I’ve been called a Mac bigot and a Mac fanatic. I fell in love with my first Mac, a PowerBook, in 1995, when I was surrounded by PC users telling me it was a waste of money because Apple was going down. I never looked back, moving on to a G4 Cube that I still have even after it crashed (my sister still has her original Macintosh from 1984). I’ve owned three iPods and am typing this on a MacBook. We bought my father an iMac for his eightieth birthday, an iPad for his ninetieth, and my daughter a MacBook Pro for her high school graduation. We’ve also owned PCs for years now, making us an interfaith family. But PCs don’t inspire the same emotions as Macs.
But it was more fun being a Mac user way back when. The “Mac vs. PC” campaign captured the stereotype of the PC user as buttoned-up business stiff, but Mac users were not cool young skateboarder types back in the day. They were the artistic, designer/writer nerds who resembled Steve Wozniak more than the cute actor who dated Drew Barrymore. And Apple was the anti-business company that flew a pirate flag and threw hammers at Big Brother, and a visionary that made products you fell in love with. In the Mac users’ group I was once a part of, bashing Bill Gates and calling Microsoft the Evil Empire was de rigueur.
Now Apple is seeing its image insidiously poisoned by reports of how ill treated its factory workers in China are. As Mike Daisy, who wrote and performs The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, pointed out in an interview, Apple has now become the Big Brother it once mocked. A front-page article in the New York Times and a segment on CBS Sunday Morning show that the gadgets we are enamored with are made by little hands, some as young as twelve. It’s as though Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle were updated as, perhaps, The Orchard. Meanwhile, Gates just donated $750 million to AIDS research.
All over the Internet people are posting that it’s unfair to pick on Apple, that all our electronics items are made under similar, or worse, conditions overseas. But I think it’s absolutely fair to pick on Apple because no other brand commands the adulation Apple does.
Once, I used Apple products and part of me felt gratified, as though I were an outsider who wasn’t afraid to break from the crowd of lemming-like drones on their PCs. When Apple began promoting a hipster image, I still loved my gadgets even though I didn’t care if they were considered cool or not. We don’t just use Apple products, we have a relationship with them. Can we relate as well to the workers in China?
My prediction is that in the next fifty years, the tide will have turned. By dint of their willingness to labor under these conditions and work longer hours than we do, China will have become an economic and technological powerhouse. And we, after sitting here for years playing with our gadgets and apps, obsessing over our social media profiles and what our friends are doing and watching the Kardashians, will find ourselves left without jobs in a country that’s been surpassed. The Chinese, now working 40-hour weeks and living in McMansions, will move their factories here so we can live in dorms, work 20-hour shifts and become suicidal so they can have the latest gadget. And could we blame them?