't, either.
This is what healthy relationships are like, whether they're with a person or organization.