In the era of colonization, the general ideals of the colonizing European countries were that "other" places (Africa, Central America, etc.) were either currently unfit for "civilized" life and therefore needed teaching to join their progressive world, or their ignorance must be exploited, giving Europe hassle free slave labor that the rest of the world was ignorant of or blinded by. Belgium in the Congo was no different but slightly unique. This government was oblivious to the torture because of the front that they were "civilizing" the "savages". This was where the rift formed between two worlds: the progressive and the underdeveloped. Marlo's and the narrator gives us an image for this division: the Thames vs the Congo. The Thames is the perfect example of expansion. Filled with merchant ships traveling between worlds with new goods and cultures, and surrounded by expanding buildings and business. And then there's the Congo. Jungle lining the banks, filled only with the native "savages", no growing skyscrapers or churches, government buildings or hospitals. To Belgium, and the rest of Europe, this means something needs to change. The people of the Congo cannot be left alone. They must either be immersed or exploited.
Just in response to the article by The New York Times, I was very intrigued with what can an average person do to help/stop the exploitation of these Chinese workers. The specific instances the article listed were awful and it really made me want to help, but I have had a hard time coming up with a solution. I first thought of donating money to charities around the world for better quality of life because of instances like these. Although the money is going to great cause, it will never be enough to completely cure the world of exploitation like this and it, in a sense, reinforces our blindness to it all. We send money and then feel like we have contributed, so we again become blind again. While people may disagree with me, the example of the Haitian earthquake is perfect. There were millions of people who sent donations for relief help and each and every person felt like they contributed to a good deed, but the only reason we sent money was because of a natural disaster, when the country itself has been one of the poorest in the Americas for years. after quickly realizing donating money is futile, very relevant to HoD, I think that the best way to help, because we will never be able to fully stop exploitation is to incorporate laws and sanctions in the government that will restrict companies from exploiting workers in foreign countries. while this idea is farfetched and probably will not happen because our government is having a hard time just passing a bill that benefits our country and will be harder to pass one to help other countries, it was the best way to "help". while I know that we still will be blinded by other companies doing the same thing for other foreign companies, the fact that they will not be able to sell to the biggest economy in the world will force almost every company to rethink how to make products. USA is and will be the biggest consumer economy in the world because we will but anything that looks cool or something that our friends have, just to have it.
After reading that article, all it can do is sadden me...
I find myself questioning my love and awe of this company when I read an article like that. When you think of Apple, I would think it would be always in good ways. They are one of the top companies in the world for what they manufacture, and have great products that will be used for a long time! But something like this coming out, I have no doubt, millions of people having to stop and scratch their heads when hearing Apple.
It's a powerful article, thus connecting Apple to the Heart of Darkness in this way. Apple is a light. It's a blinding light, that has hidden it's darkness for obviously quite sometime now and it was only going to take someone long enough to finally uncover that darkness they had been hiding
We've spent a lot of time in class discussing Achebe's ideas and whether or not Conrad's Heart of Darkness is racist. Much of that debate has focused on the possible pressence of racist undertones in the novel. Of course Heart of Darkness has racist undertones. There is absolutely no way to portray European brutality and subjugation of Africans without racist undertones. If Conrad wrote a book about westward expansion in America, and in it talked about the mistreatment and deplacement of Native Americans, then no matter how civil he portrayed their society, no matter how intelligent the Native Americans were shown to be, it would still have racist undertones. It would still be a story about white people "triumphing" over colored people and subjecting them to their will. As advanced as the society of the Africans may have been, it was still subjected to the will of white people, and though the white people were savage and brutal, the underlying implication is one of white superiority.
Here I have to say that obviously I don't agree that any race is superior to any other. In any story where one people subjecct another to their will, there is an implied superiority of the people in power. Achebe was correct in stating that there are racism underlies and perhaps even drives the plot of Heart of Darkness. However, he missed the entire point of the novel.Conrad was not the least bit racist, because the book is about Marlow venturing deep into the subconscious to find that people, no matter how "civilised" they pretend to be, are savage and animalistic. Every human, of every race, is on the same plane of animalistic nature. Though they may subject each other to their will, all people are subject to the will of nature. If anything, Conrad is aware of the racist undertones, and purposefully uses them to showcase the irony of one person feeling superior to another. Achebe was correct, but completely missed the point.
