Consumerism and the rise of a new clergy
In a western world currently in the doom and gloom of economic, societal and political failure it is not often that a single person has an effect on society like that of Steve Jobs, who passed away last week. In life he and his company, Apple, were a world beating technological combination, with their flagship products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad helping to re-define and create markets. Beyond just the technological advantages of their products, Apple created an aura around everything they did that had no real explanation other than touching the basic human instinct of want. Some will say it was Jobs with his exceptional design skills that set apart Apple’s products from the rest, others that Apple was simply ahead of the technology curve, but for his disciples Jobs could simply do no wrong.
It was not an image he actively sought to create, but in a society with very few role models it was somehow inevitable that his success would bring with it a kind of reverence. In death this reverence has only increased with an outpouring of emotion unheard of for any other CEO in the world. People have erected makeshift shrines and tributes to Jobs outside Apple stores across the world. For many it was a kind of pilgrimage in memory of a man who was for the most part a very private person.
The almost divine status the media, his peers and fans have given Steve Jobs rails against the norm in Capitalist societies where reverence or religiosity of any type is considered detrimental to human progress. Religion plays little or no part in liberal secular Western societies, helping to mould individualistic communities who live for the moment and consider themselves as all knowing. These deeply held secular values have moulded a worldview that even dictates relationships between nations forming the global ideological yardstick.
However the last week has seen those who would in any normal circumstance label the reverence of a higher power lunacy, bow to the legacy of one man. The tributes have come not only from fans of Apple’s products but Presidents and fellow CEO’s, all have collectively hailed the prophetic abilities of Jobs to create markets and sell products – an ability that was unrivalled. For them Jobs was the man with the Midas touch who could literally turn dust to gold. His rescue of a flagging company (Apple) and transforming it into a world beater would be his miracle. If this was a different era then maybe Jobs would have been expected to have parted seas and healed the ill.
The words, speeches and his final product the soon to be launched Iphone 4s will become reference points for many, forming the basis for how to pursue goals in life. His well-publicised address at Stanford University in 2005 is seen as a great sermon in finding a purpose in life.
This kind of reverence highlights the irrational contradiction in Capitalist societies, where the elevating of human beings to the status of near divinity is seen as normal, with Steve Jobs being just one example, yet the belief in a Creator is seen as blind faith.
It is the natural outcome of a human beings’ innate weakness that he would wish to revere something that he sees as greater or more powerful. A weakness which should push society to attempt and comprehend the world around them in a rational and enlightened manner forming some kind of conclusion for the purpose of their lives not through the words of an accomplished businessman but via the rational conclusion that the Creator, Allah (swt), exists; and if anything is to be revered then it must be Him alone.
This search for answers to the meaning of life is shunned under Capitalism, it is seen as unimportant and irrelevant. However Western societies see no harm in promoting human beings who live and die like everyone else as messiah’s to the masses. This is unsurprising as reverence is part of man’s inherent instinct – it can not be suppressed indefinitely and is frequently transferred to other persons, things or philosophies. However, the drive to revere other human beings is as flawed an idea as the ideology of Capitalism itself. It takes seemingly intelligent people and moulds them into disciples at the altar of other men – how irrational is that!