The Christmas season will soon be here. That means gift buying for millions of Christian Americans. Perhaps, you’re going to buy an iPhone, iPad, Wii U, BlackBerry, Kindle, Play Station 4, X Box One. Americans don’t tend to care where the products they buy come from. Fact is if you’ve bought one of these products you could be helping murder our brother and sister workers in sweatshops around the world. It’s just not these products, it could be any product made by Sony, Nokia, Nintendo, Motorola, HP, Dell and Apple. I say you are complacent in murder because the Foxconn factories in China and Taiwan where these products are made at is driving their workers towards committing suicide.
Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics producer. Their factories (which can have up to 300,000 workers at each) have a history of suicides because of its harsh working conditions. In January 2012, 150 of the Chinese workers threatened to demonstrate by committing mass-suicide to protest the terrible working conditions. The conditions include military style discipline, constant surveillance, working long hours 6 days a week, low pay and paying much of their wages to live in the dormitories at the plants.
At Foxconn’s Shenzhen complex there were 14 deaths from suicide out of 18 attempts in 2010. The deaths occurred when worker’s jumped out of the high rise dormitory. Foxconn’s solution was to put nets around the dorms. They also had employees sign no-suicide pledges and papers saying relatives couldn’t sue Foxconn for unexpected deaths. On September 30, 2014 Shenzhen Foxconn worker Xu Lizhi committed suicide by jumping out his residential dormitory window.
Xu was a poet who had many poems published in local papers. He wrote of brutal conditions on the assembly line. You can smell the scent of death in his poems. Those deaths were all dress rehearsals for his soon to be death. He never showed his poems to family members. He sent money home to them, and did not want his relatives to know the terrible conditions he worked under. I want you to know those conditions before you carelessly shop without regard to what blood, sweat and tears went into the products you buy. I can’t convey that pain any better than by using Xu’s poetic words.
I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That”
The paper before my eyes fades yellow
With a steel pen I chisel on it uneven black
Full of working words
Workshop, assembly line, machine, work card, overtime, wages…
They’ve trained me to become docile
Don’t know how to shout or rebel
How to complain or denounce
Only how to silently suffer exhaustion
When I first set foot in this place
I hoped only for that grey pay slip on the tenth of each month
To grant me some belated solace
For this I had to grind away my corners, grind away my words
Refuse to skip work, refuse sick leave, refuse leave for private reasons
Refuse to be late, refuse to leave early
By the assembly line I stood straight like iron, hands like flight,
How many days, how many nights
Did I – just like that – standing fall asleep.
A Screw Fell to the Ground”
A screw fell to the ground
In this dark night of overtime
Plunging vertically, lightly clinking
It won’t attract anyone
Just like last time
On a night like this
When someone plunged to the ground.
A space of ten square meters
Cramped and damp, no sunlight all year
Here I eat, sleep, shit, and think
Cough, get headaches, grow old, get sick but still fail to die
Under the dull yellow light again I stare blankly, chuckling like an idiot
I pace back and forth, singing softly, reading, writing poems
Every time I open the window or the wicker gate
I seem like a dead man
Slowly pushing open the lid of a coffin.
Here is the last poem Xu wrote possibly on the day of his suicide:
I want to touch the sky, feel that blueness so light
But I can’t do any of this, so I’m leaving this world
Everyone who’s heard of me
Shouldn’t be surprised at my leaving
Even less should you sigh or grieve
I was fine when I came, and fine when I left.
Hozier: “Take Me to the Church”
“I’m the girl nobody knows until she commits suicide. Then suddenly everyone had a class with her.” ~ Tom Leveen