Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reboot Christianity: Speaker for the Dead [Ed. title--Is "Legacy" how we whitewash the dead?

... What we have today is a tendency when someone dies to elevate them to saintly status and conveniently forget all the nastiness of their lives. It is the antithesis of Antony's speech in Shakespeare; where he once famously said, "The evil men do lives on after them; the good is oft interred in their bones", we find it to be the opposite today. The good is elevated and applauded; the evil is carefully and quietly hidden away. [emphasis added here and throughout]
It is said that this is done for politeness; perhaps so. I think more likely, however, this is done because of the preference by society at large to deny the inherent evilness of mankind and instead tell us that we are all basically so good. Anti-depravity, it would seems, requires that we have short memories about how people live their lives.

At any rate, with the recent deaths of two controversial luminaries, Steve Jobs of Apple and Al Davis of the Raiders, we find this principle of polite forgetfulness writ large. Both completely dominated their industries, literally changing the game fundamentally in their roles. Without them, neither the NFL nor technology looks even remotely the same as it does today. Their visionary influence is hard to overestimate, and they fundamentally shaped much of our world. And that is all that you will read about.
The greatness they do lives on after them; the evil seems to be interred in their bones.

But let us not forget that both were far from universally loved during their lives.

Jobs was famously hostile and spiteful; tales of his management style almost always discuss his dismissiveness, hostility, and fear-inducing leadership. He was near-Orwellian about centralization of power in the company, and was sometimes loudly criticized for the outsourcing of production to Chinese factories whose commitment to fair work practices was questionable at best. Under Jobs, Apple became one of the most aggressive censors of information on any Internet device, squashing a great deal of offensive material ("offensive" also apparently including anything invented by other companies). Further, he even established a sort of internal affairs team to seek out whistleblowers and leakers. A visionary he was; a saint, he was not.

I've never really been a Mac user but none of this stuff above is news to me.  Word gets around.

Legacy is a funny thing.  It frequently doesn't turn out to be to others what we imagine it should be to ourselves.  Most of us don't have a legacy of any note and yet each of us in some way will, understandably, want a legacy.  Whether or not Jobs' legacy will be given a more balanced presentation than the mainly laudatory one he's been getting in the weeks since he passed is not something I worry about.  Within weeks of Michael Jackson's death any number of people were going on about how the evil pedophile, no-talent pop star should not be mourned, this usually from people who can't find it in themselves to consider a popular entertainer someone to lament in any event.  We don't tend to lament the deaths of people who, however we classify them, as kinds of cultural enemies.  Mac users may not have great or kind words when Bill Gates passes but the legacy of Bill Gates and his company is surely going to be more than Windows Vista.

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