In class for the past few days we've been talking about Achebe and the problems of imperialism back then, and now as well. We still have our western psychology so we don't really see a problem with what our companies do in underdeveloped countries (even saying underdeveloped implies that we are more developed; it's Western psychology in action). But once we get past our psychology (if we can), we can see that these problems don't have any solution if we intend to keep our power and if neither cultures are willing to sacrifice some of what they want.
For instance, we outsource manufacturing jobs and have slave-like labor because people are willing to work in those conditions. That fact is simple economics (I'm not saying that I approve of the conditions, but these people are in fact willing to work in deplorable conditions because they have no other choice). If there were no people willing to work in poor conditions, companies wouldn't be able to have such conditions. But because of the lack of other options, people are forced to work in such conditions because they need to feed their families and themselves.
A solution to this problem could be seen as the western companies changing their ways. But once again, that solution is economically unviable; profits would be lost and although it is the best moral course of action, those in charge of companies often would rather keep profits than have a morally guided company. The other solution however is on the other side. Theoretically, if everyone in developing countries refused to work in such conditions, companies would be forced to elevate their conditions.
However, the second solution is even more unlikely than the first. People care first about their basic needs before other needs. The first solution is implausible because people are greedy.
Although it is important to discuss these problems, it's important to realise that there may not be solutions. I haven't given an all-encompasing list of possibilities above, but serious actions have to be taken after the dialogue raised by Achebe before we can create a more equal world.
That being said, I think it is important to talk about these issues.
First off, while everyone is bashing Apple, I feel like they do not realize that this is an industry-wide problem, and Apple is being used as a scapegoat due to their popularity.
I 100% agree that the Foxconn situation is awful, and that although there has been a considerable amount of publicity, people are not acting on it. Similar to the "heart of darkness" that is the Congo, the terrible labor conditions in China are being ignored because people do not want to accept the reality or take action.
There is a phenomenal monologue that I have had the opportunity to see called "The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs." This is not as much of a biographical monologue as it is about the true story of the playwright and self proclaimed Apple fanboy who goes on an exploratory journalistic trip to the factories in China. Mike Daisy, the playwright was horrified and deeply saddened by what he saw, and wrote his monologue so that he can inform the public to take action.
If you do not intend to see the play, read these final lines, which I feel do a good job (when performed well) of having a shocking effect on the audience, giving them something to swallow.
"And Steve Jobs—this genius of design and form—blinded himself to the most essential law of design: that the way in which a thing is made is a part of the design itself.
But you won’t forget that, will you?
You won’t forget that...because tonight is a virus. It started in the first scene but you couldn’t feel it.
And by the third scene, it had jumped your firewalls and it’s been leaping from protected memory to protected memory all night long.
It’s been re-writing your code from the inside out and I’m letting you know now, you will never be rid of it.
It is inside of you, just like it’s inside of me, twisting and wriggling. And when these lights come up, when this theatrical construct falls away, it will still be in you.
You will carry it out these doors, you will be vectors for it. You will carry it to your homes, and when you sit down in front of your laptops, when you open them up, you will see the blood welling up between the keys. You will know that those were made by human hands. You will always know that. When you take your phones out outside to check the time, and the light falls across your face, you will know that it may have been made by children’s hands. You will know that.
And you will live with it. Just as I live with it. Just as we’re all going to have to start seeing it if we’re going to make the shift.
Tonight, the door is open if you want to walk through it. Tonight we are jailbroken.
Tonight we are free."
In Achebe's article, apparently a lot of racism is hinted throughout the novel. I felt really misled because I cannot believe that I did not realize this before. I thought that a lot of racism was evident after Achebe's article. However, after listening in on yesterday's classroom discussion I think differently now. I do not tho k that he was all that racist, but just fitting into the time period. How he felt at the time might have been a mutual feeling to the rest of the world. That article from Achebe was written in the 1980s when racism had declined in size. Achebe was not intentionally racist, and you can compare that to any other literary works from that time period.
