iPhone Price Drop: Commentary on Certain Forgotten Peoples

I find it ironic that the whole brouhaha over drastic price cuts on the iPhone has occurred on the heels of Labor Day. In all the whining and grumbling about consumer rights, and that consumers can no longer trust a company (as if companies care about their customers as people rather than as perpetual consumers), words like “right” and “wrong” have been bandied about quite liberally.

The early adopters were wronged, Apple should do the right thing.

Has anybody bothered to consider the workers, most of them in China, responsible for the manufacturing of these products? Can we even begin to image how much $600 could mean to some of these families who work to make the products that many in America blithely buy and dispose of every 18 months? I’m not saying that Apple is supporting sweatshops (although there have been allegations in the past leveled toward some of Apple’s subcontractors). A publicly held corporation has, by law, only one objective: to make profits for its shareholders. If a corporation makes anything else a priority over that profit–be that human rights, environment, or working conditions and even if profit still occurs–the CEO can be held responsible for breaking the law. The point is, that corporate culture in particular and capitalism in general are founded on the principle of giving as little as possible to the workers in order to create the most profit possible. Never enough profit, the equation is always about creating greater and greater percentages of profit.

Which, generally speaking, means lesser and lesser wages and benefits for workers. If American’s won’t work for the level the corporation deems desirable to squeeze out another percentage point, then ship the jobs off to places where labor laws don’t exist, or are easily ignored, or where desperation can create an eager, docile work-force.

I know, I know, podcasts such as Buzz Out Loud or Macbreak Weekly, as well as sites like Macworld, Engadget and Gizmodo are not geared to exam the social issues surrounding technology. In fact, fans of Buzz Out Loud have often complained when politics have been injected into the conversation. But why? Why is it “wrong” to include the social costs of technology in technology podcasts and coverage? Is it because we don’t want to face the realities that haunt our pretty, shiny toys? Realities that are composed of hunger, poverty, economic disparity, abusive working conditions, and the necessity for vast (and growing) economic inequalities? Tech toys come from somewhere. Technology is made, is manufactured. Thus, every media player, cellphone, game console, gps unit, computer, router, usb hub, etc., has a material history. To simply dismiss that material history as irrelevant to our discussion about technology and about all those gadgets and gizmos that we love, is to deliberately ignore the actual costs of technology. Costs that are often far more exacting than $600 for a new toy.

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