A Question of Greed and Beauty (by Ryan Mitchell)
I think most modern electronics are a thing of beauty. I love being able to set up our house so that we can watch all of our movies with a click of the remote, or play any song throughout our house with the touch of a screen in the palm of my hand. I’ve spent enjoyable hours building hardware, writing code, and troubleshooting. If Andy Warhol was still alive, I’ll bet he would paint a picture of an iPhone, and I would have a print hanging in my living room.
On the flip-side, 17 people have committed suicide at Foxconn (the place where my iPhone and other gadgets were made) and nine of those during three months in 2010. The story has made international news and prompted visits from Apple execs. While it seems not as drastic as some of the sensationalist sweatshop claims, it forced me to ask the question about where the stuff I buy is coming from and who I buy it from. How does my phone get to my pocket, and who is involved in getting it there? I start to wonder if the stories of low wages, poor benefits, and rough working conditions are caused by my insistence to get things at the lowest possible price.
Thinking about the long chain of people attached to everything I buy has made me think about greed in a whole new way. I think it is good to affirm the beauty, ingenuity, and sheer awesomeness of my phone. It is the result of the brilliance of engineers and designers – and as much a work of art as any painting. It is not for greed that I have it, but for celebration of everything that is beautiful about it.
The tension comes when I think about every hand that has touched it. When I buy something, does it increase the standard of living for everyone involved and value their work in creating it, or do I turn a blind eye and insist on the lowest price? Do I create jobs and give people pride and purpose, or do I support companies who don’t support companies? In short, do I make fair treatment profitable for corporations? Asking these questions means that I may not get as many opportunities to celebrate that beauty as often as I would like. However, when I do, I know that everyone who had a hand in it can celebrate along with me.
Ryan Mitchell lives in central Illinois with his wife and two amazing little girls. Ryan works as an engineer and has moved around the world with his family for his job. They have moved back to Illinois and planted roots in a community called Imago Dei in Peoria, Illinois.