Sunday, October 6, 2013

The canonization of ruthless exploitation

For those who want to study how US history is manufactured, take a look at the hagiographies coming out in film & books about Steve Jobs (notably the film “Jobs” & the biography “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson). Then you’ll understand how “robber barons” became the builders of the US & working people got deleted from the narrative. It’s a substantial intellectual feat that has left US history one of the most bereft subjects in the curriculum & American ignorance of US history the butt of international ridicule.

They’re off & running now to canonize Jobs, using pretty-boy Ashton Kutcher to install the halo in the film “Jobs.” Prominent reviewers of the film from the computer industry call Jobs “one of the most significant figures of the last century,” “the ultimate icon of inventiveness,”  “a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection & ferocious drive revolutionized six industries.”

One reviewer complained that neither the film nor the biography properly honored the spirituality of Jobs. After all, at Jobs memorial service each guest was given “Autobiography of a Yogi” at Job’s request. (Mother of God, you can’t make this stuff up!) The reviewer was miffed because the Apple product line reflects Job’s stature as “a true prophet & visionary & spirit of innovation” & this was not depicted in the film. They probably miss him because one of the only boasts left for capitalism is its creativity & Jobs seemed to be a technological exemplar of that. Now what’s left? Monsanto?

Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak has a different take on the film since he has a less glorified view of Jobs. Wozniak was in fact invited to consult on “Jobs” but declined  saying he was “abhorred” by the script. (He is consulting on another forthcoming film about Jobs.) Wozniak’s chief complaint is that Jobs took all the credit & most of the profits for other people’s work. While he was in that downward facing dog yoga position he wasn’t meditating; he was scheming how to rip other people like Wozniak off. That can create some bad feelings not reflected in “Jobs.”

After all the films & biographies & articles, only two words remain to write Job’s obituary & put the last nail in his coffin: child labor. Actually on second thought several damnations remain: military-style working conditions requiring excessive overtime; hazardous conditions & exposure to toxic materials like aluminum dust; standing so long on cement floors that legs swelled & workers could hardly walk after a 24-hour shift; living together in crowded dorms; suicide nets installed around factories to prevent workers dying in suicide leaps; factory executive comparing management of workers to management of zoo animals.

(Photo is of protestors outside an Apple store in Hong Kong demonstrating oppressive working conditions at Taiwan’s Foxconn which manufactures Apple products. By AFP)

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