Steve Jobs: Arab-American, Buddhist, Psychedelic Drug User, and Capitalist World-Changer

The culture wars kicked off by the 1960s are still with us. Indeed, much of the discourse of contemporary American conservatism can be boiled down to “damn liberal hippies ruined the country and they were wrong about x, y and z.” Fox Cable News and other conservative mouthpieces go to extraordinary lengths to badmouth the 1960s counterculture. They even blamed John Walker Lindh, the American member of the Taliban, on Bay Area culture. But note that Lindh from his teenaged years was interested in the dry legal aspects of Islam, and rejected Sufi spirituality. Children of liberal parents become fundamentalists all the time (in fact, Rupert Murdoch’s media are attempting actively to produce that outcome). Lindh wasn’t warped by hippie liberalism– he rebuffed it, and might as well have rebuffed it for evangelicalism.

Steve Jobs, who died yesterday, combined in himself all the contradictions of the Sixties and of Bay Area experiments in consciousness. It seems to me entirely possible that the young Jobs would have joined the OccupyWallStreet.org protests.

He is a one-man response to the charge that the counterculture produced no lasting positive change. Jobs’s technological vision, rooted in a concern for how people use technology or could use it more intuitively, profoundly altered our world. He used to say that those who had never had anything to do with the counterculture had difficulty understanding his way of thinking.

Jobs was the biological son of Joanne Simpson and Abdulfattah Jandali (a Syrian Muslim then graduate student in political science from Homs, which is now in revolt against the Baathist regime).

That is, like Barack Obama, Jobs was the son of a Muslim.

Simpson, young and unmarried, gave Jobs up for adoption, but she and Jandali later wed and gave Jobs a sister. He never appears to have met his father a political scientist who later went into the casino business, but he did get to know his half- biological sister Mona. That is, Jobs’s childhood was wrought up with a) Muslim immigration to the United States and b) the sexual revolution, both phenomena of the 1950s that accelerated in subsequent decades. Of course, these two parts of his heritage had only an indirect impact on him.

His adoptive parents were Paul Jobs and Clara Hagopian Jobs (his adoptive mother would therefore be of Armenian heritage.)

Jobs dropped out of college, gathered Coca-Cola bottles to turn them in for money, got free meals from the Krishna Consciousness Society (“Hare Krishnas”), and later made a trip to India, where he converted to Buddhism.

I’d be interested to know how that happened. There is very little Buddhism in India. Tibetan Buddhists have centers in places like Varanasi (Banares) in North India, because these monks are political or cultural exiles from Communist China. The Dalits or ‘untouchables’ of western Indian have had a conversion movement to Buddhism. Jobs is said to have gone with a college buddy to see a Hindu guru devoted to the monkey-god, Hanuman. I really wonder whether the Buddhism was not encountered in the US rather than in India, though the trip to India may have influenced his decision.

In the same period, he was doing psychedelic drugs like LSD, which he later said were very important to his creative vision.

So the whole world made Jobs, and he remade the world. Homs in Syria is the city of his biological paternal forebears. It produced scientists and historians. Hilal al-Himsi, who died in the 9th century, translated from Greek into Arabic the first four books of Apollonius’s work on the geometry of cones.

Indic spiritual traditions were important to Jobs, especially Buddhism. The quest for states of altered consciousness, which characterized some in my generation, was central to his creative vision.

The DOS operating system was something that only an engineer could love, a set of odd commands entered on a blinking line against a black backdrop. Jobs preferred icons, and changed computing forever. He, at least, was convinced that without the liberal social and spiritual experimentation of his youth, his creative vision would not have been the same.


Buddhist Mandala


iPhone 4

The conservative backlash of the past 30 years has put hundreds of thousands of people behind bars for drug use (though not for alcohol use, the licit dangerous drug), and Rick Perry’s insistence that the US is a Christian nation is an attempt to erase the Steve Jobses from American history. Herman Cain’s Islamophobia is an attempt to exclude people like Jobs’s biological father from American legitimacy. But you can’t take a Muslim Arab immigrant, a Hindu guru, Buddhist monks, and some little pills out of this great American success story without making nonsense of it. Multiculturalism and cultural and religious experimentation, not fundamentalism and racism, are what make America great. Jobs showed that they are not incompatible with that other American icon, business success. Contemporary conservatism has given us over-paid and under-regulated financiers who add no real value to anything, unlike Jobs. If the Perrys ever do succeed in remaking the US in their own image, it will be a much reduced, crippled America that can no longer lead the world in creative innovation.

