Two weeks post the divorce announcement and it is popularly argued that the image of the greatest entrepreneur and philanthropist our species can name is forever ruined on the basis that he engaged in a few non-monogamist activities over the past three decades.
I have no economic reason to defend or condemn Bill Gates. I do not know him. I don’t work for Microsoft or any of their partners. I don’t even like Microsoft’s products. I prefer Google.
But few seem to be speaking on behalf of one of the most innovative, successful, and generous people to have ever existed.
On the opposite side of this silent crowd is a new high growth industry. Gates burning. Perhaps, Gatesgate?
These articles say that Gates was awkwardly flirtatious. If it were so it was a grievous fault. Grievously is he paying for it.
I don’t dare question the moral righteousness of American pop culture. For when have our moral judgements, swinging so powerfully with herd-like winds, ever been wrong? They are honorable, surely. Secure in vocal unanimity. With little to no public dissent, who could conclude otherwise?
The words “irretrievably broken” are now being used not only as the summative text of Melinda’s divorce suit, but to describe Bill Gates’ reputation.
I don’t write this to disprove any of them, only to speak what I know.
Several million people are alive today because Bill Gates existed.
Countless have had diseases cured and treated.
Nation-states have seen several whole percentages of their population move above extreme poverty.
And of a less emotive note, trillions of dollars of productivity have been unlocked, year after year, globally, due to the innovations and utilities that sprung from a garage in Albuquerque, 1975.
So, why is it that Gates is suddenly persona non grata?
My guess is not that American culture is shifting towards 17th century puritanism. Gates asking a colleague to dinner back in 2004 is of grave concern for the moral upbringing of children, indeed.
I think it is more to do with a Targaryen-like cultural mantra: burn them all.
We love seeing a Goliath fall. Even if they are far more David.
We hope. We pray. That these titans before us are, in fact, ecce homo. When we see their pains and errors and stupidity we see that they are. Except, despite their humanity, the same humanity as ours, they still achieve heights that are several thousand – maybe million – times our net worth. If only we could overcome our weaknesses and achieve like they have! We could think this… But no. That’s a painful thought. Burn them all is easier. We choose to stand in their shadow and curse, rather than stand on their shoulders and soar.
Our deserving heroes, like Gates, modern day demi-Gods, are now the indirect manufacturers of surplus jealously and shame. For how could we achieve what he has?
“The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones…” So let it be with Gates.
But after we bury this billionaire. One who dedicated more of his life to improving more lives than anyone in history. When comes such another?