"If you control the metaphor through which people see the world, then you control the world itself." Mike Daisey
I recently attended a matinee of Mike Daisey's the "Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at the Public Theatre in New York City. It's a powerful, thought provoking tale and Daisey's a masterful storyteller. Until Daisey stepped onto the stage before the performance began and told us briefly about his experience on the NPR radio show, "This American Life," I didn't realize the controversy surrounding the piece. He basically said he stands behind his work and anything false he'd removed from the script.
First, let me come clean here; I've only owned Apple computers. I'm on my third. Granted I keep my computers long after they've been deemed obsolete by the industry. My MacBook's five years old and even though I upgraded I still need more memory. I don't own an iPhone although I'm considering buying one as soon as my phone contract will allow me. I don't own an iPad but have two iPods both were given to me.
Now we've all heard and read about the horrible abuses of the workers in China by Apple. The New York Times has done several exposes, as well as CNN and other sources and then there's Mike Daisey. For those of you who don't know Mike Daisey is a monologist. I first encountered him at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in about 2002 when I went to see "21 Dog Years" about his stint with Amazon.com. His monologue was poignant, biting, funny, well written and deliciously subversive and despite the fact he merely sits at a desk and talks directly to us he completely captivates his audience with his large expressive face and a voice as agile as a trapeze artist.
I've written and performed three solo plays myself and one of them, Lizzie Borden Live, was commissioned by the East Lynne Theatre Company in Cape May, NJ where we had a very successful six week run. Subsequently the show went on to Providence, RI, Fall River, MA, New York City and Sedona, Arizona. I'm only telling you this to let you know I've got some street cred when assessing this genre. Doing a solo show is no easy feat. It takes hours and hours of work. From the concept to research to building the piece brick by brick can take years to perfect.
Daisey's, self-professed technology geek tale opens at the Mira Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong. Over the course of the almost two hours he takes us on a journey through being a "worshiper in the cult of Mac. I have been to the House of Jobs, I have walked through the stations of his cross, I have knelt before his throne." to downloading four pictures off the Internet taken inside the factory where iPhones are made.
"First was of a stack of pallets, wooden pallets, stacked up; and the second was the edge of a conveyor belt; the third was totally out of focus--it could just be an enormous space--and the fourth was a woman. She doesn't know her picture's being taken. She's looking off in another direction, she' wearing a clean suit, she has no expression on her face."
And he wonders, "Who are these people?" And for the first time he thinks about where and how these items are made.
Daisey then travels to Shenzhen, China, "the third largest city in the world you've never heard of," where he visits a few factories posing as a businessman and meets with factory officials. He also visits Foxconn, the factory that produces 50% of all the electronics made in the world and standing outside the gates talks with the workers there.
What he learns is quite disturbing indeed but let's be honest it's not just Apple that abuses their workers it's every electronic company working over there. Apple just happens to be the gold standard by which all other companies are measured. It's important to note at the time Daisey was visiting Foxconn workers had been committing suicide month after month by going to the top of the buildings and jumping off. Foxconn's response was to put nets outside the buildings to break their falls before they could break their necks.
The handout given to each audience member as we exit the theatre states,
"Apple makes 60% profit on every device. Apple's sitting on a cash reserve of $100 billion dollars in the bank. It's a staggering figure. That's more cash than the federal government has on hand. And yet Apple has not been able to manage its supply chain in a humane way. It hasn't done this because until now it has not been a priority for them and its workers have paid that price."
Now for the controversy. Ira Glass, the host of "This American Life," has called some of the material in Daisey's piece into question. He claims they didn't' fact check Daisey's work closely enough. You may listen to the episode here.
The New York Times reported.