107 Responses

  1. What a beautiful tribute to Mr. Jobs and to America.

    Salute, Mr. Cole, well said and well done.

  2. Given time, Jobs would have questioned capitalism.

    • Questioned capitalism? Jobs is one of the greatest capitalist in history. Lets make a distinction between corporate welfare (socialism for the rich) and entrepreneurs like Mr. Jobs. He is an example all capitalists should follow. Not the bank bailout CEOs who run to daddy (government) for money when they do foolish things.

    • “Given time, Jobs would have questioned capitalism.”

      Don’t bet on it. Steve Jobs was the very embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit inherent in Capitalism at its best. He owes his success to that spirit.

      • Why are we always associating entrepreneurship with capitalism? They are two independent concepts.

    • I agree with James and Bill. First, fantastic article by the author. Second, though I hate the greedy, self-service corporate schmuck as much as the next guy, I also applaude the true entrepreneure, which I think Jobs was.

    • Given time, Jobs abandoned the opposite of capitalism, namely the soft-headed thinking that belongs to the realm of the left. He experimented with it, became disillusioned, and eventually embraced capitalism and excelled at it.

  3. Jobs didn’t invent the GUI, we can thank Xerox PARC for that. Nor did Jobs invent mp3 players or smart phones. He did however understand the appeal of an intuitive interface for consumer devices and great marketing. He accelerated consumer adoption of the above devices, but world changing? Not so much.

    • Ah a voice of calm perspective amid all the gushing and fawning. I’ve never understood the “need” to overstate someone’s achievements when they die, as if they aren’t worth mourning otherwise. He’s not the inventive genius so many claim but he still had an impact on a global scale. Anyway well said :)

    • Cute straw-man argument. Only the ignorant or disingenuous sections of the media ever claimed he “invented” things like the GUI or MP3 player.
      He did, however, bring innovations to the masses that would have otherwise remained niche and obscure, and did it in ways that normal people could actually relate to. If you truly believe that the world would have turned out exactly as it has, had Apple not existed, then you are utterly lacking in imagination.

    • The application and dissemination of new technology are just as important as its invention, when it comes to affecting the lives of people.

      An Egyptian invented a little device that used steam to make a toy spin around during the Pharonic era, but it didn’t make the slightest difference to world history. It was only when James Watt figured out something you could do with a device that used steam power to spin around that the Industrial Revolution happened.

      • But in fact Watt knew what to do with his steam engine because steam engines were already being built. These were condension-powered engines used to pump water out of mines. There’s an impressive collection of some of these in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. Bigger than your living room, but only putting out a few horsepower. By switching to expansion, Watt improved performance so much that he got all the credit for a vast array of new applications that became known as the Steam Age. But he didn’t really invent the steam engine.

        Of course, there were many brilliant nerds working on personal computers before Mr. Jobs figured out how to utilize Mr. Wozniak’s engineering genius.

        • A pedant writes,

          The Boulton and Watt engines were still worked by the condensation of steam, their huge success was because of the fuel saved by Watt’s invention of the “seperate condenser”. Richard Trevithick’s engines were the first to harness the expansive power of steam.

      • Some seem to not get the point here. Sure many components had existed before Watt did what he did and he would not have been able to do what he did had they not. This doesn’t mean that he didn’t spark the revolution. Without him those things would probably stayed limited or different in a lesser form.

        Thus the same with Jobs most of what he had done was already invented or at least in part however its the delivery of the combined that made the difference.

        Don’t discredit someone for seeing a whole in the parts and making something far far greater than the parts separate.

        Goodyear didn’t invent the wheel nor did Henry Ford invent the car. The genius was not from the object or concept but the betterment of it. I feel it takes more genius to make something better and seeing the connections no-one else sees and if you make it simpler than the original then thats even more genius.

        Jobs was good at knowing what to include and exclude in a product where competitors through it all in and thus made a less focused more clumsy system. Where is the Zune, where is the Creative Technology jam. I remember the Creative Technology MP3 player but it was ugly, it was clunky and frankly gen-1 of the iPod was light years ahead of it.

        So Jobs was a genius, a genius for seeing products and uses for things no-one else did or dared to realize and he did it in the simplest form and he made a business that was worth more and did more for the world than any of the financial institutions could. He was a true inventor, genius and yes capitalist (cost me damn $3000 to have this mac to write this mail!!). So give the man credit for that.

