A running theme in the Calvin & Hobbes comic is his Dad dragging him along on a family outing, or giving him chores, or some other drudgery, and saying it “builds character” [Building character | The Calvin and Hobbes Wiki | Fandom]. In many of the comics, the Dad has hopelessly bungled the endeavor, and “building character” is just an excuse. From the title, you can see where I’m going with this…
I’ve noticed that many of my interactions with Linux gurus are similar to Calvin and his Dad. I’m Calvin, in case it wasn’t obvious.
Many Linux users believe that Linux is the superior way, and while it may be more complex than the average user can handle, they just need to work harder, and rise to the level required to use Linux. This is something that they believe that everyone should do. Using Linux is the way. Using Linux is good for the soul . Using Linux builds character.
It’s a smug, moralizing elitism that knows what’s best for you. If you disagree, then you just haven’t thought about it hard enough. The Linux gurus have done all of the research for you, they’ve tried all of he Operating Systems, and Linux was the clear winner. You don’t need to think about this, just use Linux, okay?
There are really two parts to this: First, you’re told that Linux is the superior choice, and that by using it, you’ll be a better programmer, or better computer user, or possibly a better person! Secondly, once you’re onboard, any failing with the OS you find is actually a problem with you that you must rid yourself of. Look, Linux isn’t perfect, but that part definitely is. So you must be doing something wrong.
What’s funny is when these things happen out of order, as they often do. User: “Why should I use Linux?” Guru: “Because it’s awesome.” User: “But I’m having trouble with XYZ.” Guru: “Okay well you need to try harder.” Narrator: “The user, needless to say, did not switch to Linux.”
Since I’ve been interested in this phenomenon/mentality for quite awhile, I’m able to pretty quickly bring up examples.
Here’s a quick tour of people saying “you didn’t try hard enough” to understand Linux:
- “Of course, it is good for the soul to write your own firewall script, and you’ll be a better human being for doing it, so you shouldn’t necessarily take the easy way out.” [Making the move to Linux, finally… (linuxquestions.org)]
- “You can [expletive] be upset that you are an [expletive] who won’t take the time to learn something new, or you can try to better yourself.” [username1824 comments on Why Linux Sucks (reddit.com)]
- “Programming is not that hard, and some changes are simple.” [holgerschurig comments on Goodbye Linux: Why am ditching linux and going back to Windows 10 (reddit.com)]
- “You’ve used it for less than three months, didn’t even understand it well enough to get it working on your laptop, and from this you decided that the kernel that basically the whole planet relies on for everything sucks” [Wholesome_Linux comments on Linux sucks (reddit.com)]
- “hard work takes blood sweat & tears. put the work in. try to be a good adopter. try to work forwards. if you stumble, get back up.” [Add Comment | Hacker News (ycombinator.com)]
And here are some posts that agree with me that this phenomenon exists:
-  “Linux people don’t want you to “not use Linux”, they want you to see that wearing a burlap sack is good for your soul, then you’ll embrace it wholeheartedly on their terms” – jodrellblank [Linux people don’t want you to “not use Linux”, they want you to see that wearin… | Hacker News (ycombinator.com)] (This one is fantastic, the clearest voicing of the situation that I’ve seen to date, my own included).
And here is an old-school Linux user who admits that Linux might not be for everyone:
- “Linux doesn’t suck. Linux is not an appliance OS. If you want a brainless, “I’m just going to use it, I don’t want to know anything about it” OS, you should be running Windows.” – Tony Lawrence [linux sucks, windows is better than linux (aplawrence.com)]