I thought Mike Daisey’s conversational style in this excerpt from “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” bettered his narrative by creating a raw, personal environment for listeners. By revealing his findings in a story-telling way, Daisey was able to clearly communicate his experiences in the Chinese manufacturing plants as well as his personal opinions on the circumstances there. Yet although Daisey’s informal monologue was easy to understand, it did not make the content any easier to hear. As soon as he dove into his explanation of the Shenzhen city setting, I started to prepare myself for the harsh truths I was sure were coming. A while back, I can recall hearing of Apple’s massive Chinese production plants and the whirlwind rumors of their grueling working conditions. But like all news, these reports faded as time passed and better scandals arose. My fleeting awareness of this problem meant that Daisey’s vivid descriptions of the monstrous Foxconn facility came as a complete shock.
I cannot mentally picture what 430,000 people look like, let alone 430,000 people living and working under one industrial roof. To give myself a better sense of scale, I Googled “population 400,000” and learned after brief research that Foxconn’s labor force is roughly the same size as the city of Atlanta. Unfortunately, the reality is the same for most of them: exhausting 14, 15, and 16-hour shifts, poor air quality, dangerous machinery, exposure to harmful chemicals, overcrowded housing… and all for low pay. Their quality of life had become so inadequate that in 2010, twelve Foxconn employees committed suicide on-site. It is impossible for me to imagine a job that creates a life so exhausting and unsatisfactory that the only solution is to give up life itself. I was saddened to learn of the unforgiving conditions these people endured every single day.
I was also confused as to how this kind of unethical business could continue to be ignored. Why has no one said or done anything about this? It simply didn’t make sense. And then I remembered what Daisey had said about this seemingly collective lack of concern: “Do you really think Apple doesn’t know? Or are they just doing what we’re all doing? Do they just see what they want to see?” Apple doesn’t have to be held accountable for this corporate irresponsibility. By exporting production overseas, Apple and its loyal customers (myself included) have adopted an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. I don’t have an answer to the extensive list of problems at Foxconn and similar plants, but I do believe that providing all workers with “basic labor protections,” as Daisey states, would be a step in the right direction.