I hear Steve Jobs reads his email. Who knows.
Dear Steve Jobs,
I write this from my MacBook Pro, without which my work life as a chef and chocolatier would be almost impossible. I’ve devoted my life to a pursuit at once diametrically opposite and also somewhat similar to yours: relentless pursuit of perfection. However, the perfection I strive for is not only to make the highest quality products I can make, but to make them sustainably, with my own two hands. I have been sickened by the terror that endgame capitalism has wrought in communities around the world. I believe that it is possible to make money and live a fulfilling life without contributing to the virtual enslavement of other people who toil in horrible conditions to produce the raw materials I use in my business: chocolate (where child slavery in Africa is a reality); tomatoes, citrus fruit and so much more, where in Florida and California migrant workers are paid pennies a day for their labors, etc, etc. ad nauseum.
It bothers me, so I do what I can to ensure that my ingredients are pure. It’s harder and more expensive. But my customers understand that to change our society means that life might become a tiny bit harder and more expensive for us so that other people can be free and fairly compensated.
Which brings me to the computer upon which I am typing this message.
I’ve done a lot of reading, over the years, about Apple’s employment practices in the factories used to make your beautiful machines. I was about to zip to the brand new Upper West Side Apple I just read about in The New Yorker this morning to pick up a back up pair of iPhone headphones when I came across this little tidbit, all about worker suicides at one of your factories in China.
I’ll tell you this right now: I buy organic underwear and fair-trade chocolate and local produce grown by friends of mine, but I’m still going to buy those headphones today. And I’ll toy with the iPads, too, and wonder how I could use one.
Because really, what are my options? Ditch my beautiful Macs and buy a PC (HA!!!!!!!)? Stop using computers all together, and basically lose my internet-based business?
I’m not going to boycott Apple.
I’m boycotting BP and Wal-Mart and Shell and a million other companies, but those are easy. In each case, a superior option exists, or I don’t need what they are selling. Neither is true in the case of your products.
Instead, I’ll do what us East Coast Jewish liberals do best: feel guilty. It won’t do anything, but there it is. I’ll post this letter on my blog, and will pretend that will do something. I’ll discuss it with my friends on Facebook. We’ll rationalize our Apple addictions.
So here’s my question: what are YOU going to do?
About suicides, about working conditions, about the environmental impacts of your machines, about sustainability questions on all levels?
I trust you, Apple. I respect you. But you’re giving me nightmares.
Is this what capitalism has to be?