Want to protest working conditions at Foxconn? Wait six months
The NYT had a big article on Foxconn a couple weeks ago, and it really started a conversation. (Note: "had an article" and not "broke a story." The story was being broken at various places throughout last year, but until the Paper of Record reported on it, it couldn't get any traction.)
It's probably safe to say the workers there labor under conditions not functionally distinguishable from slavery. Their treatment is appalling, abysmal, and shocking; the language strains for adjectives to describe the abject misery heaped upon the people whose total subjugation serves only to make the little gadgets we tote around marginally cheaper. This has caused a certain amount of unease in some of the folks who had been blithely going along with the PR kettling so skilfully practiced by modern marketing departments.
Of course, some weren't that concerned at all. This dude achieves Douchebaggery Nirvana (DN) by describing folks buying new iPhones as making "tough-minded decisions about what’s best for themselves and their families."
But sometimes douchebags can be useful despite themselves! And this is one of those times. Mr. DN points out that participating in an economy beyond the smallest scale will get you associating with some fairly distasteful practices. One solution is to be a purist and withdraw entirely. Most folks won't do that. These attractive new consumer electronics are embedded in the lives of those fortunate enough to be able to afford them, and any attempt to improve conditions at Foxconn is going to have to make generous allowance for human frailty. We want to do the right thing, but we want our stuff more. (This is not new: one of the earliest morality tales centers around the inability to resist the temptation of an apple.)
So how do we get folks on board with sending a message but still let them get their shinies? Here's my proposed tactic: Wait until six months after the release date to buy it. There are ancillary reasons to do this; one is that it could be couched as a sort of consumer declaration of independence, a way of saying we will not march mindlessly to the beat of your drum. We will buy your products when we're darn good and ready!
It's actually good tech buying practice as well. New releases are notoriously buggy even from the most reliable companies. Let someone else be on the bleeding edge while the kinks get worked out.
But the main reason to do it is to slow down the sales volume of the companies and disrupt their plans. If lots of folks decided to wait six months, not everyone would buy six months to the day. Some might wait seven, eight or nine months. Some would forgo the new purchase entirely. In any event, that slowdown would also squeeze out purchasing for peripherals, and it might send other purchasing decisions down the line as well. (And who knows, maybe if there wasn't such stemwinding demand from day one the Foxconn factory might not need to work its people to death.)
Yes, not everyone would be on board, and some folks would feel terribly envious seeing those not with the program sporting their new items right away. But a protest ought to ask something of you, right? And who knows, maybe jumping in like that ends up earning a sort of mild social opprobrium. Heaven knows not all technology is admired; maybe premature consumers end up with an unsavory air about them.
So spread the word. Give it a try. You don't really need it right this instant, do you? Delayed gratification is ultimately much more pleasurable anyway. Wait six months. You know you can.