One Omelet, Please


“You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.”  I wish those wise words had originated in my mind from someone other than Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club, but they did.

In the 1-hour monologue delivered by actor Mike Daisy as part of his full performance, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Daisy uncovers the harsh reality of the conditions at the Foxconn Factory in Shenzhen, China.  At the outset, Daisy sounded all too familiar to me; he describes himself as a technology-crazed middle-aged man with the hobbies of reading blogs written by other Apple enthusiasts and spreading rumors of the next fresh Apple product.  The point of the podcast which piqued my true interests was when Daisy discovers the four unknown pictures snapped from an iPhone from within the mysterious Foxconn factory.  The pictures depicting wooden pallets, a conveyor belt, and out-of-focus large space and an expressionless woman clearly gripped his imagination.

Traveling in the “city without history” with his translator, Cathy, Daisy provides a beautifully grim depiction of Shenzhen.  He recounts that Shenzhen is the 3rd largest city in China with over 14 million people and a powerhouse producer of all of our “crap.”  As he describes the city, a picture began to form in my mind.  Shenzhen is a massive, poorly constructed and tacky Times Square with flashy advertisements constantly blinking through a thick gray haze.  Daisy’s description of the “silver poison sky” also contributed to the deathly metropolis of the densely populated city.  Later, when Daisy and Cathy’s vehicle abruptly halts at an unconstructed exit on the main highway, the general public safety of Shenzhen is severely called into question.  The taxi driver and the two travelers peering over the 85-foot drop behind the single orange traffic cone planted an end-of-the-Earth picture in my mind.

I am left with a disgraceful feeling towards the end of Daisy’s monologue.  At a restaurant, Daisy and Cathy meet with an older man with “leathery skin.”  He worked in the Foxconn factory for several years before mangling his right hand in a metal press used to produce iPads.  After receiving no medical attention, the factory managers fired him for his slowness, but he luckily found more reasonable employment at a woodwork plant.  The sad irony is that he’d never seen an iPad turned on before, but had lost the normal use of his hand in making one.  Upon turning on Daisy’s iPad, his eyes glowed and the feelings of sacrifice and injustice washed over me.

Today, more hand-made products are produced in cheap-labor countries than ever before.  However, I wonder if the cost of the inhumane practices embedded in the toys outweighs the ephemeral satisfaction of the end-user.  Or simply, just how many broken eggs are worth one shiny, plastic omelet?

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4 thoughts on “One Omelet, Please

  1. I love the omelet comparison in your post. I think it really does bring up a great point: how much damage should be allowed in order to produce something useful? In the broadcast, Daisey discusses all of the harm imposed on factory workers. We learn about the harmful chemicals, the long work hours, and the unsafe working conditions. However, outside of that broadcast, most of us never even give it a second thought. We use our iPhones, iPads, and computers without even thinking about how they were made. Is it worth it? It’s true that technology has drastically changed the way most of the world operates. Is it possible to compete or even function in the real world without these products? Is that justification for using them, even though we now know the harm that they cause?

  2. I really liked your quote from Fight Club. That was a very inspiring movie. Just like the crew assembled by Brad Pitt in Fight Club, I think there are hundreds of people in the factories located in Shenzhen need to release their pressure from their monotonous and under-paid work. However, a significant number of them decided to end their lives. Looking at all the Apple products around us, a feeling of guilty naturally raised in people’s minds, who knows about the sad fact on the other side of the world. However, back to their lives, maybe ten years later, when no one is still reporting all the “bloody truth”, will the people forget what Apple or Foxconn has done? May be they will order another “omelet” on apple.com, just like what they have done nowadays.

  3. I think your use of the Fight Club quote as a metaphor was a great way to get your point across. The disabled man seeing the iPad for the first time was one of the parts of the podcast that moved me the most. It does not occur to people how many workers it takes to build something like an iPad. People certainly do not think about how many workers were harmed in the making of it either. I think your blog post is in line with many other members of our class in speculating when “enough is enough” and people will start to fight back against these poor conditions. For now, it does not seem like there will be much change any time soon, but I’d like to think that one day people will start to care about how many broken eggs it takes to make an omelet, to use your metaphor.

  4. I think you really encapsulated the key points in Daisey’s speech. I also very much like the prose you use to further illustrate Daisey’s monologue. It saddens me deeply to hear about such cruel work environments for those workers abroad. How can companies such as Apple and Microsoft turn a blind eye to the inequalities overseas and only care about the P&L? I really hope that I can make an impact on labor conditions abroad when I begin working this June.

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