Monday, January 30, 2012

Our Deal With the Devil

Things Assembled in China
HTC myTouch 4G on top of a Barnes & Nobel 2011 Nook Tablet

The title is pinched from an editorial written by Dan Lyons, "Apple's Deal With the Devil." It's an excellent editorial that asks a lot of hard questions about our destructive addiction to the latest and greatest haute gadgetry. While he initially aims his ire at Apple and the Apple faithful, he soon opens up his broadside to cover us all:
As the Times article points out, this isn’t just Apple. It’s every company. It’s every product we use. It’s our entire way of life, built on the backs of people who are being treated in ways that we would not allow ourselves or our countrymen to be treated.
Just about every item we now buy in Amera, whether it's cheap or expensive, seldom has "Made in America" or "Made in the U.S.A." on it any more. My Android cellphone with T-Mobile and my Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet (also running Android) were assembled in China. Nearly all of my Olympus camera equipment was assembled in China, especially my E-3 and E-P2 camera bodies. The only Olympus digital camera gear that was made in Japan was the E-1 and my three HG lenses (and oddly enough the official Olympus battery packs), but absolutely none of it was made in America.

Not everything comes fully assembled from China. My 48" Samsung flat-screen HDTV I purchased back in 2008 was manufactured in Mexico. But don't kid yourself. Buried inside that device are components either made directly in China or made with rare elements mined and refined in China. Chinese content is everywhere, even if the label proclaims it was assembled elsewhere. Is there any content made in America? I wouldn't want to bet on it.

I could offer all sorts of convoluted theories complete with well-reasoned villains as to why we're at this point  today, but the only reason that matters is us. All of us. Ever since the 1960s, when the Baby Boomers came of age, we've lived an incredible hedonistic life style, fueled by easy credit and cheap commodities. Step by step we willingly made every single decision that has led to this point in time.

Once we started partaking the drugs of consumption and easy credit there seemed no way for us to rehabilitate ourselves. We kept sating the senses, and in the process, we stopped learning how to think, which made the slide down the road to hell all that slicker and faster. Along the way industry, American industry, took whatever steps necessary to lower costs and feed American consumers their fix. So they transferred manufacturing out of the America to artificially cheaper locales and hollowed out American industries and outsourced further and further up the jobs food chain, from blue collar to white collar, on up the ranks of the middle classes, all in the name of efficiency and lower prices.

Our children grew up learning our ways, and they passed on what they learned, adding to it along the way to their children, our grandchildren. There are very few of our parents generation left who remember what it meant to live in moderation, who saved rather than burned up the credit, who knew how to think and plan beyond their own immediate gratification. And they're leaving us rapidly.

There's nothing they could do to help us anyway if they could, because I doubt we'd bother to listen. Instead, we're going to have to live through this. Our deal with the devil was our soul (financial freedom, a good job and career, a bright future) for diabolical favors (instant gratification, cheap credit and cheap consumer items). And it looks like it's come time to pay the devil his due.

1 comment:

  1. I find it amazing that most people who decry the fact that American companies are employing folks in other countries is that word "employing". By making our electronic gadgets and other things in India, China and other places, we are automatically increasing the employees' incomes, thereby improving their standards of living. We are feeding their families, providing them with hope and with a better future and it's considered an evil thing.

    My computer was probably made in China -- or at least not made in America -- but is that the manufacturer's fault or is it (partially at least) the fault of government over-regulation, union work, benefit, etc., costs skyrocketing labor prices, and making it impractical to do business in America beacuse of those two things?

    My computer made in China (Mexico, India, Nigeria, etc.) costs me $900. My computer made in America costs me $2100. I can thank unions and the government for that. The more it costs, the fewer are purchased, the fewer employees, the fewer families have brighter futures, have the ability to buy a home, save for the future, leave something for their grandkids to inherit.

    When we blame only the companies we are missing the whole picture to focus on the small portion that politics puts into our view. Tunnel vision condemns the manufacturer while not looking at the problems that created the issue in the first place, and the positive results that come from the move in the second.

    Ask someone employed at the Apple factory if they were better off before they started working there, or if they are better now. Ask them if their children eat better, are in school instead of in the field working to help the family. Ask them if they have hope for the future now, compared to what they thought their futures would be prior to the Apple factory.

    Take all of that into account. Apple may not be perfect -- and I don't own a single Apple product, nor do I or anyone I know work there, so I can't be accuse of being a "plant" or any such nonsense -- but it's better than having to watch your children starve to death. I've been hungry. It's no fun.

    So that's my two cents' worth.


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