Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's End the Hero Worship of Steve Jobs

Roles models can be a good thing to have. Hero worship can be problematic though. Now that the hero worship of Steve Jobs has died down, let me offer a different perspective. In reality, Steve Jobs sometimes acted like a jerk in his personal life, he abused and mistreated his fellow employees, and he has no public record of ever donating any of his massive wealth to charity. He didn’t invent much of what Apple is known for. The mouse, graphic interface, MP3 song player, smart phone, and tablet computer were all first introduced by other companies. Steve Jobs – no, make that the engineers at Apple, took those innovations and produced better versions of them. Steve Jobs never embraced the open source movement, and Apple remains one of the prime examples of complete corporate control over anything having to do with their products.


As far as Steve Jobs changing the world – really? In any way that qualifies as important? When the long term history of the computer industry is written, his impact will be much small than someone like Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web and then refused to patent it so that it could be more widely shared in an open manner by everyone. Or what about another serious role model who recently died, Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. She was personally responsible for starting major environmental and women’s rights movements in Africa, movements that have been causing major improvements in the lives of people all over Africa. When CEOs become more idolized then these people, you again have to question the priorities of our culture.

The fact that Steve Jobs’ death was announced by Apple Corp., and not by his family or friends, should be something that strikes people as strange and a little sad.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow FINALLY! BRAVO! Very well written- I wholeheartedly agree with you 100% Sadly, millions of clueless people out there don't- the 99% SMH :'(

Anonymous said...

Here here. It's disheartening to live in a world where so many people lead such empty and spiritually-unfulfilled lives that they have to elevate someone as obviously flawed as Jobs, a glorified carnival huckster, to some sort of modern sainthood. And it's equally depressing that in a world where so much knowledge is so readily available to anyone who desires it, that so many people remain so damned willfully ignorant of the kind of man Jobs truly was, and so gullible of the myths and falsehoods he spun to push "his" snake oil gadgetry.

Yes, he was a man who wanted to "bring the future" to humanity, whatever that means, but only to those who could afford it, and only to those who would let Apple do their thinking for them. He was no saint or savior of humanity, he wasn't even mildly philanthropic--he was just an egomaniac who stood pretentiously on the shoulders of giants in front of a crowd of mindless consumers so desperate to feel like they belonged to something larger and more important than themselves that they would, literally, buy anything (well, almost anything) he branded with an Apple logo, including the pop-philosophies he packaged with his "stylish" tech. I can't say I respect Jobs, but I don't necessarily hate him either. What I do hate though is what his success and his passing have revealed about the state of our fellow Man.

I won't deny his influence, but I I'll never be convinced that it was anything but a negative one overall--I'm quite certain the world will be much better off without him. Unfortunately, we'll probably be stuck with the myth of the man for a long time.

Elisa (Nudelman) Winter said...

Yes. Of course. All of the above. However, our desire to adore he whom we have seen repeatedly in "stylish" photos (the icon in the black turtleneck holding forth before a large and rapt audience); he whom has given wondrous toys (whether or not he had a hand in inventing the toys as opposed to 'his' engineers); he whom trails that American Myth of garage tinker who rose to fame and fortune; this is what we do, who we are, and not to mention, who we aspire to become - to become the stuff of myth (without too many details, thanks but no thanks, of the reality of the actual man). Once again, and it cannot be said enough, "The medium is the message." The images, the myth, the narrative, the story, is what we do. It's who we are. We are meaning-creating creatures and this guy gave great narrative. Sure it's unjust on certain levels, perhaps many levels, when so many more are so much more justly deserving of attention, if not fame and fortune (the people you suggest, Mike). But, like the Princess Diana hoopla, which continues unabated until this very day, your fellow talking monkeys (I say that with love) respond viscerally to the media-generated story which is the soup, the fishbowl, the mosh pit in which we take every breath, cradle to grave. There is no escaping it, except through in-depth intellectual curiosity. Bemoan this if you must. This is the story through which humanity denies death and meaninglessness. If the hero lives on, we may also. (Not to mention, the story about the slain prophet who defeats death. That’s a story with a whole lotta staying power, is it not?) AND, most importantly (perhaps), is that the story CONNECTS people. Gives us something to do TOGETHER that ISN'T arguing politics pointlessly, endlessly, which tends to be horrifically divisive these days. This story allows us to look each other in the eye and see a bit of grief experienced at the same moment. This connection is another momentary defeat of death. Is the hero "obviously flawed" as anonymous says? Sure, makes the story better, because WE are all flawed, all fallen. The story becomes MORE compelling and death is defeated yet again.

These thoughts offered with admiration and respect, as always. (And I like to see myself in print! ;)

Anonymous said...

This is a reply to this Nudleman person:

Your psychobabble reasons for worshiping Steve Jobs are ridiculous. Some of us don't fall for the media hype and don't refer to ourselves as "monkeys"...you've definitely spent too much time on mass media drivel which is a fishbowl filled with trash.

Moreover, all your psychobabble seems to be an excuse to hero worship. Is there any case where hero worship is actually a good thing? I'd dare to say critical thinking and being suspicious of big corporations and the mass media is much better than being a worshiper or follower of ANYTHING or ANYONE, including Steve Jobs. Religion and politics are a perfect example. Many are conned by phony preachers in religion, and many are conned by the false Left/Right paradigm in US politics. Many are fooled into thinking Steve Jobs was a good man or some kind of genius. Should we be fools for Steve Jobs? I don't think so.

Elisa said...

Wow. Seriously harsh. And for what reason precisely? I don't think that what I said "excuses" hero worship because hero worship isn't an activity that calls for an excuse. Hero worship is an activity that humans enjoy, in most civilizations, at most times in history that I've read about.

Look around you, without judging for a moment. What do you see? I see a world where many, many look up to and emulate others. Can that be slavish and ridiculous? Sure. Can it inspire some? Sure. I'm noticing what we do. I'm not judging whether it's Right/Wrong. Good/Bad. Stupid/Brilliant. It's just what we do.

You are completely correct here: "I'd dare to say critical thinking and being suspicious of big corporations and the mass media is much better than being a worshiper or follower of ANYTHING or ANYONE, including Steve Jobs."

Some are capable and willing to be/do the above. Many others aren't. Many. Too many. Doesn't make them "clueless" leading "empty and spiritually unfulfilled lives." Just like you. Just like me. Why judge so harshly?

So who do you look up to, Mr. Anonymous? No one at all? If no one, then why not? If someone, then why?

Anonymous said...

Some of the statements made are uneducated. For example, it forgets that not all charitable donations made are "public record." And although many of the innovations he made came from other companies, what he did do is popularize and improve upon those ideas, and turn them into what we know them to be today. He and Apple did do some open-source things, which can be seen at opensource.apple.com. This blog posts also mentions Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but forgets to mention that he invented the World Wide Web on a NeXT computer, which was made by a company that Steve Jobs founded.

Anonymous said...

Some of the statements made are uneducated. For example, it forgets that not all charitable donations made are "public record." And although many of the innovations he made came from other companies, what he did do is popularize and improve upon those ideas, and turn them into what we know them to be today. He and Apple did do some open-source things, which can be seen at opensource.apple.com. This blog posts also mentions Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but forgets to mention that he invented the World Wide Web on a NeXT computer, which was made by a company that Steve Jobs founded.