By Mort Laitner
I sat behind my office desk and joyfully tapped on my new iPad 2 when a sharp burning sensation ran through my gnarled knuckles to the hidden recesses of my brain. My fingers curled and cramped as I cursed, “DAMN IT!” followed by a chorus of, “Ride the pain, ride the pain, and ride the pain.” My eyes shut as I saw my hands covered in dark red blood.
As the pain subsided, I rose, opened my eyes and observed my blood-free fingers drop the iPad 2 as if it were a hot skillet.
My stomach tightened as I remembered a TV show where young Chinese workers jumped off of tall factory buildings. I closed my eyes as their bodies splattered on the good earth. Their tolerance for life ended because they worked —ten to fourteen-hour days— six days a week. Repetitively, they inserted computer chips in electronic devises, such as my iPad 2. In factory towns— consisting of over a hundred thousand souls— they were housed. Eight workers slept in one small dormitory room. Their jobs drove them to despair and death.
I pictured myself as one of those Chinese workers squinting on the assembly line. I held tweezers-size tools, inserting thousands of chips a day. Would I be able to survive just one eight-hour shift? I saw myself without friends or family with no relief from loneliness. Monotony filled every minute of my long day on the factory line. Would I consider life worth living? Would I jump?
“In whose hands did these electronic devices end up?” I thought. “Do they care about me? My pain? My suffering? My existence?”
Like bats at dusk flying out of their guano-filled caves, I pictured a line of millions of paper airplanes–made up of American hundred-dollar bills– gliding across the Pacific and landing on the roof of my Beijing death factory.
That night I saw photographs on the History Channel of 10 year-old boys working long hours in West Virginia’s coal mines or eleven year-old girls working in Lower Manhattan sweat shops sewing hundreds of garments a day. The coal was cheap as were the clothes manufactured in the US at the turn of the century. I felt good hearing that child labor laws have long been enforced in the States.
Then an advertisement for the movie, Blood Diamonds appeared on the screen. I recalled how African workers were treated as slaves in Sierra Leone’s diamond mines but I had not bought any of these conflict diamonds.
As I tried to rest my head on my pillow, I tossed and turned knowing the joy of holding, watching, listening to and playing with my brand new iPad 2 had vanished forever.