I am unsure whether it is good or bad thing, but I have known about the use of child labor and sweat shops while making apple products for a while. The truth is that they aren’t the only ones. The US has an insatiable appetite for cheaper labor and the best possible deals on the products that we buy. I take part in this hysteria and get excited when I see 50% all winter clothes for the next month. I don’t really take a step back and think about why these clothes and products are so cheap and whose lives these savings are affecting. I think the real question is how much are you willing to change your life around to accommodate people who live thousands of miles away from us. I personally believe that buying most of my products from companies that ensure that the workers are being paid a fair wage is an important step towards creating a better future. But how far do we have to go? Do we need to examine the working situation ourselves and find out the workers are actually being treated fairly? I think that having some type of understanding of what is happening is good but acting upon it is another thing.
A perfect example of me failing to care about who I am affecting when buying a product occurred over the winter break. I was having troubles with my iPhone 4s and was looking to upgrade. I was frustrated that Apple made a product that broke after only two years because I had spent so much to acquire such a device. It was my first real smart phone and I purchased it thinking that it would help simplify and organize my life. I headed into the AT&T store with excitement streaming through my veins. I walked in and found one of my closest friends purchasing a new iPhone as well. We both spoke about how we would now be able to do so much more with our NEW phones. I couldn’t even wait for the salesman to unpack the phone before I tore it out and starting to play with all the different apps and updates to the phone. I began walking down to street to meet with a couple of my friends for lunch and to show off my new iPhone. They were just as excited for me and wanted to hear all about why I decided to upgrade. Not a moment passed when I stopped to think about why I really needed a new phone and where the money I paid for the phone was going. I just ran around like a kid in a candy store screaming about my new cool phone. What is wrong with me? Why did I never take a second to think about the hands that put together the phone that could lead to the destruction of their nerves and end the use of their hands?
The final point that truly hit home with me from the podcast was the US’s obsession with the idea that something is handmade. I loved to think that some craftsman who use years of apprenticeship and practice to perfect there craft makes all the best products. The reality of current “handmade” products is that human hands only make them because it is the cheapest possible way to make a product. This idea blows me away. After years of advancements in technology that increased efficiency and decreased costs, the cheapest way is still to have a human assemble the product. This puts the situation into perspective because it makes you realize how little the corporations must pay these people. The worse part is that China doesn’t even have the most corrupt and poorest working condition. Places like Korea and Bangladesh are now attempting to follow the Chinese by undercutting the cost of labor. This may be the quickest way to economic growth for many of these struggling third world countries, but it doesn’t mean the US can not attempt to place our standards upon their economies. Hopefully someday the majority of Americans and people purchasing these products will be able to understand the impact of their purchases. The truth is that until I can fathom my impact on other people’s lives, how can I expect other people to do the same.