Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Image and Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs died, I was sorry but it wasn't unexpected. He'd been looking very ill for some time, obviously from cancer. I did wonder how Apple would be able to keep going without him, since he seemed to be the driving force behind the company. Other than that, I knew little about him except he was an attractive man when he was younger, seemed like a really cool guy, and was into Zen Buddhism.

Well...since his death I've been learning he was anything BUT an honest Buddhist. He was really a Tea Partier  hiding behind this image of a calm, clear-headed, far-thinking dude whose sole interest was in making terrific products people didn't know they needed till they'd been developed. He was a miserly, conniving, anti-union, anti-government jerk who even told Obama he'd be a one-term president if he didn't end all the regulations on businesses, because it was strangling the economy. Seriously?!

Now I'd already heard about the sweat-shops accusations...and nine times out of ten they're nonsense. What passes for a sweat-shop in the US is above average working conditions in the Third World. And what we consider to be slave wages are a decent standard of living in countries like Vietnam and Thailand and Bangladesh because the relative cost of living is so low. I even understand why cheap-assed companies send their manufacturing over there -- it cuts costs by a huge amount, and the bottom line is all that matters to some of these businesses. But to find even Apple has the same business philosophy as WalMart and GE is disconcerting.

Because these companies are starting to find out you get what you pay for...if you're lucky. Boeing's learned outsourcing some of the workings for the 787 Dreamliner wound up costing them delays and massive amounts of extra money because the quality control was slapdash at the sub-companies. Parts wouldn't fit or wouldn't do what they were supposed to do half the time. So this great and glorious airplane, which was supposed to be in service years ago, is just now being delivered to clients.

But it's not just Boeing; it's places like Target, too, even though all they do is buy things from companies that have their clothes and appliances built in China and India. If you purchse even something as simple as underwear from them, there's no guarantee the size on the package is the honest size of the article of clothing. I've bought 3 packs and 5 packs of briefs at Target, and every time there are one or two pair that are off -- either smaller than the others, or larger. And I no longer will buy t-shirts from Penney's because the cotton they're made from is not absorbent and they don't feel (or smell) right.

Still, the Macs I've had have been excellent machines and lasted me a long time. And I was happy to pay extra for them because I liked them and I liked supporting a Zen guy like Steve Jobs, who seemed like the underdog against big bad Microsoft. But now Bill Gates has given away most of his fortune and Steve Jobs is accused of not helping charities in any way, form or fashion. And I'm conflicted. I feel like I've been shopping at WalMart, now, a company I refuse to do business with because of how they treat their employees and the right-wing causes they espouse. Have I been sending my money to a guy who actually wanted to decimate unions in this country? Who's attitude was you let business do as it wants without interference? Even though it was government regulations that ended child labor in American sweatshops and unions that built the greatest middle class ever in the history of the world?

If this is true, that is not cool. And so totally NOT Zen. It's just craven and avaricious. And now I'm almost not sorry he's gone.

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