As we were sitting in English discussing Achebe's analysis of Heart of Darkness, I thought it was interesting how so many of us, myself included, rose to defend Conrad against the claims of racism Achebe placed on his book. In a room of at least 85% white kids, we sat there saying Conrad did nothing wrong. Being white, most of the students in the class could physically identify with Conrad, the victimizer, more than Achebe, the victim. Granted, we have all probably experienced racism or prejudice in one form or another. But since when is it up to the accused to decided what should and should not offend other people?
Many of the defenses we made for Heart of Darkness were valid. The book does possess literary merit; covert racism was very likely not Conrad's main goal of the story, nor was he probably even thinking that way when he wrote it; and for the time period in which it was written, the novel seems like it should be considered progressive. But regardless, how is a room full of white kids supposed to argue that Achebe has no standing to be offended by it?
I think part of the reason most of us rose to Conrad's aid so quickly is that we took Achebe's claim of Conrad's racism to heart. Before reading the article, most of us ourselves did not notice many examples racism, and maybe naturally identified with the liberal message in Marlow's account - that imperialism is ultimately more destructive than progressive. But once we made the conscious decision to agree with Conrad's perspective, any attack on his writing felt almost like a personal attack on our own concept of race.
Sure, I was uncomfortable when Marlow described the native African civilization as prehistoric and mystical, but I was quick to make excuses for it. Achebe's point is that Heart of Darkness is just one of popular literature's many examples of how European/Western psychology uses Africa as a foil for te West's pristine civilization. And somehow, I still find flaws in his argument. But I wonder if deeper down, my own literary analysis has been swayed more from the need to defend myself from the claim of racism I feel I was dealt, than from a purely objective reading.
Reading Heart of Darkness, especially as student attending a school as culturally diverse as OPRF, was uncomfortable.
I found myself, on numerous occasions, wincing at language or skimming over racial slurs.
But until I read Achebe's essay, I never once associated the opinions of Marlow as Conrad's personal beliefs.
After reading Achebe's argument and engaging in an interesting conversation during first period, I have come to the following conclusions:
Conrad was not racist.
First of all, Conrad was writing in the early 1900s... so... In today's society, racism is not only socially unacceptable but intolerable. However, during that time period? Not so much. Second, Conrad is not Marlow. Just because Marlow had some socially-unacceptable opinions the Congo, whose to say that these were the personal beliefs of Conrad? This is not a personal narrative. Third, Conrad was a story teller-- he had to make his work somewhat controversial to create engagement.
I think Achebe took everything to the extreme, and I guess I just don't see the whole racism argument, after all.
(I hope no one tries to accuse me of being ignorant or racist, because I am neither. This is just an opinion).
The reason it is so easy to ignore Conrad's blatant racism is because the book can be approached form two angles. Approach it from an anti-imperialist standpoint, & that's all you'll see. You'll see a benevolent, confused European man who doesn't quite now what to make of a foreign people and the land around him. You'll also see your typical sexist. Read it with a larger scope, & you'll notice a couple of things.
On a large level, Europe is taking agency away from Africans and forcing them to destroy their own land harvesting materials for the imperialists. They are captured, chained, and used. On a smaller scale, Conrad, through Marlow, is also taking agency away from the individual Africans he encounters, and as Achebe puts it, reduces them to little more than "rolling eyes and limbs." The people are given very few "human" attributes, never uttering more than a grunt here & there as far as Marlow is concerned. If anyone knows anything about Africa, different countries within the continent obviously speak many different languages, and not recognizing the sounds that come out of theirs mouths as such is ignorance if I've ever seen it.
Sure, sure, Conrad can be a man of his time, but that's no excuse. Men of his time were definitely racist, which is why the idea that he also is isn't so farfetched in my mind. I just can't see an unprejudiced person sitting down & writing such a novel. So, let's say he was writing a novel full of commentary on the silliness of racism, who would get it? I'm sure he wasn't thinking ahead a couple hundred years to classroom discussions like ours, guessing that eventually, someone would understand. Let's say Conrad really isn't sexist or racist, he still wrote a book catering to his audience, mainly, sexist, racist Europeans. Whether or not he believes in it, he perpetuated it. End of story. That's enough for me.
