Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Not a Contradiction of Conscience, Just the Apple of My iPhone

My iPhone 5 arrived from China yesterday and has already supplanted my iPhone 4 as the single best product I have ever owned.

Mind you, the home button of my iPhone 4 had become largely unresponsive and the battery seemed to drain almost completely every single day, even with only moderate use. Also, when I spoke without using a headset, people often couldn't hear me.

So durability may not have been the 4's finest feature, but this is how I justify—to myself—why I needed to order a 5, which shipped from China because I didn’t care enough to bother camping out at an Apple Store.

Of course, an even truer reason is that I have loved my iPhone since I got the initial version in December 2007, then upgraded to the 4 in June 2010—never bothering with the 3, 3S or 4S. Being qualified for an upgrade, I candidly couldn’t resist acquiring the newest and coolest edition.

Is it absolutely necessary? Of course not. I lived without an iPhone for 39 years and without any cell phone for roughly 30, and in some ways was probably better off for it.

Will it make me cooler, smarter, richer or happier? No, no, no and not substantially.

Is it worth the $200 it cost? Depends on how you look at it. If the choice was between getting an iPhone 5 and covering my mortgage, paying for prescriptions or buying food, of course it wasn’t necessary. But if you consider that I don’t have a home phone and that in 2012, I’ve spent $0 on shoes, outerwear, small appliances and computer software, almost nothing on office supplies, under $50 on alcohol (for home use or at any & all venues/establishments), less than $200 on new clothes and basically nothing on bank account/ATM fees, if the iPhone 5 falls into the Household/Personal Supplies & Services category, I think I’m well under budget.

Yet a friend asked me--jokingly, but I've heard this line of reasoning elsewhere--given how disdainful I am about the devastation wreaked by the "corporatocracy," don't I feel any moral compunction enriching the most successful corporation on Earth? Perhaps now even more so given the worker riots at an iPhone factory in China.

Similar, but much more venomous incredulity, has been spewed in the direction of Occupy protesters and other activists. "They hate the rich, but yet they have iPhones," goes the logic (I used the term loosely). "Don't they see the irony of buying into what they're supposedly protesting."

Simply put--without proper knowledge to loop in the dissension of the Chinese protesters or their reasons--this line of thinking is silly, even stupid. I don't speak for anyone else or what they may believe, but, in short:
My ire over the (used as shorthand) "1%" has never been about envy, wealth, living well, non-egregious/elitist materialism, consumerism or even uncorrupted capitalism.
What I--and imaginably others--repudiate is corruption, fraud, rampant greed & tax avoidance among those with at least tens of millions, and a lack of both humanity and fairness.
This is a bit tangential, but recently it was revealed that Mitt Romney said something to the extent of not caring about the "47%" of Americans who don't pay taxes and mooch off the government (his incorrect statistic and insinuations, not mine). While all of my liberal friends lambasted this line of thinking, I imagine there were other people who shared Mitt's derision over perceived freeloaders. That's their right, even if I find such elitism repugnant, but it also ignores the truth that numerous Wall Street millionaires, even billionaires, would have lost everything they had--by losing bets they consciously made--if not for being bailed out by the government. So by Mitt's logic, it would seem the system should provide a safety net for the rich, but not basic sustenance for the poor.

So what I really want is a fair playing field, not for companies to fail or rich people to vaporize.
I have no problem whatsoever with anyone who earns a fortune honestly and earnestly, based on intelligence, effort, talent and/or ingenuity, and gives their fair share back to society through taxes and charitable contributions.
In fact I admire it.
While I don’t care much about overt materialism, and have never aspired to Mercedes or mansions, I certainly like being able to enjoy my life. Who wouldn’t?

Obviously, this means different things to different people, in terms of how they spend whatever money they have to be spent in discretionary ways. Some people like fancy shoes or pricey jeans. Some people think it’s important to send their kids to parochial schools. Some people easily drop $50 or more on a night of casual drinking.

As long as it’s legal and doesn’t harm anyone else, I certainly don’t begrudge anyone what they wish to spend their money on. And I’d be the last to advocate that we all must live spartan lifestyles in order to be soulfully satisfied.

This blog certainly portrays my passion for attending a wide array of live events, and occasionally my love of travel. While I try to do both as inexpensively as possible—with ticket discounts, accumulated airline miles, alternatives to paying for parking, willingness to sit in the cheap seats, etc.—clearly these are areas where I spend a fair share of money.

But any parent who has ever had to pay for just one child to get braces has likely outspent my yearly entertainment and travel outlay in an area in which I’ve never had to.

And especially in being once again gainfully—and gratefully—employed (at least for now), well, I don’t think I have to belabor my justification for spending $200 on a new iPhone.

As for further enriching the corporatocracy or buying into a system I think is largely nefarious, perhaps I am guilty of some inconsistency of conscience--and I certainly don't condone the gross mistreatment of workers in the name of profit, if such was the case at the Foxconn factory in China--but I see no ethical dilemma in my purchasing a new iPhone, nor anyone with reasonable means to do so. 

As I said at top without meaning to be hyperbolic, the iPhone is the best product I've ever owned. From the initial launch in 2007, which literally changed the face of all subsequent technology, no product has been better designed, or concept more magnificently executed beyond expectations, than the iPhone. Sure, there have been a few minor engineering missteps, but over intervening 5 years, Apple has made quantum leaps in making the iPhone even better. 

When I got my iPhone 4 in 2010, I was shocked by how much sleeker and cooler it was than my iPhone Classic, which had seemed sublime in every way upon release.

Now, with the iPhone 5 in my hands, I am stunned by how clunky the iPhone 4 appears in comparison. 

To patronize, and yes reward, a company that makes a brilliant, revolutionary product and then keeps improving upon it has absolutely no relevancy to my chagrin about the damage done by the people at Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, etc., who made, then lost fortunes by playing casino games with synthetic CDOs and the like. (For a good briefer on some of the people and practices that deserve to be despised, check out Matt Taibbi's writings for Rolling Stone.)

Does this mean I believe that everyone at Apple is a wonderful, benevolent soul doing all they should for the common good? Or that Apple itself is entirely virtuous and pure? Heck no, and while his contributions to the world of technology were astonishing, I've long gleaned that the late, great Steve Jobs wasn't always a wonderful guy.

But he sure as heck deserved to get rich, even more so than he did. He essentially created the personal computer, the Macintosh, the operating system nicked by Microsoft, Pixar, the iMac, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad and more. Capitalism should reward someone like that, even exorbitantly, and I have no problem further enriching Apple for continuing to do great work. They've become uber-successful because they've deserved to, not because they bilked their clients or pushed numbers around and wound up destroying a huge chunk of the world's wealth.

Besides, the iPhone 5 is just damn cool. And I like it.

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