        • Also keep in mind that through out the last bit of his career he was battling cancer. Who here or anywhere can battle cancer full-time and then build the world richest company (~$75 billion in cash in the bank is more than most companies can ever say they have.)

          Just a thought.

  4. BTW interesting comparison between Buddhist Mandala’s and the iPhone. After a short time you are supposed throw away/destroy both of them and buy/make a new ones.

    Oh and I think the blinking cursor of DOS represents the single point of focus while meditating =P

  5. Mr. Jobs was the epitome of what capitalism should be. Free thought and entrepreneurship.

  6. the Tibetan Bhuddist center is in Dharamsala, India, not Benares

    • There are lots of Tibetan (and other) Buddhist monasteries all over India.
      Been to them myself on 2 pilgrimages.

  7. Hi,

    Thoughtful post. Thanks. But, there is a lot of Buddhism in India and it is certainly true that many would-be followers have been inspired by a lively Buddhist following, especially in the Northeast of India. The tree of enlightenment is in India and Siddartha himself was Indian.

    American Buddhism looks quite different than Indian. Both are fascinating, but never underestimate the religious, ethnic and cultural pluralism in India.

    Thanks, Ashley

    • Ashley: I lived and traveled in India for a couple of years and never met a Buddhist except the Tibetans I came across in Varanasi.

      • While I met any number of Western “dharma bums” in places like Dharamsala. I guess we just move in different circles. But surely you must be aware that many, perhaps most Tibetan dharma centers in the West originated in this Indian milieu…? This is not a small thing.

    • His black long-sleeved mock turtleneck made by St. Croix cost almost $200 (and I read somewhere of a likely higher price of $600). Also this is often a trait of people like him who don’t want to spend their energy on things that dont matter much to them. He never spent a second thinking uhm what should i wear today. I think Einstein was the same about his hair he just never gave it a second thought. You will also notice that it happens later in life as these geniuses start focusing in more in exactly who they are and what they do.

      He wore what he felt he looked good/comfortable/whatever in, it’s no reflection of his capitalist mind.

  8. oh and btw one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world is in India. It’s about 2000 years old I believe.

  9. –> but he did get to know his half-sister Mona.

    Not half if she is from the same father and mother than Job.

    Thanks for a different take than mainstream media.

  10. Jobs had nothing to do with any of the DOS’s. Apple-DOS, which ran on the Apple II, was written by the co founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak and a couple of other guys.

    Nor was Microsoft DOS written by Gates – but that’s another story.

    Despite the denials the Apple Lisa/Mac user interface was based on the Xerox Star. In 1979 Xerox & Apple entered a licensing agreement; as well as the right to copy, Apple received two Star computers, and Xerox got equity in Apple. The Apple Lisa had an Office suite; unsurprisingly office automation was the riason de’tre for the Xerox Star – funny that.

    Microsoft’s licensing deal with Xerox was for cash and that “darned” Xerox folder that existed in Windows prior to Vista.

    It’s worth pointing out that Jobs had several failures.

    He was kicked off the Lisa project.

    The first Apple Mac failed because it couldn’t compete with IBM clone pricing and Jobs couldn’t get the attention of 3rd party software developers like Gates could.

    Jobs started up NeXT but that went nowhere, he used the wrong processors, he tried to compete with Cray supercomputers, eventually NeXT and Jobs were bought by Apple.

    Jobs borrowed the unusual capitalisation of NeXT from Donald Knuth the “inventor” TeX, a typesetting system.

    The UNIX based operating system NeXTSTEP operating system became the foundation for the Mac OS-X operating system. But the Mac didn’t take off until Jobs finally decided to use Intel processors – something he should have done back in the ’80s.

    One of the genius’ of American culture is its acceptance of failure. I don’t believe after so many failures Jobs would have achieved what he did in any other country.

    He’ll be missed, probably more by the media industry than the IT industry.

    I spent a few months at Buddhist vihara at Bodhgaya in Bihar in the late 60’s, where there are many Buddhist centres. Jobs might have gone there; pretty certain George Harrison spent some time at one of the Bodhgaya centres. In the ‘60’s & ‘70’s there was a lot of cross-over between the Hindu gurus and Buddhist centres, and with the Esalen et al scene. The latter may have been Steve Jobs pathway – Carmel’s just down the road from the Valley

    • “don’t believe after so many failures Jobs would have achieved what he did in any other country.”

