Paragons: Dr. Vandana Shiva
A Potent Foil for a Failing Paragon
This is the start of a new series I’ll be writing about people who I believe are doing really amazing or inspirational work that influences or relates to everyone on our planet.
Land is for living
Bill Gates owns too much fucking land. I feel bad by starting this article about an inspirational woman from India by mentioning a rich white dude but that’s the world the rich white dudes have created for us — often by “buying” all the land .
I spent a lot of time admiring Bill Gates. I’m a nerd from the 90s. My initial reactions to Dr. Vandana Shiva were negative as a result of cognitive biases I had which prevented me from understanding her critiques of him. My background is in technology. I’m a North American software engineer and technologist — Bill Gates built much of the base upon which I’ve grown my identity. Not just my personal one but my professional one as well.
I first learned of Dr. Shiva while watching her speak on Russell Brands podcast:
Part of the reason I’m writing this article is to analyze how wrong I was in my initial assessment here. My initial reaction to some of what Dr. Shiva said was negative because I believed that we need a systemic approach like what Bill Gates is proposing and I didn’t understand that what Dr. Shiva was proposing as a counterpoint was a better system. Newer is better, right? 🙄
My hope is that this article, which I’m writing in service to Dr. Shiva, can be used in some small way to tear down some of the harmful influence and infrastructure resulting from Bill Gates efforts to shape the future of our shared global civilization.
The culture of modern technology doesn’t lead us to believe that old systems are better than their replacements. Like ever. This is a real problem because sometimes older systems and approaches prove to be superior to what we design to replace them. Sometimes, and much more cumbersomely, they can become better again after falling out of disfavor for whatever reason.
We can’t say modern agriculture is a total write off or anything because it’s obviously done a pile of work to keep a whole lot of people alive. That aspect of the reality of the situation doesn’t negate the fact that, whatever it is that works about modern agriculture at smaller scales, there regularly arises catastrophic instabilities or inconsistencies which seem to really amplify negative outcomes at bigger scales.
We’ll see a lot of talk about famine in the coming months. If you have the internet and can read this you’re probably not experiencing the worst of it. Food infrastructure and support is going to fail hard at less privileged and more under-resourced levels. It already is and it’s terrible.
Lots of people who aren’t on the internet very much are never going to get a chance to spend more time on the internet because they’re going to starve to death this year. This is happening right now all over the world in a system where Bill Gates is one of the primary arbiters of influence and command.
Inferior knock-offs are primarily designed for profit
Why do we make things? Why do we do the things we do? Let’s be real fucking honest: Sometimes the answer is “for money” — and maybe sometimes the answer has to be “for money” — but we need to acknowledge that when we do things this way… we head towards a path where we can really fuck important things up for a lot of people.
You can do good things for the world and make a buck in the process but don’t start drinking your own Kool-Aid. There’s no reason to believe that the process of doing things for money will result in good outcomes for the world, anyone around you, or you. To support this claim allow me to submit as evidence: recorded history.
This isn’t about taking away the freedom of individuals to fuck up. A lot of the time the harmful outcomes of poor choices are simply the natural outcome of the freedom of individuals and, while challenging, this seems to be preferable to more authoritarian alternatives. Bill Gates isn’t operating at the scale of an individual anymore. At his scale of operation this mindset becomes increasingly likely to harm huge swathes of the world. Ask yourself: Can people like Bill Gates use their money and influence to impose their will on your community or nation far more effective than the democratic processes which represent you?
It probably has to be ok to restrict the freedom of authoritarians because that’s what they put out into the world and options are limited. Ideally we wouldn’t need to do this but authoritarians keep starting it for some fucking reason. Billionaire corporatist oligarchs are authoritarians or authoritarian-adjacent. They will impose their will on you without a moments hesitation because that’s what they needed to do to reach their current level of power in the system where they claimed that power.
You may think the fight against the rampant inequality represented by the existence of billionaires is irrelevant — and that’s as valid as my view that winning this fight in favour of non-billionaires is of critical importance to the future of our planet — though I honestly struggle to understand how people can feel that way given the current state of the world and the dominant means through which we incentivize our behaviour.
There aren’t plucky underdogs nipping away at Capitalism and weakening it from within. At this point capitalism is a battleship in conflict with kayaks. In the timescale of the history of our species capitalism basically won everything, everywhere, all at once. This is the world it wants us to have. Bill Gates is a paragon of that system.
Bill Gates is way more of an asshole than I realized or was willing to admit. I’m allowed to say that because I’m an asshole too. The past few years have pressure washed a whole lot of the sparkle off of Bill Gates and that’s a really bad thing for the important initiatives he’s leading which are supported and sustained through the efforts of numerous competent, kind, and caring individuals who work for his various initiatives.
I’m not unsympathetic towards Mr. Gates. Admittedly I try not to be unsympathetic towards anyone. He has played a role in some amazingly positive outcomes for lots of people all over the world. Anyone who disregards the important work the Gates Foundation has done in places where no one else was willing to invest so much is failing to understand the actual history of the organization, or the hearts of the countless souls who do good work there.
He’s also done a bunch of shady shit that merits thorough review. Everyone who thinks about his divorce and Epstein has unanswered questions and knows there’s unreleased information. Beyond his personal life, he’s done a bunch of things that seem like they’re at risk of creating or exacerbating some really negative outcomes for a lot of people if he’s wrong. If Bill Gates fucks up food production somehow there will be so much suffering… he risks making unilateral decisions which can lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands or millions of people.
Bill Gates is an oligarch. Dr. Vandana Shiva is not.
She easily outclasses him in every single relevant metric in this space except for those of finance or influence.
His current course of action seems likely to place him at a fairly low point in the esteem of global history. His main advantages are money and influence but we can’t eat those so if he’s able to buy his way into the good graces of the future that probably means things have gone horribly wrong for a lot of people.
I hope that the increasing global famine we’ll see in the coming months will show Mr. Gates that too much of the esoteric system he’s meddling in is out of scope for his efforts and he’s not going to be able to achieve his desired outcomes.
I hope history doesn’t tell our descendants about how Mr. Gates pushed harder towards centralized global food production through this flawed corporatist path instead of trying to find a healthier and more collaborative way to achieve something required by everyone.
Shares don’t need food.
Dr. Vandana Shiva can show us who needs food and how to grow it way better than Bill Gates can.
Thanks for reading. If you like this weird feature on Dr. Vanada Shiva (by way of an unrelenting tirade of critiques of Bill Gates) maybe you’ll like some of the other stuff I’ve written:
The Esoteric Compendium of Eric Lortie: the unofficial Wizard of Canada
Don’t pay attention to this. This is bonkers.
You can buy my book of poetry here: