I think we all agree that This American Life is always a must listen, but this week it’s a must must listen. As I listened to Mike Daisey tell the story of his experience with the factories in China that produce Apple products, (among other technology), I was so spellbound that I was irritated with my creaky floors that kept making me miss words. Daisey interviews factory workers and describes their conditions as similar to the American you read about during the industrial revolution but with a fascist sensibility. Daisy tells the story of workers who use their hands in ways that are sustainable for only a few years saying “everything is handmade.” On some level, we are all aware of the moral dilemma we face by using products made by children or even adults forced to work in sweatshops which provide the only job available to support their livelihood. But hearing the line “everything is handmade” shed new light on an issue that I have no answers for. Some of us may be reading this post as we pause from scanning pintrest or craftgawker, but how many of us have an appreciation for the products that we write off as soulless? We look for authenticity and sincerity in our objects but ignore the hands that made the objects we interact with most. Mike Daisey’s story raises issues that we could discuss ad infinitum without making any progress, but regardless of what the answer is we need to be aware of the consequences of globalization and have an appreciation for the objects we take for granted. I can’t endorse the recent This American Life episode enough, but as a visual companion I would also recommend, just as highly, Manufactured Landscapes. To say that there is a potential Night School topic in here does not do justice to the gravity of the issues, but I will ask that you pause and think about them as we reap the benefits from the technology so many mangled and noble hands have crafted.
Everything is Handmade