As we move further into a 21st century economy and the world produces amazing technologies, the opportunities for injustice rise. We’re forced to do everything quicker, cheaper, more efficient, and while the product may be great, the human cost is tremendous.
Since Apple, Inc has grown to be one of the most profitable companies in the world, and, given the release of the new iPad; let’s take Foxconn, for example. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that produces components for Apple products, is notable for the harsh working conditions at its China facilities, and recently, it has been reported that Foxconn forces employees to sign a pledge promising that they won’t commit suicide. A worker at and Apple-supplier in China recently said, “we’re humans, not machines”.
While the company has denied any wrong doing, muckracking journalism has found this not to be the case. Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk or they die. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors. Despite these injustices and blatant disregard for human rights, Foxconn makes billions of dollars every year. Recently Foxconn has pledged to reduced hours and increase pay.
Around the world, countless people are fighting and bleeding and working and dying every single day for the prosperity of others. It just isn’t localized to China, all across the globe children work countless hours at looms and adults work countless hours at assembly lines. They work in fields and pastures, with no standards and no regulation. When America passed labor laws, we sought to ensure the safety and well being of each and every worker who sacrificed for the economic prosperity of our country. As the world becomes more and more intertwined, we must hold every other country to the same labor standards and must only trade with countries who uphold the values accordant with human rights, human dignity, and human integrity.
We can’t sit idly by as other people around the world suffer for the benefit of others. We can’t wait around for it to get better. We owe it to those who made the history books, to those who’s graves are marked by a single white cross, and to those who signed their name at the bottom of a Declaration to never take for granted the gift they gave us. And we owe it to those who’s names we will never know, those who never saw a moment of notoriety or a round of applause, but never wavered in their courage and commitment and call for freedom, and because of them we are able to live in a land of the free and the home of the brave.
President John F. Kennedy famously said, “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right.” For America, that’s what it always has been about. From the crossing of uncertain waters and the manifestation towards and unforgiving wilderness, the hopes and dreams of the American people have always been unitedly intertwined with those of people around the world. It’s the idea that we are each other’s keepers.
However, the work is not over. Around the world injustice cast dark shadows on the rising tides of economic and social prosperity and, in it’s path, it destroys lives and damages countries. Our light must illuminate those dark shadows and create a better world that we all have to share. It’s not about being a “city upon a hill” and it’s not about American exceptionalism; it’s about bridging the gap between the way the world is and the way the world ought to be.