Out of Jobs

If I should believe internet and other media, last thursday a great philosopher, guru, saint  – son of God almost -, passed away. The way people talk about him reminds me of when that other great humanist, well-doer and spiritual guide expired: Lady Di.

I am talking about Steve Jobs. The man who started the company Apple, then got fired, then got back and made both Apple and himself very rich. These feats, if I have to believe internet, the media, and all the freaks that live in those worlds, apparantly tell us that Steve Jobs was a “visionary and brilliant genius”. “His words of wisdom will live on”, I read somewhere. The “serious” Spanish newspaper El Pais spent eight pages on him today.

I may have missed something, but as far as I can see, we are dealing here with a man who got rich making expensive walkmans (walkmen?) and telephones with games on it. Also, he is the originator of such philosophical gems as: “it is more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy” or “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”. Deep stuff. In other words, the same self-help wise-cracks you can read in any new-age esoteric booklet in second-hand bookshops run by some vague woman with a moustache and lots of cats. My grandma has tiles with sayings like that hanging in her bathroom.

We are in the middle of an economical crisis we cannot solve because we need a cultural and social revolution for that. Meanwhile, our western society is increasingly governed by fear, pithy nationalism and bewilderment, maybe best compared to a rabbit looking at the approaching headlights of a truck. And our hero is a man who makes expensive toys. Each culture gets the heroes it deserves, and the western culture has become so infantilised that our heroes are football players and a man who put the “i” before the Pad or Pod or Sod. A guy who thinks that “being yourself” works for everyone. Tell that to the Chinese kids working in factories on the iFad of the next generation.

More and more, I feel like a Roman citizen in a decaying empire on the brink of the new dark era of the Middle Ages.


10 thoughts on “Out of Jobs

  1. Steve Jobs WAS a ‘visionary and brilliant genius.” He was innovative, he gave us a choice. He made us realize that computers don’t have to be boring and mediocre virus-ridden excuses for essay-writing devices… AND he changed the way people listen to music.

    iTunes in a sense, saved a part of the industry. Yes he made a lot of money, but you just sound jealous and like you’re trying to be shocking.

    1. Felip

      I’ve never had a Mac (or any kind of i-Anything). Too expensive. I think that Apple is only a choice for rich people.
      Apple devices work (for a while, till they become obsolete) better than PCs. No wonder; almost everything in the world works better than a PC! But they work only when you act as a passive user. No way of playing with them, no way of tuning or adapting them to your fancies, no way of using them for other purposes than expected… in short: no experimentation is possible with them. You can play an electric guitar with your teeth; you can drain spaghetti with a tennis racket… but never try to handle your i-Pad with your teeth or to drain spaghetti with your i-Phone!
      Apple devices (as all electronic devices, by the way) are mainly disappointing. Because their life is too short. Because there is always a new better device on sale every few months. Because when they break (and they do break) fixing them up is not a realistic choice. Because your expectations when you bought them are far from being fulfilled…
      No, I don’t think that Steve Jobs was a visionary. I think that he only applied an old idea to a new technology: instead of making bad cheap stuff, making better quality devices, improving the prestige of the brand and increasing the price. It’s a simple marketing strategy. It has been working for a long time with Ferrari, Nikon, Rolex, Harley Davidson…

  2. Felip

    We need to get rid of all those useless myths: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Osama Bin Laden, Elvis Presley, Lady Di, John Lennon, Marilyn Monroe, Mother Teresa, Michael Jackson, J F Kennedy… They cannot provide us with any valuable tool or idea or spur to move through our lives. Just send them to the Recycle Bin!

  3. matxil

    I agree with Felipe says. My point was not whether Steve Jobs made good or no good computer stuff. That´s a matter of taste. I don´t like iPods and iPads, other people do. Fine. He might even “have changed the industry” or whatever. My point is, however, that it is ridiculous to call him a visionay or a genius. And it certainly is ridiculous and scary, that our culture sees a guy who is just another prototype of capitalist marketing as a great hero. Af if he were Jesus or Gandhi or Gengis Khan. Besides, I agree with Felipe, that we should also get rid of those heroes. We should get rid of all heroes. But if you insist in having them, at least choose someone who really had some vision or genius.

