Oh No! Another Useless War!

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Microsoft is going to try to buy Yahoo to take on Google.

My initial reaction to that was, “Oh no, another war!”

I don’t mean a war between Google and Microsoft; I mean a war between Google and Microsoft fans.

The computing world is filled with fights: PC vs. Mac, AMD vs. Intel, Windows vs. Linux, ATI/nVidia, the list goes on.

And in each fight, there are those who appoint themselves Defenders of the Realm to protect Goodness and Truth against the forces of Resident Evil.

A Google-Microsoft battle will inevitably trigger another fanwar, if for no other reason than there are already plenty of fanatics who believe that MS is the greatest force for evil in the history of the world, if not the universe. Hitler who? Stalin what? Bill Gates and Company are Satan’s evil brothers.

I’m sure there are some who think the same of Google, and those who think either Google or MS are the greatest forces for good in the space-time continuum.

And so they’ll fight, wasting millions of hours, billions of watts, and trillions of bytes. I’ve often wondered what would happen if you took a group from each of the warring parties, put them on a desert island stocked liberally with lethal weapons, and left them alone for a while. How many would be left when you came back?

For a long time, I’ve wondered why some people would decide that some multinational corporation deserved such faith and devotion.

Then I realized that all these wars weren’t about this vs. that; they were about fanaticism.

Throughout human time, a sizable portion of humanity needs to be fanatical about something. It could be a god, a religion, a nation or nationality, a political party or ideology, a sports team. It can even be a CPU, a video card, or maybe even a search engine.

Whatever it is, it has to be something bigger than one’s self, and something that somehow makes one feel bigger and better about oneself. The person expands to the size of the cause; it becomes the extended him.

What matters about fanaticism is not its flavor, but its intensity. It’s one thing to prefer Islam over Christianity, or Pepsi over Coke, or the New England Patriots over the New York Giants in the Super Bowl; it’s quite another to slaughter Christians or Coke drinkers or Giants fans on sight.

Is fanaticism bad? Well, there is bad, and there is dangerous. To the extent the object of one’s fanaticism becomes THE truth and THE good of one’s life, trumping anything and everything else, with anything else that competes against it being evil, that’s bad because it’s irrational and unnecessary. You need not demonize Bill Gates to use Linux. If you have to, that says something about you, and it’s not good.

However, just because something is bad doesn’t make it dangerous. Thinking Bill Gates is the most evil man on Earth might lose him a few sales and might lose the blindered believer a few opportunities, but there’s no serious harm done.

It’s action based on such beliefs that is dangerous. Thinking Bill Gates is evil is one thing; killing him for it is another.

Of course, many believe, few act, but it’s from the pool of semi-crazy people that the few real loons emerge.

So, when you see yourself getting into one of these fights and finding yourself getting deep into one, take a deep breath, and ask yourself a few questions: Why am I doing this? Why am I defending a multinational corporation that doesn’t even know my name like it’s my brother? If you’re responding to something untrue, am I correcting the lie or really attacking the liar because he doesn’t think like me?

The world is pretty crazy, but you don’t have to add to it.

Ed


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