On NPR, during fund drives, they speak of the "driveway moment", where you sit in the car listening to a show because you want to hear all of it. So it was yesterday, when This American Life did a story on Apple fanboy Mike Daisey's visit to Foxconn in Shenzhen Guangdong China, just across the water from Hong Kong. MP3 link The tale he tells is pretty brutal. The factories are eerily quiet because human labor is more economical than machinery. The people work ridiculous hours, develop insurmountable RSIs by their mid-to-late 20s or crippling tremors from the chemicals, and, like broken machinery, get tossed out when they can no longer produce. China may once have been communist-ish, but today workers get blacklisted if they join a real labor union. Yet, some say that the grim reality of sweatshops is a step up from the grim reality of rice paddies. That the people's lives have been improved by globalist capitalism. It is a vexing issue. I find it difficult to accept that the western market ethos is so vastly superior to all the alternatives that it ought to be blindly exported to the rest of the world in this way. After all, in US, most of the people can barely function outside the bounds of the consumer culture. If the grocery stores ran out of food, what would we do to cope? If the gas pumps ran dry, how would we get from here to there? If the internet went dark, would we be able to communicate with people or retain information (wait, let me check wikipedia on that). Already, our society has drawn terribly close to the unstable edge, and we want to export that? I perceive that some sort of sea change is due, but how would we make things better, more stable, more sustainable?