Today is Blog Action Day 2014 and bloggers from around the world have been invited to discuss inequality.
It’s a problem that’s all around us and there is a bit of complacency or even acceptance about it. We all know that there is a huge difference in the standard of living between those in different parts of the world. But with people living in grinding poverty often living so far away from us, it’s easy to feel detached. How does it involve me?
Let me return to that iphone between your hands. Yours aren’t the only hands to be placed on it. The chances are, long before your iphone was assembled, a Congolese miner working in appalling conditions mined the raw materials necessary for its construction (a UN report on mining in the Congo cited deaths from collapsed mines, child labour, and respiratory disease as features of the Coltan mining industry).
Later down the line, the iphone would have been assembled at one of Foxconn’s factories in China. The company hit the headlines in recent years due to a spate of suicides at their factories due to the miserable working conditions and low pay. The company responded by surrounding their buildings with safety nets to prevent workers jumping to their deaths.
Their workers sometimes work 12 hours shifts, 13 days in a row. In a must watch video by SACOM (Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour), a Foxconn worker says “We wake up before the roosters, sleep after the dogs, and eat worse than the pigs”.
Inequality really isn’t so far away, is it? The hands that mined the coltan, the hands that assembled it in China, the hands that sold you the iphone at the Apple store.
Here’s the breakdown of where you money goes when you buy an iphone. Look how little of your money goes to the Chinese labour, and how much of it goes it to the bulging coffers of the Apple directors.
Inequality is alive, real and rife in today’s world. This isn’t about Apple, it’s about the global economic system we live in that not just allows this inequality, but needs it to survive.
So what can we do? Something. Whatever you do, do something. Share this information, boycott corporations that contribute to inequality, vote for parties that are interested in redressing the balance, join your local occupy movement and support international uprisings that are trying to bring about change.
Think of the hands that built your iphone and the hands that hold it now – should they really exist in such different worlds?
** This post was inspired by a talk at The Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster by Dr. Jenny Chan from the University of Oxford, the former director of the NGO SACOM – Students and Scholars against Corporate Misbehaviour http://sacom.hk/ . An mp3 recording of the talk is available here.**