Monday, September 13, 2010


Mike Daisey's a monologist. Really he's a storyteller who draws on autobiographical material. I attended his performance of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, an examination of the history of Apple, the cult of Apple fandom, the "visionary-asshole" who is Steve Jobs, and most stirringly the seedy underbelly of electronics manufacturing.

Apparently half—HALF!—of all electronics in the world are produced by one company: Foxconn. Foxconn has its largest manufacturing facilities in Shenzhen, which is southern China, a town that grew from a fishing village of 500 (according to Daisey) to a city of 14 million in only the past 30 years. Their facilities employ 430,000 workers. They have 25 cafeterias that each feed 10,000 people at a time. Daisey, who went there, interviewed Foxconn factory workers about their working conditions and posed as an American businessman to get access to the insides of the factories to see what the conditions were actually like. His report, not surprisingly, is hella depressing. While he was there a worker died from exhaustion after a 32-hour shift. He met factory workers who were as young as 11 years old. He met an employee who was labeled a troublemaker and blacklisted by the labor board after asking why she was not receiving overtime pay for working 105-hour weeks. He saw the netting that was installed around the office and factory buildings at Foxconn after a series of workers committed suicide by jumping from the roofs.

Despite all this, Daisey still loves his technology. He remains optimistic that things will change because, he says, "they do change." He notes how Apple was once near the Greenpeace's dirtiest companies (due to their uses of heavy metals, packaging waste, etc.). Now Apple is atop Greenpeace's list of cleanest companies. Why is that? Primarily pressure from consumers. I plan on emailing my buddy Steve Jobs about it soon.

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