Sunday, 4 July 2010

An Apple a day...

Reverend Jobs explains why the
light that shines from his
rear end is perpetually shaped
like a half-eaten piece of fruit

The curious thing about a cult is its ability to make you think that what you’re doing is correct and proper. The lengths gone to for it, the devotion shown towards it and the vehement defence given to it when questioned are all hallmarks of a deluded individual having undergone some vicious brainwashing at the hands of a sinister leader.

Cults are rare though, right? They’re reserved for young buck-toothed girls in straw dresses somewhere in the mid-west of America, duped into believing that the ‘Reverend’ has some divine calling that permits, nay demands, late night visits to their bedrooms.

Not so I argue, and elements of cultist activity exist in our everyday lives. It’s no secret that the lucrative world of consumerism has for a long time shown traits of underhand dominance; whether it be the ubiquitous advertising of Coca Cola or the constant and slippery reinvention of McDonalds, it’s well known that huge corporations employ swarms of executives to quietly persuade us to stay loyal and hand over our hard earned cash.

But some things in life are different. Or at least they seem to be. This thought filtered through my hitherto diverted mind a couple of hours after I got back from the O2 store last week. I refuse to admit that I queued for my new iPhone 4; I didn’t. I simply turned up nonchalantly around the time the shop opened and hung around looking inquisitive for a while before a nice chap gave me a number and told me to come back later to pick up my phone. A couple of hours later I breezed back in, gave them my details and went about my day, iPhone 4 in hand. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite how it happened. My nearest store is at the O2 arena, and the only reason anyone would (and did) go there at 9am on the day after the release of the new iPhone is entirely obvious. So much so that on the tube, I spotted at least five other men (for they were almost all men) with white earphones and a twitchy look of nervous expectation on their pillow lined faces. Stepping off the train, each one did their best to appear relaxed, yet began walking at a pace that wasn’t entirely reasonable for the time of day.

Despite what you might imagine, there isn’t a great deal to do at the Dome either. Two cappuccinos later, I was beginning to get a little restless and felt the need to anxiously check my wallet every 5 minutes for the slip of paper that guaranteed my new phone, in much the same way as a paranoid air passenger slides his hand into his jacket pocket repeatedly to check his passport hasn’t inexplicably dropped out and found its way into the hands of an Al-Qaeda terrorist.

After helpfully and perhaps a little smugly advising latecomers that ‘if your name’s not down you ain’t getting in’, I sat in the sunshine watching a swathe of identical looking men in short sleeved shirts and flip flops striding purposefully towards the complex, then seconds later trudging dejectedly back to the station, some frantically checking the online stock report on their (woefully outdated) phones and considering a day trip to High Barnet.

Back inside the store the atmosphere was strange, and looking back, it’s this that prompted the thoughts about the cult of Apple. There we all were, men and women from different walks of life, all unified with a common purpose. We bonded. I promised to make sure the couple with the ticket before my own didn’t get overlooked while they popped out for lunch. The man beside me engaged enthusiastically in a conversation about how silly we probably all were for sitting there like lemons waiting for a piece of plastic (although of course in reality it’s a beautiful, synergetic blend of glass and stainless steel) and for a short while, we became best friends. So there it was, Apple Corp. bringing us all together for worship in the house of Jobs. We had faith, like any subservient cultist, that they would deliver and bring us happiness. There was even a BlackBerry convert that was forgiven, blessed and baptised by the joyful throng.

A quick mention of the phone itself, and one feature in particular that could instigate some interesting situations. I’m talking about Facetime; a preposterous moniker I grant you, but this video calling facility might just alter the face of mobile etiquette as we know it. It may look all roses and smiles on the Apple promotional video, but what happens when the student’s mother 'Facetimes' her little angel, only to faintly discern a naked girl in bed at the corner of the shot, or the coffee table supporting the world’s largest bong? What happens when a wife calls while her husband is ‘working late’? Surely to reject the video call is just as suspicious? I suspect every local boozer up and down the country will reserve a blank whitewashed section of the gents for such occasions, in order that the explanation as to why Darren hasn’t returned home as promised remains partially believable. A quandary for sure, and not one considered by the sickly sweet marketing campaign from Apple HQ.

Back with the sinister goings on at Apple, another trait of the inducted cult member is the compulsion to defend their beliefs with gusto. Almost every iPhone user I’ve met falls into this category. If even a breath of criticism is levelled at their device within earshot, a vehement case is immediately argued. If, say, a Nokia is praised for its superior functions, the Appleist is quick to denounce it as a false prophet. The result is a worldwide community of salespeople in the places that matter, spreading the gospel amongst colleagues, loved ones and sometimes complete strangers. This thesis is beginning to make sense.

If you have accepted iPhone, Mac or iPad as your personal saviour, then Steve Jobs becomes the Creator. The Artichect. The Supreme leader. As every great cult has its enigmatic and somewhat elusive figurehead, Appleist belief starts and ends with the vision of one man. In the 80s, dodgy evangelists would take to the stage, spreading their skewed version of reality to hundreds of people, and thousands more watching on TV. This usually resulted in donations of millions of Dollars towards funding ‘evangelical’ work such as prostitutes and Ferraris. The same is true of Steve Jobs and Apple (though probably without the prostitutes, but who knows?) The keynote speeches, given by Jobs to pour hope and joy into the hearts of dedicated followers, are lapped up by industry professionals and consumers alike. Every word is analysed, every claim gawped at and every sales figure applauded. This man can get a round of applause for simply switching on a telephone. He can do no wrong. To add to his status as The Chosen One, he dresses like a despotic emperor from a 70s Science fiction series. The baggy polo neck jumper appears more ceremonial gown than San-Fran causal.

So there we have it, a cult very much in the ascendancy. Apple has gone from quirky, specialist computer manufacturer to market-leading world giant. Its share value recently surpassed the Church of Microsoft to make it the biggest technology company on earth, and possibly the universe.

Is Mr Jobs the anti-Christ? Does the iPhone carry the mark of the beast? In the future, will Apple wield total control of our online activity? Will its omnipresence ensure that, as the Bible tells us ‘no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name’? (Rev. 13:17) Maybe not, but I did just buy something from the App Store…

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