This looks really bad.
Shit. Me and the new Mac were just hitting our stride, I mean really getting in sync— iCloud, AirPlay, three, even four-finger multi-touch gestures, and then BAM! The New York Times takes a big fat dump all over everything. Thanks a lot, NYT. Now I know how Dick Cheney felt.
Chengdu, China. Chengdu, Chengdu, Chehhng-dooo. It even sounds like a place you’d wanna forget. I always imagined my Apple products coming from a gleaming, eco-conscious, handsomely designed factory that wasn’t actually a factory but a revolutionary workspace/retreat on an impeccably landscaped island somewhere where everyone walked around wearing futuristic, monochrome smocks and classic-yet-comfortable New Balance sneakers while listening to pre-electric Dylan and reading W.H. Auden on their custom-engraved iPads.
Instead they’re churned out by destitute migrant laborers at the same high-tech internment camp where Dells are made.
I feel like the wind was just kicked out of me.
These statistics are pretty gruesome. 72-hour work weeks, $1 per day, thousands of tiny on-site dormitories, 14 suicides in 2010 alone. Jesus. I remember that one time I worked a 60+ hour week. Our team was on deadline and “Cankle” Karen kept speaking up in meetings creating more work for everyone to do—“everyone” usually meaning “me.” Forget suicide, I’d end up locked away for murder.
Maybe it was all too good to be true. Maybe Apple’s pristine, hyper-manicured image was always the perfect distraction from the unseemly sausage making taking place just outside the frame. But now that the veil has been lifted, what am I supposed to do, exactly? Boycott? Protest outside of a painfully modern and aesthetically purified temple to American retail? Switch to Android? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Oh, iPhone. I love you most of all. “Designed by Apple in California,” you proudly proclaim; but then, as if muttering through an embarrassing blotch on your resume or dating history (It was the year after college!), a three-word admission: “Assembled in China.”
What was that you say? Tell us more!
And beautiful MacBook. How would I show my face at the local coffee shop without you? How could I display much-needed solidarity with the creatives and almost creatives and almost, almost creatives barely getting by on a Pinterest invite and a student membership to Lynda.com? What will bind us besides an affinity for blog-approved indie rock and an abundance of free time in the afternoon?
After all, this isn’t really an Apple problem, strictly speaking. Tim Cook says improving working conditions throughout the supply chain is a challenge faced by the entire industry. Compared to some other companies, Apple has been downright princely.
And, not to be crude, but have you taken a look at Apple’s stock price lately? Maybe it’s like Milton Friedman said in AP Economics: A company’s only responsibility is to increase its profits and return value to shareholders. The market, as they say, has spoken. Let the unseen hand take care of the rest. Or something.
Look, some of what has been reported in the news about what goes on at these factories is fucked up. There’s no use sugarcoating it. I would never want an underage or overworked person to suffer because of my own privileged lust for polished products. If Apple is the company I think it is, than ultimately it will push hard to rectify any such offenses committed on its behalf.
Steve Jobs, when he returned to save the company from collapse after 10 years in exile, was fond of saying that he believed the world was a better place with Apple in it. Today in Chengdu, China, I wonder if they would say the same.