I read the New York Times review of Mike Daisey‘s show at The Public Theater that basically gave it a “meh.” But my friend Eric Jordan told me “GO SEE THIS SHOW Sara. You MUST go see this show. YOU, Sara Karl, MUST GO SEE THIS SHOW, period.”
So I did. And after having seen The Agony & The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, I will say this to you; “GO SEE THIS SHOW. You MUST go see this show. YOU must go see this show, period.”
Daisey is an engaging, extemporaneous storyteller from the Spalding Gray school, and big and and funny in a larger-than-life Chris Farley kind of way. He sits at a table like the former, and does rubber-face gymnastics, using his booming voice to drive home the humor like the latter. With these he rides robustly into a double helix tale with one thread describing his geekdom (starting with the fortuitous entry of the brand-new Macintosh SE into his home as a teenager) twisting around the thread of Steve Jobs’ journey from college dropout to Apple founder and changer of the world, until the two tales arrive at the same place, in China, where Daisey goes to see the place where his beloved gadgets are made.
His findings are even more horrifying than you imagine they will be, with the now-infamous monstrous factories, serial suicides, mangled limbs, inhuman working conditions. He pretends to be an American businessman so he can be taken inside and shown things the Chinese government won’t allow the press to see.
Even though we know, on some level, about these atrocities; the twelve-year old girls making our iPhones, Androids, iPads by hand, the endless assembly lines and long hours (while Daisey was there, a man dropped dead on the factory floor after working a 34-hour shift), his telling, especially when he drops the funny-fat-man faces and gives it to us straight, is chilling. He meets with workers who can’t wait to tell him their stories, and this personal transmission of their experience, from them to him to us, is uncomfortably close. We can’t ignore these truths now, any more than he can.
Knowing the obsessive attention to detail that Steve Jobs is famous for, Daisey concludes that there is no way Jobs didn’t know about these factories. Being an industry leader, he believes Jobs could have had another kind of game-changing impact on the world — to stand up for humane working conditions of the people manufacturing his products. But he didn’t. And now it’s too late for Steve Jobs to make that kind of impact.
But we can.
Mike Daisey shows us that with all the talk currently in fashion about having handmade products, that never in the history of the world has there been more products made by hand, than right now. Each time you pick up your cel phone, laptop, iPod, or any electronic device, remember it was handmade, by the tiny hands of a twelve-year old girl.
Maybe you don’t need to be first in line to buy the newest version.
What to do? At the end of the show, we are handed a paper listing ideas of what you can do, including writing to Apple**, think differently about upgrading, educating yourself and perhaps most importantly, tell others.
**from Mike Daisey’s post-show handout:
“Talking about it, thinking about it when making purchasing decisions, and understanding it is not just symbolic. In a world of silence, speaking itself is action. It can be the first seeds of actual change. Do not be afraid to plant them.
Spread the virus.
Apple’s new CEO is Tim Cook, and his email address is email@example.com. He receives email sent here, and he and others at Apple sometimes respond. Don’t abuse this email address. Be firm, polite, resolute and clear-headed. Cook made his name, at Apple by establishing Apple’s supply chain in Southern China as it exists today…You can expect him to tell you about Apple’s Supplier Responsibility Report, a document written without independent verification or oversight and whose accuracy has been contested by a number of human rights organizations. Ask Cook to take the lead–Apple could be the first electronics manufacturer to allow independent, outside verification of working conditions in factories.” — Mike Daisey