If you want to criticize Apple, look less at Adobe and more at Foxconn

If you want to criticize Apple, look less at Adobe and more at Foxconn

Does your iPhone not have Flash? Are you unable to buy pornographic apps, even though targeted sites already exist? Do you think Apple EVIL Why does it not help Adobe to swell? Do you think that because of that Steve Jobs is the newest incarnation of Lucifer? Bad news, buddy: you're wasting your time looking at your own navel (or the navels of Adobe founders).

Photo: Southern Weekend

When talking about the latest suicide cases at Foxconn, one of the companies that take care of the manufacturing of Apple gadgets in Asia, I came to suggest that it would be interesting for someone to do an investigation and infiltrate the environment of Chinese workers. Well, I drew that conclusion late, because the Southern Weekend (Chinese) had already started a report of this nature weeks before. For us Westerners, the Engadget brought a translated version of Liu Zhiyi's account of the life of a Chinese worker in the gadget assembly lines.

I will not translate the entire report, just touch on the most central points, and one of them is that "freedom" (or lack thereof) plays a central role in the cases of young people who ended their own lives in Foxconn's gigantic facilities. It is a large food chain: workers in China do not have great prospects for success, despite the dreams they feed, which makes them easy prey for companies seeking maximum profit. Within the legal framework, but dangerously close to the limit between moral and immoral, the industry offers the minimum wage, a remuneration that barely supports a person, and seeks to obtain the maximum possible overtime from the employees. The need for workers is so great that there is not enough overtime for those who want it.

Here comes the “freedom” issue: unlike anyone who wants to play FarmVille on a phone or buy apps that show naked people, young Chinese people who work at Foxconn do not have a real option. Either they work to the point of wishing an injury to be able to count on paid leave, or they will have no money to support themselves that they say will help their families. In terms of “being able to use the gadget I bought as I want, even if the terms of use said otherwise,” the question “if I don't work, I won't have anything to eat”.

What is Apple's role in all this? It's just dancing according to the music we play: better gadgets coming out every month, in droves, cheaper and with more functions. Is there a way out for this? Can you see any good side? Some people may argue that working conditions in Foxconn life are much better than in other industries and in the countryside, or that this type of activity helps countries and people to grow (CrunchGear, Engadget). I wouldn't go that far: at the risk of sounding hypocritical, because my computer, my keyboard, my mouse and my two iPods, everyone has “Made in China”, I say this is wrong.

Only the alternatives in this respect are scarce: it's not just Apple, not just China. Virtually every profit-making company manufactures (or largely uses manufactured products) in countries that provide little protection to workers, as their governments are keeping an eye on tax collection and exports. Apple is guilty of keeping its fat profit margins getting fatter, China is guilty of making its merchant people giant and we are guilty of conveniently turning a blind eye to it all. And these accusations could extend to many other companies: where are the Nexus One, Motorola DROID, HTC Incredible and Nokia phones manufactured? (Note: my sincere question, as I have no idea where they are produced.)

Of course, it is much better to complain that Apple practices “censorship” because it does not want controversy in her store than to think that the electronics in your home are made by people who, like you, have dreams, but who can hardly reach them. Think about it, before you open your mouth to say that the free world will end for lack of pornography in an (01, huma) software store, because your tablet is missing an ESSENTIAL-thank-you plugin or because developers will have to learn a new programming language. Oh, humanity!

And, to give a face and name to the Foxconn employees who left, watch this local report about the incidents (in Chinese, with English subtitles in English, but you don't need any of that to understand the expression on the faces of a family) suicides):

(youtube) http://www.youtube/watch?v=PWFsMlRyJ7Q (/ youtube)

(youtube) http://www.youtube/watch?v=Kz2U2R1ehvI (/ youtube)

(youtube) http://www.youtube/watch?v=DFTtTsKZjeU (/ youtube)

Apple's glass roof is not Flash or the App Store: the problem is that we're all under it, too.