The Rodney O. Lain Archive

The Iconoclast: If You Agree With Everything I Write, Then You're Not Thinking

Rodney O. Lain - 1999.11.24

This article was originally published on MacSimple, a site which no longer exists. It is copyright 1999 by The Linton Media Company, 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.

[Note: After feedback from my boss and from MacSimple readers (you know who you are), I agreed that the label "Angry Mac Man" doesn't quite convey the image I desire, nor does it conform with MacSimple's mission - which I wholeheartedly embrace. Consult your dictionary, though, and I think you will agree that "iconoclast" is a more fitting title for this column. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming....]

Rarely do we find men [or women!] who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
 - Martin Luther King, Jr.

We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft has to lose.
 - Steve Jobs, August 1997

I wish there were a law that would require politicians to conduct themselves as follows:

Whenever a person from any particular political party is elected to high office, like, say, president, every other political party must be required from that point on to throw 100 percent of their support behind that elected official in order to fulfill the common good of "we, the people" (I hope our non-American readers will forgive me for quoting from one of our historical documents).

Now, this doesn't mean that legislators should disavow their ideology once their party loses an election. Actually, they should be encouraged to maintain their differing views, since theirs would be sorely needed, more than it was before.

This is applicable to Mac users. Read on....

Utopia is nowhere . . . no, really

The opposition is indispensable. A good statesman, like any sensible human being, always learns more from his opposition than from his fervent supporters.
 - Walter Lippmann

I am not a professional etymologist (one who studies the origins of words), but I own a dictionary. I remember once looking up the word "utopia," seeing that its original meaning is literally "no place." Maybe I should keep that in mind as I dream a world peopled with the aforementioned politicians, but I remain undaunted nevertheless....

A funny thing happened to me today at CompUSA. After doing my time, we were going through the motions of cleaning up the store. I was in my usual spot, the Apple section, trying to create order out of chaos. Nearby, I heard an argument between two of the younger sales people:

First salesman: "Man, you are crazy! A G4 will always beat a PC!

Second salesman: "Maybe at Photoshop or Illustrator. But, the Athlon is running at 733 megahertz."

I was feeling contrary, so I played devil's advocate with them. I told them - in more colorful, sailor-esque terms than I'd care to repeat - that both arguments were irrelevant and that they should dispense with their sophomoric pseudo-phallic comparisons, since both the Mac and the PC are good machines, not to mention the fact that neither person will dissuade the other. These two know me as the one who is always boostering the Mac at every opportunity, so I know they were probably surprised to hear me talk in such unbiased terms about burying the platform hatchet.

After that, they were both pretty cool, and I actually felt better than I would have after one-upping a PC user in a Mac/PC war of the words.

Imagine that.

I reminded myself of my namesake, who pled a few years ago, "Can we all just get along?"

"Getting along" is a laudable goal to strive for between historically at-odds groups, but should we aspire for a truce between the Mac and PC "world religions"? I think that we should - and I'm finding out that mine is not a lonely opinion.

Even if it were, it still shouldn't sound utopian....

Why Mac users should learn to use Windows

Hold your friends close . . . hold your enemies closer.
 - The Godfather

Love your enemies.
 - Jesus of Nazareth

One of the most interesting learning experiences of my life occurred when I started listening to Rush Limbaugh. Would you believe that I, at the time a self-professed "damned lib'rel," actually learned something from his show?

I was amazed. Now, I don't remember exactly what it was that I learned, but I remember that I did learn something. Subsequently, I began to do something that not too long ago, I would have considered a total waste of hard-earned money: I began to buy and read conservative writings.

In the past, I devoured only liberal scholarship like Alvin Toffler's The Third Wave (which I still consider a good read); today, however, my reading tastes have broadened to include works like David Horowitz's ideological-coming-of-age autobiography Radical Son - in which this former "hippy liberal" describes his epiphanic disillusionment with American liberalism after working closely with the infamous Black Panthers in the midst of their heyday.

I hasten to add that I don't just read conservative pundits, but I also read the "marginal" writers - arguably some of the greatest people you've never heard of.

On the computing side of things, I happen to spend more time nowadays learning tidbits about Windows. So should you. Here's why....

Heresy or sound advice?

With Ender, we have to strike a delicate balance. Isolate him enough that he remains creative - otherwise he'll adopt the system here and we'll lose him. At the same time, we need to make sure he keeps a strong ability to lead.
 - From Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

There are several reasons why you should learn some of the Windows basics. They're the same reasons why you should try to learn from your "enemies" or "ideological opposites":

  1. "When in Rome..." and we find ourselves strangers in Rome more than we'd like, eh? We should at least know how to speak the lingo of our "enemies."
  2. Opposing views emphasize where your view is correct.
  3. They point out where your view is incorrect.
  4. They help you to grow, by showing you #'s 2 and 3.
  5. They give you greater appreciation of your view (that the Mac is the ruler by which all personal computers should be measured).

Don't worry; I'm not going soft on you. I'm not selling out to Bill Gates. I still think Windows is an aberration. I still think the Mac would do more for the average person than any PC would, and I would still recommend a Mac over a PC. But, before you can win a person over, you have to understand that person. However, I'm not trying to encourage you to learn Windows in order to improve your techniques for converting Wintel acolytes to Macintosh users (though, that's not a bad idea). I'm encouraging you to learn Windows in order to understand the PC user and to accept the PC user. As Mac users, our fondest wish is for the Macintosh to be accepted into the greater PC community. In order for the Mac to be accepted, maybe we need to work first on getting the Mac user to be more accepting.

This isn't a change of tactic. It's a change of heart. I wonder how many people are turned off from Macintosh because they don't feel welcome into the Mac community? Maybe the Mac community needs that change of heart more than Apple needs a slick advertising campaign.

Don't you ever get tired of being an elitist? Don't you ever wonder what goes through a person's mind when we tell them, on one hand, that the Mac is the "computer for the rest of us," while on the other hand, they sense vibes of arrogance from us? These conflicting messages gives some people a major case of cognitive dissonance (a useless attempt to wrap one's mind around two opposing views).

Maybe it's time we stopped that. Maybe it's time we passed a law requiring Mac users to become kinder, gentler evangelists. Before you can persuade someone, you must show them that you understand them. Maybe these are aspects of "Think Different" that we need to ponder more often.

What do you think? Have I lost it, or have I finally started to mature in my Mac fanaticism?

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