Chinese iPhone Worker Dead

There are two kinds of people in this country, the doomed and the screwheads.

Bill Murray as Hunter S. Thompson, Where The Buffalo Roam, 1980.

Hey, didja hear the one about the Chinese iPhone worker who committed suicide after an iPhone prototype in his possession went missing? sounds like a bad joke doesn’t it?

I wish it were, but sadly, it is all-too-real:

According to Chinese media, 25-year-old Sun Danyong was responsible for shipping iPhone prototypes to Apple. Danyong reported the missing device to Foxconn after realizing that one of the 16 iPhones he received was no longer in his possession.

Unfortunately, that’s not all that’s being reported. Various translation-sites and individuals have posted up translations of the Chinese media’s reporting of the event:

According to ND Daily, Sun Danyong, who had been handling a shipment of 16 iPhone prototypes, was set upon by Foxconn’s Central Security Division after one of the prototypes went missing. Unable to take the “unbearable interrogation techniques,” he jumped from a 12-story building on July 16.

Yep, you read that right – “unbearable interrogation techniques.” In lay parlance, that means “torture,” gang. Torture.

Via Daring Fireball, an Apple-focused blog, I’ve got to agree with Fake Steve Jobs (for those of you who aren’t familiar, “Fake Steve Jobs” is an anonymous blogger who writes Apple-culture parody as if he were Steve Jobs’ alter-ego or conscience). Usually, his stuff is light-but-funny geek/fanboy parody. Not this time. This post has a Catch-22, or maybe Jonathan Swift-style tragic/absurdist sweep to it. Do yourself a favor; click through and read the entire thing, because there’s much more than the paragraph I’m about to quote, and it’s all excellent – if very difficult – food for thought:

We all know that there’s no f***ing way in the world we should have microwave ovens and refrigerators and TV sets and everything else at the prices we’re paying for them. There’s no way we get all this stuff and everything is done fair and square and everyone gets treated right. No way. And don’t be confused — what we’re talking about here is our way of life. Our standard of living. You want to “fix things in China,” well, it’s gonna cost you. Because everything you own, it’s all done on the backs of millions of poor people whose lives are so awful you can’t even begin to imagine them, people who will do anything to get a life that is a tiny bit better than the sh*tty one they were born into, people who get exploited and treated like sh*t and, in the worst of all cases, pay with their lives.

You know that, and I know that. Okay? Let’s just be honest here. Just for a f***ing minute, let’s all be honest.

I agree, Fake Steve, let’s. Real Steve? What do you think?

It’s that vague thought you push to the back of your brain every time you walk into a Wal-Mart or buy a network interface card for only $8.99: “This can’t cost this little.” Somewhere at the back of your mind, you know what kind of salary you expect – or even just what salary you would need simply to survive in America. And you look at this article of clothing you’re about to buy for “a steal,” or that fantastically intricate piece of electronics, and you know, on some level, that even if you possessed the same skills, you could not produce the same product for the same price — not and live in America, even at bare-subsistence levels.

The truth is – and has been for some time – that the lifestyle most of us have become accustomed to is not only unsustainable, but requires the blood and misery of legions of strangers to exist at all. As we sit here and debate whether our government should investigate the previous administration for knowingly authorizing horrific acts of torture, the tendrils of those acts have already borne fruit in the commercial realm.

Chinese is a notoriously difficult language to translate. And news reports often are wrong on crucial details. So perhaps it’s not true that this man was actually tortured at the hands of his employer who are Apple subcontractors. But he is definitely dead. And regardless of the accuracy of this particular story, the larger reality that we live a lifestyle fueled by the oppression of others is irrefutable. Returning to Gruber’s post at Daring Fireball, I find myself agreeing that:

Even if the missing prototype was stolen, not lost (and let’s not be naive about how unlikely it would be for someone to lose, Uncle Billy-style, a secret Apple prototype when it’s clear that Foxconn doesn’t exactly chalk such losses up with an “oh, well”), torture is evil. Apple needs to investigate this, publish the results, and if the man was truly tortured, sever ties with Foxconn.

You bet they should. This poor guy – Mr. Danyong, – is one of the many casualties of our quest for ever-better, ever-cheaper goods. He is, in Hunter Thompson’s formulation, one of “the doomed,” and Apple should not work with Foxconn if these allegations are true.

But it doesn’t stop there. This post was written entirely on my own beloved iPhone. Who’s that screwhead over in the corner with his face in shadow? The one responsible — is it Steve Jobs? The security chief at Foxconn? Wait, his face looks familiar if I peer a little more closely…

It’s me.

Different colors, different shades
Over each mistakes were made
I took the blame
Directionless so plain to see
A loaded gun won’t set you free
So you say

Joy Division, New Dawn Fades