Apple of My… Uh-Oh?

I think it’s time to make a note of clarification about this blog and its philosophy. When I write ‘chic adventure’ and when I say ‘travel,’ I mean the kind of traveling and adventuring that requires one to be aware of one’s surroundings, to engage in a positive, fruitful manner with a new place, people, culture, or language. When I say ‘travel’ what I really mean is paying attention.

Which is exactly why the recent NY Times expose on Apple’s labor and environmental practices in China is so important. Likewise, I was impressed by the message NPR’s Peter Thomson (environment editor for the program The World) expressed in his editorial comments on the Apple expose. What are we, travelers and consumers alike, to do in a world where every purchase we make, every adventure upon which we embark, implicates us in a much larger system?

I’ll leave you to read/listen to the entire piece, but this last part really got me:

Apple has become the quintessential American company, and it’s part of us in more ways than we’ve been imagining. Its unprecedented success reflects not merely its uncanny ability to innovate and shape our desires as consumers but also some dominant American values. We’ve decided that we want free trade. We’ve decided that we want our stuff, always newer and always better, and always at the lowest possible prices. And we’ve decided not to think too much about where it came from or how it was made.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to exist in this world/global capitalist system while remaining a compassionate and informed individual. Sure, I kept my last cell phone for five years until it simply wouldn’t turn on anymore. I’ve had my Blackberry for nearly 4 years now (knock on wood). I’m not one to hop on any bandwagon; in fact, when my husband and I bought an iPad so he could use it as a laptop replacement—he hadn’t bought a new laptop in 8 years—we both mused at how utterly useless the device was. Not that angry birds or Chinese poker aren’t fun, mindless distractions, but that’s really all they are: fun, mindless distractions. To be honest, I was perfectly fine reading my news in print, bookmarking my books in hardcover. Sure, those objects are weightier and can be a pain to transport on international trips—the Kindle, the iPad, etc., surely lighten the load. But what have we truly gained? Until we recognize that this ‘system’ to which we subscribe demands a false sense of growth (i.e., larger profits, smaller margins, cheaper and yet cheaper production costs), and until we recognize that true growth can occur without any forward movement in the capitalist sense, then, and only then, will we have created something worth admiring. Sure, there are technological advances that confirm my deep-seated belief that humanity is capable of producing amazing, beautiful things, as well as constantly questioning ways by which to improve the human condition. But, more often than not, it’s in the places where humanity DOES NOT exist, where humanity HAS NOT made its mark, that I come the closest to understanding what this ‘project’ we call living is truly about.*

*And I step off the soap box fully recognizing I’m not a perfect practitioner of the philosophies I preach. Comments welcome.

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About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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4 Responses to Apple of My… Uh-Oh?

  1. D says:

    By the way you ended your post, it sounds like you want to become a farmer. 🙂 At least be more connected to the land and nature. Thought you might enjoy the farmer’s creed, below.
    I have enjoyed your posts and agree with you. Keep it up!

    Farmer’s Creed (printed in 1975 by New Holland Machinery)
    I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity and that no calling bestows this more abundantly than farming.

    I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.

    I believe that farming, despite its hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth.

    I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in ways money can’t buy.

    I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in no other way.

    I believe farming provides education for life and that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways.

    I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, and the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring.

    I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feels the pride that springs from their shared experience.

    I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it; an honor that does not come to all men.

    I believe my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellow man, and by this standard I fear no judgement.

    I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived.

    I believe in farming because it makes all this possible. ”

    Additional Lines:

    “I believe in a permanent agriculture; a soil that will grow richer rather than poorer from year to year.

    I believe in 100-bushel corn and in 50-bushel wheat, and I shall not be satisfied with anything less.

    I believe that the only good weed is a dead weed, and that a clean farm is as important as a clean conscience.

    I believe in the farm boy and in the farm girl, the farmer’s best crops, the future’s best hope.

    I believe in the farm woman and will do all in my power to make her life easier and happier.

    I believe in the country school that prepares for country life and a country church that teaches its people to love deeply and live honorably.

    I believe in community spirit, a pride in home and neighbors, and I will do my part to make my community the best in the State.

    I believe in the farmer, I believe in farm life, I believe in the inspiration of the open country.

    I am proud to be a farmer, and I will try earnestly to be worthy of the name.

    • Thank you for sharing that, Daniel. Yes, those words are very aligned with what I was saying in this post. So hard to pick my favorites – such great reminders. I especially love these lines:
      I believe in a permanent agriculture; a soil that will grow richer rather than poorer from year to year.
      I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feels the pride that springs from their shared experience.
      I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it; an honor that does not come to all men.
      Keep up the good fight!

  2. Marci says:

    Whoa ~ I’m still reeling from the NYTimes article! Felt like flipping my iPhone off the balcony ~ really really felt like it, but alas~ there it sits motionless, muted and dark, as this blog left me ~ truly saddened for all mankind.

    Perking it up now ~ getting a grip on my emotions. I’ve been wanting to tell you how I absolutely love reading your blog Kate! Each and every one ~ I don’t always get to them right away, but when I do ~ I’m inspired & always learn something new. Hugs & smiles & many thanks ~ keep them comin’

    • Thanks for your note, Marci. I agree. We live in a very complicated world where it always seems we are implicated in much larger issues than we realize… All best to you and thanks for following!

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