Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Me & Mr. Bill

I have a love-hate relationship with Bill Gates. Love him for all the charitable work his foundation funds (in the news today: Gates Foundation gives WHO $7 Million for cervical cancer vaccines; in the past they've given millions to global AIDS/HIV prevention/ condom use promotion ; disease prevention (i.e. malaria) and other vaccination efforts and are one of the biggest supporters of Int'l Planned Parenthood, among many other initiatives).

And it is my expertise in some of said Microsoft software that keeps the RiverClan in shoes and internet access and allows me to send a few $$ to progressive causes of my own every now and then.

But you can't really help but hate him for Microsoft's monopolistic stranglehold on the software industry, and questionnable business tactics. Many question his charity work (especially that which promotes technical literacy) as self serving. His AIDS work in India, for example an attempt to not only ensure a continued market for his software but also to garner cheap labor.

And I really take his name in vain everytime they release a new "improved" version of said software (bugs & all) that didn't really need improving, to replace software they'd finally got most of the bugs worked out of, just as you'd developed a nice, stable, copacetic working environment with it and the rest of your software. Yes, I do think it's being forced to upgrade every 2 years and incurring not only significant financial cost but added frustration/stress leels that irks me the most. But again, as much as I hate that headache, it, too provides a great deal of my job security. So I probably shouldn't complain.

So perhaps you'll understand why I hesitate to jump on board the opensource/ Linux/ "Microsoft is the antichrist movement". It's so easy to villify Bill Gates. But really - at a time when you can't count on your own government to do the right thing with your hard earned money, doesn't it make sense to spend it in a manner that has some chance of actually accomplishing that?

In the last 5 years Bush has withheld $100+ Million to the U.N. Population fund in a blatant attempt to court the votes of ultra conservative voters, using as an excuse a totally fabricated tie between those funds and abortions in China. $25 Million of that money alone could have been used to prevent 3,500 maternal deaths and 57,000 infant and child deaths outside of China.

In the last decade Gates on the other hand has pledged more than $7 Billion to good causes. $1.4+ Billion specifically to HIV, TB and Reproductive Health. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do the math. If $25 Million could have bought the lives of 3,500 women and 57,000 infants/children, then $1.4 Billion has likelu bought roughly 56 times that many lives: 196,000 women and 3,200,000 children.

Let's think about that for a minute. Yes, we love to hate Bill Gates. Mostly because we're jealous as hell. But how much is your cynicism worth? Is it worth the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of women and children? So what if his rich corporate shareholders cheated the rich corporate shareholders of Microsoft's competitors out of some cash by employing unfair business practices? If it's a crime to use charity to promote technical literacy Microsoft's competitors are just as guilty (albeit they probably don't have as deep of pockets).

And you know what, in the grand scheme of things, I should remember that if my biggest headache on any given day is dealing with fallout from one of Microsoft's obnoxious forced upgrades that means I'm already living life better than 99% of the rest of the planet. I don't think that's such a high price to pay to help finance the charitable work of someone who has proven he actually has the ability (and the inclination) to save and improve the lives of the millions who comprise that other 99%.

No comments: