Mixed Feelings

I have mixed feelings on the pod cast, This American Life episode #454 “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory.” Because I am an East Asian Studies minor and have been exposed numerous times to the terrors of Chinese factory workers, it should have been less shocking to hear of Mr. Daisey’s encounter with the merciless Chinese factories. It is unsettling to say, but I had almost become apathetic to the issue of child labor due to the countless times it had been discussed in the classroom. However, Mr. Daisey’s various discussions with factory workers and his detailed description of the factory itself has deepened my knowledge of this issue and I now have an in depth, personal image of what these conditions are truly like. Newspaper articles, coverage on the news, neither of these outlets does justice to the immense problem of child labor in China. I may have been indifferent before, however the way in which each character of Mr. Daisey’s episode was given a voice, made child labor a more chilling and personal concern.

Mr. Daisey’s story is extremely powerful, because it does not skirt around the subject matter; he is quite clear that child labor in Foxconn is real, and it must be made public. One specific story that really resonated with me was describing Mr. Daisey’s encounter with a man who’s hand had been crushed during work, in where he was unable to receive medical attention, therefore his hand was never able to heal properly. He was soon after fired for his inability to complete his work dutifully, and asked to leave the Foxconn factory (somewhat a blessing); he then began work at a wood factory. He explains to Mr. Daisey he formerly assembled iPad’s however, had never seen one powered on. The amazement that Mr. Daisey describes upon pulling his iPad out and watching this man glow in the magic of a moving screen was unsettling. These factory workers slave for hours within an inhuman environment; and they fear so much as to press power to their final project. 

I will admit, as I sit here writing this response on my MacBook Pro, text messaging a peer regarding lunch later today, planning a trip to the gym using my iPod Touch, I have fallen victim to the Apple era. However, I never felt Apple, a company with a somewhat pristine reputation, would be the type to succumb to child labor for a larger profit. But here I am, proven wrong. Americans throughout the country are probably aware of these child labor issues however; they continue to develop their Apple collection. The unfortunate truth is that, although this pod cast vividly details the harsh reality of factories overseas, the demand for Apple products will not cease. Americans thirst for the next ‘big thing’, their immobilizing need for the best has overshadowed their ‘behind the scene’ concern.

My initial question after responding to this pod cast would be if I myself will boycott the Apple product after hearing of these conditions in China? They truly go against everything that I stand for; I would not tolerate the idea if these factory conditions if they were going on within the United States. Hoewever, because these factories are overseas, I feel so far removed from the cause. My second question follows; is Foxconn planning to make any reforms to the way in which they treat their employees? I would only hope that something is being changed (besides nets to minimize suicide attempts) within the walls of the Foxconn factories. And my final question; after scanning over Apple’s response to the episode, do they plan to actually follow through with these reform promises or will they sweep these concerns under the bus? Just like the rest of us – loyal, Apple consumers have done.


3 responses to “Mixed Feelings

  1. I agree with you that the stories of factory conditions in china are horrible, however at the same time I wonder to what extent Mr. Daisey was dramatizing the events he witnessed. Also I wonder if he got a truly representative sample of the population. At the end of the pod cast they mention some of the fact checking the radio station did on Mr. Daiseys story, and it seems that some of his statistics were off, and that people like the man who had his hand crushed generally are able to receive compensation for their injuries. Then again, I feel like information in that area is so hard to obtain, you can never really know which facts are true, and which aren’t.

  2. I agree, Mr. Daisy could be dramatizing the events he witnessed, and this man could have received compensation for his injury – but this could also be another way in which Apple is cleaning up the metaphorical “mess” that Mr. Daisey has created with his episode. It makes you think – they are an extremely successful and powerful company, it would be easy to cover their tracks by having sources question Mr. Daisey’s encounters. However, you do raise a good point. It is difficult to tell who in this story is telling the solid truth; there are always two sides!

  3. I faced many similar questions at the conclusion of the podcast. The conditions in these factories are against my beliefs as well, and a boycott of products made there would seem like a logical way to take a personal stance. However, I cannot even bare the thought of parting with my Apple products. I have fallen victim to the out of sight out of mind mentality and have become so reliant on products made under conditions that I do not agree with. I too found myself moved by the story of the man who had spent so much time producing iPads but was in pure amazement when he saw one up and running for the first time. I cannot imagine dedicating so much time to constructing something and never having the opportunity to experience the end product.

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