A Dovetailed Life

The things that interest us weave us together to create who we are.

Month: January, 2012

Why Apple’s Supply Chain Problem is Such a Big Deal

If you clicked this link, your thought was likely, “Bryant’s a fanboy, let’s see what kind of spin he puts on this horrific topic.” Or, you might be someone who has tweeted to me, emailed to me, or trolled my Facebook timeline with this NY Times article released the other day.

The gist of the article is this: Apple employs hundred of thousands of poor Chinese workers who spend their entire lives connecting cables inside of iPhones for very little pay. The article goes further than that though, too. The article makes the pronouncement that Apple cares very little about the working conditions of their supply chain and you should feel guilty for owning an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. Here’s a taste:

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

Tim Cook, the newly appointed CEO, made it clear in an email to employees that he was ‘outraged’ by the accusations that the article made and was deeply offended. It’s not hard to see why…The New York Times and Apple have mostly had a very cordial relationship. The NYT’s website is included in iOS’s default bookmarks and Steve often visited their site first when demoing a new product. The Times was quick to adopt the iPad as a way of releasing their content and the relationship has worked for the betterment of both companies. Everything seemed fine.

Until this.

Even today, the BSR, who is quoted heavily throughout the Times’s piece refuted much of its claims. I suspect that we haven’t seen anywhere near the end of this.

As a point of reference, here’s a short clip of Steve Jobs reacting to the Wall Street Journal’s questions regarding the suicides and suicide attempts by Foxconn employees a while back:

Again, we haven’t heard the end of this. As we shouldn’t.

The poor workers. They’re worked hard, worse than many Americans will ever work, and when Apple wants to lower production costs and raise quality of the products, something’s got to give. The media is beginning to claim that the cost of these two desires is human lives and well being. In fact, the NYT titled their piece, “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad.”

It’s linkbait, but it starts a good conversation. Why is this so important? Why does Apple take the heat?

Sure, it’s because theyre bigger than everyone else. That’s what got Nike in so much trouble. Sure, it’s because they are a hugely profitable company. They made more in profit than Google brought in total last quarter. Sure, it’s because people love their products. But I think this has become a bigger deal for another reason.

I think it’s because their products speak a bit of hope.

Andy Crouch referred to this phenomenon when he spoke about the gospel that Steve Jobs preached in a piece immediately following Steve’s death. I don’t agree with the correlations that Andy drew throughout the entire piece, but his general thesis is good. Steve had a different, often better, way of envisioning how a human interacts with a product. (Andy’s piece comes off a bit harsh at times, though I know that Andy is an Apple fan because when I saw him speak live once he referred to his MacBook Pro as the true representation of ‘perfection’ on earth.)

Apple’s mindset has always been about Thinking Differently. Using a computer sucked until 1984 when the Macintosh was introduced. MP3 players sucked until 2001 when the iPod and iTunes made it possible to actually enjoy listening to digital music. Cell phones sucked until 2007 when the iPhone finally made a smart phone easy to use. Tablets sucked until 2010 when the iPad reimagined what a tablet was and how humans interact with it.

Steve’s quotes. Apple’s marketing campaigns. The products themselves. All of these presented nearly hyperbolic statements about what it was like to use an Apple computer and how much there was to love about them. Sites like “CultofMac.com” and documentaries like “Mac Heads” and terms like “fanboy” are signs of the effectiveness of this message. (I’ll admit, I often get accused of buying into the Apple gospel more than the Jesus Gospel. I’d argue that that might be because Apple is better at presenting it than our churches are right now, but that’s an argument for another day…)

When you use an iPhone, you fall in love with it. Or, most people do. Apple is no longer an electronic company; they become an ideology, a mindset, and a way of life. Apple has engrained this “Think Different” message into our understandings of who they are as a company. When we love their products, we want to believe that the truly are better than everyone else. In every single aspect.

Yet this Foxconn situation seems to be the same as everyone else. I remember getting in trouble at a young age and my first response was to say that ‘everyone else was doing it!’ To which my parents were quick to point out, “Perhaps, but you’re better than that.” These poor (literally) workers in these factories are indicative of what is wrong with the world we’re in and we’d like to think that Apple can rise above those problems. For God’s sake, they’ve risen above it with all of their products!

I hope Tim and Steve are (were :-( ) right that they are actively working to take greater measures in treating their workers fairly. They’re certainly working to spread a good word about how much better they are than many other suppliers. I hope that what they say is true, is true, and that it will continue to get better quickly.

Apple has nearly $100 Billion in the bank. If there is one company who can actually Think Different when it comes to this type of labor ethics, it’s Apple. They have the means.

I’d like to see them turn this around. Not just politically. Not just through marketing. I’d like to see them make gigantic strides and stand up for the right and well being of humans.

Because that’s what Apple does. They Think Different.

Please, dear God, don’t let that thought leave with Steve.

-B

Emulating the Greats

Adele is, without a doubt, the best artist of 2010 and 2011. She’s had nearly half her album 21 hit the top of the charts and it seems like everyone everywhere has at least heard about her canceled tour because of the strain her voice has been under.

Everyone seems to be covering her now. I’ve shared some of my favorites on this blog.

This kid below evidently won Austrailia’s Got Talent. I found the video when I was bored on YouTube. Skip forward to 2:00 to see him actually sing.

 

The funny thing is, I actually don’t think he’s that good of a singer.  Sure, he’s far and away better than I was at that age and is far and away better than probably 100% of his peers, but he’s pitchy on most of the songs I’ve heard him on, and they tend to all be a tad too big for his voice.

