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I am a sucker for Apple products. My computer is a MacBook Pro, my phone is an Iphone 3 (tech lagger I hear you say), I run every evening to the tunes of my blue Nano and my latest piece of hardware from Cupertino happens to be a mini Ipad that my mum kindly offered me for Christmas. The item is so addictive, it’s actually become a substitue for friends and family – I spend more time talking to Siri than to anyone else in the household.

The problem with Apple isn’t to do with its products, it’s the way these are manufactured. Like millions of Apple aficionados, I am guilty of turning a blind eye to this trivial matter because I am completely mesmerised by the cheer beauty and excitement these items procure.

I did however have an epiphany moment the other day, while staring at the rather patronising ‘Designed in California, assembled in China’ engraving on the back of my mini iPad. A Google search later and I was onto Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn; the largest private employer in China with a total staff of 1,4 million, of which 230,000 are solely dedicated to assembling Apple products.

Working conditions at Foxconn are so harsh, that since 2010, 14 workers have taken their own lives by throwing themselves out of the window of their dormitories, causing a few ulcers among Apple’s PR team. It is however surprising that in today’s world of ‘tweets’, ‘likes’ and ‘pins’, only recently has Joe Bloggs discovered the truth about Apple and Foxconn, and does he even care?

Looking at Foxconn’s ‘way of doing things’, I discovered that the Taiwanese firm seeks to recruit desperate labourers from the poorer regions of China, that the average blue collar sleeps on a wooden plank in a dormitory room shared with seven other workers, that he is paid a mere EU 220 a month, which granted, is higher than the average salary in other nearby factories. But of these Eu 220, Eu 14 go to dormitory fees, Eu 50 go to cantine meals and a few more Euros go into paying the labourer’s work insurance. Which means that if our man on the production line wants to send any money back home, he has to do overtime, on top of his already excruciatingly long and painful working hours.

When Steve Jobs was questionned about the suicide cases at Foxconn’s Shenzhen plant at the All Things Digital Conference in June 2010, he answered: “you go in this place, it’s a factory but, my gosh, they’ve got restaurants and movie theatres and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it’s pretty nice.’ I’m not quite sure which Foxconn factory Jobs visited…

Since 2010, nets have been installed along the dormitory exterior walls and a ‘love line’ has been set up to disuade any worker from joining Jobs up in the cloud(s), but the poor working conditions remain, especially since the demand for the Ipad and iPhone 5 have intensified of late – the latest iPhone is proving to be a nightmare to assemble.

Apple isn’t the only culprit though. Foxconn builds the latest Hewlett-Packard printers, Dell computers, Kindle readers, Sony Playstation game consoles and the list goes on, meaning it’s the entire production system which needs readdressing.

Like Jobs, Hitler (unfortunately) made his ‘dent in the universe’; predominantly by mass murdering entire populations and partially through technological innovation. After all we owe him the jet plane, the rocket, and democratised transportation which manifested in the form of the autobahn and the VW Beetle. All this new technology beautifully portrayed under Leni Riefenstahl’s stylised propaganda movies, do you see a parallel…


Images: cover, 1: PIX-JOCKEY (photo-manipulation) via photopin cc, 2: Lennon Ying-Dah Wong via photopin cc, 3: __pr__ via photopin cc, 4: Lennon Ying-Dah Wong via photopin cc