Eugene Cho

“a prayer of blessing to all those hands that put together the ipad that we’re about to enjoy”

At the usual risk of getting more angry emails, I’d like to write something about Apple, Foxconn, and the workers that make up their gadgets and for that matter, the workers that put together all of our gadgets from any and whatever company. This way, you know that this speaks to everyone.  For those that missed it or want a larger overview, the New York Times wrote an incredible piece entitled, “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad.”

For gadgeteers, it should be obvious why I’m writing this today:

The new iPad is being released today. 

Millions upon millions will be sold. In fact, all the pre-sale inventory was sold out several days ago. The first person – globally – lined up a full week before the sale of the iPad. Every store will have droves of lines circled around the corner. It’s on everyone’s wish list – admitted or not admitted – perhaps with the exception of Bill Gates. I will confess that I’m also tempted to upgrade the original iPad that was gifted me couple years ago.

Globalization is complex.

Anyone that says otherwise is incapable of anything beyond simple thinking. It’s incredibly complex.

Now, let’s be clear: Apple didn’t create the ‘sweat-shop’ phenomenon. In its defense, you’ll hear hundreds upon hundreds of people in China that express their gratefulness for their jobs. Every day, several hundred folks are in line for new job openings in one of these infamous factories. There are certainly many critics but there are also ardent supporters. For example, this letter forces us to think:

My aunt worked several years in what Americans call “sweat shops.” It was hard work. Long hours, “small” wage, “poor” working conditions. Do you know what my aunt did before she worked in one of these factories? She was a prostitute.

Circumstances of birth are unfortunately random, and she was born in a very rural region. Most jobs were agricultural and family owned, and most of the jobs were held by men. Women and young girls, because of lack of educational and economic opportunities, had to find other “employment.”

The idea of working in a “sweat shop” compared to that old lifestyle is an improvement, in my opinion. I know that my aunt would rather be “exploited” by an evil capitalist boss for a couple of dollars than have her body be exploited by several men for pennies.

That is why I am upset by many Americans’ thinking. We do not have the same opportunities as the West. Our governmental infrastructure is different. The country is different.

Yes, factory is hard labor. Could it be better? Yes, but only when you compare such to American jobs.

If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all things.

While jobs are created and more opportunities may arise as a result of Apple, we can’t simply celebrate Apple as the most “admired company” or “most valuable company” without scrutinizing or at least, wrestling, with the mostly verified reports of working conditions, overworked employees, numerous suicides, and the list goes on and on.

In 2006, the Mail on Sunday alleged that sweatshop conditions existed in factories in China, where the contract manufacturers, Foxconn and Inventec, operate the factories that produce the iPod.  The article stated that one iPod factory, for instance, had over 200,000 workers that lived and worked in the factory, with workers regularly doing more than 60 hours of labor per week. The article also reported that workers made around $100 per month and were required to live on the premises and pay for rent and food from the company. Living expenses (required to keep the job) generally took up a little over half of the worker’s earnings. The article also said that workers were given buckets to wash their clothes

In 2009 and 2010, Foxconn factories supplying iPhones, iPads and other devices have still come under fire in the press, with one source describing conditions as a “white collar prison”. In 2009, Foxconn guards were videotaped beating employees. Later in April 2010, four workers attempted suicide in a single month in the same factory. By May 2010, 12 workers had attempted suicide at a Foxconn operations in China. Apple, HP, and others stated that they were investigating the situation. In response to the suicides, workers were forced to sign a legally binding document guaranteeing that they would not kill themselves. It is not clear how employees who fail to abide by the terms of this agreement will be sanctioned. [via Wikipedia]

I don’t want to be the party pooper, the naysayer, the cynic, the wanna be prophet, or the Apple hater.

There are reasons why Apple is perceived as the most admire company. But since it’s the industry leader, we must hold them to higher standards. Or to put it another way: If you’re an industry leader, be a leader in all areas. That, simply, is one of the burdens of being the industry leader.

A Prayer of Blessing…

While this post isn’t intended to resolve the complexities of globalization or fix the issues with Apple and Foxconn, my hope was to give my readers a perspective or blessing and to in fact, say a blessing for all those factory workers.

Huh?

One of my favorite prayers is the prayer before a meal. During this prayer, we acknowledge our Creator and God’s provision; we acknowledge our family, friends, and community. In this prayer, I especially love this portion of the prayer:

“Bless the hands that have prepared this meal.”

I love this because it acknowledges our connectedness and gratitude to others – both within our homes and especially, outside of our homes. Through this prayer, I’m invited to consider the love (in some cases) and at least, the labor that goes into the preparation of the meals. Literally, the hands…

Just recently, Minhee and I were on a double date  at a local restaurant and in our friend’s prayer before the meal, she prayed a blessing for the “hands” – the unseen cooks that helped prepare our meals. There’s a certain dignity and humanity in acknowledging the unseen and saying a blessing for them. A genuine blessing that God would also bless and prosper them.

And so today, I want to say a blessing to the unseen and unnamed workers that have put together the millions of iPads (and other gadgets) that we all enjoy in some form or another:

God,

We are blessed beyond belief. Help us to understand that. And as we enjoy these blessings, convict us to be a blessing to others. Much has been given to us and much is to be expected.

May we not be lazy or apathetic consumers that simply drink, eat, and consume – without asking important questions. Help us to be mindful of your Kingdom’s values of mercy, justice, and compassion. Help us to be mindful so that we can be more deeply pursuant of your Kingdom.

As we enjoy our gadgets and our stuff, we say a prayer of blessing to the many hands that have put together these iPads and gadgets. While they are unseen and unnamed, we acknowledge that they, too, are your beloved. They are loved and seen by You. Reveal yourself to them. Reveal yourself to us. Remind us that they, too, are connected to You, and thus, to us.  Bless them. Prosper them.

In Jesus name, Amen.

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8 Responses

  1. […] “A Prayer of Blessing to all Those Hands That Put Together the iPad That We’re About to Enjoy” by Eugene […]

  2. seonghuhn says:

    Totally agree w/ you. But you might also want to know Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China was mostly fabricated. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/blog/2012/03/retracting-mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

    Doesn’t change the theme of your post but thought you might want to know.

  3. jchenwa says:

    Living in Asia, I know that Americans have a healthier sense of worth and freedom. The root of this is economics. Asia is just poorer. Asia don’t want to say it, but they’re poorer comparatively. But, I really believe that prosperity is from God. So, God rain down your love and shine your light, please send forth your word and workers to change and save Asia!

  4. […] it is important to consider all sides to this story and I thought I’d share a blog post by Eugene Cho (thanks Dad for bringing this to my […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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