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Saturday, October 8, 2011

RIP, Steve Jobs. I Truly Wish You Could Have Lived Longer. .

... And maybe you could have been a social visionary as well as a technical visionary.

I've been following the situation of the Chinese iProduct workers for many months now, and I did have very mixed feelings as I read all of those accolades to Jobs.  I had previously written about the iPod sweatshops here:  Chinese iPod Suicide Sweatshops. 

For those who don't know, there was a scandal a year or two ago when the living and working conditions of the Chinese who were making iProducts (and other computerized electronic gadgets) was exposed.  It wasn't very pretty.  These people don't work for Apple, Dell, and all of the rest directly; they work for subcontractors.  

I added a comment about Steve Jobs when I read of his death:

"Steve Jobs, one of the founders and the guiding light of Apple died yesterday at age 56.  He is being hailed as a visionary, a technical revolutionary, and, of course, he was.  

It is always sad when someone dies young, but especially when someone with such genius and such strong personal traits died at such a young age and after such a long illness.  Ultimately, his fortune and his brilliance couldn’t keep the wolves of his disease at bayMy deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

I personally wish that Steve Jobs could have lived longer.  

Perhaps he could have been a visionary in another way.  

Perhaps he could have actually taken some responsibility for the working conditions of the people who have helped to make him fabulously wealthy and demanded that people who produce iProducts, no matter where they live, worked in humane conditions making a decent wage.   He could have gone in front of the world and told people, "Look, I have more money than I could spend in two lifetimes or three or four.  I can no longer tolerate people making me even richer while they toil for 12 or more hours a day under extreme conditions with difficult quotas for very low wages.  I won't accept that any more.  We're going to have to raise the prices of our iPads, and I'm going to take a hit in my personal holdings, but I owe more to the world than just some new, shiny electronic products." "

As long as nobody is enough of a social visionary to imagine a world in which people are entitled to decent wages and working conditions, we will get the kind of excuses that many have made in reply to articles about the Chinese working conditions:  That they are better off working in the iPod sweatshops than working in the rice paddies in the hot sun, better off than starving in a rural village somewhere, etc.   

Many of those words and comments echo what the pro-slavery southerners said about the working conditions of slaves in the antebellum U.S. South 200 hundred years ago.  Many of those comments echo what the anti-union anti-worker people wrote about the living conditions of workers in the early days of the industrial revolution in the developed world.   

After all, weren't the Irish who came to America to escape the Irish potato blight better off toiling (and perhaps dying) in those early factories for a few pennies an hour instead of starving in an Irish village somewhere?  Shouldn't those people have been grateful to those early capitalist factory owners who let them earn enough to eat a few pieces of bread now and then?  Instead they complained that working conditions were horrible and dangerous!

Unfortunately, while the technical visionaries make billions and are branded as “great”, the social visionaries are branded as communists and Marxists. 

Well, I can dream.  Steve Jobs either never had that vision or he didn't act on it.  Maybe he just didn't live long enough to have that vision.  Meanwhile, the Foxconn workers will continue toiling and hot bunking in their small dorm rooms, with steel wire mesh over the windows and nets to catch them, working for a few bucks a day.

Peace to you, Steve, who gave us so much.

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