I found Achebe's argument to be very compelling. I did, however, agree with most counter-arguments brought up in class. I agree that it was unfair to judge Conrad based on selective quotes from his journal. After class, my opinion of the article is that I don't think we should be judging Conrad as a person, but I do agree with the statement about Africa being used as a foil for Europe.
I think this foil argument is a very interesting way of seeing racism towards Africa. It simply makes sense. Western societies do view Africa as a primitive place, and we do not really know about the real African people. Achebe said that Conrad was going along with a "comfortable myth," and I think that is true. There is a myth about what Africa and Africans look like, and there isn't a wide selection of books that accurately portray Africa.
The main counter-argument I want to address is the "at the time, Heart of Darkness was progressive"/"at the time, Heart of Darkness wasn't seen as racist" argument. I can't deny these statements, but they don't successfully counter what Achebe was saying. Achebe is concerned with the fact that this view of Africa as the antithesis of Africa is not changing or going away, and secondly that the racism in Heart of Darkness and other books is completely ignored, because of the whole "at the time" thing.
If the racism was ok a hundred years ago, that doesn't mean we should ignore it or wave it away. Marlow's criticism of imperialism is usually the main takeaway of the book. If the racism of the past was totally gone, then HoD would be a window into the past, and we would learn about how the world used to be. But the racism is still here, and it is probably because we do ignore it in situations like these.
Basically, I think Achebe was attacking Conrad way too much, and should have focused more on the critique of society. But the critique I was able to read out of the article resonated with me.
The most striking part of Achebe's essay for me was when he argued that Conrad did not distance himself enough from the rather racist characters in Heart of Darkness, thus evincing Conrad's own racist ideals. While I did think that Achebe made some very convincing arguments throughout the rest of his piece, I found this one to be based too much on presumption and neglect of factors relating to when and how Conrad wrote his book.
Achebe says that Conrad's intention to separate his ideals from those of Marlow and the original narrator is lost because Conrad does not mention another method of thought contrary to the imperialist and racist beliefs of these characters. Achebe also says that Conrad definitely had the ability to create this gap between these two ways of thinking but does not since he is projecting his own racism into the story.
I do not think that Conrad was necessarily putting his own racism into the characters, but rather capturing the thought that dominated Europe at that time. To me, it seems that he intentionally does not distance himself from these characters because he wants to convey the point that this was part of ALL European belief, possibly even his own. Furthermore, the fact that Conrad seems to include himself in the European group could be a comment on himself; he does realize that he shares these racist beliefs. Just because Conrad notes that these ideals exists, in my opinion, he is making a step toward changing the racism, though there are by no means any revolutionary ideas relating to this in Heart of Darkness. He is just showing the way things were in late nineteenth century Europe and Africa.
So yes, Conrad may in fact be a racist, but I do not think that it was right for Achebe to connect Conrad so closely with the characters in the story.
It's safe to assume that the majority of OPRF owns some type of Apple product... let's be honest.
The scary reality? Even if every single one of those people took the time to read the article exposing conditions of Apple workers in China, most likely less than 1% would take action.
Is it ignorance? No... I would argue the opposite, actually. I think that Americans, especially, turn a blind eye when it comes to the true cost of the products that run, essentially, every day life-- It takes less effort to ignore the problem than to spend time worrying about how to solve it.
Think about it.
Just like this article, how many times have you seen someone discouraging the purchase of Hershey products? Promoting veganism due to grotesque animal cruelty? Protesting wages of Walmart workers? And what have you done personally to help create change? Most likely, nothing. I, for one, am just as guilty.
The point is not to guilt trip everyone into chucking all of their iPads in the trash or stomping on their iPhones but to merely to create the realization that we believe "someone else will take action".
And what happens when everyone thinks that way? Nothing.
