What makes you great to the world, so much so that you become the ‘greatest’ of your times? Is greatness the title for those who become successful in their respective fields? Or is it that everyone who appears on TV has the chance of attaining greatness? Steve Jobs, who died fighting pancreatic cancer, being showered with so much love and respect raises this question.
While any celebrity has a right to an obituary, posthumous encomiums by way of comparison with other greats should not happen just because of the bankruptcy of a particular age in producing truly great individuals.
What defines Steve Jobs? The fact that he could make people go crazy about his company’s products?
If marketing is what makes you great, then our Indian politicians are the greatest, because they market themselves so well that even after their failures in one term after another, we keep voting them back to power. If making a new product is what makes you great, then there are many new products being invented everywhere in the world. Yes, the claim to launching the first personal computer goes to Jobs, but he was not behind its invention; he was the chief of the company that invented it. Any man heading the company that has a product to sell can do what he did.
To those who think he revolutionised cell phones, the fact is he just re-packaged his products by mixing up what was already out there in the form of already available gadgets/software like Blackberry, Palm, Windows, etc. A man becomes truly great for humankind and his passing away deserves mass mourning only if he has done something to better the lives of his fellow beings, overcoming personal greed and lust for power.
While all of us take our newborn kids to have ‘Do boond zindagi ki’, to save our kids from the life-crippling polio virus, very few would know why those life drops come for free. There are many other diseases, medication for which does not come even at a reasonable cost, forget having it free.
The man who invented the polio vaccine, Jonas Edward Salk, decided not to patent his invention. After seven years of rigorous research, when he had the chance to become a billionaire, much like Jobs did, he refused to do so. When someone asked him ‘Who owns the patent of the vaccine, he replied, ‘Can anyone patent the sun?’ In civilisation’s history of one individual bettering the lives of fellow humans, can Jobs stand anywhere close to Salk?
Jobs did not even eradicate poverty with the immense wealth he accumulated by selling his so-called great products, invented by scientists who worked in his company. Instead, he rather stopped all philanthropist activity by Apple in 1997, saying philanthropy can ‘wait until we are profitable.’ Today, Apple is one of the world’s most valued companies (sitting on $40 billion cash) and ironically, it is perhaps the only one in its category that has no philanthropic contribution worth talking about.
I don’t own any Apple product, and most Apple aficionados would accuse me of commenting on something that I don’t use. I am not commenting on the products he sold; I am commenting on the tears that are being unjustifiably shed on the death of a rich man. I am not taking anything away from Jobs as an entrepreneur, and the fact is that he was an inspiration for his company. But I find it difficult to accept the belittling of the very notion of greatness by bestowing it on those who worked for themselves and promoted the noxious idea that ‘profit motivates humans’, a theory that would have never given us the polio vaccine.