Truthful or not, I think we can all agree that Mike Daisey’s performance is a call for action. In an introductory letter to a transcript adaptation of “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Daisey writes,
“This monologue has always had an activist component by its nature—it charges people to examine their lives, their roles in our economic realities, and take action within those frameworks… One should never doubt the power that comes from humans gathering together in a charged space.”
Daisey asked, Bucknell’s un/real and un/true asked, and now I ask myself: what can we do?
This question echoes Fran Hawthorne’s concerns regarding Apple’s extreme secrecy in Ethical Chic. Because Apple strategically controls the flow of information between business and consumer, the public is often kept in the dark about company practices, including the inadequate working conditions in Chinese manufacturing facilities like Foxconn. Much of the knowledge we have about Apple’s overseas operations come from Apple itself, who does not release any report without selectively filtering its content first. If corporations truly own themselves as Lynn Stout argues in The Shareholder Value Myth, Apple should be held responsible for its lack of transparency and its failure to provide basic labor protections for Chinese workers. And while Apple certainly has the most significant role in improving working conditions, it cannot resolve the issue on its own.
I believe it would take a large-scale revolution throughout all constituents of Apple’s network to reach any sort of solution. This means individual consumers, Apple employees, competing firms, labor unions, and government sectors must take corresponding actions geared toward the elimination of Apple’s unethical business practices. Daisey reiterates this need for collaboration in the excerpt above, stating that everyone can contribute in some way by creating change within their own “framework.”
Individual citizens, whether consumers or employees, can continue to raise public awareness of these issues and demand that Apple better its management of international operations. Other tech companies can further develop and promote their own acts of corporate social responsibility, encouraging Apple to do the same. Foxconn can improve its current standards of working conditions. Local Chinese governments can mandate higher standards, so that plants like Foxconn must comply. And Apple, at the center of the storm, has the influence that could ignite all these other changes by taking the first step and deciding to make a difference.
So, the question comes full circle again: what can we do? I like to believe that everyone has the power to do something… or nothing. Activism is a choice.