Having just flown back from fall break, airport security was, of course, the first thing on my mind. Flying has always been a part of my life. I was a premiere member on United Airlines at the age of 8 thanks to divorced parents and cross-country travel. I flew before 9/11. I flew 2 weeks after 9/11. And oh boy was there a difference. I remember thinking to myself, what could I, a 3’8 foot tall freckle-faced 9 year-old possibly do? Why are they searching my backpack? Don’t show my teddy bear to the world! Continue reading
Based on your responses, YOU are a…
Along with 14% of the public
Big surprise… I’m sure. Growing up five minutes from Berkeley, CA will do that to a person. @Foster is probably rolling his eyes as he reads this. Although my results were not surprising to me, it was nice to have verification that my assumptions were correct.
Nevertheless, lately I have really been struggling to define my political views. Socially liberal? Definitely. But financially liberal? That’s a whole other matter. Continue reading
Growing up, my friends would always try to convince me to watch scary movies. They love excitement of the gore and suspense. They find a thrill in that bah dum… BaH dUm… BAH DUM… that replicates their heartbeats right before a monster or villain jumps out to attack. The only scary movie I ever sat through – and not by choice – was Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can still envision, years later, the scene where the traumatized hitchhiker shoots herself in the head. I remember pulling the blanket over my eyes and cringing at the bang of the gun. But my friends barely flinched. Shocked by their lack of reaction, I remember questioning the influence of horror films. Surely they are meant for entertainment, but could they be doing more bad than good? Continue reading
Although we have continually analyzed the situation regarding Apple and the Foxconn controversy, it seems to me that there exists a general lack of accountability regarding the case. Everyone seems to point their fingers at someone else. One vital question still stands out to me – who’s fault is it? Who has let this happen? Who is responsible for a corporation’s good or bad ethics and how does this affect the business decisions? I want to further analyse the scene to identify Apple as either a shareholder or a stakeholder company, clarify what this means and the responsibilities held by each associated party, and finally answer the question of who is to blame. Who has to be ethical? Who’s job is it to protect the ethics of a company?
I stumbled upon a blog comment called “The end of brand exceptionalism?” on a blog titled ideationz…a blog from rick s. pulito. As someone very interested in brand management and marketing, I always find interest in linking my not-necessarily-marketing-specific readings to my more favored subjects. This particular article shared some common threads with the cases that we have recently analyzed in BGS. The author forms one strong connection when he claims, “It’s about being ‘liked’ and that means that your brand has to make others feel ‘liked’ as a result of associating with you.” I immediately related this idea to the Apple “case study” and the TAL videos. Certainly, the recent Foxconn scandal may cause concern among socially-conscious customers, but Apple nevertheless expects to sell 10 million iPhone 5s by the end of September. Customers favor Apple products for the same reasons that analysts marvel at it’s success – the “cool” factor. But at what point does success overshadow ethics?
So here I am, sitting at my standard wooden desk, in my typical cement-walled dorm room, at my classic American university listening to the Daisy Retraction podcast from The American Life through the silver speakers of my Macbook Pro. Did I feel a little guilty when the original podcast warned me that the solution that once cleaned this beautiful Macbook Pro might have caused the hands of Chinese workers to shrivel and melt? Yeah, duh.
After hearing the retraction, that feeling of guilt has not disappeared. But it has been slightly overshadowed by a feeling of deception. Like I had been forced to feel helpless regarding the horrible events at Foxconn, forced to accept these terrible working conditions, and even forced to question my position in the world and my decisions in life. I may be a little overzealous in this reaction, but mustering words to describe feelings is a difficult task.
So, here are some of my original thoughts from the first podcast: “Let me get this straight – there were security guards… with guns? What is this, a scene from Prison Break? I think about even the secured French embassy in DC where I had to apply for a French visa for study abroad. They had a guard at the gate and my parents were forced to wait outside for me. But that guard was about as ferocious as a mall cop. But guns – guns evoke fear, even when I can’t see them for myself, or feel the stern eyes of the guards watching me as I pass though the gates.”
In reflection, it seems absurd. My reaction was clearly influenced by my personal prejudices as an American teen who is accustomed to democracy and red, white and blue and all that shit. We have this image of China as a communist nation and apparently it involves gunmen standing outside of office campuses. How would I feel if there were gunmen standing outside the gates of Bucknell, keeping me inside this little dorm room of mine – or maybe their purpose would be to keep other people out.
