Monday, October 10, 2011

On the Arabness of Steve Jobs: Why it matters (and doesn't)?

I felt that it would only be appropriate to give everyone a head up. This is my official attempt at the obligatory Steve Jobs post. In case you missed it (and I highly doubt that, but still), Steve Jobs passed away last Wednesday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. This, of course resulted in  ubiquitous cyber tributes, the ad nauseum repetition of his Stanford commencement speech, several   twitter trending topics (#RIPSteveJobs, #iSad) and an elevation of personal status from technocrat to "the Edison of our generation" and "Messiah". 

For me, the interesting discovery about Jobs at his passing was his "Arabness". Let me elaborate. Steve Jobs was adopted. His biological parents were graduate students; his mother German-Swiss-American, his father Syrian. Some call him Arab, others half Arab. There is nothing to indicate that he considered himself as such. What is more interesting is the reaction of Arabs/Muslims/Middle Easterners in general to this fact. One of the most bizarre responses to Jobs's heritage was this modest post at Yahoo Answers:

I'm not surprised at the vigour with which "we" (some Pakistanis included) have claimed Steve Jobs as our own (Steve Jobs = half Arab=Arab= Muslim-ish meme). After all, I would be hard pressed to find Arab/Muslim visionaries, scientists and technocrats that would serve as role models, especially anyone within the last 500-600 years. If a new generation of Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim youth are finding inspiration from Jobs as a role model, why not?

At the same time, we are all aware that Jobs did not become a visionary solely on the basis of his "Arabness. His achievements are at best a product of his work ethic, passion and the stochastic nature of opportunity (ala Malcolm Gladwell) and at worst his arrogance, ambition and backhanded opportunism. If these traits are truly the determinants of his success, does Steve Jobs's "Arabness" actually matter?

1 comment:

  1. Asalamu Alaikum, I mostly just lurk, but I just wanted to let you know I gave you an award on my blog.

    ...and now back to lurkdom ;-)...