James Damore was the man who sent a memo in Google in which he suggested that maybe the low participation of women in tech areas was because women in general had less desire to work in those areas. For this he was sacked.
Now for purposes of this article I am not so interested in whether he was right or wrong. I am interested in how he was treated. I think how James was treated in this matter reflects a far deeper malaise within our culture; that malaise is a lack of love and concern for others. If we really want to create a better society, with less conflict, hatred and violence, then we really need to consider deeply why people are punished and to what end.
Do people and organisations in our society seek to punish others as revenge? Or to ‘silence’ them? Either motive is selfish and destructive. Revenge as a motive is just pure hatred and selfishness. Silencing people on the other hand is what organised churches used to do to heretics, and what despots like Stalin did to dissenters. Both were monsters. Do we really want such monsters around today?
So what should be the purpose of punishment? In a system of love any punishment or similar consequences for actions should have the intention of helping the person at fault. The aim of criminal punishment should be to reform offenders, only the unreformable should be exiled, or otherwise separated from their community, for the safety of the community. In all other cases every effort should be made to educate and assist the person towards improvement.
So how did Google act in the case of James? They acted as any despot would, they sought to silence James by sacking him and ‘exiling’ him from Google’s community. Why would they do this? Well I would suggest firstly because they have no love for James, or perhaps anyone else. Think about it – if someone in your family wrote something like that – would you exile them? Punish them with the loss of their income? Only a family with no love for their children would treat their child like that – fully grown or not. Now Google I suspect also had selfish reasons for wanting to get rid of James – and it is a fact that selfishness in its worst forms is a lack of love for others. Google, and the tech area in general have had a bad reputation in relation to the treatment of women. In light of this it seems that Google are seeking – at least some claim they are – to signal the ‘virtue’ of the company for purely profit oriented motives.
When someone, or some organisation, picks on someone like this it is encumbant on others to speak in defence of the victim. Particularly when the victim is an individual. Groups have the benefit of many voices and mutual support, but individuals are vulnerable, and so need others to defend them. Without us supporting each other in this way we have the ‘law of jungle’; the strong can victimise the weak. Such an action as Google’s is a bully’s action. And unless we can stand against such behaviours civilisation means nothing; it is not an adjective we can apply to our society. But yet we see the absence of love and human support for others again and again – we see it with the treatment of refugees, we see it with the treatment of the homeless, and we see it with many individuals: Damore, Assange, Snowden and Manning.
I ask again – would a loving parent treat their own child like this? Would they stand by and watch others treat their child like this? Or would they have patience and tolerance in regard to their perceived faults and transgressions? Then how can we stand by and allow other people’s children to be treated this way?
You can read James' memo here and also Google's public response.
Here's The Full 10-Page Anti-Diversity Screed Circulating Internally At Google ( it is not actually not quite in full - diagrams and hyper links to his references have been removed. The actual complete document is available here).
If you are interested in the argument about whether he was right or not, here is New York Times article on this.