Is Steve Jobs an Exclusively American Product?

Steve Jobs Mosaic by Miguel Ríos
Homage to Steve Jobs created by Twitter analyst Miguel Ríos.

Is Steve Jobs an Exclusively American Product?
El País: ¿Es Steve Jobs un producto exclusivamente americano?
Antonio Caño, Washington Correspondent, blogging October 7, 2011

Soon after the death of Steve Jobs, Jordi Sevilla wrote on Twitter that success like his would have been impossible in Spain constructing computers in a garage is prohibited there, and no one would have lent the money his business needed. Hermann Terscht retweeted this message, which made me think this impression is shared by people from different ideological backgrounds. I [Antonio Caño] also retweeted it, and some of my followers in Latin America responded that a phenomenon like Steve Jobs wouldn’t have been possible in their countries, either: in Mexico, his computers would have been confiscated; in Argentina, he would have been suborned; in Chile, his project would have been exported abroad, among other reasons. Nowhere would he have found the support of his colleagues or the backing of his investors.

Why? Why is Steve Jobs only possible in the United States? A genius of such magnitude is infrequent even in the U.S., but certain similar and less renowned figures have indeed triumphed in this country thanks to an environment that stimulates creativity and favors risk. “This is still the country in which you can make history without having money or a great education, all because of a great idea,” commented the journalist Chris Matthews in homage to Jobs’s work.

Groucho Marx said that in the United States, you could buy an apple for a cent, shine it, and sell it for two cents, with which you could buy two apples, shine them, and so on, until…your great aunt died and you inherited her fortune. Jokes aside, this has always been a country of opportunity, and even now thousands of people cross its borders illegally every day because they still believe this. Things have gotten worse. Not only because the current economic crisis has deprived everyone of options, but also because the society has become bourgeois, the fruit, perhaps, of a logical crisis in growth. Columnist David Brooks says it will be very difficult to find new Steve Jobses in the future and complains of the slow pace of progress in certain fields that determine human happiness, such as medicine, transportation, and energy.

Certainly, as Brooks says, there are neither colonies on Mars nor flying cars nor artificial organs. But there have been advances on these three fronts, and the dreams of achieving those things has not vanished. It could be that the North Americans of today have neither the ambition of their ancestors nor the spirit of sacrifice. Innovation and imagination, in great measure, are fruits of necessity, much like the conquest of the United States was the consequence of people obliged to survive here in very difficult conditions. But success is also the product of optimism and conviction. Steve Jobs, like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin, persevered for the ideas he created and defended them in the face of multiple setbacks. Google took time to catch on, and Jobs suffered highs and lows at Apple before consolidating its position and its brand.

That perseverance and optimism are the principal distinctive facets of this country. There are other explanations for the impression captured on Twitter that Jobs would not be possible in Spain or Latin America: in our societies, good contacts are frequently valued over good ideas, and in many cases, we value a burst of inspiration more than a fully formed and ambitious work completed through sustained effort. But worse than all that is a fatalism that condemns certain countries to an eternal secondary role.

Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Latinoamérica, Politics, Spain, Translations

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