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I'm an Associate Professor of English Education. My time is spent preparing to teach, teaching, reading, writing, working with pre-service and practicing teachers, serving on various committees, and trying to keep my office from over flowing into the hallway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Would you die for your cell phone?

"Did 300 Workers at an Xbox 360 Factory Threaten Mass Suicide?"
What if it is true? What if 300 workers are so upset, so distraught over the working conditions, that they are willing to take their own lives? What then should we, as consumers of these products, begin to do in response?
When I heard last year that a Foxconn worker jumped to his death, I was not only deeply saddened, but confused. His death came on the heels of several self-immolations in the Middle East, but this man at Foxconn killed himself perhaps because his employer would not listen to him and his coworkers. The company he worked for produced a product that the world, particularly the U.S., wanted so badly that he and his coworkers worked in conditions so untenable that he would rather die, at work, than face another day.
I am not a stranger to suicide, but I have experienced the loss of loved ones through suicide from a Western perspective. Self-immolation and mass suicide for workers' rights are difficult for me wrap my mind around. Considering the implications of rampant consumerism is not difficult, however. With the impending release of the iPad 3, I am wondering just how much better this new product is going to be. Is it worth hundreds of workers being pushed to the brink of annihilation? Will it be that much fun for me, and will I even consider these workers when or if I use it?
What does this post have to do with education? What is so critical about a suicide pact at a plant in China that manufactures Xboxes and iPads? Not much, unless I ask myself how much I really need that next new thing. Not much, unless I and my students question where that cell phone or laptop we can't part with came from; whose hands made it and what might they have been thinking when they did. Not much, unless I help humanize an otherwise inhumane exchange of goods and services.

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