Thursday, February 9, 2012

Agonising about Consumer Electronics

iPhone Shuffle

Next week is my birthday, and I really want an iPhone. I've had an iPod Touch for the past two years (got it for my birthday!) and it is absolutely one of my favourite possessions, and not just because my wonderful husband engraved some loving words on the back.

I am an Internet junky, and I love being connected via my iPod Touch. Of course, it only connects me when I am in a Wi-Fi area - that's why I want to move up to the iPhone. But now I am undergoing a struggle of conscience.

I've been reading articles about the terrible conditions of workers in the Chinese factories that make these darling objects. Suicide nets hang on the Foxconn buildings. Do I really want something that comes from such human misery?

Looking at the list of major customers, it looks like I already have much. Not only the lovely iPod, ordered directly from China because of the engraving, but also the Lenovo laptop I'm typing this on.

My son has an HTC Hero running Google Android, that is apparently made in Taiwan, where working conditions may be a little less awful. It's a nice phone, although I am a little reluctant to give Google more control of my life (they already have my search, my blog and my email ...).

But I really lust after an iPhone. Will I hate myself if I get one anyway? Or should I get over myself and get a phone that wasn't made in such dreadful conditions? And do the parts of the Android phones still come from hellhole factories on the Mainland, so the whole choice is an illusion anyway? Does anybody know?

Should I just donate the cost of the phone to Siloam Mission and continue living without a smartphone, because it's such a bourgeois problem to have?

Help me decide!

1 comment:

  1. I lived most of my life in Africa, I have seen poverty on a scale most North Americans cannot imagine. In many parts of Africa, people work long hours under atrocious conditions for $1 a day.

    There are long queues of people outside businesses and factories waiting for more of those jobs.

    If you are destitute, those jobs, even if they will shorten your life, are better than you or your kids starving.

    Remember it was only a couple of hundred years ago that many of our ancestors worked under similar conditions in the coal mines and cotton mills of Europe. Our modern industrial society and better labour practices have evolved from that.

    The best thing that we can do for the Chinese workers is to buy as many iPhones as possible. Some of the wealth will trickle down to improve the lowest levels of society. The more competition for labour, the better the conditions will be.

    It might take a couple of generations, but evolution will take place. In the interim, bad as it is for those workers, it is still better than the alternative.

    So go ahead and buy your phone with a clear conscience.


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