Bill Gates; Buddha; and Karl Marx!
Reflections on the advice of Bill Gates to the class of 2017.
In his career advice to the Class of 2017, Bill Gates mentioned three fields for the young graduands where they can make a difference: Artificial Intelligence; Energy; and Biosciences. Mr Gates had chosen a career in the then emerging Telecommunications and enjoyed success like no one else in the field. Microsoft still stands tall. No doubt, Bill Gates is a role model figure and his advice is important.
Success is an ornament made out of the desire of others to be successful. It is an exuberant experience of joy as it attracts attention and appreciation like nothing else. One feels gratified and cherishes such a state.
Everyone likes a successful man. At least the society forces everyone to like them by its morality that competition is a legitimate activity, though personally one may be jealous. When individuals rise beyond and appear larger than what others can ever imagine, they become role models. However, happiness is something different! Isn’t it?
What Mr. Gates suggested is a practical advice to become successful. To be successful means the society needs to recognise that we are doing something which the society values and appreciates. What society appreciates is what it is in need of. That’s exactly what Bill Gates suggested. The future of science is going to be in the fields noted and the progress of human species is going to be through these fields. Since the society is going to be in need, like it was in need of Telecommunications when Bill Gates started, there is a larger probability of success when one chooses them as there is a long way before saturation.
What makes us lose against our success is that, invariably, we are ambitious- especially more in a capitalist society. Very ambitious, of course, else won’t we be travelling right now? Irrespective of the obstacles that we imagine, we believe we can overcome them. We do not consider the practicality in an objective manner, as emotion dominates.
We are victims of the desire that we can become successful. However, statistically there can only be few individuals who succeed in life, as the areas where there is no competition are not considered applicable to success and only the few best can win any race. A drive for success in a society makes majority individuals unhappy, unless success is attained through cooperation than competition.
However, Bill Gates also hinted at the importance of happiness and while he did that, it can be inferred that he made a distinction between success and happiness. Like his friend Warren Buffet, he too suggested that we should measure happiness by whether the people around us are happy and love us, and by any difference that we make in others’ lives.
Celebrating success implies that people who are not successful are left unhappy as the desire is not satiated. Since our happiness requires people around us to be happy, it requires that the people around should also be successful. Since successful people are in a minority due to the competition for success, people who are happy are also bound to be in a minority. Such a philosophy of happiness and success leaves a society in despair.
Contrary to the above notion, Buddha observed ‘desire’ as the root cause of suffering. Buddha suggested that when one follows an eight fold path, one can attain happiness. Though Buddhism gave importance to the materialistic conditions for the well-being of society, the approach towards desire makes it different from the capitalist notion of society and happiness.
While a capitalist society keeps the individuals to be in a perennial state of improvement by furthering the post of success as soon as it is reached- like Bill Gates suggests staying around people who challenges us, the philosophy of Buddha suggests abandoning the desire to be successful to stay happy with its eight fold path. The eight fold path stresses on righteousness- which inevitably leads to moral standards of right and wrong. The right livelihood and right effort are emphasized while one participates in a social association.
On the contrary, by making individuals materialistic and self-centric, a capitalist society loses track of the righteousness. For example, a restaurant owner would not hesitate to serve a food of inferior quality when the customers can’t find it out. By being brutally capitalist, the society relies on the rule of law for the sake of adjudicating who is right and undermines the self-checking mechanism of righteousness and morality. A strong rule of law sidelines the ethics in society and makes the individuals discrete and self-centric.
As Karl Marx observed, becoming self-centric and looking others as an object, or a means, makes the individuals of the capitalist society alienated from their self. Despite the emotion of love is looked from the perspective of being self-centric, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet also suggest that being loved by others is a criteria towards happiness. While Love is experienced more through offering it to others, than receiving it, the measurement of happiness as receiving love from others, than offering it to others is inappropriate. What is in the individuals’ hands at max is to love others. Efforts to attract the Love of others makes one weak, and lose the character of competitiveness. Loving others itself is a state of bliss and hence happiness.
Being a philanthropist for 17 years, Bill Gates is one of the greatest individuals who served the mankind. Such a service requires love to be offered to others, than receiving it as suggested on the measurement of happiness.
One the one side, the criteria makes it difficult to be happy as success showers only on a minority, and on the other side, it calls for a difference to be made in the lives of others, as many as possible, by making their lives better and sooner through technology. Bill Gates is happy because he defeated many competitiors to satiate the desire of success and also made a difference to millions of lives through philanthropy. But are those who are defeated, happy? Or, can those who are benefitted by the philanthropy, make a difference to the lives’ of others?
On the one side, it makes the individuals lose themselves in competition, and on the other side, it keeps people in need of love from others, who already lost themselves in need of success, to stay happy.
Inconsistency! The criteria makes happiness a monopoly of the minority who are successful. It inevitably means that people of Africa who cannot compete for success at the international level, and also cannot make a difference to as many as the successful people can, can never be happy. But is it true?