is it worth it?

From “Meet Dr. Freud,” New Yorker, January 10, 2011:

In recent months, there have been signs that the pressure [in China] is greater than anyone imagined. Last January, a nineteen-year-old named Ma Xiangqian jumped from the roof of his factory dorm at Foxconn Technology, where he had worked seven nights a week, eleven hours at a stretch, making electronic parts, before being demoted to cleaning toilets. In the months after Ma’s death, ten other workers committed suicide at Foxconn factories, which make iPhones and other products.”

Seven nights a week?

Eleven hours in a row?

Apparently this isn’t that unusual in Chinese manufacturing.

A paragraph later:

Foxconn wasn’t ‘any different from any of the other big companies who are doing the same thing’. . .Beyond the drudgery of the assembly line, workers in their teens, or barely out of them, were struggling to live far from home, save money, meet spouses, and educate themselves in their time off, all under the eye of a state with no organized outlet for complaint.”

Meanwhile, our (American) children underperform in high schools and colleges, delay getting married and having families, and take on student loans they not only have no idea how they are going to pay off, but don’t really care.

This, my friends, is why they’re “eating our lunch.”

p.s. I still want an iPhone, but now would feel guilty about buying one. As if I need another reason to feel guilty. But look how pretty it is.


7 Responses to “is it worth it?”

  1. February 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    It does seem to be a terrible indulgence. If we didn’t buy them and they didn’t make them would those people be better off? Or would the evil take on another form?

  2. February 27, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Your decision to buy an I-Phone or any imported product should be separate from the example that you gave on your blog post. While I would prefer to purchase products from companies which are partially motivated by altruism, I have the understanding that this is often not possible.

    • February 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

      Is it really separate? I’m not even talking about altruism — I’m talking about a person’s right to have a life other than working. How much do you suppose these factory employees are earning in an 11-hour day? And compared to Apple’s profit margin per iPhone? This just isn’t right on many levels, and I’m not sure I want to be an accomplice to it.

  3. 4 Suz.
    February 27, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Get a Droid. And don’t read anything about where they’re made. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

  4. 6 Raven
    February 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    America, Made in China. I have an iPhone 3G. I didn’t buy it. In fact, I’ve never paid for my own cell phone (I’ve owned two), I just have a generous friend who wants me able to call in emergencies and to be free to talk to on his family plan. However, I’m still culpable in this cycle. I took a course at the UW titled “Global Asia” that looked at countries of the Asian continent in the view of globalization. One of the assigned texts–one I’m recommending, if you’re interested in further study on the topic–was a book titled, “Made in China: Women Factory Workers in a Global Workplace” by Pun Ngai, which details her participatory observation exercise in researching a factory that made gadgets like my iPhone.

    Is the iPhone worth it? No gadget is worth the suffering of thousands of people, yet here I am, typing on a laptop and sitting next to a cell phone, both of which have contributed to suffering, pollution and a toxic “designed for the dump” way of business. What really disturbed me after reading your post, though, was looking up Pun Ngai’s book, and finding on Amazon books with titles such as, “Made in China: What Western Managers Can Learn from Trailblazing Chinese Entrepreneurs.” Maybe it’s not as bad as I’m imagining and I’m too quick to judge by the title, but aren’t we having enough trouble with big business in the U.S. without turning to places where 11 hour work days, seven days a week are an acceptable norm?

  5. March 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    I was actually thinking about the issue of how the things I use every day are made, just last night. I eventually curled into a ball in my bed, wondering what sort of life would be left if I stopped contributing in any way to the world’s injustices — and could I actually live that life?

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