This month, a technological visionary, Steve Jobs, died. I don’t think most of us were shocked. He was very sick. The company was obviously making plans. It is sad whenever, lately, anyone loses their battle with cancer, because ironically, there is a doctor – also an innovator – who has figured out how to cure it.

Last year, another visionary died. His name was Howard Zinn. I know…you’ve never heard of him. He was a professor of history at Boston University for most of his life. More importantly, he wrote a book called “The People’s History of the United States.” It chronicles the history of not the wealthy, not the celebrity, and not the innovative – but the oppressed. From the black slaves of the Antebellum south to the first American factory workers to Hawaiian subjects of the state to Union Fruit Cuba, Howard Zinn’s books dare to tell the story of the exploited working Joe. Zinn made this his life work.

Which is why, when Prof. Zinn passed last year, it came to great surprise to his followers there was barely a blip, nary a mention, hardly a Facebook wave of sympathy or mourning. The world – the newly enraged 99%, the working man – just last year did not seem to care about their own history, their own future, their own misery, or their own champion. The day I posted about Zinn’s death, I even got a few hardcore redneck patriots telling me what a commie liar he was. Nice.

Fast forward one year, and we are at the Occupy Movement. We’re writing a lot about it right now because well…I’m a musician and I’ve noticed that half of my Facebook feed is taken up by musicians who are now suddenly a part of this movement. The other half have an opinion of it. Some favorable, some not. So in some way, it must be important to those of us who are musicians and singers. Maybe it’s that that we are used to feeling oppressed and under appreciated. Some people will argue that we’re spoiled (you know what I’m going to say about that – high on crack.)

I imagine that Zinn looks down on us now and wonders what took us so long – how a complete history of our country’s oppressed would go unnoticed – and here’s the part you’re going to hate – while we toyed with our computers, and our phones, and our TVs and our iPods. Designed by the REAL visionaries. Who gave us this amazing world in which to immerse ourselves every day, while the powerful destroy us, divide us, starve us and steal everything we spend our lives working for. I will admit to also having been suckered. I’ve spent the better part of my life goofing off in recording studios using that same technology to make music I love. I’ve been there.

Man has for a long time seen technology as it’s one true God. From the development of stone tools, to fire, electricity, the coal engine, the combustion engine, and the internet. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not blaming Steve Jobs for our misfortunes. He was truly a guy trying to be his best and deliver the world innovation. And for that, I admire him. Even though I do think people have taken the admiration a little far.

Because when we lose ourselves in innovation, we end up here. Where we are right now. In a system that has devalued people to the point that in certain places in the world, people eat dirt cakes to survive.

Essentially, we strip ourselves of power, by handing it over to the innovators. And we have to hope with all our might that what they gain – the lion’s share of our incomes, the direction of our societies, the distraction of our attention – is really worth what we’ll give up. Not only during our lifetimes, but for future generations.

It seems, that at this particular crossroads of human history, we need to start deciding where to balance these things.  We need some humanity mixed with our technology to make sure that people don’t lose track of what’s really important.

So, RIP Steve Jobs. You did, without a doubt, fulfill your potential as the ultimate technological visionary. I hope that you and Howard Zinn are out there somewhere having an intense conversation about how the work you both did could possibly inspire people to change this planet for the better. And I hope that it does.

After all, it would be really silly to be the species who invented some of the coolest modern gadgets on the planet, but starved to death a mere 100 years later because we could not get a grip on the food supply or pollution or energy consumption.

For those of you tired of hearing about all this political nonsense – don’t worry. We’re going back to fiddling while Rome burns next week. Because…well…for some of us…

It’s our job.

Originally posted 2011-10-25 21:31:20.