I'm not sure what the solution to the problem would be-- I think regardless of what society wants to believe, we rely way too much on these products to do anything extreme about the conditions of Apple workers in China. However, I think a start would be realizing that we are all guilty of turning a blind eye.
When considering the Achebe article, there were numerous points that I found myself in agreement, but also multiple instances where issues were raised that I found myself either uninterested or greatly opposed to the different claims. One of the biggest that I found myself against to was the overarching argument that because of the supposed dominant thread of Conrad's racist attitude, Heart of Darkness should not be considered a great short novel or be commonly taught within classrooms.
My thought on whether or not Heart of Darkness should be considered a grand literary feat are purely based on scholarly opinion (which isn't too important right now), so instead I'd like to touch on the argument raised about the use of the novel in an educational setting. The basis of Achebe's claim seems to be very interesting, as it stems from the idea that basically Conrad's a giant racist so the book has no merit for a classroom setting. However, one, I have my own ideas as to exactly how racist Conrad's writing really is, but two, to me, Achebe's article actually provides evidence as to exactly why the novel should be taught in classes. It is through possibly controversial writings and manners that good conversations and debates are stoked, which I believe should be the basis for any good English class, especially evident within this blog. Thus, if one were to believe that Conrad was being at all racist in his portrayal of the Congo in opposition to Europe that would lead to a healthy debate within a classroom instead of one opinion being forced down a student's throat. To me, it is through analyzing and sifting through complex and possibly arguable works of literature that students can learn and grow the most, instead of being led down a single path of thought.
After reading Achebe's thoughts on Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness" it really made me think about the book. Sure I thought about the plot but I never really thought about some of the dehumanizing descriptions that Conrad provides. Achebe is clearly not on board with the idea that this is one of the greatest short novels of all time. Achebe actually makes the comment that it should not be taught in school. Adding to all these ideas, Achebe claims that "Heart of Darkness" is racist and so is the author. I think the book is somewhat racist, but I do not think that Conrad is. I think that he did an unreal job providing his audience with the point of view and actual thoughts (concerning the Africans) of his characters. These men are from Europe and have never experienced any human living like this, so the book which needs to provide the POV of the Europeans on the boat, needs to view these Africans as inhumane. I can not remember the quote exactly, but it goes something like: In order to be great you need to go beyond your comfort zone. I think that Conrad, who is not a racist, went above and beyond his comfort level while writing about these Africans. I do see why someone can take offense to his novel, some of his descriptions portray the Africans as wild animals. Nonetheless, I still think Conrad was just writing an excellent book.
I think its interesting to hear Achebe's arguments for why Heart of Darkness is racist and shouldn't be taught. I personally loved the book including the psychological points, the writing, and even the plot. However, I'm not ignorant enough to believe that Achebe didn't have a point. Nonetheless, I think it would be interesting to hear what he would say now of the book, some thirty years after he wrote that article.
Interestingly, the book was in 1998 ranked #67 on the Modern Library Top 100 English Language Novels of the 20th Century. I began to think after reading this sentence, "How would Achebe react?" I believe he would be furious. As an African and knowledgeable of Africa and the African customs and superstitions, I believe he would like to dismiss it as a bunch of white Europeans getting together and perpetuating the sterotypes he has worked to dismantle.
While reading, I did notice the themes of racism, savagery, civilization, and colonialism, and I thought it was fantastic. No matter what Achebe says, I believe this book should be used despite the inherent racism in the story. No matter where this story took place, there had to be a racism involved and it just happened it was discriminatory against Africans.
I'm sure I sound very ignorant to anybody reading this. However, I am entitled my opinions.
What does everyone think of Achebe’s article about Heart of Darkness? I personally think it is a little rash that he just outright calls Conrad a racist. Let’s remember that this book is written in 1902 and that for a white man of his times this is pretty open minded novel. I feel like Achebe was just trying to sell his book over Heart of Darkness. During class Heidkamp was saying that the reason people don’t like Things Fall Apart is because it is just about a normal guy and we are supposed to think that it is about these wild savages. But I didn’t think it would be about wild savages when I read it, I didn’t think it was going to be any other way then the book actually was. Achebe tries to pick this fight with this book, but is this book really about Africa? Because if you ask me this book is more about British Imperialism. If you wanted to read a book about Africa then read Things Fall Apart. Conrad is arguing with a different force than Achebe and I personally don’t feel that the book is as racist as he thinks it is.