But anyway, who does Daisey think he is? How can he sleep at night knowing that he played off this irrational image and further solidified this absurd and over-exaggerated pre-conceived notion of how China is run? Or was his goal not to encourage anti-China sentiments, but instead to cast a dark shadow on American enterprise? Guilt, fear, deception. It’s all there. But what can we, as American consumers, really feel guilty about? Can the image of an armed guard standing outside a building on the other side of the world really induce fear? And did Daisey really deceive us, or force us to pay attention to what was really going on? After all, the truth about Foxconn did have to surface eventually.
Listening to this retraction, I can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment. The clear images that Mike Daisey portrayed in his original piece were bold and fresh. They made me think. They induced mixed feelings of shock and empathy. They added an obvious reality to the story that made listeners imagine the events, develop sympathy for the workers, and form strong opinions of Apple. But when these stories were proven false and retracted, I notice a sense of frustration brewing inside me.
In my last post, I commented on how jaded Americans were. How we are aware of what is happening in China with the factory workers but have simply accepted this reality and moved on. We support the Apple stock and it has, as a result, just become the most valuable company in U.S. history Read Here. We will still purchase Apple goods despite their unethical manufacturing practices and their exorbitant over-pricing. We hear about it, but it does not necessarily evoke rash behavior – no one is going to throw away their iPhone because it was made by abused Chinese workers. These stories, although moving, do not make us cry or boycott Apple products. I am even writing this blog post on my Macbook Pro.
But what does bring about a strong emotional reaction is the idea that we, as American consumers, were lied to. I do not know whether the reason for this response is that we have developed such a trusting relationship with the media that we feel cheated when lied to, or if we feel foolish because we were willing to accept such horrible occurrences that in the end were not actually the case. Further, are our reactions, as American consumers, based on our genuine concern for the safety of the global community, or are we fixated on self-satisfaction?
It seems to me that a main reason for supporting a cause is the way it makes us feel. I admit that this is a very cynical way of viewing volunteer work, and I understand that the ultimate goal is to better one’s community, or take a stance against injustice. But we cannot ignore the positive affects doing good has on self-worth. When I form an opinion on a subject, and really stand up for that cause, I feel proud and strong and it seems that I can have an affect on the world.
Nevertheless, as pessimistic as this may sound, I question the greater mentality behind American support for this cause overall, the ethics behind Mike Daisey’s originally exaggerated and overzealous presentation, and the genuineness of the reactions to this retraction.
This podcast of Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory – The American Life, was extremely moving. It provided a new perspective and information that I hadn’t heard before. I think my own response to most of Mr. Daisey’s stories was a combination of shock and assumption.
There seems to be a general sense of ignorance within our society that is made ever more apparent every time a story like this breaks into the media. Of course I have read articles and heard news stories about the terrible work conditions in China. My mother and I even stopped buying things from China for an entire year as our own personal rebellion against the abuse. But, in all honesty, the companies who use China’s labor force to create their products don’t care about losing two customers.
In my opinion, the basic idea presented here should not be shocking. It seems to me that most US consumers have accepted the fact that Asia is responsible for building the products that we use. However, we appear to have adopted a trust in American companies that they would not sink to that level and abuse foreign or domestic workers. We make such a huge deal out of the rights of man and ethical employment practices in The States that we hope that moral behavior is carried out over seas as well. But our pressing concerns for the complications within US boundaries make us complacent about the same issues abroad.
We become accustomed to the idea that out products are built in China and India and Indonesia. We accept the fact that if we place a pre-order for the new iPad that it will take a few months to arrive because the item has to be imported from Asia. In comparison, “You hardly notice it at all,” (12:33) Mr. Daisey explains about the thick smog that covers Shen Zhen. “A silver poison sky. The air in Shen Zhen… you can actually feel it, like a voo doo foot pressing down on your chest. It’s amazing what human beings will get used to, isn’t it?” (12:07 – 12:25). Just as imports from China have become an accepted part of our lives, Chinese workers have adopted the despicable working conditions and terrible health risks.
Our complacency is highlighted further by the lack of understanding of the situation. Americans and Chinese alike are aware of the terrible work conditions, but I don’t think either side knows the extremity of the situation. Americans do not know the details of the different accounts – the 34-hour shifts, the toxic fluid that’s burning off people’s hands, etc. And the Chinese are not aware (or maybe just don’t want to be aware) of the tyrannical government. Daisey explains that in a fascist country run by thugs, a governmental agent can be as blunt as you want to be, he can black list people without reason, he can control whatever he wants (37:30).
Mr. Daisey presents a slow and comprehensive explanation of his experience in Shen Zhen. The details are disturbing and yet he intertwines these stories with momentary comical relief that break up the troubling accounts. I think this is an important aspect of the performance because it keeps the audience interested and maintains a light tone, despite the heavy content.