I jokingly tell my friends who use only Apple products, and look down upon my own use of Windows, and Android that they are communists, or support communism in some form. I say this mostly because of my own distaste for Apple products that want everything to be exactly like the next, and in turn every person exactly like the next. To an extent, this is true, but after hearing This American Life featuring a piece from Mike Daisey and his trip to Shenzhen’s Apple factories, it only strengthened my argument, and in turn my joke, to a more tangible level. Some of these things stated by Daisey, whether completely factual or slightly sensationalized, are incredible to hear. There’s something very human about not caring about an issue until it gets too close. It’s like we have created boundaries for everything from personal space to social interaction, and now we include one for world issues in the sense that we, I included, do not find many global discourses being demonstrated for me in my everyday life. I care about world hunger, poverty, and peace, but how much am I actually involved to the point where I truly understand the situation at hand? Daisey made a great point early in the recording when he stated people, in general, have no idea Shenzhen was where Apple products were produced, let alone a city at all. I think we find a certain degree of anonymity or mystery to be empowering, because we can use the leftover space to fill it with whatever picture we want. Only when a global problem gets pushed right through our “world issue boundary” does it show its true demeanor and paints a true picture of the situation.
The piece Daisey described that I found most surprising, confusing, interesting, and wonderous was when he explained how the worker at Foxconn had never seen an iPad, completed,and out in the real world before. This single example brought about a frenzy of my own thoughts. I was surprised to even hear that the man who helps to manufacture Apple products in bulk, has never experienced what an iPad feels like or is capable of. I was confused how this could be. How could Apple products being produced in China not even make it to the market in China? How has this not been addressed or changed over the years Apple has been in operation there? I googled the same issue to find the Chinese government has put a ban on most Apple products in the country, as part of a larger ban on American companies as a whole. I was interested in the type of feelings, thoughts, and emotions that were running through that worker’s head as he held the iPad and swiped the icons left and right. It had to have been a revelation; how else could it feel to see and touch something that one only views as a way of survival? I was wondering what else could be in the world that gives the exact reaction I received from that short part of the podcast. I once learned our knowledge is separated into three different sections; things we know, things we know we don’t know, and things we don’t know we don’t know. The last is the most interesting, and perhaps frightening, and this example moved from something I didn’t know I didn’t know to something I know I don’t know. I have no idea this type of interaction of business and humanity existed, and I still don’t know what it is. I may never know growing up and living in the part of the world we do, but that is something I can now cope with.
Continuing, major corporations today are often accused of Greenwashing; the act of showing sustainable business practices on the surface with little to no facts and examples to back up their claims. Some would see this as a practice Apple is employing today to make themselves more appealing to consumers and other companies. After all, Apple is always a company brought up as a “cool”, forward-thinking company, both terms synonymous with the sustainable business movement. I’d argue that they are not Greenwashing and are instead using the natural thought processes of the human mind to cloak themselves from the general public. As I said before, Daisey explains how almost no one knows the city of Shenzhen. Why would we? We have no true connection to the city or the factories. Daisey also mentions that people do not fully uncerstand that we could go to Shenzhen tomorrow and experience the world we all hate to hear about. It is not a far off, futuristic ideal from a sci-fi movie; it’s real and happening now. Apple could knowingly be using this “left over” space I talked about in the beginning of this post for the exact reason I am trying to convey. Or they could be going about business as usual, and it just so happens that this is how the world has worked itself out. We could not know for another few years, if at all. The global disconnect from the worker who had never seen an iPad powered on, and the fact that we as Americans in a mostly well-off society have no idea of that interaction, benefits Apple in the end. Just as the worker with the iPad says to Kathy, “It’s a kind of magic.”