Mr. Daisey’s podcast describing his experience as the Foxconn plant in China was both enlightening and frustrating. While I have always heard horror stories about the labor practices of companies like Apple or Nike, I have never been exposed to it in the form of a personal account with such detailed description and emotion. I think that this added human element really helps the listener sympathize with the people being affected by Foxconn and Apple’s negligence. In this way, I feel that the issue has been presented to me in a different way that allows me to develop a new appreciation for it. That being said, it also gave me a strong sense of frustration with respect to the issue. This frustration stems by my inability to make a change. Am I supposed to throw out all of the products that are made in factories with unfair labor practices and refuse to buy any more Apple products? Do I sacrifice my ability to function within my own society to save another? Am I, the American Consumer, the problem or is it a problem with China’s social institutions? Are Chinese and American societies inherently separate, or does our extensive economic partnership make our societies one in the same? Essentially, my conflicted emotions regarding the topic is based on my inability to determine where the true responsibility lies to solve these problems. Is it my job to protect China’s laborers or is the job of the Chinese people themselves?
I am not sure what the answers the these questions are, but I do know that something needs to be done. For me, the most moving part of this story was the part in which Mr. Daisey describes the recent trend of factory workers committing suicide due to the continued mental and physical stress associated with her work. If there was ever a trend like that developing a the General Motors factory in Detroit, it would be headline news across the country and the executives of GM would probably be held accountable. Unfortunately for the Chinese people, however, their society lacks the social institutions to protect them from greed and corruption and they are forced to work long, brutal hours under horrible conditions. But where is the incentive to change anything? The people capable of making changes in China are blinded by the immense growth they’ve experienced by partnering with American companies and the American business owners are distracted by their huge profit margins. The American public, as a whole, is overcome by a tidal wave of new technology and consumer goods that make life easier at a reasonable financial cost to even acknowledge the problem. This leaves the Chinese people themselves to fix the problem, but they are discouraged by the alternative of no work at all and suffer a lack of the social mobility needed to make a change.
I do believe that awareness is the first step to the solution. The more people who recognize the issue, the more people will be willing to do something about it. But the context our American, Chinese and global societies obscures our priorities and forces us to focus more on issues more likely to be found in People Magazine rather than issues that really matter.