Steve Jobs: A Faust for the New Millennium

I’ve quietly maintained, over the years, a list of individuals (persons of some celebrity or notoriety foremost, but not completely discounting a few personal acquaintances) who I’m convinced have, at some point, traded their souls to Satan in exchange for power and influence.  For brevity’s sake, I’m not of a mind to discuss the entire list here (which would go on for volumes, anyway), but I will begin simply by starting at the top, and (at the risk of inciting the wrath of so-called tech “journalists” and self-described aficionados, the popular media, celebrities, legions of hipster assholes, and Stephen Colbert), that distinction belongs to Steve Jobs.

Contrary to popular belief, I’m not actually an Apple “hater.”  For the record, I’ve both used and purchased (albeit not for myself) Apple products in the past (when I was a child, I was singularly devoted to the Apple IIe).  I’ve admired (from afar) the minimalist design approach of both hardware and user interface, and I give credit where it’s due in giving the industry an occasional much-needed kick-in-the-ass to move things along.  Indeed, I don’t even blame Apple for the birth of a generation of self-obsessed assholes who are constantly fucking with their various gadgets (in the interests of full disclosure, I count myself among these); I blame the Blackberry for this abomination (and would argue that Blackberry users remain king of the self-important assholes that are obsessively compulsively obligated to constantly fuck with their phones).

My chief criticism with the Apple design ethos has always been that in all matters of form vs function, form will always emerge victorious, even if it means that (arguably) much-needed function gets completely fucked-over in the process, and the oversimplification of the user interface means that I can’t fuck with the products to my satisfaction.  But these critiques are not necessarily a damnation of their products.  I’m quite content to say that their products are simply “not for me” and wait for someone else to produce a competing product that I can actually use (even giving Apple credit for the aforementioned kick-in-the-ass).  And so, I’ve never seen fit to go through the trouble of opening a vein so I could sign the Apple Terms and Agreements in my own blood, which I’m fairly certain is a rigid precondition to joining the Apple Cult (I believe sacrificing a vestal virgin on the Genius Bar is only required to get to the front of line).

When news of Steve Jobs’ passing first broke, such was the overwhelming tide of media and internet hysteria fomenting throughout the evening that, (having been in a blissful state of media oblivion up to that point) without knowing exactly what had taken place, my first instinct was to run down the hallway, kick in my neighbors’ door, bash in their skulls and feast on their flesh, for surely Armageddon was upon us.  Thankfully, I actually read one of the headlines and discovered that the apocalypse was not, in fact, arrived, but perhaps an even more significant event had arrived for the legions of Apple faithful.

The Apple Cult has long puzzled the hell out of me.  In all fairness, not every Apple user falls into this designation.  There are a lot of people who simply use Apple shit, like normal people use anything else, and Apple shit has an appeal for them, which is not unlike the simple appeal that causes any normal person to choose one product above another.  Then there are a lot of mindless lemmings who use simply Apple shit because it’s the new chic and all of their asshole friends or some asshole celebrity uses it.  But beyond this, Apple is able to attract a distinct cult following that maintains such an enthusiastic and unbridled zeal for anything they produce, the affect can only be described as a religious fervor (bordering on hysteria), with Steve Jobs functioning as its deity.  To wit, I fully expected either a string of mass suicides in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death, or a group of people patiently waiting outside his tomb, claiming he would be back in three days bearing the iPhone 5.

Being a cynical bastard for the better part of my life, I’ve always been naturally suspicious of anything that inspired blind faith in others (thus my checkered relationship with organized religion), particularly at the expense of their own goddamned capacity for rational thought.  For the record, I’m an Android user, but certainly not a Google apologist (as far as I’m concerned, any large corporation that goes on record to state that it is not evil will surely one day have a hand in the destruction of mankind, though they may be content to hold just short of that once they’ve finally perfected the technology to inject paid advertisements directly into my fucking cerebral cortex).  I use it, I like it (infinitely better than iOS), but I’ll be the first to unapologetically air my long list of grievances about it (the same goes for Windows), and I goddamned sure wouldn’t stand in line for it longer than the few minutes it ordinarily takes to get to the fucking cashier at Best Buy (not that I actually buy shit from Best Buy, if I can help it).

I’ve known people and had discussions with people I would identify as Cult members, who in every other respect are capable of having a calm and rational discourse, except when it comes to their goddamned iPhone.   Regardless of whatever carefully thought-out criticism I might offer, I’m met with an incredulous (and often condescending) look and given a completely dismissive response, not unlike the response my mother would give me as a child when I wanted to go over to my friend’s house to play Hot Wheels, denying me permission based solely on the justification, “because I said so.”  And so, my points become categorically invalidated for seemingly no other reason than “because Steve said so.”

