I’ll admit it – I’m a gadget geek. I read Engadget way more than is necessary and yes, I have an iPhone 4S and can tell you without even looking that it has an A5 processor, same as in the iPad 2, and a better camera than the iPhone 4 (8 MP v. 5 and HD video too!), both of which are better reasons to buy over the regular iPhone 4 than the gimmicky Siri voice assistant that Apple keeps running ads for. I read most of my books these days on the Kindle app. I have multiple styli for my iPad2. I have a DSLR. I fawn over slick and shiny. I have to slow down any time I pass a Best Buy, even those Best Buy vending machines at the airport. I always want to see what is new. I did 90% of my Christmas shopping online and I try out new apps regularly. But I also call myself a Christian and consider myself to be fairly up on matters of social justice.
So this article troubled me – 150 workers at Foxconn (the manufacturers of many Apple, HP and Kindle products) threatened to commit suicide due to unfair wages and intolerable working conditions. This is after a wave of suicides (18 attempted, 14 died) last year at Foxconn for similar complaints. I think the negotiations worked because the threat was real. And obviously the attention of the media is squarely on the company to ensure that conditions improve, but I wonder why the demand side of the equation isn’t considered — namely, me. I wonder why I feel so detached from this situation. I understand that I’m physically very detached, and that I exercised great obliviousness when purchasing my products. After all, I was just trusting Apple had made these products well and ethically. Well, I don’t know that I was thinking ethically at the time. I just wanted the iPhone. Would it matter if my iPhone was made with ethical practices? Isn’t that the same question I’m asking of my coffee and chicken lately?
This is a strange thought process to have, but don’t you think it’s strange that we want capitalism to be ethical? Is that too much to ask? And then, ultimately, it seems that all I can do is ask…as the end user, how would I really know if Foxconn did treat their employees with fairness? I’m not going to go to their factories and check if they are truly fair. But this is the problem with global capitalism to begin with, we are so limited in our decision making process that ultimately we have very little influence on how something is created. Whether it’s human trafficking or child labor, the odds are that we contribute to some aspect of these things by consumption. The global economy, our banks, our retirement funds, and certainly our blind purchases support, even create the demand for these practices to be born. After all, if corners can be cut in a production process, there’s just too much incentive to do so when money is the name of the game.
But ignorance can’t be an excuse once you know there is something wrong. The question is what do you do with the knowledge once you know? What do you then?
So should I consider fasting from my technolust? Would you? What’s a Christian gadget geek to do?