Bill Gates Isn’t The Hero This World Deserves; He’s The Hero This World Needs
By David Metcalfe
May 10, 2020
Despite Bill Gates’ existing popularity ever since “Microsoft” first took off in the 1980s, he’s only grown in popularity and cultural relevance, as computers have become more and more a part of every day life, and the entire world has been revolutionized by computers and their accompanying technologies. He’s generally been the world’s richest man for about 25 years now, given billions to help the poor, and emerged as an intellectual heavyweight; providing insights on everything from politics to business to philosophy to science to global development and so on. His recent prediction- and current incredible insights and understanding- of the coronavirus pandemic have further propelled him as a cultural and intellectual icon.
Clearly, the man is a genius. He’s the kind of rare genius who is so influential that he defines the entire world he lives in.
The All-American Gates
Gates, The Cultural Advancer
Thomas Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize winning author, political theorist, and popular commentator, said in his book, The World Is Flat: “In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears- and that is our problem.”
In discussing the emergence of China as a major political and economic force, why specifically choose Britney Spears to typify cultural failure, and Bill Gates to typify cultural success?
To answer this, we need to consider another quote where he compares the two:
“When Muslim radicals and fundamentalists look at the West, they see only the openness that makes us, in their eyes, decadent and promiscuous. They see only the openness that has produced Britney Spears and Janet Jackson. They do not see, and do not want to see, the openness — the freedom of thought and inquiry — that has made us powerful, the openness that has produced Bill Gates and Sally Ride. They deliberately define it all as decadence. Because if openness, women’s empowerment, and freedom of thought and inquiry are the real sources of the West’s economic strength, then the Arab-Muslim world would have to change. And the fundamentalists and extremists do not want to change.”
Britney Spears is decadence, or, as the dictionary defines it: “moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury.” After all, what has Britney Spears given us? Some meaningless pop songs about partying and dating, a sexual icon, a crazy overweight lady with a shaved head who locks her child in the car on a hot day… she was a basic pop sensation, and then descended into fodder for the tabloids. Insert Cardi B, Miley Cyrus, the Kardashians, Drake, Kanye West, etc.; they are not necessarily terrible artists, but they are not the kinds of people you want the next generation aspiring to become.
Bill Gates is advancement; technologically and socially. He represents innovation, entrepreneurship, economic growth, education and social consciousness. We want the next generation to be full of young people who aspire to be Bill Gates.
We can easily see why Thomas Friedman would admire Bill Gates by his more general quotes, which are a good representation of Gates.
Gates, The Innovator
“America is the greatest engine of innovation that has ever existed, and it can’t be duplicated anytime soon, because it is the product of a multitude of factors: extreme freedom of thought, an emphasis on independent thinking, a steady immigration of new minds, a risk-taking culture with no stigma attached to trying and failing, a non-corrupt bureaucracy, and financial markets and a venture capital system that are unrivaled at taking new ideas and turning them into global products.”
Bill Gates has clearly taken full advantage of the economic, social, and intellectual freedom that comes with American life.
Gates, The Social Entrepreneur
“One of the newest figures to emerge on the world stage in recent years is the social entrepreneur. This is usually someone who burns with desire to make a positive social impact on the world, but believes that the best way of doing it is, as the saying goes, not by giving poor people a fish and feeding them for a day, but by teaching them to fish, in hopes of feeding them for a lifetime. I have come to know several social entrepreneurs in recent years, and most combine a business school brain with a social worker’s heart. The triple convergence and the flattening of the world have been a godsend for them. Those who get it and are adapting to it have begun launching some very innovative projects.”
Gates’s application of his “business school brain” combined with his “social worker’s heart” has led him to begin the “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation”, where they’ve launched tons of important charitable ventures, and helped millions of people. They continue to work with a variety of experts to continue coming up with new solutions to poverty.
Gates, The Understander
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
Gates reads like crazy. He reads The Economist cover to cover every week, in addition to multiple books, academic articles, and other magazines. He sees a problem like global poverty or coronavirus, and instead of being overwhelmed or fearful, he’s proactive in seeking to understand it.
Gates, The Outlier
In Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book, “Outliers”, he shares the stories of people who did exceptionally well and people who did exceptionally poorly. Two stars of the book, whom Gladwell spends a ton of time on, and refers back to repeatedly, are Christopher Langan and Bill Gates. Both are geniuses, but Christopher Langan’s genius amounted to nothing. He never went to university, he never contributed to scientific or cultural advancement, and he’s just been working odd jobs as a farm hand and bar bouncer. Bill Gates, on the other hand, has put his genius to work, making massive strides in advancing our knowledge in multiple areas, and doing real good in the world on a large scale.
Do We Deserve Gates?
We’ve generally decided as a culture that we are selfish. Capitalism has worked well, in part, by the sheer fact that we desire money for ourselves more than we desire money for others. It’s not like people show up to jobs they don’t like because they are so altruistic; they do it for the money. When people play a game for fun, they don’t try as hard as when the game is for money. We are motivated to do things to get more money for ourselves. More money for others? Nah.
Jeffrey Sachs wrote in his book “The End Of Poverty” that it would cost about $175 billion per year to eliminate extreme poverty worldwide. That’s about $800 per year from each American adult, or $300 per year if you add Europeans. A 2018 study in USA Today revealed that the average American spends about $19,000 per year in non-essential expenditures. Can we give up just 5% of our non-essential expenditures to save the lives of hundreds of millions of people?
Americans have answered: no.
Bill Gates has answered, time and time again: yes. He continues to give billions of dollars to help people in extreme poverty, and encourages other billionaires to do the same, through his and Warren Buffet’s foundation, “The Giving Pledge”, that encourages billionaires to give at least half of their income to the poor.
While most Americans are obsessed with scrolling through random Instagram posts on their phones, playing video games for endless hours, and binge watching Netflix, Bill Gates reads books. He learns things. More so, he learns things about global poverty to help the poor, about science to advance society, about philosophy to reflect on his beliefs and assumptions, about business to advance economic growth and help entrepreneurs.
Beyond this, thousands of people have made up strange conspiracies about Bill Gates, taking his quotes out of context or misunderstanding them completely. They are typically anti-vaxxers or climate change deniers, who already have opposition to Gates on those issues, since he is an educated person and obviously follows scientific expertise and consensus on those topics. What kind of response is hateful, misguided conspiracy theories to someone who has contributed so much to the world in so many amazing ways?
There’s no question, in my mind, that Bill Gates is the quintessential world hero. A product of the best of American exceptionalism, of Christian charity, and of incredible genius- and the opportunities to make that genius count.
Americans love their “Britney Spears”, their mindless social media, their binge watching, their self-centred approach to money and education. Bill Gates is representative of the intellect, the altruism, and the innovation that America was founded on and continues to exemplify- albeit much less than it could.
I think Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell are right to construct Gates as the epitome of success. We have the opportunities to learn from him: his Ted Talks, his speeches at The World Economic Forum, and his writing in articles and books. Or instead, maybe we’ll just hoard our money for ourselves while binge watching “Tiger King” and listening to Cardi B.