Rachel Litt’s response to The American Life

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.

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