Apple, the image: The Apple brand produces sleek, high-functioning gadgets. They are hip and usually more "with it" than other like companies. Even their packaging is cool, not to mention the fact that the packaging is often considered more "green" than other examples. So it often SEEMS that Apple is fairly socially aware; a fact that is evidenced by the multitudes of socially aware hipsters who use their products (hey, I am not throwing stones here...I have an i phone and have been wanting a mac book for some time, now). But is it true? Can we call this juggernaut "socially aware?"
Apple, the possible truth: Just like most big companies in the era of post-fordism, Apple products are made in a land far far away. There is a veil between the consumer and the producer. We do not regularly see who makes the stuff, nor in what conditions, nor how much the workers get paid. Recently on NPR's This American Life radio program (follow link to the story) there was a story about a man who ventured to one of the production sites for the i phone. Please give this a listen and do a litle research...what you hear may be suprising to you.
I am indebted to my friend Dan Amolsch for sharing ths story with me, and am also reminded of something he always says "being the body of Christ means identifying with the poor, sick, the disenfranchised...it means identifying with the least of these!"
Self-Reflection, Please: After you hear this story and do the necessary research to follow its claims, you will no doubt be a more knowledgable consumer concerning Apple products. Now you are more able than before to make informed choices. Chances are, however, especially if you love Apple (or other brands that have similar production methods) you will find some way to justify the product. Is it not natural for us to relieve our guilt and to seek ways of having our cake and eat it to? The challenge, here, is for self-reflection: how far are we willing to go in our aim to be good humanists; are we really attempting to create a good society or are we just accepting the one that has been given to us (because we are relatively happy, though others are not); and how much do we really believe in identifying with the least of these (is there a boundary to this....a line for our own self justification)?
Challenge: Learning the odds and ins about the products, companies, foods consumed in your home can be daunting. Indeed it is tempting to remain ignorant, for it is there we have bliss -- we get to have our cake and munch on it at the same time. But in the society we have, if we are going to identify with "the least of these" then we are going to have to become more informed and ethically driven consumers. Again, this is daunting, because there is an endless supply of junk that we own; going through it all and doing the research is akin to looking for your lost left sock...can it be done? So the challenge is simple: take one product that your family uses a month and do some research on it. Find out if it is fairly produced (does it harm people, societies, the environment), and then make the necessary decision on using or discontinuing the products use. 1 thing a month....and you will move in a better direction!