Chris' Rant- by Chris Wenham

Just like you learn that the world is round because "it just is" and that bad things happen to good people because "they just do," we all learn sooner or later that there are people in the world who will never listen to reason and stick with the same backward mindset they always have had because "they just do."

What are they, stupid? Am I talking to a brick wall? Is there no Holy Turin Shroud or Darwin's Finch I can show them that will convince them once and for all that I'm making sense?

You may get this feeling if you call a company and ask them to support your nonstandard video card or, laughs aside, your "non standard" operating system. But that's just inertia. One customer has, in reality, very little sway with a large business organization. What I'm talking about are individuals, the people you meet day in and day out who, for whatever reason they're holding private, will only listen to what they want to hear.

And we're all guilty of doing it at some time or another.

How often is it you've wanted to punch one of these people on the nose? How often have you wanted to tie them down and beat sense into their heads with sheer volume or physical violence? How could such obnoxious people ever get born in the first place? These are the ones that saunter into a gathering of your friends and proudly announce that their teacher at college is dumping OS/2 and switching to Windows 95 because it's, "Just plain easier!" and say it with the air and attitude that makes one think it was supposed to be grand and final proof of a platform's demise. And then what can you do? Splutter that everyone has their different needs and one person's bad experience shouldn't be used to blah-blah waffle-waffle... oh no they've lost interest in me.

Can you talk fast enough? Can you debunk him fast enough? Can you win back the attention (and affection) of the crowd? Quick, is there some snappy quip you can use to take the wind out of his sails? Whoops... too late... he's done his work and now he's left, with some excuse about being paged. You can't challenge him anymore because he's not there. You can't try to "mop up" his lies from the minds of the group because the conversation has changed to another topic and it'll just sound like wounded pride if you try to bring it up again.

The thing is that we're not all Adolf Hitlers able to proselytize a group into action with the power of speech. And there's not one, but thousands of these guys, all doing the same thing all over the world.

Crusaders like these will not listen to reason because it's not reason that is their driving force. Eric Hoffer wrote about a person whom he called the "True Believer." They have the ability to, "shut their eyes and stop their ears," to facts that do not deserve to be seen or heard. They cannot be disheartened by an obstacle because they deny its existence. They accept crude absurdities, trivial nonsense and sublime truths and believe them to be the sole, eternal truth. "Bill Gates invented the GUI," or, "There aren't any applications for OS/2."

It is said that they do this because they recognize and despise their own inferiority. "The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his holy cause." And one quote I enjoy, "He's likely to mind his own business when it's worth minding. When it's not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business." So tell me, does it sound like someone you know?

The infuriating fact is that there isn't anything you can do about them. You can't take away their quest because that is what their blood is made of. It's not an operating system, it's the holy cause. The truth is that it doesn't matter what the real value of the product is. You could point at the holes in Windows 95's architecture until your finger drops off but it won't make a blind bit of difference to them. It doesn't matter to them. For someone who needs a religion, there is nothing you can do but convert them from one fanaticism to another. In the meantime, frustrated users on both sides of the fence have to deal with the flak, half-truths, flat lies and lies of omission.

For me I have to deal with a very unpalatable truth that I was, and am still to some point, just like this. Now that I see what it's like to be on the flip side of the coin it tastes very, very bitter in my mouth. This is the really ugly side of human nature that is manifesting itself in, of all places, computer operating systems. I even hear stories of the really extreme camp of "Winbigots" plotting to purchase a Macintosh for the sole purpose of taking to it with a sledgehammer. Sheesh. Why don't they get a grip?

Well they never will. Too bad. There's a lot of talent and energy there that could have gone to something much more useful.

Chris Wenham is a Team OS/2er in Binghamton, NY with a catchy-titled company -- Wenham's Web Works. He has written comedy, sci-fi, HTML, Pascal, C++ and now writes software reviews.

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