For some reason, it does not seem far fetched that Apple is doing what they are doing. After all, things similar to this have been a major reoccuring theme throughout history. It seems as though a fair amount of thriving companies that manufacture material objects do exactly what Apple is doing; the only reason Apple is getting a lot of heat is because of their insane profits. I may not be correct in saying that a lot of companies force poor working conditions in factories in China, but that is how it seems. As terrible as this is for companies to do, it almost seems inevitable. Money is everything in this country, and if poor labor conditions turns a better profit, there will always be someone willing to take the bad PR and make a few extra bucks.
As far as one of us fixing this crisis, I think it would take a great deal of perseverence and more importantly, knowing the right people. I don't mean to say that an average student like myself couldn't stop this greed, and although I would like to think that I could, I think it would take a lot more than just a voice. At this point in the world with the progression of technology, it takes having the correct ties with the correct people to accomplish something as big as this. That being said, I would commend anyone for giving any effort they have towards ending this cruel treatment, no matter how much they accomplish.
I have had the opportunity to view a news segment about the manufacturing business of Foxconn and its relationship with Apple. The conditions of these employees is not remotely desirable and the pay is far too low in many American's eyes. It is very unfortunate that some of these workers would be put in positions where they have to accept job positions with all day work hours, dorm like living conditions, and a high employee suicide attempt rate. But one must realize that this job, taking all of its flaws into consideration, is still one of the most desired jobs for young people in China without college degrees. Despite the obvious down side to the job there are still thousands of potential employees lined up outside of Foxconn every hiring day, most saying that they aren't worried about the undesirable conditions.
Now I recognize the disgusting reality that Apple and Foxconn resulted to fix their problem by taking the cheapest route and providing the buildings with suicide nets instead of altering the conditions to be more favorable or hiring social workers to help with the depression, but calling this imperialism could easily be an overstatement. In the Congo Imperialism men were being dismembered, dehumanized, and controlled without any consent. Imperialism in the Congo is more severe and an action where you strip a land of its independence without their former knowledge. These jobs in China are relationships with full consent from both parties and although quitting might put them in an unfortunate financial situation they still have the opportunity to quit while the people in the Congo were stuck. Heart of Darkness definitely has some similarities with this practice at Foxconn but to make them the same would be unjust.
Reading the article regarding Apple's practices abroad was quite reminiscent of Europe in "Heart of Darkness". For Apple to be going into China and exploiting workers there is eerily similar to how Europe exploited the Africans all those years ago. I think we'd all like to put an end to these practices but doing so may not be as clear cut as we'd like to think. What I'm trying to say is it's not an easy task. It requires regulations in both the U.S. and China to reprimand Apple. In addition, I'm sure that Apple is not the only company doing this. They just happened to be profiled for it in the New York Times. They aren't the first, and they certainly aren't the last who will exploit people for their own benefit.
Since the article Apple has ordered inspections of their factories, but frankly this won't solve much. Sure it might stop the spontaneous factory explosions that were profiled in the article but it doesn't stop the fact that what Apple is really doing is getting cheap labor and at the cost of the health and safety of others.
Problems like these will likely never disappear or be solved. They were happening over 100 years ago in the Congo and they're still happening today.
So as you all know, today we talked about Chinua Achebe's essay, "An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart of Darkness", in which he argued that Heart of Darkness shouldn't be taught in schools because of it's "overwhelming" racism towards the Africans of the Congo.
I think Achebe overreacted in an extreme way to Conrad's in more ways than one. First off, Achebe went into detail about Conrad's personal journals, which I think is crossing the line. Conrad's personal opinion shouldn't have anything to do with whether or not Heart of Darkness is a a good novel; just like how Tiger Woods is still a good golfer, regardless of his personal life. Secondly, Achebe whines about how Conrad dehumanizes the "savages" with his supposedly racist book. But Conrad doesn't specifically target Africans; Conrad writes a scathing review of the settlers, imperialists, and European society as well as the Africans.
