parislemon: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I agree with parislemon’s general take on the targeting of Apple and labour: Apple isn’t alone, and we can’t ignore the role of local government in (not) regulating the state of affairs at Foxconn (or other large manufacturing) plants. This said, language like the following in unacceptable and intentionally uncritical:

 While this report brings such an issue to the forefront, similar pieces and stories surface quite frequently, actually. Guess what changes? Nothing. It’s shitty to say, but it’s the truth. And we all know it.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world that demands amazing technology delivered to us at low costs and at great speed. That world leads to Foxconn.

We say we care about the means by which the results are reached when we read stories such as this one. But then we forget. Or we chose not to remember. We buy things and we’re happy that they’re affordable. And then we buy more things. And more. With huge smiles on our faces. Without a care in the world.

In the above quotation, Siegler obfuscates the real role that our governments could have in shaping the supply chain. Imagine: if there were a requirement  that certain imported products (e.g. electronics) had to be certified to meet standardized ethical and human rights requirements. Would that increase the price of goods/prevent some from coming to market, initially? Certainly. As a result Chinese (and other foreign national) companies would dramatically increase labor standards because it would no longer be a competitive advantage to have such incredibly low standards. Prices would stabilize and we could buy iPhones, Blackberry devices, and the rest without sleepless nights.

What must happen, however, is that the West must see beyond itself. Citizens must recognize that they can shape the world, and refuse to just give up on the basis that change would threaten the existing, ethically bankrupt, neo-liberal economic practices that surround our lives. If the EU and North America refused to import ethically suspect electronics and gave significant preferential advantage to companies that were ethical in the production and disposal of goods, then significant change could occur.

It is our choice to adopt, or refuse, to enforce basic human rights in the economic supply chain. Technology – it’s production, usage, and disposal – is rife with ethical quandaries. We have to serious address them if we are to remedy intolerable behaviours the companies like Foxconn perpetuate.