Friday, June 23, 2006

On the evil of Bill Gates, and giving what you can

Is Bill Gates an evil man?

With the news of his semi-retirement from Microsoft to focus on his charitable organization, I'm feeling conflicted. Sure, Gates's business practices are Satanic, and he's putting the world's computers at risk by producing virus-attracting software - but he's giving away billions to help the world's poor and underdeveloped nations and people.

Leonard Pitts wrote a column in the Miami Herald saying that, when most guys reach middle age, their crisis usually leads to fast cars and young women. Gates, on the other hand, is giving away his money.

"As midlife crises go, that's not a bad one to have," Pitts writes.

He goes on: "I can't write a billion-dollar check. But I can paint a fence, mentor a child, maybe even endow a small scholarship. Bill Gates has me thinking with fresh energy about those and other things I can do -- the responsibility I have -- to change my corner of the world."

Amen, brother.

Pitts laments that he can't approach all the possible good Gates can do with his richest-man-in-the-world bank account, but even small things can make a difference. Moreover, Pitts says, we have a responsibility to give all that we can to make the world a better place.

"I never knew Bill Gates was a Spider-Man fan. But his stated reason for transitioning out of day-to-day responsibilities at Microsoft two years from now to devote his energies to charity work (''with great wealth comes great responsibility'') comes suspiciously close to the creed by which the webslinger has lived since 1962: 'With great power comes great responsibility'...It occurs to me, though, that maybe the lesson of Bill Gates' example -- for hundredaires and thousandaires, at least -- lies less in Spider-Man's maxim than in this one: Do what you can, where you are, now."

You don't have to be Bill Gates to better the world.

So maybe if Gates goes on to inspire philanthropists (corporate or otherwise) to give more, or ordinary citizens to give, say, $5 a month to their favorite charity, then the King of Capitalism could be renewed in the eyes of those that despise him.

We have a program in Rotary called "Every Rotarian Every Year" where, each year, Rotarians are encouraged to give at least $100 to the Rotary Foundation to help improve the world (through programs like clean water and Polio Eradication). For a bit over $8 a month, you can give and be assured that your small contribution is doing good.

And money isn't everything - some organization could just use an extra hour and a helping hand. Sometimes time is more valuable in money, especially with everyone so busy these days.

Creating a fortune and then quitting work to concentrate on giving it all away is pretty admirable. Every religion says to give back to those who need it, but I don't even think you need religion to help out.

It just makes you a good human being.

Kudos, Mr. Gates.

But I'm still not buying Windows Vista, should it ever come out.

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