I’m sure I’m the last person to realize that the spate of high profile suicides at Foxconn in China are connected with the factory that makes component electronics for Apple. But it’s true, and incontrovertible, and what am I going to do about it?
To some extent, it’s impossible not to be implicated in economic injustice. My new shoes, for instance, are made in China, and I doubt the workers who assembled them are making anything like what I would consider a living wage. Foxconn was paying its workers a maximum of $150 a month; in the wake of international scrutiny, they’ve increased that to (after a trial period, a possible maximum of) $300. Their workers eat and sleep on campus in massive dorms with multiple roommates, are submitted to demoralizing drills, and regularly work far more than the government regulated maximum of 38 hours monthly overtime, putting in upwards of 12 hour days for weeks when there’s a big order (say, the iPhone 4?).
I know that Aldi, where I buy most of my groceries, is a private company, and thus exempted from revealing details of their balance sheet; and that the price advantage they enjoy cannot come entirely from their utilitarian approach to product placement. It’s likely that they, too, commit economic injustice. I’m sure I don’t need to speak about my complicity with Big Oil like BP— I live in Detroit, where to live is to drive. And as far as complicity with injustice is concerned, I remain in America, which is currently suspending habeas corpus, prosecuting two meaningless wars and advocating for the summary execution of at least one of its own citizens without due process.
But there’s a difference between these, which have to do with circumstance of place and time (I live in the post-agricultural America, and cannot entirely avoid the evils of Empire and Oil), or with economic necessities like food and clothing, and the luxury purchase of an iPhone, a status symbol with little intrinsic value (locked into a commercially inferior voice network, no less), made by a boutique company knowingly contracting with a Chinese factory that commits economic injustices that drive its workers to suicide.
I would pre-emptively argue, against those who would point out that I will hypocritically continue to use my MacBook and multiple other electronic devices equally tied to unjust labor practices, that the only escape from being a hypocrite is to give in to evil. Just because an action is not comprehensive does not mean that it is wrong, or useless.
Is there any reason I shouldn’t let my contract expire and quit this farce?