My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jobs: "Something Forgettable"


"No....Its Just Steve."

Thats a line from the movie "Jobs" (you know, the one about Steve Jobs...).  While he says he is just Steve, the movie lifts Steve up on a pedestal as if he is some sort of tech messiah.  The movie is all tinted in a nostalgic glow, from the intentionally off colored video to the sound track.  You will definitely catch the fuzzies watching this movie, but thats not the only thing you will catch.  Look closely and you will see an all American tall tale, of a man who through his own willpower created a tech empire.  You will see all the ideals Americans cherish, from rugged frontiersman individualism, to relentless forward progress without ever looking back.  Yet at the same time this is coupled with the modern narrative of the egocentric prideful p
rivileged youth, that have been told all their lives they are special, and all of who wish to be Steve Jobs.  The movie offers validation to those that wish to rebel, that their rebellion from society does not have to come at a cost.  You can be yourself, and be ridiculously rich at the same time.

The movie opens up with Steve Jobs unveiling the Ipod, he tells his audience, "If you can touch the heart, its limitless."  Romanticized much?  I definitely think so.  Yes, I suppose you can say the Ipod touches the heart by giving the individual total autonomy in listening to whatever music he wants.  Nevertheless while the individual is empowered, its at the expense of his neighbors.  In my experience, Ipods are most often used to avoid interaction, to provide an emotionally safe bubble one can hide behind in unfamiliar places.  I will concede one thing to the movie...I suppose by addicting our hearts to Ipods he is right...the money certainly is limitless.

Near the end of the movie he says, "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do." Or perhaps he should have said, "Out of the many people crazy enough to try and change the world, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, positioned to exploit trends already in motion to my advantage."  Alot longer but in my opinion more accurate.  Its true what he made changed the world, but its dubious that the technology he fostered would not have happened without him.  Its also funny how little credit the movie gives to his partners.  Nothing he did would have been possible without his geeky friend.  Their teamwork was essential, but ultimately Steve Jobs gobbles up all the credit.  Since he is the focus, everything is about him in the movie and what he did.  Its an interesting story, but the emphasis on his role distorts the big picture, necessarily making him out to be all important.

Despite the fact the movie worships Steve Jobs,  I think where the movie most shines is in what it reveals about us, and in particular about the young privileged class.  Steve Jobs often is found repeating the sentiments one would hear from many 20 somethings today.  Steve Jobs is always risking it all, a trait highly desireable amongst the coddled youth of today, who wish nothing more than to take a risk for once in their easy lives.  When he talks to the Dean at the school he attended, he states that a degree offers validation and job security, but that its not for him because he does not want to be part of the system, he wants to change the system.  In addition he states he does not want his parents to fork up tuition "to become something forgettable, like an electrician."  He wants to be a superhero, just like the rest of us.

The difference is that he does what most of us only dream about.  He drops out of school, then heads off to India and lives as simply as possible.  Again that is something I have wished to do.  Its something many young 20 somethings want to do.  Then when he comes back he is disgruntled at work because, as he states, "I just can't work for other people."  Something many of us coddled prideful youths can sympathize with.  We have been told our whole lives how special and important we are, and now we believe it and are offended when anyone dares to ignore us and undervalue what we do.  Afterall, its all about us.

The funny thing is that ultimately even the invincible Steve Jobs has to rely on the "something forgettables" like nerdy programmers and has to work for other people (his board of trustees).  He never would have gone anywhere if he was not able to convince investors to invest in his company, or convince stores to buy his computers.  Its funny because something we often forget, is that its the "something forgettables" that make this world tick.  The world can only afford so many Steve Jobs, the rest have to settle to being cogs in the machine, rather than making the machines. Steve Jobs had a dream and made it become reality. Yet for every Steve Jobs there are countless people that failed.  Indeed, even Steve Jobs failed, he was fired from his own company, before being brought back on years later.  Thats just one more thing we must remember.  We coddled privileged youths cannot have it all.  If you go the Steve Jobs route, it is likely you will fall on your face several times.  You will have to get back up and try try again, until eventually you succeed.

The fact is the movie romanticizes the entrepreneurial spirit, and deceives young adults into believing that we can have it all.  You can go to India, be a hermit, then come back and make billions, all while staying true to your hippy self.  You can fight the system, battle authority, and still come out on top.  The fact is that in most cases that is not true.  In most cases the outcasts of society stay the outcasts, and the squares stay the squares.  If you want to be the next Steve Jobs, go ahead and go for it, but don't expect victory to be easy or cheap.  You will have to sell most of your life to your dream.  You will have to delay gratification and NOT always do what you want.  And if you do become the next Steve Jobs, please do not forget about the "something forgettables" that helped you get there.

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