Folks at the Foxconn plant in China, many of them around my age, are offing themselves like lemmings. Yesterday's was the 15th (of 17 attempted). It was bound to happen, really--Taiwan's corporate culture of overachievement, China's wanton disrespect for human life, and the global market's obsession with the bottom line cut both down the street and across the road like a three-bladed Gillette.
It's been happening so often, it turns out, that folks are beginning to suspect that at least some of them aren't really suicides, but deaths from overwork. Which might explain why a 20% pay raise, a bizarre "stress room", a suicide hotline, and the installation of bouncy safety nets have done little to stem the rising tide of reported jumpers. An undercover reporter sent by China Weekly to work in the plant found an unending purgatory in which there was no solace in anything but death.
And you thought your tech job was hell.
Official state sources, of course, are fraught with anecdotal evidence, pseudo-academic bullshit, and blaming the victim. (Not that there'll be much more word from state sources, considering that the Chinese government has recently put in a gag order.)
It's funny how Western bloggers try to peg this tragedy on American neocolonialism, calling Steve Jobs a murderer and whatnot. Oh, white guilt, you so silly. Apple has no fucking clue what their suppliers are doing. (Though they really should, you know, switch to a less evil supplier.)
Last time I visited my father, he said to me, "Kevin, no matter what you do, I respect your decision, but I think there are good opportunities for you in China. The tech sector over there is growing. Maybe you should come and work on the mainland and I can find you a job." What, so I can be a slave driver like the rest of the Taiwanese technocracy? Our family tree already has enough tyrants in it, thank you.
Mao promised his followers a China for the workers--workers like these people. What a fucking joke that dream has become.
(edit) Taiwanese news coverage on the suicides is ridiculous, as well, but for entirely different reasons. Way to let Foxconn's PR department dictate your investigative journalism, Taiwanese cable news stations. Just like Taiwanese PR hounds to try and convince people that newly built swimming pools and Internet cafes are somehow going to mitigate 70 hour workweeks for China's national minimum wage (sorry, minimum wage plus 20%), plus copious mandatory overtime...
(second edit) Thank God, at least some Taiwanese people still remember how to do the right thing and exert pressure via protests. Love that 成語 on the bottom sign, which reads, rather elegantly, "At what price flesh and blood?" And, of course, the Hong Kongers, who never forgot, are burning paper iPhones. +200 public relations damage!