Tag Archives: Shenzhen

Jason DeRulo Talks Dirty to Me

I actually got to meet Jason DeRulo after the concert last week– we talked ethics for a hot sec.

Do you think your goal as an artist is to be the most profitable tour or to express yourself and bring the most joy to your fans? Continue reading Jason DeRulo Talks Dirty to Me

Globalization: responsible for problems, opportunities or both?

People from all over China come to Shenzen to find employment opportunities. As harsh as the conditions are in factories, thousands of people are still waiting and wanting to get jobs from them. But why? Continue reading Globalization: responsible for problems, opportunities or both?

Creative Reporting Tactics

“Mr. Daisey and Apple” was one of the most interesting podcasts I have ever listened to (aside from being the only podcast I’ve ever listened to…). Continue reading Creative Reporting Tactics

“Because I think it made you care”

I empathize with Ira Glass’ in his anger toward Mike Daisey.  The Mike Daisey mishap is an embarrassment to This American Life.  Ira Glass and producer Brian Reed both vouched for the validity of a story that turned out to be false.  T.A.L. was arguably justified in retracting the radio show for its journalistic errors.  The issue, however, is that Mike Daisey is not necessarily a journalist.  Mike Daisey is an actor, or a type of activist.  He stated, “My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret is that I had it on your show as journalism and it’s not journalism. It’s theater. I use the tools of theater and memoir to achieve its dramatic arc and of that arc and of that work I am very proud because I think it made you care, Ira, and I think it made you want to delve.”  Though he does so retroactively, this quote has great importance.  It is less important to me as to whether Mike Daisey thinks his work is journalism or art.  What is important to me is the goal of the ‘act’ in Daiseys mind.  Daisey goes on to talk about how his fabrications were woven into his narrative of his trip to China because people had lost interest in the Foxconn scandal.  This is taking his apology to be truth, which I am hesitant to do.  “[…]And he says that made a strong impression on him, seeing the coverage vanish like that, seeing people suddenly not interested in the workers there anymore[…]And he wanted to make a monologue that would make people care. That was his goal.”

Continue reading “Because I think it made you care”

Becoming the Machine

The overwhelming feelings of sadness, guilt, helplessness, and ignorance will almost certainly follow a story like the one told by Mr. Daisey regarding his visit to FOXCONN. How can Apple executives (and many other companies) let these conditions persist while maintaining consistently high profit margins? Perhaps, like Kathy, they have convinced themselves that the workers’ experience is an experience that too far disconnected from their own as to be compared to that of someone who is mentally ill. It is impossible for many to judge how it feels to be in a workers’ position, and so it is similarly impossible to empathize. To be able to trully understand transcends the ability to conduct everyday business, and is in many ways counterproductive. Also saddening, is the realization that we too are trapped in a society where it is no longer possible to be detached from our “machines” while maintaining a standard of living. Go ahead. Stop buying phones and computers.

So, It seems that we are all guilty of being complacent. While these conditions continue, we collectively nurture a social pressure to buy and use Apple products. Meanwhile, any story of the horrors that we have helped cause must be repressed. This is not the first time I have heard that FOXCONN employees attempt to commit suicide, yet I have largely just repressed any thought of it. It is too harsh, too ugly, and too foreign for many of us to ponder often. It is horrible, yet true, and we are all guilty.

Despite this knowledge, it seems that we have no choice. Similar to the dystopian society in 1984, most of us would suffer immensely if we tried to give up all of the bits and pieces of technology that we have acquired. It is a part of us, and we are a part of it. In this way we are slowly becoming the machine; an economic machine that encourages blind purchasing, complete with physical devices that break down real connection.

At this very moment, I am typing thoughts into a computer, instead of embracing the life that Socrates believed dialogue possessed. Ironically, I am contradicting the message that I may have been eluding to. Should I stop writing now? Should a passionate Apple fan refrain from buying the next big thing? I’d say probably yes to both, but we will ignore these things and continue on. More likely than not, we are preparing the future for a dystopian society in more ways than we can count, and this is a sad truth. If a radical solution were to exist, it would probably be ignored; repressed because incompatible with current society.

