Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Agony and Ecstasy—and 'Disgrace'—of Steve Jobs | The Nation:

Apple is a wonderful company for its customers and investors. So, too, Pixar. (NeXT, not so much…) But Apple is also an engine of misery for its subcontracted Chinese workers. That this story went largely unreported during Jobs’s life is a testament to how enthralled our media are by the myth of the man’s talismanic qualities, and how easily manipulated most reporters are by wealthy, successful entrepreneurs. But it is also a testament to how little the lives of laborers appear to count anymore. It fell to the monologist Mike Daisey, who created and stars in the brilliant one-man show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, now at the Public Theater in New York City, to force this issue into public consciousness. Daisey traveled to the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China, which employs 420,000 people to manufacture products for Apple and other electronics and computer companies, to talk with the workers (unlike the Wired magazine reporter who, Daisey scathingly notes, penned a 3,300-word cover story on the plant without speaking to a single worker). Daisey’s mission was risky—a photographer was recently beaten up by the company’s guards—but he was determined, having heard about abuses at Foxconn. There, thirty-four-hour shifts, beatings, child labor, an epidemic of suicides and a general prison-camp atmosphere prevailed, and even yawning could get your (meager) pay docked. He met one worker whose hand had been “permanently curled into a claw from being smashed in a metal press at Foxconn, where he worked assembling Apple laptops and iPads.” When Daisey showed the man his iPad, it was the first time he had ever seen one turned on. He thought it was “magic.”