I might be a bit biased against Achebe, since I disliked his book Things Fall Apart, but in my mind, he overreacted in a big way about a minor part of Heart of Darkness, and the racism should not keep it from being taught in schools.
Achebe was persuaded me. I’m not sure if we should not read it all together, but I know that this racism is like an underground foundation for Heart of Darkness. The whole book is based off of stereotypes from the time period about Africans. It seems to me that this is too easy.
This book could have been about more than civilization, imperialism, and a psychological journey. This book, like so many others, could have revealed something truthful and real about African cultures. Conrad himself made the journey down the Congo River and saw the Congolese for himself. This could have made an argument about race that is not just saying Africans are human, but that they have cultures like we do and so on and so on, but it didn’t. I think Conrad chose the easy way out on the race argument in the novel.
Also I don’t think we can read this book without understanding and taking into account the racism here. We can’t just ignore it. Like any writing assignment or argument your trying to form, you have to try and anticipate all the counter arguments. You are supposed to understand the complexities of an issue and then answer them clearly. I don’t think Conrad did that here. He used the Congo as a setting for his story, but didn’t fully address the complexities of the Congo and especially the Congolese. I’m not denying the fact that he made some progressives statements about Africa for his time period, but the fact that he didn’t undress the complexities, for me, undercuts the profoundness of the book.
In Heart of Darkness Marlow says that his aunt, like all women, is blind to how the world truly works, or its ugly side. In the case with Apple and its suppliers I don't think we are blind in the same sense as Marlow believes his aunt to be, but instead suffer from a lack of motivation to create a change. Poor working conditions in foreign countries, like China, are no secret., and though I can admit that I was surprised by exactly how bad they appear to be, I can't say that I was completly naive about it either.
Apple is clearly responsible for a portion of the blame for how its supplier's workers are treated, but exactly how much blame they are responsible for I'm not exactly sure. On one hand, they should be accountable and care about all people associated with their products and therefore should take the necessary measures to ensure all workers are safe and treated fairly. However, on the other hand I understand on some level why there exists a lack of concern for the workers over seas. Apple is a business, a very large business with very large demands that are expected to be met. Obviously this doesn't excuse their actions, but I understand why they try to keep an arms length away from their suppliers. When people start demanding that Apple ensure worker safety at their supplier companies it puts them in a bit of a pickle because if they start demanding changes be made in a company such as Foxcann, their largest supplier, then they are risking losing that partnership with them or suffering a profit loss. Because of this, Apple takes the easy way out so to speak and simply denies, denies, denies.
However, I think Apple is far from the only people to blame for the lack of compassion for the workers. First off, they aren't actually employees of Apple, they are employees of the supplier company that Apple has a contract with. Because of this, I think it is primarily the suppliers' responsibility to ensure safety for their works. Although you could say that Apple is pressuring the suppliers by giving not enough of the profits, ultimately the suppliers need to understand what they are getting into and if worker safety will be compromised then they shouldn't be accepting these contracts. If all the suppliers demanded higher profits on the basis of ensuring worker safety then Apple would have no choice but to comply.
Though they don't mention this at all in the article, another party responsible for part of the blame is the foreign governments, because these companies are able to get away with unsafe practices due to a lack of strict laws or poor enforcement of them. Governments are set in place for the people, so when people citizens are dying due to work conditions it is the government's responsiblity to step up and fix things up.
Lastly, I believe it's the consumers' faults, and we might bare the largest portion of it. In short, we have all the power and if we truly cared we could cause Apple and its suppliers to clean up their malpractices. We already know consumers have the ability to drive reform, the article gave Nike and Gap as examples, so what's really stopping us is facing our own inconviences, not a lack of knowledge. For instance, the price of the super cool ithingy that you want would be more expensive, or you would have to take time out of your day to make Apple hear your voice and respond to your demands. We have the ability to cause change, it's whether or not we use it that makes the difference.