Got sweatshops?

What I really enjoyed about the podcast was the contrasting approach that it took to the subject by showing the horrible conditions that workers are subjected to but also exploring opinions that on the whole, the situation is positive and constantly improving.

The imagery used to portray the factory horrified and awed me at the same time. The efficiency with which the factory was organised showed the absolute dedication that the management showed towards maximizing production. It also showed the large disconnect between the management and the workers. The workers were definitely not viewed as stakeholders in the organization, but as being expendable, showed by the very high turnover rate for employees.  The spartan conditions in which the workers were accommodated showed how only the bare minimum, and only if it increased productivity, was provided. (for example, no seating is provided since it was discovered that standing increases productivity, even if that meant the worker would be standing for as many as 18 hours).

These closely guarded conditions from the factory are clearly not hidden from the authorities, as the cooperation between the Labor Bureau and the corporations shows. The reporter mentions that audits from private companies and state agencies do happen, but many times the corporations are warned ahead of time in order to prepare. Companies for example, would move their oldest employees for example when there was a inspection that might have discovered underage workers. The speaker then mentions that it is incredible how no one has actually figured out what is happening. My suspicion is that even the government employees (at least the high level ones) are aware of what is happening at the factory, but choose to ignore the issue, in favor perhaps, of the general economic wellness of China.

This brings to the point of the opposing argument, that the sweatshop industries are helping both the country as a whole and even the workers whose children will have a better chance due to the sacrifice of their parents. The situation, however dire it may seem, is seen as better than life working the rice paddies, and time, worker conditions will improve. My opinion is that the truth is somewhere in the middle-it would be counterproductive even to the Chinese workers to force companies to adopt the exact work practices that are followed in the United States, to the point where corporations will simply choose to relocate in another country. On the other hand, it has been showed, even by Apple’s internal reports, that applying more pressure on corporations to improve their practices will show results and that as consumers and authorities become more and more aware of the issues, regulations and customer demand will lead to improved conditions for the workers.

Know Your Company Before You Consume

Apple is a company that uses any edge it can to outsell their competitors. Apple’s products are serene and full of life. They contain elements that may not seem logical from a simple marketing standpoint, but make all the difference in the mind of a consumer. For instance, the Siri App answers questions and tasks in a coy manner– the user asks where Siri was made, and Siri responds “I am not allowed to say”, almost with attitude. These little things separate an iPhone from a Samsung Galaxy, which may superficially function in the same manner, but users may prefer an iPhone even when they can’t exactly say why.

The technology market is extremely competitve, to say the least. It seems that as soon as you purchase your technology (such as an iPhone), there is a newer iPhone released in the next month. The aspects and working parts of technology are so critical because technology is so rapidly growing. Technology companies have the critical role of convincing consumers that every little bit of technology makes their product better than the next. Apple uses this philosophy as the cornerstone of their operations, with advertising all the way through the packaging on their products. Apple is the product king– they are the best in their field in a field which has the highest demand for the marketing of products.

However, with Mike Daisey’s compelling tale of Shenzhen, we must always be aware of the other side– Apple may seem like a perfect company with innovative products, but they are also exploiting workers in sweatshops in China. Apple’s secrecy helps them to retain brand equity and this aura of perfection among their products. By doing so, consumers are more likely to turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of workers. The author’s prose-like comical style is intriguing to say the least, but nonetheless is very informative about China’s role in the technology sphere. He gives life and tells personable, relatable stories about the factories and the people there. This is an enlightening story because these stories and situations are often hidden among the operations of the companies we buy products from. Our biggest flaw as humans is that we don’t know what we don’t know, and Mike Daisey creates empathy with the audience to learn about something very important when discussing technology and consuming electronics.