      Unless he was a banker.

      Actually, I find the idea that if Jobs had some failures he WAS a failure just purest horseshit. As one of my few good bosses once said to me “The only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who aren’t doing anything.”

  11. If his half-sister had the same mother and the same father, she was his…sister.

  12. Dear Professor Cole,

    I’m an avid reader of your columns. Thank you so much for all the interesting points you bring up and your insightful comments. (or informed comments :-) )
    I wanted to let you know of a little mistake in your post about Steve Jobs. Mona Simpson was Jobs’ biological full-sister and not half sister. Jobs was indeed put for adoption by his then un-married parents, who got married ten months later and had Mona.
    Here is a reference:
    link to en.wikipedia.org
    “She is the biological sister of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder, former CEO and chairman of Apple. Jobs, the eldest sibling, was placed for adoption by their then-unmarried parents (who married 10 months later)”

      • SomeoneArab,
        I knew that from before, but I’m just using wikipedia as a reference …

  13. An inspiring and heartfull memorial on Steve Jobs. I didn’t know who he was, but since I trust and respect you I goggled and ended up watching Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005: link to youtube.com

    A few of the gems, brilliant and powerful things he says are at 12:32 to 12:42, 7:58 to 9:24 of the video:

    “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

    “Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You got to find what you love and that is as true for work as it is for you lovers. ——– The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And like any great relationship it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking and don’t settle.”

    “My third story is about death. When I was seventeen I read a quote that went something like “If you live each day as if it was your last someday you most certainly will be right. It made an impression on me and since then for the past 33 years, I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, if today were the last day of my life would I want to do what am about to do today. And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” ———

    Would be great if the paragraph above would be read and practiced daily by all people.

    But, I would settle for the President and all those elected and appointed could be open and honest with themselves.

  14. SomeGuy, it doesn’t matter who actually is the inventor. The one who can put it to real good use will profoundly change the world. To that, I have greater respect to Steve Jobs rather than the actual inventor. So, stop pouring cold water to this credit.

    • 56. Jobs was 56 at the time of his death. 2011-1955=56

  15. Just for reference, Bodh Gaya, in India, is a very important place in the history of Buddhism, as it is where Buddha attained “enlightenment”, and sat under the “Bodhi Tree” (a search of this on wikipedia will result in a picture of the tree’s current offspring, and subsequent Buddhist Temple).

      • Yes…But Buddhism and Advaitism are so similar…like Christianity and Islam….that even if you are not wearing a Buddhist tag, you are still one….So Buddhism hasn’t disappeared from India.

  16. “Contemporary conservatism has given us over-paid and under-regulated financiers who add no real value to anything, unlike Jobs.”

    Wow, I wasn’t aware that the team of Bill Clinton, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Barney Frank were classified as “contemporary conservatism.”

    Like SomeGuy points out, Jobs greatest talent was not at inventing, but in recognizing where and how to corner and flourish the new high-potential demand of someone else’s invention. Mr. Buddhist was a smart Capitalist who was also well noted for his lack of philanthropy. As the story goes, Ronald Wayne–the often-forgotten co-founder of Apple–and Steve Jobs spent many late nights in conversation, sometimes debating business ethics. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a transcript of those conversations. Steve was, without a doubt, a great, driven visionary–but, liberal or conservative?

    • Robert Rubin and Larry Summers would have been Republicans if they’d been come along in the mid-20th century. The Democrats are conservatives now, the Republicans are outright reactionaries, and I shouldn’t have to explain the difference.

      • Yes, indeed. And a great many, especially on the left, need an education about the difference between Capitalism and Corporatism, and how Corporatism, not Capitalism, holds the reins of power now, not only in politics on both sides of the aisle, but in the media, as well, making a kind of Wall-Street-piracy-enabling “conservatism” nearly all-pervasive.

  17. Very different from anything else I’ve read today about Steve. Very good, thank you.
    You do however refer to his sister as his ‘half sister’ but it seems to me they had the same mother and father, so not half sister but ‘full sister’ even! Sorry just nitpicking…

  18. an asymmetrical upbringing, a rather conventional blind sided marketeer, his intellectual growth stunted too early. i very much would like to believe Jobs eventually would have burned capitalism as a sustainable model of society openly and outspokenly, a way better probability then Buffet who had what? 20 more years to think about democracy and financing and feeds from within.

    an earlier comment pointed in the direction above, my regards.

    m.

