There are other people with ethics and others who were willing to sacrifice things for the ideal of sharing, but no one else seems to have understood or defended the pure joy of hacking code with other people they way he has. "Hacking" may not be the best word here, because it gets used as many ways as the F word does these days, but there is an intense joy that some people feel in looking over someone else's code and seeing how to improve it a bit, then turn it back out to the world and find that someone else can teach them a new trick by improving it even more, and so on.
It is not a competition or a contest, not a show or a stage. For many, it includes elements of "belonging" , "faith" , "growth" and "happiness." A church choir or a chain gang. Family. Even God and country.
The sense of "community" that Richard Stallman often speaks of (especially his first one at MIT) is critical to many of us and may just be our only hope for the continued growth of the human animal. When (if) automation eliminates hunger and population control eventually settles our instinct to reproduce, what else will we find to strive for? If we survive to that point, we may kill each other out of boredom if we continue to compete for competitions sake and work for individual rather than common gain.
Richard Stallman will always be a hero to many because despite (or because of) his personality and sometimes hygiene ;o), he was able to show us that we can foster and grow this community as needed. Not to just be dependant on finding it, but also protect it and create it for ourselves just by refusing to sell out.
Linus Torvalds has been highlighted by those who value good leadership and management. People skills. Social engineering. Charisma. All good, and thank you Linus, but RS should be studied more often by people interested in hackers exactly because he does not exude those things, but still has the community part of the hackers world shining brightly at his core. He is a beacon to what we, the hacker community, really need and are; without distracting us into thinking that anything else is necessary.
I may have Aspergers disorder or B.O. but I don't need to be LT to be full of joy, to be a force, to be a part of this community.