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“Microsoft is evil”, Barbeque Edition

A friend of my mother’s was introduced to me at a family barbeque, and started in. Background: lives in a nice suburban neighbourhood, sends her kids to private school.

“Lovely to see you!…

So how do you feel about working for them?” (measured tone)

Pretty good, most days?

“Microsoft is evil.”

(is-she-joking?-pause) Um, look, I think we make dumb decisions sometimes, but could I ask why you think we’re evil? Is this an EU thing?

“I read that the Bill Gates foundation was trying to find a cure for Malaria.”

(confused expression) you did say ‘evil,’ right?

“and you know what that means” (expectant eyebrow-arching)

Fewer dead people?

“Yes!” (triumphant look)

(thinking hard) I can’t see how that’s bad? Is this a theological thing?

“Well it’s for globalization, isn’t it?”

Uhm… what?

“The whole idea is that if Malaria gets eradicated, there will be more people to work in sweatshops.”

(I’d swear the whites of the eyes were in some way frothy at this point)

(Pause) Yes, I guess, that’s technically feasible in some way. Let’s just suggest that we have a programming sweat shop in the Malaria belt.

(Expectancy; exultation)

What I think you’re saying is that you’d rather that about a million people died each year, than, say, they all survived and a couple of thousand worked for very low wages.

(Derailment moment; this-isn’t-quite-the-slam-dunk-I-had-planned)

(nearly shouting) “Well, no, but curing Malaria means more cheap workers. And more cheap workers means more globalization. It’s being done for a profit motive.”

(trying to calm everyone down) Let’s just assume that you’re right and it’s all a big, costly, nefarious scheme to obtain more cheap workers. Just to be clear, I don’t think that’s the case.

Are you telling me that a profit motive that leads to survival for millions, and a small income for a few of them, is more evil than all those people dying, then? Isn’t survival a start?

“But globalization is bad! Sweatshops!”

(patience with crazy person expended) Malaria worse! Death! If you don’t live, it’s a bit awkward to say you’d like your living conditions to be improved, isn’t it?

The conversation turned to other things…