  19. Thanks Juan. Well said and definitely not the tone we will be seeing in the MSM.
    A great tribute to one of us!
    Peace and love from a “hippie from Olema”

  20. A Muslim parent you say…hmmmm…has anyone ever seen his birth certificate?

    Sorry, that was bad. A good Christian would never be that snarky.

  21. Well said, through a small quibble, lsd is not “some little pills” but either a very diluted liquid or on a piece of absorbant cardboard.

  22. While Buddhism is not prevalent overall in India, the key sites of the Buddha’s life are still there and visited by many Buddhist pilgrims. Besides the Tibetans and Dalit converts mentioned, Mr. S.N. Goenka (http://vipassana.org), an Indian who grew up and learned Buddhist meditation in Burma and who now has a very large network of meditation centers worldwide, was active there when Jobs visited. Jobs could absolutely have encountered Buddhism in India and would have had the opportunity to ‘comparison shop’ with other traditions

    • Yes, that’s the point. If you went to Burma you might come back a Buddhist. I never saw any of Goenka’s centers when I was living in India, and I was there in the early 1980s and have been back recently. Guys, there are some things I speak with authority on, and I’m telling you, Jobs coming back from a visit to a Hindu Ashram devoted to Hanuman as a Buddhist is like coming back from Cambodia a Shiite Muslim. I suppose it could happen but it needs explanation.

      • Its not far out there, its not like Hindus never heard of Buddhism or never talk about Buddha. Even if he never talked to a Buddhist there he could have easily learned about it and converted when he got back.

      • If he was so great, why didn’t he keep his business here, the country that supported his ventures. He would have been a very wealthy man, but he went overseas to become obscenely wealthy. And took American jobs with him.

        • Would he? Or would he have driven Apple into the ground? Name one American tech brand that manufactures in the US. Go on…I’ll wait.

          What Apple would have to sell devices for if they had to pay American wages would ensure no one bought them, or could afford to buy them? Do you know that iSupply places the BoM for iPad 2 at $326.60. It sells for $499. They have to get labor, design costs, and profits out of less than $175 per unit.

      • Juan – your CNN link has “Traversing India SPARKED Jobs’ conversion to Buddhism.”

        It does not say he converted to Buddhism in India, nor does it even say he visited ashram. Substitute “interest” for “conversion” and you’ll have what may be a more explicitly accurate statement.

        Kobun Chino Otogawa, the monk who married Steve & Laurene at Yosemite National Park, was a Japanese Zen master. From ’67 he assisted at the Tassajara Zen study centre in the Carmel Valley CA; in ’70 he moved to San Francisco Zen Center in Los Altos, which in the middle of Silicone Valley.

        Steve Jobs seem to embody many Zen characteristics – e.g. austerity. So I conclude that after his visit India where his interest in matters spiritual was sparked, Jobs went on to take up Zen Buddhism in California under Kobun.

        At one time Steve was dating Joan Baez, so its not beyond the bounds of possibility that he would have had some sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Its been said that Jobs dated Joan because Joan dated Dylan and Jobs was a Dylan fan – which doesn’t seem very Zen.

  23. Tribute to Steve Jobs from Islamic community of America written by Dr. Azhar Qader:

    “AA

    Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.
    President Obama

    Mr. Apple. He was a household name. He was a gifted genius. He was a powerful communicator. He was a tremendous innovator. A fierce fighter who bounced back from each fall. A show man who knew how to shine on a stage. A brilliant mind ahead of the times.

    From iMacs to iPads he gave us both toys to play and tools to perform. The gifts he gave us have now become the gifts we cherish and love. What better way to honor his memory than to better use the goods he gifted us all.”

    Azher Quader
    CBC

  24. Dear Juan, Brilliant piece on Jobs. You always manage to say precisely what I would myself have said were I as smart as you are. Richard

  25. Arguing over Jobs’ legacy is ridiculous. An infinite number of techies could have eventually delivered us what Apple is now, just as an infinite number of monkeys would deliver us Shakespeare. But we might have had a long wait…
    What is inspiring is what one unperfect man, with exceptional diligence and a passion for excellence, delivered into our hands in our lifetimes.

