A Stray Thought: Are All Mac Users Left-wing Liberals?

“Don’t lie to me, Gustav! You’re a stinkin’ Mac user!” – Ratbert, from a Dilbert comic strip, in which he proposes a “Holy War” in order to “standardize on one computer” by having the company “identify and eliminate the deviant users of Macintosh, Unix and – God help us – OS/2 Warp”

“What if half the things ever said turned out 2 be a lie…
How will U know the truth?
“If U were given all the answers and U stopped 2 wonder why…
How will U know the truth?”
– O[+> a.k.a. The Artist Formerly Known as Prince (a well-known Minnesotan Mac user), from his song “The Truth”

The iMac dot com

With apologies to Andy Ihnatko….

I’m in a funk today.

As a Mac user, I can readily identify with poor Gustav. In fact, he may very well represent each of us; he could be the Everyman for the Macintosh community.

After all, we’ve each experienced PC users’ looks of derision, scorn and condescension in response to our most casual mention of our affinity to things Macintosh. Anytime we give the slightest favorable comment about our OS choice (the wisest computing choice by far, for the average, untutored consumer), we are broadbrush-painted as cult-like for “ranting and raving” about a “mere computer.” After all, “computers are merely tools,” eh? So, why should anyone – in their right mind – have such a passionate response, such an emotional attachment to a computer? My more conservative, PC-using friends claim that I’m just a wild-eyed liberal in love with a “liberal’s computer.”

The above stream of consciousness has been flowing continually through my mind of late. I’ve pondered the Macintosh phenomenon, particularly, we the people of the phenomenon. Is our cause really a noble one? Did we really put a dent in the universe back in 1984, or did we merely create a metaphoric pimple on the universe’s butt? I sit here and watch my Apple stock float around the low-30s, hanging around that price range like a lovesick ghost haunting his corporeal lover. As I am wont to do, such thoughts of insignificance well up from the damp, dark recesses of my fevered brain, try as I might to suppress them. I sometimes wish that there was something I could personally do to cure this plateau that Apple and the Mac community has apparently reached, granted that it is a Jobs-orchestrated lull, as we rest from our collective iMac-inspired blush of an experience. Not yet cooled off from our iMac afterglow, we eagerly await the next orgasmic wave of excitement generated by whatever goodies Jonathan Ive and the other Cupertino elves have in store of us. (I know I’m mixing metaphors here like a mutha, but leave me be; I’m in a funk, remember? Grammatical gaffes should be forgiven….)

Anyway… still, I am in a funk…

I was dreaming when I wrote this;
Forgive me if it goes astray…

“If you’re not a liberal by age 20, you have no heart…
“If you’re not a conservative by age 40, you have no brain…”
– Someone said it

As I write this, I listen randomly to selections from my audio CD collection that consists of a decidedly eclectic blend of music: Jon Gibson (a white Christian singer who sounds achingly similar to his idol Stevie Wonder); Christian rock star Carman; tragic rapper Tupac Shakur, whose music I hardly ever listened to before his unsympathetic death; and the voluminous recordings of Prince, whose work I view with the same awe that a classical enthusiast would probably regard the works of, say, Beethoven. As I listened to Prince’s synthesis of rock/rap and salvation/sex, I began to realize that my musical tastes probably do fit the stereotypical profile of a Mac user, in a PC user’s eyes, anyway. Each of the above-mentioned musicians that I admire have been labeled “different” and “liberal” by their contemporaries.

  • Traditional Christians don’t like the fact that Jon Gibson reveres “black” Gospel music and actually embraces it to the extent that his own music has given more spiritually significant meaning to the term “blue-eyed soul” (with apologies to Darryl Hall and John Oates).
  • Carman faces the same problems as Jon Gibson, even though his popularity is phenomenal: his music reflects an unabashed earthiness to it; it appears to pulse to the beat of the streets. And we all know that earthiness is considered sinful and liberal.
  • And nearly everyone knows why the Artist Formerly Known as Prince wouldn’t be invited to perform at any church, while he is lauded as a modern-day Mozart (the guy plays 27 instruments!). He’s a self-taught virtuoso. A Wunderkind. An auto-didact.

Reminds you of the Mac, doesn’t it? Apple has racked up nearly every award that can be given to a technology company, but many people still do not treat the Mac as a serious computer

If you agree with everything I say, then you’re not thinking…

Many people even go so far as saying that the Mac is a liberal computer (the implied thought being that Liberal is wrong). I’ve often thought of the Mac as a liberal computer myself. Until I started rubbing elbows with a wider variety of Mac users.

Maybe certain, um, artsy types of people are attracted to the “personality” of the Mac and choose the platform out of ideological reasoning. This reminds me of one of my sales pitches – if the customer looks accepting of fun and games, I will ask him how would he like for me to sale the Mac to him: with an emotion-laden argument, a psychological argument, a theological argument, or a political argument). In other words, they see the Mac as a liberal computer, and since they are considered liberals, it’s a perfect match.

But I’ve seen the light. I see that labels don’t mean a damn thing.

Sure there are many people who choose the Mac because they are left-brained romantics (or is that right-brained?), but I’m seeing that just as many buy Macs after their right-brained analysis (or is that left-brained?) removes any doubt that the Mac is superior to Wintel PC.

We spend most of our waking hours attaching labels to others, whether consciously or not. And many spend time labeling us. When are we going to learn that the label isn’t what defines the person? When are we going to learn that labeling limits a person? When are we going to learn that the human individual is too complex a being to be put into the neat and tidy box that ideological labels imply?

When will the Mac and its users finally escape its “wacko” stereotype cast?

Alas and alack

“I pledge allegiance to the Mac
of Apple Computer Incorporated,
and to the developers
for which it stands,
one platform,
under Jobs,
with creativity and multimedia for all.”

Maybe the day is coming soon. Maybe the true goal of Apple’s “Think Different” scheme is designed to address the lion’s share of what I’ve just rambled about. Maybe Apple’s goal, under Steve Jobs, is to show that being a “liberal computer” isn’t such a bad thing after all. If the Mac symbolizes the liberal ideology, then Windows and the Wintel PC represent the Conservative zeitgeist: conformity, sameness, and that corporate IS mantra known as “standardization.”

Today’s company has to be able to operate on more than one front, from more than one paradigm. They talk about the market deciding which products succeed and which deo not. Well how about allowing more choice? People want choice. And the challenges facing the Wintel world attest to this: Linux. Darwin. OS X. The downfall of and backlash against Micro$oft.

Maybe my funk is about to end. Maybe the computing gatekeepers are about to “get religion,” whether they want to or not. The religion of computing liberalism. After all, isn’t more better? More options? More choice?

And what I remember from high school, freedom of choice is the American way, right?

Rodney O. Lain, a former university English and journalism instructor, works full-time as a software developer and works part-time at a local CompUSA Apple Store Within A Store. A card-carrying member of the local Macintosh User Group Mini’app’les, Rodney writes this column exclusively for theimac.com. His greatest desire is to become an African-American Guy Kawasaki. A self-professed “workaholic writer,” he waxes prolifically about race, religion, and the “right OS” at “Free Your Mind & Your Behind Will Follow”, his unabashedly pro-Mac website. When he’s not cranking out his column, he collects John Byrne comic books, jogs, and attempts to complete his first novel. He lives in Eagan, Minnesota, a southern suburb of St. Paul.

This article was originally published on The iMac.com, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by RAC Enterprises, which also seems to no longer exist. It is thus reprinted here without permission (which we would gladly obtain if possible). Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

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