Cause I said so, that’s why.

February 3, 2012 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

I’ll admit that as a good liberal/progressive, I’ve signed my share of online petitions over the years. But I’ve grown a bit weary as they come at you so hard and fast through every online avenue imaginable. And often with horrendous spelling.

However, I did come across two petitions from Change.org (one of the more reputable sources of online petitioning) that definitely hit home. They relate to Design and Daddyhood, respectively, so I’m setting up the soapbox here at the blog today.

CAUSE #1
The first is in response to reports of extremely unhealthy immoral conditions at Chinese factories producing Apple products such as the iPad and iPhone. I had initially heard about it on The Daily Show (the juicy part starts at around the 1:50 mark):


These atrocities have also been reported on by This American Life and CBS News. Why does this example of Chinese inhumanity bug me more than others? Because Apple has always touted itself as being different: mindful of the human condition, a friend of the misunderstood genius, and above all a responsible business. I won’t go into all the ways I’ve loved Apple over the years (you can read that here). But suffice it say that I — like any lifelong Mac user, as well as the legion of newcomers to the fold — have come to expect more.

Here’s the blurb I wrote to accompany my signature:
I’ve been using Apple products exclusively since 1990. All my computers, iPod, iPad, iPhone, even AppleTV. When Steve Jobs passed, I was heartbroken. His vision has inspired and motivated me my entire professional life. This is a blight on his memory and goes against everything Apple has ever stood for. Please remedy this immediately or risk losing your reason for existing — your loyal Mac Users.

Read more about the petition, as well as sign, comment and share by clicking the graphic below:

CAUSE #2
The second petition relates to the long, ongoing battle regarding same-sex marriage, specifically in my state of Maryland. A couple of times we’ve gotten close to becoming the 8th state/district to grant equal marriage rights to all its citizens, but alas have fallen short. The issue has been brought up again by our wonderfully supportive governor, Martin O’Malley, but it’s still going to be a long, arduous process. I implore you (especially you fellow Marylanders) to not only sign this petition, comment, and share it all over Facebook and Twitter, but to contact your local representative to voice your support for my family and many, many others like it who are second-class citizens in this particular area.

Comment posted with my signature:
My partner and I have been together for almost 15 years; more than half of that we’ve lived in Maryland; we’ve been fathers of a beautiful boy for the last 2 years. Please do all you can to help ensure our family gets all of the same rights and protections as every other citizen of this wonderful state!

Read more about this petition and sign, comment and share by clicking the graphic below:

Thanks for your time and support. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

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comments

One response to “Cause I said so, that’s why.”

  1. Mike Barnes says:

    re: foxxcom, i just read a rebuttle to this argument that makes a ton o sense: (links are lost, and this is from reddit http://www.reddit.com/r/SRSDiscussion/comments/p10x6/privilege_consumerism_and_the_lack_of_outrage/

    “In a poor country like ours, the alternative to low-paid jobs isn’t well-paid ones, it’s no jobs at all.”
    -Jesús Heroles, Fmr. Mexican Ambassador to the US

    I’m not going to lie, Foxconn doesn’t sound like a terribly fun place to work. That being said, it’s crucial to note that Foxconn employees are not slaves. Every employee is there of their own accord and is perfectly free to leave whenever they want (in fact, Foxconn has a 30-40% turnover rate). That’s critically important to realise. It’s important because the fact that someone would choose to work at Foxconn means that it’s better than any other option they have. Remember that for the vast majority of Foxconn workers, the alternative is farming rice in a country where there’s 1 tractor for every 200 farmers. It should be axiomatic that if a person is offered a choice, they will take the option that improves their life. Unless you’re of the opinion that all people to the East of the Himalayas are stricken with some kind of mass delusion, the fact that people are wilfully choosing to work at Foxconn should be indisputable evidence that Foxconn is having a positive effect on their lives.

    Which begs the question, “how do you explain the suicides?” Now, nobody is going to dispute that death at Foxconn, or any death for that matter, is a tradgedy, but it’s not quite as simple as “the people worked at Foxconn and committed suicide, therefore they did it because of Foxconn”. Whilst I certainly don’t presume to know what was going through a single employee’s head when they made their decision, it’s critical to note that the vast majority of the Foxconn suicides occured in 2010, when China was experiencing an economic slump, which would undoubtedly have affected the loved ones of many Foxconn workers. It’s impossible to have a sensible discussion of the subject without mentioning the considerable compensation payments that Foxconn made to the families (equivalent to almost six times income per capita) and the fact that suicides decreased drastically after Foxconn ceased the settlement payment. The evidence is circumstatial and the claim is bold, but let us not forget that desperate people make desperate choices. Finally, as politically incorrect and potentiall disrespectful as it may be to reduce a death to a “mere statistic”, intellectual honesty compells us to examine the suicide rate at Foxconn compared to that of China as a whole. In the worst year, 2010, fourteen Foxconn workers committed suicide. With 330,000 workers at the Shenzhen plant, this is a rate of 4.24 suicides per 100,000 workers. According the the WHO, this isn’t merely low by Chinese standards, it’s less than a third of the national suicide rate. In fact, Foxconn has a lower suicide rate than every single state in the USA, and if it were a country, would have one of the lowest suicide rates in the world according to the WHO figures.

    There’s a compelling logical argument to be made from the fact that almost one million people choose to work at Foxconn, and another to be made from the fact that taking a job there statistically decreases a Chinese worker’s risk of suicide by almost 70%, but for the most powerful material, one need look no further than what the manufacturing boom has done to the percentage of Chinese people in absolute “extreme poverty”. Nothing I’ve written above should be construed as an argument that Foxconn is a worker’s paradise, or that there isn’t more progress to be made, but as cynical as it may sound, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the expectation for Apple to be required to export two hundred years of industial and economic progress to China in less than a week is fanciful at best and dangerous at worst. But the simple fact is that while they are not on par with Western standards, and while they may not be for some time, the people of China have benefited immensely from the existence of Apple, Foxconn, and the like; and to label them as evil or malicious for this is nonsense of the blackest sort.

    At the end of the day, cheap labour is a vital, unskippable step in the economic development of a country. Shutting down Foxconn and the like condemns the people of China to a future of subsistence farming, poverty and starvation, and bolts shut the only door out of the dark. Forcing Western labour standards on Foxconn, even if it’s possible to do so without Apple deciding to return manufacturing the the US, only serves to create a small, unsustainable, priveleged labour class, whilst denying the opportunities of advancement to the rest of China, by preventing the establishment of a wider manufacturing base. Make no mistake, either alternative bodes little but unadulterated horror for the people of China, merely so that you and I don’t need to feel a twinge of guilt each time we place a phone call. I can’t even think of a more potent example of Western privelege.

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