  26. Jobs was a complicated fellow and a mass of contradictions — like most of us humans. He was a technological visionary (if not always inventor) who brought Apple back from the dead to produce iconic technology. He was someone who treated his friends badly at times, while still inspiring devoted followers and acolytes. Workplace practices at Apple sweatshop factories in Asia drove workers to suicide; as company president Jobs must bear some measure of responsibility for that. His aesthetic sense (realized via Jonathan Ives) continues to spawn industrial design that no competitor can approach to this day. Jobs famously stopped all corporate charitable giving at Apple … but is rumored to have given anonymously to charity, as some Buddhists might. Re-read my first sentence, above.

    Was Jobs without flaws? Obviously not. But I’d say this to the haters: He created real wealth and real products that provide real benefits to ordinary people. Has Wall Street? Jobs made his mark in the world. Have you?

  27. Juan – glad I found your site.
    “But you can’t take a Muslim Arab immigrant, a Hindu guru, Buddhist monks, and some little pills out of this great American success story without making nonsense of it. Multiculturalism and cultural and religious experimentation, not fundamentalism and racism, are what make America great.”

    An important and wise affirmation! All of this who know this to be true need to continue to speak for the real essence of “America” against the nonsense.

  28. Thank you, sir, for a thoughtful and history-laden obituary for one of Americas most eclectically-theft-driven successful visionaries.

    What cannot be duplicated about Steven Jobs was his ability to self reinvent any time he reached a dead end.

    We were all enriched by this unique American’s life.

  29. kind of reads like a Borges story. always nice writing, and your insight and hitting the mark amaze.

  30. Thanks for this, Dr. Cole! I knew literally none of this.

    I’ve been a computer geek since the 1970s, and in spite of my techie orientation, always was amazed by the simple USEFULNESS and BEAUTY of Apple’s products. You can just sit down and USE them – this was unheard-of in the computing world until relatively recently.

  31. This is one of only two obituaries for Mr. Jobs that I’ve shared with friends. Bravo Mr. Cole, bravo. Great job.

  32. Yes, Let’s eat some microdots, wear some jeans and a black turtleneck, and head over to Wall Street for Jobs. The jobs is plural for both Steve and Employment. See you there!

  33. Juan, I think this is a fantastic piece, capturing both Jobs & America – the better side. The nasties say more about themselves than about anyone else.

  34. Interesting piece. You suggest the young Steve Jobs might have joined the Occupy Wall Street protests. I’m stryck, though by the contrasting visions of capitalism’s possibilities on view in these two stories of the day. If the Apple of today stands for who Steve Jobs was (and I think it does), then he can’t be understood to embrace the truly anti-capitalist philosophy of the protests. A useful place to think about this is in Apple’s new campus, which was perhaps Jobs’s last great effort, and which reflects an alarming vision of the form of community (and labor) we might expect in the future he ebvisioned.. Contrast the “high modernism” of that building with the suicides and toxicity of Apple’s China factories, or with the armed conflicts emerging around the minerals used to make cell phones, and you get a sense for the kind of contrasting vision I’m talking about.

  35. from my FB post of your article:
    Amir Ali Gadhvi wrote:
    Great tribute! Juan Cole’s puzzled about the Buddhism conversion. Buddhism came from India, it was in India that the Buddha gained enlightenment and Buddhism is completely common in the Himalayan areas of India but prbably only 1% of the population call themselves “Buddhist”. Since the Tibetan monks have come over it has spread some more in India. The Dalai Lama lives in India too. And many Hindus do not call themselves “Buddhists” – The Buddha was a Hindu too…Ashoka the Great was an Indian emperor (300 BC) who converted to Buddhism by Hindu Brahmin gurus too.

  36. Hi ,
    most of mythologies of hinduism and buddhism are mixed.

    As far as i know lord budhha is considered god, the incarnation of lord vishnu, by most hindus.
    but i am not sure what hanuman is to budhhists???

    however if they also consider hanuman as god.

    • Abhishek, I don’t think Hanuman is anything to Buddhists. I’ve seen references, from contemporary Hindu’s, equating Hanuman with the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara but without any explanation or references to the Pali texts.

      Buddhists regard the dhvaja (Victory Banner) as an Auspicious Symbol signifying the triumph of knowledge over ignorance. In the Mahabarata, Krishna’s chariot had a banner with an image of Hanuman. I don’t know of any specific link between Avalokiteśvara and the dhvaja, but …

      Buddhism is a practice; it’s not a religion in the sense of the three desert religions. Also Buddhism has little to do with Hinduism as we know them today. It often seems to me that Buddhism has more in common with Jainism than Hinduism, but Buddhists disagree with that proposition too.

