POV: Your Bill Includes Everything You Actually Pay For When You Buy A Phone
Oh so, you have finally decided to purchase this phone? Let us give you the detailed bill.
ITEM 1: The Device
This device is so cool! It is like the previous model but with a much much better screen and OMG the camera is just beautiful! And wait for it, THEY FINALLY MADE THE NOTCH SHORTER.
Cost: ₹ 90,000.00-ish
ITEM 2: Inhumanity (Tax for existing)
In 2010, many workers of Foxconn city Industrial park at Shenzhen committed suicide because of low pay and overwork. Thankfully, Foxconn is a very provincial manufacturer and its blood soaked products were not prevalent in the tech world and we lived happily ever after.
Facebook is shit.
Just kidding, Foxconn is not provincial at all, it is omnipresent and the creator of much of what goes around and it is deeply oppressive, sounds a lot like God of the Old Testament. Foxconn has been a supplier for huge names like Apple and Microsoft. In published back in 2012, CBS News reported that Foxconn makes over 50% of all the electronics in the world. In short, yes, you have blood on your hands.
Foxconn’s work environment is clearly inhuman but here is what Steve Jobs had to say about the supplier, “We're all over this . . . Foxconn is not a sweatshop. You go to this place, and it's a factory, but my gosh, I mean, they got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools. For a factory, it's a pretty nice factory." (quoted in the aforementioned CBS article). Closer to home, last year some in India because they were not paid and were asked to do overtime.
Now, big companies have taken steps to combat this but we can expect the same level of productivity and accessibility once the changes are made, besides it is really difficult to make substantial change while also being in the cutthroat competition of the free market.
Apart from this, there are some socially sanctioned kinds of oppression, employees working for hours and hours and still not getting paid enough. For example, the gaming and other IT industries seem like a prestigious place to work at but their workers are almost always being exploited.
Cost: Your Innocence
ITEM 3: Manipulation
A brand’s logo has enormous symbolic value. In the good ol’ days, things were worth their actual value depending upon their utility and how abundant they are. It is still the same except it's not.
Holding an Apple device or driving a Mercedes is immensely valuable in itself. There may be better options but the symbolic worth of some things far outweighs others. A perfect example is diamonds. Why are they so expensive? Because they are so rare? Yes of course, but also because marketing and culture has invested immense value in it. Narratives like “A Diamond is forever,” or the bigger diamond you give your beloved, the more she means to you, and so on infuse a lot of cultural worth in diamonds.
The same goes for electronic devices. Our culture becomes a mode of propagation of many exploitative and manipulative practices, everything from music to school books becomes a way to create a “you” that has certain goals, and these goals, as mentioned earlier, are almost always soaked in blood. If you have an average life it is at the expense of thousands of people who live in an industrial hell.
In addition to that, there is a form of self-referentiality to things. If you buy an iPhone, you feel inclined to buy AirPods too; if you buy a Samsung Smart TV, you will want to buy a Samsung phone too. All the products relate to each other and the products themselves do the marketing for each other.
Extensions are not all that is there, Apple users often report decreased battery life after updating the iOS. It seems logical to say that older devices have to use more power to run the new features, but it is actually a perfect way to make sure people consider upgrading. The company even gives discount on the latest phone if the users return their old ones. This creates the demand for the device in a group that already has an iPhone and does not need the new one. Needless to say, this increased demand is fulfilled by labor exploitation.
Total Cost: ₹ 90,000.00 + Your Soul + A Screwed-Up World
Enjoy your purchase.
Before you go, all of this sucks, no doubt, but individuals are not really guilty here. There is nothing a single person can do that will change things, only collective action can help in such cases, like with climate change. To make sure this does not sound a lot like communist propaganda, it must be said that the companies are not entirely to be blamed either. They are merely a symptom of capitalism, they can be used to examine the disease but treating them will not cure the disease.