July 21, 2012 by Dan Patton
Apple Inc’s reputation has sustained a series of bruises that appear to be spreading beyond the skin of the idiot-proof gadget maker’s world-renowned logo. The use of conflict minerals, the working conditions in outsourced factories and the excrutiatingly self indulgent design of its latest products suggest that Apple cares more about profit than people. The company’s knack for creating a materialistic jones may feed a world of consumers, but there’s growing number who seem to be indicating that they’ve had enough.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was “discovered” and “claimed” by English explorers working for Beligian’s King Leopold in the late 1800’s. Soon after, the Central African nation began providing resources for markets throughout Europe. In exchange, it received generations colonization, disease, exploitation, misery and war. Along the way, it became the setting for Joseph Conrad’s novel, “Heart of Darkness,” which was later adapted for Francis Ford Coppola’s film, “Apocalypse Now.”
Wolframite is one of four “conflict minerals” mined in the DRC. As a result of the fight to control it, more than a million Congolese people have been killed since 1996 and approximately 48 Congolese women are raped every hour, according to the American Journal of Public Health. Wolframite is also a major source of Tungsten. Tungsten is what makes iPhones vibrate.
In December of 2011, Delly Mawazo Sesete, A Congolese activist and attorney, called for Apple to create a conflict-free iPhone in an article published by the UK Guardian.
Besides Apple products, China manufactures and exports animal shaped rubber bands, die cast miniature classic cars, extendable aerial backscratchers and, seemingly, every non-consumale item for sale in drug stores throughout North America. The country’s wealth has grown so large that its monetary policy can, and often does, affect virtually every currency on the planet. The method to their success: pay virtually nothing.
In January, Mike Daisey documented the conditions within the factories that help make Apple products in a segment for Public Radio’s “This American Life” titled, “Mr Daisy and the Apple Factory.” He described prison-like conditions, negligible safety measures and backbreaking hours. Then, the story was retracted because most of it turned out to be made up. Although Apple’s reputation was somewhat restored, as much cannot be said about the Chinese worker who actually committed suicide in what appeared to be a protest against his employer.
Back in the States, consumers don’t seem to put much thought into these matters. Or, for that matter, into using Apple products at all. Unlike the DIY spirit that energized Steve Jobs’ original “computer for the rest of us,” most anything coming out of the iStore today can be mastered with the touch of a few buttons. It’s great for people who enjoy toting a smart phone full of miniature slideshows everywhere they go, but for graphic musicians, designers and video editors, the dumbed down focus is infuriating. If you actually want to modify the hard drive of the new MacBook Pro, you’ll need a special proprietary wrench to remove those special proprietary screws. The website ifixit.org calls it, “the least repairable laptop we’ve taken apart,” before concluding that, “Apple has packed all the things we hate into one beautiful little package.”
Then again, so what? The folks at Apple are merely supplying a demand. Nothing wrong with that. And who knows what difference, if any, the company would make by getting all political on their foreign suppliers? They’re not in business solve the world’s problems. They make consumer electronics. Lots of ‘em.
And each unit they sell increases the void that the next Apple will fill.