  4. Nils

    A few obeservations.. First of all I’m a Mac and iPhone user. So, there it is.. You can stop reading now and assume my bias for these tools (more on that later on) means I am unable to put it in perspective.

    The reason for me to buy both devices is indeed its simple, straightforward and saves the terrible hours of frustration I had with a Windows and yes, even a Linux based system. I really did try move a way from the known paths of Wintel and try something different like a real DIY system as Linux. I have tried the earlier distro’s on old Pentium 1 systems and the new ones on modern systems. It’s not for me. 80 % works, 10 % after some effort and the remaining 10 % just doesn’t work the way I want to. I’m a big Unix fan in terms of professional usability. As a network engineer I am able to script stuff, vi myself into config files and uploading them. You name it, *nix can do it in my workfield. But the point is not an OS war. PC/devices are tools. Just plain simple tools. And I am willing to pay more to enjoy a longer lifespan for these tools than I would before. OS X offers me this ability. I still have a choice to choose another, but I did not. And thankfully we still have a choice.

    I think the media created the almost godlike comparison, not himself. He is a certainly a product of American work-ethics. Work hard long hours, firing employees at will and focus on marketing. As far as lessons he learned, they are indeed nothing more than repeated quotes from any self-help book. But that doesn’t make them less true. If anything, defining specific goals, stick to a small set of basic skills and excell in this seems to me concepts that hold some sort truth.
    I responded on Facebook to some reactions on a topic on Mr. Jobs demise related to his achievements. And notwithstanding the *value* of these achievements its almost like its for some people forbidden to excell *at all*. Again, one can have different opinions on what the value of those achievements is. To one an iPod is an walkman on steroids, for the other a very usefull musical device. Fact is, he did built something up.
    It was a Dutch forum though and it seems typically Dutch to chop ones head off when sticking it to far above the cornfield (pardon my literal translation of this old saying 😉 ). I see it all the time.. One must guard the boundaries of excellence becoming arrogance, but it almost seems that this kind of critisism is only a venting of frustration of ones own lack of ability to make some sort of change.
    Machiel, you mentioned revolution is needed. I agree, but it should be a revolution in thinking, of questioning, of being critical. The biggest fear of those in control (the government, the company you work for or the enviroment you come from) is that some day humanity is able to step out of their self-created cocoons of self-indulgence, arrogance and dissatisfaction. Now that would be a revolution! It basicly starts with yourself.. 😉 You say it: Every culture gets the hero it deserves.

    How all this ties in to your writings? Well, I guess being critical and putting your mind to it can create something whatever that is and whatever we percieve it to be. That is for me the only legacy Mr. Jobs has left behind. I consider myself critical to judge things on the value it represents for me. But I don’t think Mr. Jobs legacy is the “end-all, be-all” of what modern computing, design and marketing had to offer (and as far as marketing goed, what does that offer anyway.). Hell, even what life has to offer as most media wanted us to believe the last few days. There “higher” values to strife for. A revolution of thinking, which far surpasses a nicely white box and a brick with a touchscreen.

    Think different anyone?

  5. matxil

    @Nils. I agree with most of what you say. Let me just point one thing out. I am not talking about Steve Jobs. I am talking about what the media (and the people behind it, and even Obama had words to say about Jobs) has to say about Jobs. That Jobs was good at his job is pretty obvious. But I don´t think that makes him a genius or even an interesting person. He just knew how to play the game, just as Bill Gates does, or any director of a company of luxury products does.

    I agree with the especially Dutch tendency of “chopping off heads above the hayfield”. Not tolerating people for sticking out or for doing something special etc… But first of, I don´t think Jobs did anything special. He just made a product that worked better than other products. You might almost say that Bill Gates is more special: making money out of a very bad product.
    Second of, nobody is chopping Steve Jobs´ head of. Instead, they glorify him.
    How many people know that yesterday three women got the Nobelprize for peace? How many pages were spent on these women? Those women stick out their heads! Literally!
    Instead we are hailing the maker of a commercial product, not much different from Coca Cola, Lady Gaga or Nike.

  6. matxil

    And – to add a bit more to that -, it is not just the media either. I have seen, on twitter, on facebook, and from people writing in the media, the most absurd statements about this mister Jobs, quite literally as he was God, a brilliant man, the most lovely person and a saviour of our world.
    I think that is ridiculous and – really – scary.

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