October 08, 2011
As I'm one of those "to the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth" tossers, here's Stephen Wright at Overland:
Our iPhones were made by real children. Really. Real children. Another human being really committed suicide because they couldn't tolerate another day making our fucking iPods. And so on. If I can look at my Apple product and not think 'Someone really suffered to make this' that’s because the Apple product itself has eclipsed the thought of the other in my mind; iPod, slave child - iPod wins every time.Here's Mr Daisey* himself, in the New York Times:
The American actor Mike Daisey recently toured Australia with his show The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Daisey, a long-time Apple geek, visited the Foxconn complex disguised as a US businessman, fake business cards and all...
Daisey points out that it was Apple’s choice to use Foxconn. Until the 90s Apple products were made in California. He also points out that the labour costs make up only a small part of the price of an Apple product. The production of Apple products by slaves isn't part of the natural order.
Apple, like the vast majority of the electronics industry, skirts labor laws by subcontracting all its manufacturing to companies like Foxconn, a firm made infamous for suicides at its plants, a worker dying after working a 34-hour shift, widespread beatings, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to meet high quotas set by tech companies like Apple.It's amusing, if not surprising, to note the gizmo-centric nature of the stoush at the Boings associated with the post about Mr Daisey's lèse-majesté, although some attention is paid to Apple's sweat-shop manufacturing and, to be fair, even Mr Daisey buries that lede. The ire directed in comments at those pointing out Apple's conformity to standard corporate behaviour brings to mind the longstanding joke that Apple consumers are better understood as a form of cult (I mean, seriously, kids - queueing for hours to score tickets to a rock show that might sell out featuring performers who may never visit again is one thing; doing so to be first to get consumer electronics that will retail in their millions, or at least until people stop buying them, is just fucking strange). I suppose no-one, least of all the glibertarian otakus who infest the threads at BoingBoing, wants to face the cognitive dissonance that comes with acknowledging your shiny new techno-bling is the product of sweatshop labour, or even that, at the end of the day, they're just things made by yet another massive transnational. (And, so I wonder, is Mark Frauenfelder's remembrance an example of the same, as he recounts a day spent, while making an ad for Apple, being treated with dismissive disregard by Apple staff, before revealing the punchline that Steve liked his bit best! Or is he just making the funny?) Hence their rage at being forced to note the global economic truisms, which, ironically, they'd give less of a shit about if they weren't so psychologically invested in the supposed transcendent coolness of the products.
I have traveled to southern China and interviewed workers employed in the production of electronics. I spoke with a man whose right hand was permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads. I showed him my iPad, and he gasped because he’d never seen one turned on. He stroked the screen and marveled at the icons sliding back and forth, the Apple attention to detail in every pixel. He told my translator, "It’s a kind of magic."
* the performance artist (update 17/3/12).