Did One Man’s Rant Just Change The Way Your Clothes Are Made?

Three cheers for tech-obsessed monologists!

As we told you, Mr. Mike Daisey totally broke our brains and rearranged the pieces after we listened to an excerpt of his The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs on a recent episode of
This American Life
. The takeaway was pretty grim — across the seas in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of workers constructing your favorite luxury tech products toil under labor conditions that strain the boundaries of human rights. Yes, to lessen the cost of your beautiful, perfect iPhone or iPad, human beings are accidentally maimed, driven to suicide, and subjected to demands most Americans wouldn’t place on an animal. Daisey’s monologue on the subject was revealing and revelatory enough for us to seriously ponder our own fashion shopping habits.

But, as we said, changing our buying patterns may not be as effective in the long term as simply shedding light on how our consumer goods are produced. Proof positive: Apple announced this week that it has invited a third-party human-rights watch group to conduct studies of the now-infamous Foxconn plant in Shenzhen ­— far and away the biggest producer of iPads and iPhones. This audit seems to be the real deal as the not-for-profit conducting it, the Fair Labor Association, is not only well regarded, but will make its findings known to the public. Bottom line, because of Mike Daisey’s personal obsession and a series of inspired articles in the New York Times, transparency and change may be coming to Foxconn. Funny (or not so) how shame can be a powerful force for good.
We can only hope that this bold first step from Apple will serve as a wake-up call to both marketers and manufacturers world wide — you may secret your production away from the eyes of concerned consumers, but on this digitally connected globe, there really is no place to hide.
Residents of the D.C. area can see Mike Daisey’s The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs live, July 17 to August 5, at the Wooly Mammoth Theater. Mr. Daisey’s segment on This American Life is available online at
Photo: via Facebook.

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