      Buddhists regard the entity lay Westerners refers to as The Buddha, aka Siddhartha Gautama and Shakyamuni, as Truly Enlightened. And they believe he is not the only Buddha, more than 20 preceded him, and the next Buddha is already called Maitreya.

  37. I guess the argument in America, then, is over what a visionary should be paid. The sociopathic Right sees Jobs as a flesh and blood John Galt, to whom all earnings must flow. But there have been many visionaries, in many economies, who did not need to become billionaires to do great work. There have also been visionaries under laissez-faire capitalism who were screwed out of everything by the corporations. I’m amazed at how many stories about the history of automobile companies and other Edwardian technology firms have a part where the firm’s inventor-founder gets forced out by the financiers on his board of directors.

    So we should be very careful in making assumptions about what Steve Jobs proves or disproves about how our economy works in general. Your country cannot become or stay great by cutting off the poor from education, dismantling basic health care, promoting ancient superstitions as a low-tax way to make the masses more moral, or terrorizing your workforce with the threat of starvation. There might be any number of potential Steve Jobs among our youth today, but how many will be lost as their communities and society are dismantled for short-term profit?

  38. Thomas Watson, Jr. was a real industrial hero, a man who made great things happen in IT: link to en.wikipedia.org.

    Under his leadership, IBM moved on from punch card tabulators to venerable IBM/360 family. IBM/360 was the predecessor of modern mainframes which still power the US finance.

    Steve Jobs? Just two questions. First, how his iWonders would be possible without outsourcing to China? Only dirt cheap Chinese labor makes these toys affordable! Warping the US economy to play with cool gadgets is the bottom line of his late efforts.

    Second, what is exactly mission critical about Apple’s innovations? Yes, their mouse and desktop publishing are great, but, in the whole, are they really necessary for the economy and defense? What would Alan Turing, John von Neumann, Konrad Zuse say about this hyper-rich playboy?

    But Ayn Rand most certainly would be thrilled by Jobs, this is exactly her type – tycoon for his own sake.

    • I’m not going to disparage your Thomas Watson & his International Business Machines – there’s a story with plenty of evil in it, in addition to the contribution to progress. It’s not a contest.

      Jobs and Apple made the computer accessible – and all but indispensable – to artists, graphic designers, and other highly skilled but “non-technical” folks. This increased their “productivity” (something you’ll buy?) and encouraged greater creativity.

      Re: companies didn’t “outsource to China” until relatively recently. Apple’s computer line was well established by then, and could theoretically be built anywhere, including the US. The i-Things don’t require slave labor to exist.

      Since when does being “necessary” to “the economy and defense” constitute the entire measure of good?

  39. Many great visions came out of the influence of LSD–the double helix being one of the most famous.

  40. …But you can’t take a Muslim Arab immigrant, a Hindu guru, Buddhist monks, and some little pills out of this great American success story…

    iLIKE!

  41. -
    there are two things going on here
    one is insight – the other is vision

    really though – they are each – and both –
    the same thing – one looks in – the other out

    once in awhile a man comes along
    that combines these in such a way

    that the whole world takes notice
    generations heap praise upon him

    we came from the stars
    we’re headed to space

    here but a moment
    this empirical place

    our life’s but a tangent
    that touches this earth

    if we play our cards right
    this’ll be our last birth
    -

  42. hi steve iam your fan. the great indian ambedkar is also a buddhist. the worlds inntelectuals like you and mbedkar are following buddha means buddha is final answer to this world.
    buddha and ambedkar are with u.

    • Buddhism is about creating tons of products and using vast marketing campaigns to convince people that they need these products? The Buddha was a capitalist who measured success by stock prices and units shipped?

      Or were you doing what the author of this piece was doing and simply promoting your idealogy by tagging it on a famous dead guy?

      That’s what I thought.

      • I did not make it up that Jobs was a Buddhist, so you cannot accuse me of grandstanding. The man said it was important to his creative vision.

        . If you knew anything serious about Buddhism, especially the Zen that Jobs followed, you’d know that it was compatible with ordinary action in the world, including warfare and making money. Zen says not to get attached to it, not that you should starve (the Buddha deeply disapproved of Hindu traditions of asceticism, a disapproval not always recognized by his own disciples in later ages).

