Sunday, April 06, 2014

NACO and Mozilla

Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need to have free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard
– Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of Mozilla
I will start off this post with a disclaimer, born not out of fear but out of healthy respect for human lifestyles. I do not equate AIDS with homosexuality though I recognize the connection.
I watch the games involving India in the ongoing World T20 tournament on the national DD channel. And, I appreciate the commercials that the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) puts out. I am, in particular, enamored of the commercial in which employee after employee comes to the boss tendering his or her recognition citing truly bizarre reasons, like allergy to the office tube light, the canteen food is too fattening, got a job as a junior artist in Hollywood etc. The end of the commercial is truly a slap across the face of bigots everywhere. When faced with his own bigotry against an HIV-positive employee, the boss sheds his biases and rehires the employee whom he had just fired. I truly liked this advertisement, indeed this message.
Then, most coincidentally I read an article in the London based newspaper The Economist [1] that explains why Brendan Eich had to resign from his post as the chief executive of Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox browser and an untiring campaigner behind “open source licensing”. A company with a level of concern for how society develops, one might say. Eich resigned on April 3rd, after being on the job for a little more than a week. The actions and reactions were quick as you will read below.
It transpires that Eich had contributed to the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California. This was in 2008. But over time his personal views came into the open arena of civil society discussions and that apparently did not sit well with the company employees when he was made the chief executive, very recently. “Some Mozilla employees upset with Mr. Eich’s views on gay marriage called on him to step down.” Even another business entity was distancing itself from Mozilla and that will ostensibly have a negative effect on Mozilla’s bottom line. The executive chairwoman had to act and she did. It appears from the report that in positions other than the chief executive his antediluvian morality did not stir the conscience of the employees to the same extent.
When I read that, I was impressed with NACO’s commitment towards its professed goal, control of AIDS with a human face, to use that cliché. Their commercial echoed a real life situation, and that too ahead of time, before the noise was made! It is passing on its message in strong terms that casual contact does not spread AIDS; that HIV carriers should not be ostracized; that they should be treated with dignity due a human being, no burdens no privileges; that they are one among all of us. It has understood the office environment and desired that that environment accommodate humanitarian behavior. And this news about Mozilla comes in the wake of the commercial.
Way to go NACO!
Raghuram Ekambaram
1.    Exit Mr. Eich, Schumpeter Blog, The Economist, April 5, 2014

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