One of the greatest decisions - a bit risky, and thus even more so - that Conrad made while writing Heart of Darkness was to leave totally open what horrified Kurtz enough to gasp, "The horror, the horror..." as his last line. As this novel is not one commonly looked upon for Hemingwayan clarity or candid openness, a generic next step in the same direction can hardly be termed surprising. It is the use of this equivocation, though, that grants it this accolade of mine.
This is Kurtz's last line. Not one to contradict himself, Conrad would not have given us this line from such a focal character if it was not about to mirror the rest of the novel. Thus, we know that the tone will remain one of ominous mystery. However, Conrad could still have justifiably hint-hinted at the source of Kurtz's fear for a cheap grab at a concise moral, and instead he left it open-ended.
Conrad helps keep the line quarantined from hints by not being clear on whether Kurtz has changed as a person. It is pretty safe to say that Marlow has and believes Kurtz not to have, per his shift into devaluation of his former idol, but Kurtz himself just behaves as a scared, sick person would, not as a changed man or as a stubborn villain.
In class, I expressed serious doubt that Conrad had intended Kurtz to simply have been scared of what the native Africans were, but now the certainty has left me. Since the final scene in the novel is one of great, though hardly new, graveness, it could have made some sense for such a relapse into one's prejudices to precede this. Also worthy of consideration, though, are that Kurtz was afraid of what imperialism was or what he was.
Or he could have just been riotously ill. This exists as a possibility.
My dad works in a
lab, with chemicals and volatile substances, and fume hoods and all that good
stuff. One day, I was seven, my mom got a call, that there had been an accident
at work. Someone had left a tank open in the lab, and my dad had gone in to run
some tests. Someone found him unconscious, and they took him to the hospital. Neither
my mom or my dad have a job where I worry if they will make it home at night,
but I doubt if I will ever forget how my heart dropped when my mom sat me down
and told me why daddy wasn’t coming home that night. Accidents happen, but
those inevitable, coincidences, mistakes. Relaxed safety codes or intentional
hazardous practices for the sake of pennies and dimes? That’s intentional
disregard, malicious intent, and I won’t call it far from indirect
towns in China aren’t like America’s ‘heart of darkness’. They are not
comparable to Europe’s imperialism, to King Leopold and his rubber plantations.
They are the continuation of white abuse, it has only evolved into a modern
shape. Our rampant consumption, fascination and blind pursuit of material
comfort has not changed. It has just spread to include another race of victims.
It never left Africa, it only grew with our ferocious appetites.
Appetites for the cheap. Appetites for the
instant. We can demand proper working standards, but that would cause us
discomfort. We squirm and wiggle under a dollar increase in gas prices, fifty
dollars in increased phone prices would make us thunder and cry at the
disgrace. The rights, the rights of consumers to indulge! The right to come
home after long days and relax in our couches and watch our tv and the right to
have a phone with internet that takes me everywhere. If we ask for change, we
have to bite our cheeks and not complain. Apple, Nike, Gap, Hershey, continue
to abuse and re-abuse because we are terrified to lose our golden place. We are
America, the streets are paved with gold, everyone has a job and they also have
time for leisure activities.
When does it end? When we tell Keynes he can shove it.
When a generation is born that can bear
discomfort. When we accept that in the long run we ARE all dead, but humanity
lives on. It is not deprivation to be hit by the full price of a product.
Prices will go up because the price of human factor will increase and so our
demand will go down and so Apple stock will lose value but eventually,
eventually, we will learn to, once again, live with it. And in the end, the child born to a
world where phones are priced what they are actually worthh, priced including
the proper wage and living standard for the wage earner, will accept it as
right. Accpeting responsibility is a life, a
greatness, a legacy larger and more profound than we achieve by grabbing at objects
and accumulating wealth. If we stop stuffing marshmallows into our mouths
(psychology reference), we earn the greater reward.
But we have to choose it. When we cry for the
brother whose face was torn off by an explosion. When we want the man working
at a factory half-way across the globe to come home for tea and cookies. When
the pain we cause wrenches our gut.
But here’s the question. How many sleepless nights do you spend? How many do I?