  43. Interesting the part about the counter-culture is given short shrift in a lot of the comments. What Mr. Cole does not touch upon..is that there were at least two strains to the counter culture…one that took social and ecological responsibility seriously and the other that became self-obsessed automatons, worshiping at the altar of advertising idiocy and junk bonds, mortgages, etc…

    Yes we have all these gadgets…but the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and a million tweets and pokes can’t hold a candle to something like John Lennon;s Imagine and all the other musical visionaries from the 1960s and 1970s..
    “The Harder they come..the harder they fall”..

  44. I know a gentleman who died of the same cancer the same week that Steve Jobs stepped down. God rest Steve Jobs soul, but the iphone will be a bag phone before you know it. The other gentleman who died left a Christian (don’t worry, I don’t watch FOX NEWS) legacy in his family. You can’t take it with you. The only thing you can possibly take is other souls into heaven with you by the life you lived and the God you served. We Christians are the biggest reason we get the bad rap we do. Ghandi said if Christians were to act as they should, the world be converted tommorrow to Christianity. I as a Christian need to constantly examine myself, so God changes me from the inside out and I live a life that is attractive to those who need answers.

  45. I think you’ve confused the concepts of “contributed to” with “in spite of”. Really, one of the most pathetic attempts at hi-jacking his legacy that I’ve read on the inter-webs.

    Seriously, if you want to take drugs and stare at intricate patterns on rugs until you achieve enlightenment please do so in the safety of your own home.

    Sheesh.

  46. A decent article, but not as objective as I’d hoped; it plays up the leftist angle a bit too severely. It’s not “conservative backlash” that has brought the Drug War about, people; it’s corruption, plain and simple: the relationship between government and industry, otherwise known as “corporatism.” Marijuana was criminalized because of the threat it posed to the newborn artificial fiber industry, and once government realized what a cash cow there was in RICO enforcement, all other drugs followed suit. This has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with conservativism.

    In this, as in most things, progressives are deluded; the way to fix the problem is to eliminate regulation, and thereby eliminate the relationship between state and industry that promotes corruption. But try telling that to a liberal and watch how they respond.

    On the plus side, the article does note that Steve was also a consummate salesman and industrialist. But this seems to be in the context of indicating that as long as a person is leftist at heart, it’s OK to become stinking rich. Is that really what you believe, Cole?

  47. I had an Apple IIe. It’s design was typical of the computers of the day in that it had lots of slots you could insert boards into to add features to the computer. The IBM PC, which soon followed, was similar in that it had lots of slots. Many other computers followed, all with similar design, lots of slots. Access to the innards of them was easy and encouraged. These computers generated a big industry for small companies making boards to put into these slots to add capabilities, many clever and astounding.

    This was great, a golden era, for those who liked to tinker with computers. However, these computers were difficult to use. You had to be technically inclined to use them skillfully.

    Now, for Steve Jobs. I heard him quoted once as saying that a computer should be no more difficult to operate than a TV set. Poeple should have no more need to access the interior of the computer than they have for a TV set. Thus the Macintosh, a closed box styled to look like a TV set. This philosophy was carried through for all subsequent Apple products, a closed box with the simplest possible interface. You can’t even change a battery yourself, at least, you’re not supposed to.

    The positive aspect of this is that Apple revolutionized the design phliosophy of computing devices and made them accessible to the masses. There is a downside though, in that Apple did not create an industry of other companies producing plugin accessories to add features. Well, there are indeed lots of small companies making Apps. Nonetheless, the closed-box philosophy keeps others out, but it did make Apple one of the richest and most admired companies in the world.

    A genius is someone who recognizes when a better way exists. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was a genius.

  48. I am an intellectual mouse compared to Steve Jobs. His enormous achievements are indisputable. However, Apple’s financial success is based on throw away electronics, offshore manufacturing and consumerism. I’m waiting for the innovator with enormous intellect who puts his or her great gifts to work saving the environment and local economy rather than helping to destroy it.

  49. Nothing that i would say would add any more value to this discussion than what’s already been added by these wonderful and thought provoking comments. But i would just reiterat that even though Jobs didn’t invent many concepts that we use today, he had the vision and creative prowess so see them through into the future and the role that they would play in the modern world. Just like gravitational force had always existed even before Newton discovering it and proposing 3 world changing laws that form the basis of much of Physics and dynamics. It matters far less who first found/made something ground breaking than who actually saw the potential in it and reenvisioned it in ways no one could imagine. If the Egyptians had seen through the potential of an Aeliopile (the first steam engine) they would have been known the way Watt is known.

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