Steve Jobs, Occupy Wall Street, and Haters

October 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm (People) (, , )

The front page of the Apple site today.

Steve Jobs died today.

I have several quick thoughts about this.

1. Steve Jobs should not be held accountable for the faults of capitalism. Many of my friends are posting on Twitter and Facebook that iPhones are made in factories which have deplorable conditions, and they aren’t recyclable.

I don’t have the statistics on this, but I will bet you that most of the other electronics we use (as well as our cars, gasoline, and a lot of clothes and other things) are made in similar ways. Could Steve Jobs probably have done more to change it? Yes. Did he profit from it? Yes. Is this Steve Jobs’ fault? No.

I guess I am having a visceral reaction to some of my activist friends condemning Steve Jobs while at same time clutching laptops and cell phones. It is our entire global economic system that makes it possible for people to be poisoned in factories in Asia while Americans pretend it isn’t happening. Consumer demand – our own personal consumption, my consumption – drives this system and creates the need for poisonous factories.

Regardless of what you think about capitalism, Jobs (and the legions of people who work at Apple or influenced and helped him along the way) changed the way we interact with technology and each other, for for the better.

That is important. And good.

I’ve thought about this a lot – how to appreciate the good parts of a person while recognizing the bad parts exist? Very few people are saints. When I look at the people I know in my own life, which include well known punk rock scenesters or activist rockstars, very few of them are without fault. Some of them have big faults, like abusing their girlfriends or stealing money or otherwise being total shitheads – does this mean we should ignore their contributions that make the world a better place?  I think we can accept the good and the bad. Acknowledging the good and the bad doesn’t mean that you’re erasing or ignoring the bad. I don’t think it’s asking too much for people to have a complex understanding of the way the world works, where things aren’t just “good” or “bad.”

2. Too bad that Steve Jobs died today because then the Occupy Wall Street protests wouldn’t get the coverage they deserved.

Sigh. First of all, the protests will never get the coverage they deserve.

Second, I would like to remind everyone of Manjula Martin’s excellent opinion piece last week on this very thing – the confluence of many things happening at the same time, especially on social media, and how it *is* actually possible to experience and understand and *feel* all of them. She was talking about how social media has turned into a space where we judge each other’s emotions.

In “The Week Social Media Broke My Heart,” she was talking about Troy Davis, the release of the hikers, and R.E.M. breaking up all happening at the same moment, but she could totally be talking about Steve Jobs dying and Occupy Wall Street.

I just re-read the piece looking for a part to quote, but the whole thing is just so good, I want you to read it for yourself. Here is just one small part:

Critics want it both ways: we want something to be pure and essential, but we also tend to retrospectively see events based solely on their context/reaction. Particularly in social media, context develops at an increasing pace: we condense the critical cycle into a series of quick “sharing” actions and move straight from “something happens” into criticizing ourselves and each other for liking things. In our rushed effort to provide the “essential” opinion, we forget the part about why we’re being critical in the first place: because the “something” happened made us feel something, and that made us want to contribute.

I totally want to quote the whole rest of the piece, but you should just read it yourself.

3. Occupy Wall Street / We Are the 99% is totally awesome. 

All that stuff up there about how capitalism creates a system were most people are fucked and some people (like Steve Jobs) benefit? That’s what Occupy Wall Street is about. I think the whole thing is about people understanding that capitalism doesn’t care if they survive or not, and this system is not working for most people.

And it is totally spreading. If you live in SF, you should plug in by visiting OccupySF or coming to this big protest on October 12. Really, now is the time.

Also, check out the We Are The 99% Tumblr.

There have been a lot of great critiques and commentary floating around the web – in my fantasy land I would have time to collect and comment on some of them.

4. And my personal thoughts about Steve Jobs. First of all, people die. All the time. I wish we were better at accepting that this is part of the normal cycles of life, so that we weren’t always acting so shocked when it happens.

I’ve long loved these two quotes, which while not necessarily about death, are totally appropriate:

“Every arrival foretells a leave-taking, every birth a death. Yet each death and departure comes to us as a surprise, a sorrow never anticipated. Life is a long series of farewells; only the circumstances should surprise us.” – Jessamyn West

“Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

That second one my mom posted on the door of her fridge after my dad died. I think about it all the time.

Finally, why did I feel I needed to defend Steve Jobs and Apple? I wouldn’t be who I am today with out the assistance of Apple products. I started using a Mac Plus when I was about 12 years old, and the rest is history. I am a total devotee.



  1. Stanley said,

    When Ford unveiled their super eco plant that recycled paint fumes into natural gas heating or whatever, enviros were quick to point out that the plant produced F-150s. Banks with recycling or diverse hiring policies got the same criticism and were urged to look past their operations to the impact of their services.

    Much of the criticism of Steve Jobs (from the same people) seems to be a reversal of that logic. It somehow doesn’t matter to them that Apple popularized technology, that the old media gatekeepers have come tumbling down, that musicians don’t need labels anymore and authors don’t need publishers, that we can find community on the Internet for non-traditional ideas or emotions when we would’ve otherwise assumed we were alone, not to mention practical applications to activism like coordinating global actions, instantaneous tactical reorganization of mass mobilizations, secure communications, etc.

    What it really comes down to for me is that someone has died and some people’s first instinct is to criticize. To stay loud. To stay hard. If death can’t quiet or soften you a little bit, I feel for you.

  2. Jen Angel said,

    Hi Stan – thanks so much for your post. I totally agree.

    While I definitely think that it is appopriate to bring up criticisms of the technology industry, I am having a difficult time with the blanket condemnations.


  3. DM said,

    Very eloquently said, Stan.

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