And at the end of the day, that’s a significant insight, because I believe that Steve largely viewed consumers as petulant children (who should take would they’re fucking given and be grateful), but even further, secretly despised his customers (much like the feisty God of the Old Testament despised the balance of mankind), especially the troublemakers that actually had the nerve to complain about or question his Plan, for they certainly didn’t recognize or appreciate the fruits of his genius and deserved to be cast from Paradise, if not smitten altogether (Paradise being either a sterile retail store that resembles a cross between the MoMA lobby and an IKEA display or a press conference inviting media sycophants to slobber over whatever new “magical” product will revolutionize how we waste fucking time).  And his admonition to “Think Different,” while laudable, was only applicable so long as it didn’t contradict his first commandment, “Think What I Tell You to Think.”

Ultimately, it’s the blind devotion to this doctrine that eventually raised my suspicions.  Setting aside ideas of cognitive dissonance, humans are critical by nature, particularly in contemporary society.  If Jesus Christ were to walk onstage at an Apple press conference and turn water into wine or shower the crowd with fish and loaves, half the audience would immediately cry “Bullshit.”  Yet when Steve Jobs takes the stage and lavishes all manner of absurd hyperbole on a goddamned phone (or tablet or whatever; take your pick), people lose their fucking minds.  Although human beings are certainly not always predisposed to rational behavior, the typical human response in this case should be tempered with some sort of rational restraint (if not skepticism), because as wonderful as my smartphone may be, I can promise you that there is nothing about it that even approaches my conception of “magical” or inspires me to such unbridled mania (and no, that’s not because it’s not a fucking iPhone).

The truth is, if Steve Jobs were to take a shit in a well-appointed white box, call it the iTurd and charge $199.99 for it, people would be line up all the way down Fifth Avenue to buy it, and claim that it was the most magical, revolutionary piece of shit ever made.  The fact that there are people who would do this does not surprise me.  Thousands of people used to buy “tonic” from snake oil salesmen on the promise that it would cure baldness or impotence (I suppose there are plenty that still buy the modern equivalent; otherwise I wouldn’t constantly get spammed about magic pills that will make my dick 10” longer; they don’t work, by the way).  The fact that there exists otherwise intelligent and rational people, many of whom are likely skeptics in their own right (on anything that doesn’t concern Apple), that would do this can be rationally and logically explained only by an unholy, Faustian pact with the Devil.

Now to be honest, I can’t say whether the bargain included his “vision” of the future or whether he had formed that vision beforehand and the pact involved only the power and influence aspect, but the fact that a deal was struck that granted Steve Jobs the ability to cast some manner of unholy enchantment spell across the general population is beyond refute.  Of course, as with any enthrallment, your mileage may vary, as it obviously didn’t take hold of everyone, but suffice it to say, it was certainly effective enough.

Now with Steve’s passing, the larger question looms regarding his legacy.  As everyone knows, some enchantment spells are temporary, some are permanent, and some are made permanent depending upon the duration of the original enchantment.  Which this is, I’m not at liberty to say.  Obviously, the effects haven’t dissipated upon Steve’s death, and any shrewd negotiator would certainly demand one of the latter two scenarios when bargaining with Satan, so I think it’s safe to conjecture that the proselytizing of the rabid Apple Cult will be with us for some time to come.

That Steve Jobs was an asshole is a matter of record, but not something that I would condemn him for (if being an asshole is truly a damnable thing, then I’ll surely be first in line at the gates of Hell).  That he was possessed of a singular and uncompromising vision is not a matter of debate, and being an uncompromising asshole certainly helped realize that vision (in addition to an unholy bargain with Lucifer).  Actually, my chief complaint here is that, among other things, his legacy will surely inspire others to believe that being uncompromising and demanding assholes is their key to immortality as well, when, in fact, these people have no real vision, and are actually just self-aggrandizing assholes (I’ve known and worked with an unfortunate number of these, some of which I’m convinced have struck bargains with Satan, but apparently weren’t very good negotiators).

Ultimately, I don’t begrudge Steve his successes, and while I don’t necessarily admire him or his totalitarian regime, I will certainly grant his accomplishments a deserved measure of respect (black magic notwithstanding).

The true immortality of his legacy remains to be seen, and that precariousness probably ripples uneasily through the ranks of his devout.  I’m sure some clever sorcerer will one day rise to take his place, but for now they are faced with the uncertain prospect of one day having to truly “Think Different(ly).”

And as for myself, I’m far more interested in that ultimate question that surely plagues everyone who contemplates the commodity value of their soul: “Is it worth it?”  I’ll ask him that myself…when I meet him in hell (so long as he’s not hanging out with fucking Bono).

  1. Lindy
    October 12th, 2011 at 15:56 | #1

    This is a little long for 4pm-in-between-meetings. You know, some of us has work. 😉

  2. JHolley
    October 17th, 2011 at 15:39 | #2

    I don’t take anything away from Steve Jobs (given the opportunity, I’d most likely sign on the sinister dotted line, as well), but my biggest complaint is how everything is now i-whatever compatible. Clock radios in hotels, entertainment systems in cars, televisions, etc… I’m pretty sure I saw a blender the other day that said I could stream media from am Apple device via Bluetool connection! I’m willing to bet the folks at iHome and Chevrolet offered their souls strictly for a commission…

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