Wednesday, May 21, 2014

In California, Smug is Worse than Smog



Here'a s provocative article at the Imaginative Conservative about Steve Jobs.  It's not so much about Jobs or Apple as it is about the Smug (which is similar to the Smog) that has been choking us for a few generations.  For instance ...

... California ... it was a place people moved to get more money and better weather, and where being the first one on the block to recycle, or get a fancy car, was more important than staying married and taking care of your kids, let alone showing common decency.

And

Jobs was, frankly, spoiled rotten. The family even let him “drop out” of church after their Lutheran pastor didn’t have a satisfactory answer when he asked the usual “if there is a God, how could He let x horrible thing happen”, [a] question kids who think they are bright often ask. This wasn’t a good time for religion, of course. Too many religious leaders were unwilling or unable to respond to newly questioning parishioners, or were themselves ideological nutcases. And too many parents were mostly going through the motions. Even many of those who still went to church would have been happy with a drive through mass. Small wonder so many of their children stopped bothering altogether.

And having just seen my son graduate from college - where the student speaker assured us all that the only things that distinguished us from apes were our jaws and our bipedialism (of course, apes don't use the word "bipedalism".  They say, "standing on two feet".) - still the article shows that things could be much worse, though this is common enough ...

I taught for a year at the college he [Jobs] attended for a year. Red sorry, Reed College in Portland, Oregon is one of those places where students dress in black to show how depressing it is to be young and well-off; lots of Volvos in the parking lot when I was there. And the drug culture remained. By my second semester at Reed several students had overdosed on illegal drugs. When the President, a “good” leftie from Oberlin, decided to take the minimal action of proposing a faculty resolution decrying the self-destructive behavior, he was in for a surprise. At first I thought the principal opposition speaker was a bag lady. It turned out she was just some English professor in a poncho. She was nearly in tears as she argued that “we” could not hope to engage productively with students if we began with such a “superior attitude.” The resolution failed by an overwhelming margin.

And not only the article is worth reading in full, so is at least one of the comments ...

Well, I never knew anything about him [Jobs] personally, but I always stayed away from his products because they seemed unnecessarily expensive. When I finally got around to going to an i-store and speaking to an i-genius about his i-pad, I was shocked at how totally useless it was, how little could be done on it, and how ludicrously expensive it was, both in terms of the product and exploitation. That same day, I went to another store and asked a regular person (not an i-genius) about Samsung’s tablets and android. It turned out Samsung’s products can do everything my laptop could do, and I have since stopped using laptops for anything.
Meanwhile, someone (an apple user) asked me recently “do you know what jailbreaking is and how to reactivate your i-phone after you try it?” He then told me the horror story of trying to get apps outside of the Applopoly, apps which I get for free through google play, and how the i-phone actually breaks down when its users try to “jailbreak” – to get out of the jail Mr. Jobs built for them and lured them into. It’s actually somewhat pathetic. “Just buy a NoteII” I tell people.
So, in a sense, this article does not surprise me. You can see his character in his products: something simple, unimaginative and retrogressive, aggressively marketed as the height of sophistication.

7 comments:

jvc said...

Among the many insufferable experiences with Apple users, my favorite/worst is the mandatory "sent from my iPhone" note at the bottom of each email...

Tom Leith said...

With respect to religion and Jobs: I think the only reason to practice any religion is because you are convinced its claims are true. If we who do think the claims of this or that religion are true can't manage to convince others that of it, I don't see how they're to blame for that. I do not blame Jobs for asking the Question of Evil and dismissing the truth-claims (if indeed there were any) of his mother and Lutheran pastor since they 1) couldn't answer, or 2) refer him to someone who could. He might possibly be blamed for not following-up when he was older, but far be it from me to judge him. Maybe that was smugness. Maybe he was just busy with questions he actually could answer.

Whether something's "unnecessarily expensive" depends on what the necessities are.

Tom Leith said...

If "necessity" for you is "it just works for doing these things" and Apple is basically the ONLY company selling that, well, you get to decide between 20% or so cheaper and "it just works". So if you want to do what (say) an iPad does and you don't want to futz around with it, iPads are great. If you want to do something an iPad doesn't do, you need something else.

But everyone is getting better and better and doing software with hardware independence in mind, so it is increasingly likely that some other device serves you better, and Apple's pricing power will decrease.

Scott W. said...

http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/2008/01/30/39-apple-products/

Kevin O'Brien said...

Tom, the point of the original article, I think, is not so much the smugness of Steve Jobs as the smugness of a society that produces a generation that can't answer a younger generations legitimate questions about Big Things, and that produces bored rich kids dying of drug overdoses and teachers who don't know how to handle that - all the while congratulating themselves in the manner of a never ending Catholic Schools Week. If Mass is only wroth driving thru (so the parents think), then why bother (so the children rightly conclude).

Tom Leith said...

Oh -- Jobs' parents & society were smug: they didn't think the question deserved to be asked, so why bother having an answer? Is that it?

I hadn't gotten that. I'd gotten that "smug" means (to the author) feeling entitled and self-satisfied. And when you're self-satisfied maybe you don't stop to consider that just because these people can't answer your Big Question it doesn't mean a 500 year or a 2,000 year tradition is so much arbitrary convention. I can actually relate to this version of smugness -- I bet it is common among 19 year olds. And I can see a kid concluding that if you couldn't be bothered to learn the answer then why should they trouble themselves?

t

Anonymous said...

My husband became a fan of Apple products while completing college later in life (with a graphic design major). Although we were not, and still aren't, anywhere near rich we liked Apple products mainly because they were less vulnerable to viruses than Microsoft products. However, over the years we began to notice how each product required constant updates and upgrades that we could not always afford.

Today, we have a desktop model from 2010 that STILL is not completely paid for but is already becoming out of date and unable to handle a lot of things. After reading this article, I think it kinda explains why making Apple products affordable and practical was not exactly a priority for Jobs or his successors -- they figured if you can't stay on the cutting edge, to heck with you.

Elaine