If you take a look around Bucknell’s campus, the chances that you wouldn’t see someone staring intently at their bright and shiny new iPhone 6 or furiously pounding at the keyboards of their Macbook air are slim. But, granted, if you asked these same people whether or not they are aware of what kind of labor went behind those bright and shiny devices, what are the chances that most of them would have any idea? Also probably very slim. I admit, after listening to Mike Daisey’s The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs monologue, I too am guilty of this phenomena; the phenomena that is the blind devotion to any and all Apple products. The almost fanatical following and cult-like dedication that Apple has created as a company gives them the power in the realm of ethics to do as they please. They are well aware that people like me, people who constantly upgrade their Apple products year after year, aren’t sitting there and questioning how these products are made.
After listening to Mike Daisey and his trip to Foxconn, I was appalled to say the least. I was appalled that there were cafeterias that crammed upwards of 4,000 people into a single room. I was appalled that there was an epidemic of suicides at the plant and Foxconn’s response was to put up nets. I was appalled that Apple and Foxconn refused to speak out on the matter when asked. More importantly, I was appalled that as a society we see what we want to see and do not question it. If it is not a problem that affects us directly, it isn’t a pressing problem at all. It is easy to be exposed to all of this information and immediately point fingers of blame at Apple. However, the first to blame really should be ourselves for blindly purchasing products year after year and never stopping to question the conditions of those who make our products. The 15 year-olds who have sacrificed joints have disintegrated as a result of toxic screen cleaners just so we can make phone calls and send out our daily text messages.
In order to afford US citizens the right to just labor conditions and also avoid drastically cutting costs, companies have outsourced this problem to other countries. The podcast raises a good question; is it more grim for these workers to be subjected to these sweatshops or face unemployment? I really struggle with this question, not only because I am not sure how to answer it, but because of the fact that these are the only two options for people in factory-hub places like China. Unemployment or 16 hour days exposed to toxins and minimal breaks. As Daisey mentions, why can’t these companies give compensation for overtime? Or grant these workers the even more basic right of rotation shifts? The problem is that, in today’s society that is centered around efficiency and materialism, the profitability of a company triumphs over any basic human right. Low labor costs far surpasses the importance of morality. It is more than just offering outsourced labor the basic right of rotation shifts. It is about changing an entire nation’s mindset.