I sit at my desk, listening to Mike Daisey’s unbelievable description a Foxconn factory in China, staring at my iPhone. With every word, I wince a bit more than with the last. All of a sudden his voice seems as if it is booming from my laptop at an incredible volume, but I am mesmerized and won’t allow myself to lower it. I am struck with the images of beds on top of beds on top of beds, piled to the ceiling. I imagine it like it’s a cartoon or a fairy tale. The more I try to picture actual beds stacked, the more I see the “Princess and the Pea” with her mattresses, or an old-school “Rugrats” memory. I am frustrated with the fact that this reality is so far from mine that I can’t even wrap my head around it.
Many things Daisey recounts affected me, but more than anything was silence of the factory. The “made by hand” label carries much more weight with me now. My iPhone was made by hand, painstakingly by hand. Someone else, another human being made my phone—not a machine. They layered in parts and wiped the screen on their pants. Once you know that, it’s impossible not to wonder about them. It’s impossible not to think who? I also have an iPad at home…was my iPad on the conveyor belt when the man Daisey described had his hand crushed? Is my iPad, which stays in a draw in my living room collecting dust really worth that man’s deformed hand? Is it worth his lost job? Is it worth his and his family’s suffering?
Human complexity is extraordinary. As the man stands there with a deformed hand, he is entranced with the iPad, “this thing that took his hand” and “he says ‘it’s a kind of magic’”. We all understand that feeling, because it is some sort of enchanting force fed by our selfish need for its minimalistic materialism. We are hypnotized by Apple’s charm, and it may even cost us our hands or our humanity.