Updated: October 17, 2012
Planet Earth is small, they say. What they mean is, people are small. On the inside, in their little heads, where they harbor illusions of greatness, or as our friends over at Encyclopedia Dramatica like to say, they happen to be suffering from a classic case of Unwarranted Self Importance (USI). Today, I want to demonstrate.
And I shall be demonstrating in a very unusual way. In fact, I will use Justin Bieber, a boy who makes music and means nothing to me, to show you that you really need to step off the pomp pedestal and reexamine the values and priorities in your life. P.S. If you happen to have stumbled upon this article by accident, happen to be madly in love with said singer and you feel like I am going to shatter your meaning of life in this article, relax, I could not possibly care about your teenage idol, and promptly piss off. Now, for those of you with some semblance of intelligence, please join me for the most philosophical dissertation you will ever read.
Justin is a singer. Most of his fans probably do not know that he comes from the American northernmost colony, Canada. The boy may or may not be talented, this writer will never know. What is apparent is that he has gained enormous fame, or rather spotlight. It is not well known whether his fame is anti-fame. Much like physics, discovering anti-particles is tricky, and at first glance, they look identical, and you need all kinds of experiments to determine that.
Justin seems to be popular. His videos are among the top viewed items on Youtube. although a challenger appears. The best one, which I shall not be linking to here for obvious reasons, has some 770 million views. That's a fairly large number and should impress many as an ultimate proof of success and quality. Which would be making the wrong conclusion, since you can also attribute fame and popularity to famous historical personas like Stalin. Not that he was a singer. Or maybe he was. In any case, I'm sure he would have been a golden one, had the Soviet propaganda machine, read Stalin, decided it should be that way. What you need to remember, for the sake of this social experiment, is that Justin is quite popular, and his videos are highly viewed on Youtube. That's what we need for now. Ignore Gangnam Style for now, please.
Enter Haris Dzinovic ...
Haris Dzinovic is a singer, too. And you have probably never heard of him, because the world ends somewhere near the west coast of California. That is fine. You really need not feel ashamed for your lack of familiarity with Balkan music. Haris Dzinovic sports a mean mustache, a prototype pair fit for any Tarantino movie. He is also a highly talented musician, with a very decent voice. However, his quality as an artist is not important here. Neither is his fame, mostly far away from areas where Justin rules supreme.
What is important is the effort:success ratio, which we will soon discuss. Haris has been active since 1975, which is longer than Madonna. That's 37 years and counting, and this dude smokes more than a chimney of a coal factory in Liaoning province in China. He has been most popular with the local market, in and around the Balkans, plus among the expats living abroad. And much like Justin, he has his share of video clips uploaded to Youtube.
His most popular clip has garnered some 14.5 million views, not an impressive number when pitted against 770 million for the most viewed Justin's clip. But I do not want to focus on his most viewed piece. I want to focus on a different one, a TV-to-VHS-to-digital 1989 video uploaded by some fan to Youtube (alas, deleted).
This one had a meager 1.5 million views, but then, you need to take into account the fact that this video was created long before WWW, long before Youtube, long before anything modern and cool. It was probably filmed in about 20 minutes, ad-hoc all the way, with a total production cost being the sum of food and drinks and cigarettes consumed in the clip. The advertisement for this clip also cost about the same.
In other words, this was a baby lamb unleashed unto the world and let be, on its own. However, 23 years on, the clip is still very much alive, and has been viewed, this one particular instance, by an approx. 7-8% of the population that speaks Haris' language and can pronounce his name without stammering.
What are you trying to say?
Justin, may he enjoy success or whatever, has an army of producers, editors, marketing people behind him, pumping tens of millions dollars into production and advertising. The campaign behind his work is staggering in every sense. And yet, despite this, his video clip has been seen only 770 million times, most of it by haters who could not resist coming and posting their little expletives in every language, inadvertently adding to his fame. To say nothing of the splendid video rating, 1.3 million likes against 2.8 million dislikes. How awesome.
You can also go as far as comparing the actual vocals, the quality of music, in addition to money and the combined force of the American media wielding its hammer about. While on the far end of the spectrum, you have a 60-year old guy with cowboy mustache, zero-cost music and stellar performance, forged with a cigarette end clasped firmly between the lips. Does that not shed some light on your perspective of things?
Now, the punchline
This brings me out of the music hall into real life. You can now safely project the analogy above to how different people perceive technology in relation to their needs. This brings me to the fact that in most countries worldwide, where people earn in any given month less than the price of a new Android or iPhone, the necessity for shiny apps and the ability to check the price of movie tickets online at any given moment is probably less acute.
When someone say that smartphones and tablets are the future, not only are they ignoring the actual physics and ergonomics of computing, but we can forgive them that, average people are so easily swayed by novel ideas, like touchscreen devices and fascism and suchlike, they are also ignoring the bulk of this world, for whom, practicality comes BEFORE trends. You see, you can enjoy a smartphone, but most people who do that also happen to enjoy a lot of other things, like a high level of quality of life and a plenty of ignorance. For the rest, they will use tools that work and cost less, because money is needed for more important, vital things, like food.
Of course, the sad reality is, people who ought to be reading this will not understand this, either because they cannot operate the search engine due to unpaired chromosomes or because the article is way too long for their intellectual capacity in one go. And those who do, well they are most likely cynical geeks like me, so it's all fun. You cannot read the world oligophrenia without chuckling. And here it is - the truth.
This article may be too subtle for most people, and I'm afraid the message will be lost, but some of you will get it, after all. The message is universal, and it applies to everything. However, it's most easily evident in the torrents of quasi-technological dross flooding the Internet, revolving around senseless and sensational snippets of verbal diarrhea portraying social media, touch capability and constant network connectivity as new concepts that somehow change the world in a miraculous way. We've had touch for several thousand years, suck it.
If only things were taken in proportion and the right perspective, it would be so much easier to enjoy the Web. However, you should not perceive me as an old, bitter man who despises progress. Oh, no. Not at all. I am all for progress. But this implies improved efficiency, right. And such like. See my Windows 8 article for an explanation. Meanwhile, I will appear skeptic and negative until such time comes when technology will be able to truly assist me in daily chores. For example, why is there no app that tells me where stupid people are, so I can avoid them? Why is there no app that electrocutes people who misspell your and you are? Where is the program to vanish people who drive hybrid cars? Where is the program to shut parents talking about their mediocre kids?
You see, when I sum the great achievements of the human race in the past 100 or so years, I am mightily pleased by the internal combustion engine, electricity, antibiotics, radio, TV, Internet, that was in 1970, nuclear power, space flight, DNA discovery, y'know the big ones. Do you mean to tell me that iPhone rivals all those combined? Really? Amazing. Apps vs. Polio, you know the winner. Fukushima disaster? Please, how dare you compare than to a two-hour Facebook outage? How dare you? Yup, it's all about the right perspective.
That's for me. For you, meanwhile, enjoy your new-found taste in music.
P.S. Star image, courtesy of nasa.gov.