Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Our Great Sin - by Devin Coldewey

I just came across this today. It's fabulous. Have no idea who Devin Coldewey is, but i like him immediately. sj

Our Great Sin
Devin Coldewey
Feb 1, 2011

I recently watched, like many of our readers, the interview (1, 2) with Mike Daisey regarding the conditions under which Apple products are made in China. And at the risk of fomenting conflict with Mr. Daisey, I would like to editorialize on the topic in slightly broader and harsher terms.

Actually, it’s not that I disagree with the man, exactly. It’s that he doesn’t go far enough, and in doing so conveniently avoids requiring himself or anyone else from doing anything but being concerned. If you’re going to take on ideas like globalism, corporate responsibility, and cross-cultural morality, you don’t get off that easy. You can’t establish a predicate like “the way our lifestyle is made possible is immoral” and somehow avoid unpleasant conclusions.

The “great sin” isn’t Apple’s, or any one of the other major international corporations that use Foxconn or similar megafactories. And it isn’t Foxconn’s either. It’s clearly, inescapably, ours.

Now, I’m not going to get all Das Kapital on you. The idea here is simpler and closer to home than some grand idea of political and economic metatheory. The basic fact is this: an “ethical” iPhone would be too expensive. That’s literally all there is to it (replace iPhone with your device of choice). Everything follows from our own unwillingness to pay for the true cost of a device. People want a better world, but they don’t want to pay for it. Nothing new there, really.

To pretend otherwise is plain hypocrisy. The question is whether we are willing to take responsibility for our own immorality? We’re too cheap to care where our goods come from. Admitting to anything less is ridiculous.

There are three primary responses when confronted with incontrovertible proof of your own immorality:

Claim moral status and adjust actions
Claim moral status and justify actions
Claim no moral status and continue actions

There are precious few who will take door number one. It means giving up nearly everything that makes up the life of a first-world citizen. Very little in the way of consumer electronics, cars, and other status symbols is manufactured ethically. Door number one is abandoning the pleasant inequality inherent to the modern world. Can we be expected to do that? I guess it depends entirely on what we expect from ourselves, so I’m going to guess that no, we won’t be doing it.

Door number two is where you’ll find most people. I’m not sure how one does it, but you can apparently take the moral high ground while continuing the actions you condemn. Politicians have no trouble doing this, but their airport-bathroom dealings aren’t usually public (public information, rather). And millions of people will buy bottled water while deploring the state of the third world, and not feel the hypocrisy leaking from every pore. Last year everyone made a lot of noise over the supposed iPhone 4 suicide. The outrage was quickly forgotten and everyone became angry instead at Apple for a design flaw in the device. Easy come, easy go.

click HERE to see original piece and finish reading article (including the link to video interviews Devin is responding to). you'll be glad you did.

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