Sitting in South East Asia, ahead of the main US news cycle, I saw that Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple Computer, a man with extremely well-publicised terminal cancer, had passed away, and I thought “Gosh, how sad for his family.” Then I went to bed.

The next day, I awoke to find the world awash with a tsunami of grief. The cable news channels could talk of nothing else; internet news sites were bursting with eulogies and panegyrics to the man. On Facebook, people I knew well and thought I respected were posting of their almost uncontrollable sadness at the passing of this ‘visionary’ and ‘pioneering’ icon. People listed every Apple product they’d ever owned, and testified as to how Jobs had changed their lives, reshaped the world, defined the zeitgeist. And it made me feel slightly sick.

Let me say right here and now, that I am an Apple fanboy: I’ve owned many, I love my iPod and am rarely more than 15 feet away from my iPad. But do I care about Steve Jobs? I do not.

And I think anyone who claims they do is either stupid or deluded beyond belief. This outpouring of ersatz emotion, which has seen thousands of devotees leaving flowers and candles outside Apple stores around the world, is akin to when Princess Diana died, but is, if anything, even more sinister, misguided and creepy.

But it is, in many ways, a perfect response to the changes that ’visionary’ Jobs has wrought upon the world. The dull-eyed worship of consumerism, the elevation of product over rational thought, the sheep-like conformity over the purchase of consumer goods: none of these are good things. But Steve would be proud.

Let’s take it one step at a time. Steve was a visionary. His vision involved a seamless integration of media consumption, most of which you paid Apple for. Well, seamless is nice. But in reality, this means the ability to watch TV and surf porn sites wirelessly at the same time. Convergence to Jobs meant that more and more of your money converged in Apple’s coffers. His products were undisputably sexy, sleek and beautiful, objects of torrid desire. But did they really, really change the world? I don’t think so.

Did they make you want to possess them? Absolutely. Did they make consuming and occasionally producing media easier? Yes, they did. But producing a word processor that ’worked out of the box’ is hardly a cure for famine. Yet so debased has our culture become, so in thrall are we to the power of big corporations to shape our lives, that Jobs ends up being feted as if he’d provided every child on the planet with clean water and access to education.

CNN had a segment where they talked to an African computer nerd, who was forced to admit that almost no one on the continent could afford Apple products. Yet Africans loved him, the fatuous speaker said.

It was not much noted in the fawning obituaries that upon retaking the helm of Apple in the late 1990s, Jobs cancelled all, I repeat, all of the company’s philanthropic and charitable spending.

Famous for parking his Mercedes in disabled parking spots, chewing out his subordinates and personifying capitalist greed, this Buddhist vegetarian billionaire was, it seems, largely hated and feared by all who knew him. Is it enough that his company produced sexy stuff? Perhaps we should ask his workers in China, who have been killing themselves in record numbers in the last year or two as the pressure of working hard enough to meet his company’s demands proved overwhelming.

There’s no doubt that Jobs was a fine capitalist. Apple is now the world’s largest company, with more money in the bank than the US government. But is that a good thing? In an age when unbridled greed on the behalf of our industrial-military-complex overlords has led us into an epochal slump, with inequality, debt and corporate greed pushing the world into a swamp of toxicity, should we be celebrating the man who was clearly the best at this? I feel, somehow, no.

Much has been made of Jobs’s enmity with Microsoft’s Bill Gates. I hold no candle for Gates, but would merely point out the quite jaw-dropping amounts of money Gates has directed towards fixing the ills of the world. Malaria, infant vaccinations, education: Gates has put more back than almost any person who has ever lived. And yet we worship at the shrine of a man who cared not a whit for any of that.

I think that if you post anywhere online about your sadness at the death of Steve Jobs, you probably need to think again. He had three children. His wife was called Laurene. You should feel sorry for them. I’m sorry for them. I don’t care about you, if you’re only worried about where your next glossy iToy is coming from. Because people like Steve Jobs will eat you up and spit you out. Fight the power.

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3 Responses to “The passing of Steve”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Fine piece.

  2. steve said

    Michael Jackson: The response from my students here in the US was disgusting. Most of them had really never listened to any of his music, but were instantly gripped with a profound depression that was bizarre. I have owned a few albums and like the music, but tears, really?

    Like FB, and all of the other self indulgent pulpits that are available today, I believe that this sort of thing is an example of the herd conforming to the media’s opinion.

    We have lost the capacity to make decision based on evidence, instead we base our opinions on the prevailing winds of popular culture and Mark Zuckerberg………imagine if he were to meet his demise, national day of mourning, mass immolation. Long live the King!

  3. mc said

    these people died without giving reparations or justice to those they intentionally hurt and/or ignored. the sadness we experience with famous “deaths” are most often the voices silenced by harsh and threatening idols of evil conduct. these people are literate enough to read the news, but they want to control who enters their theme park and design the trophies of the elite? they die after numerous violences are committed, and they refuse to acknowledge it.

    against sickness, housing, education and transportation, we have truly fallen to criminal status. …bless us all…

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