It’s true that he has a huge voice for a 14 year old.

But there is one thing that he has that I think of as enviable. Listen to the way he emulates Adele’s voice. It’s incredible. He gets her accent (much different than his Australian accent), he gets her voice pronunciation, and he captures he presence inside of the piece, though it’s not her singing it…it’s him. It’s remarkable really. Listen to Jennifer Hudson pop out of this one below.  Again, skip the crap at the beginning.

 

 

He’s actually a really good singer, despite what I said above. I find it most remarkable that he is able to contort his voice to the style of the original artist in ways I could never dream to. It’s an incredible talent.

He’s also like the Australian Justin Bieber, except that he can sing.

 

-B

Jesus > Religion (?)

Give the next four minutes to this video, even if you have already seen it. It’s best to watch or read things several times in order to think critically about them. And, strap in, this is a long post. I hope you enjoy it, though.

It’s been ‘liked’ on YouTube over 160,000 times and ‘disliked’ on YouTube over 19,000 times. It’s been shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube time and time again. Most commentary thus far has been divided as to whether or not this ‘message’ is acceptable. Herein lie some of my thoughts. Feel free to read them, wrestle with them, agree or disagree with them, and challenge them. This is an important topic for our time and we would do well to approach in this conversational way.

I remember going to a Big Daddy Weave Concert. I love them. Soooo good. And they began singing a song, one they covered from another worship artist, “Fields of Grace.” In Big Daddy Weave’s version of the song resides a line that goes like this:

There’s a place where religion finally dies.

And I remember Mike Weaver (the lead singer) prefacing the line by saying, “This is my favorite line of the song.” The spirit in which it was sung now seems strange to me. I once was sold on the concept of “relationship, not religion” but I’m now more convinced that that notion cheapens the Christianity that both Jesus and Paul called for.

Which leads me to this somewhat bold statement: The man in the video was too caught up in praise given to him for his skilled rhyming that he forgot to actually check his statements and definitions for consistency.

The problem with the video above is that it seems to go one way…and then another. He claims that Jesus and Religion are on opposite sides of the ‘spectrum’ but he also points out that your religious affiliation on Facebook doesn’t make you a Christian. Wait, what? How are these tied together?

It becomes necessary to define ‘religion’. (Good rhetoric makes use of loaded, ambiguous terms like ‘religion’ and, well, ‘Jesus’ because you can begin to redefine them in your own way in order to make a point. Not defining them within an argument not only makes the problem worse, it threatens to destroy the terms entirely.)

It seems to me that this man considers ‘religion’ to mean: a facade that followers put on that masks their spirituality. He’s not even close to suggest this. Get religion out of the way because JESUS is what is so important. He seems to be saying that you don’t need religion if you have Jesus. In fact, he blatantly says that at the beginning of the piece. He says,

What if I told you that Jesus came to abolish religion?

(I desire to respond: I’d tell you that you were wrong)

If anything, I think, Jesus came to reform religion. Jesus came to correct religion. Jesus came to show humans how to live life. This was a large part of his ministry on earth, including his preaching. Jesus did not come to abolish religion, he came to serve religion. In one sense, he came to serve as a means of growth throughout that life.

So truly, ‘religion,’ for Christians, is the means by which we worship God and grow further in the likeness of Christ. Religion encompasses sacraments like communion and baptism. Religion involves a confession of sin. Religion encourages prayer. Religion encourages accountability. Religion is a way of life, and a way to grow into a Christ-like life.

Now, his courageous testimony is notable and honorable. I always am moved by people who had a huge transformation toward Christ-like living in their lives and are willing to speak openly and honestly about it. BUT, because he has this…he operates out of a mindset of grace.

Truly, surely, GRACE is a large part of the Christian story. Paul tells us that we are sinful people, in need of grace. Theologians have told us throughout time that that sin is covered by grace. Though it’s disagreed on exactly HOW that grace functions, all Christians agree that the life of Jesus, the death on a cross, and resurrection have something to do with the grace required for eternal salvation. Even our friend in the video remarks that salvation is not based on “my merits, but Jesus’s obedience alone.” AND HE’S RIGHT.

Jesus’s obedience to do the will of the Father, to face death, has a great deal to do with our salvation. This, I believe, is true. And I can’t name you a Christian who thinks that YOU can earn YOUR OWN salvation. That idea was pretty much outlawed in Christian circles a LONG time ago.

But, he’s still confused.

His points are right. We do need grace. That has been taken care of. Christians should live holy lives, not just consider themselves saved because of their Facebook information. Christians should tear down the facades. Christians should be open and honest. Christians should practice grace.

BUT THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT ‘RELIGION’ IS!

That’s the calling Jesus placed on us through his preaching. That’s the call Paul placed on us through his letters. That’s the calling our pastors place on us every Sunday. Religion, the practice of worshipping and becoming more Christ-like, is defined by all these things that he outlines. Religion is not just perfume on a casket, it is the burial ceremony and the tears shed for the loved one.

So, you’ve probably reached the same point I have.

He’s a good poet. Spoken Word is popular now. Rhetoric is easy to come by with ambiguous language. Good speakers can catch and win over a believing audience just by the tones of their voice.

But this does not excuse us from watching our words.

Statements are bold. And when they’re attached to art, they become MORE powerful.

Definitions are important. Because we use them to communicate effectively.

So ‘religion,’ as it stands, maye be a used up, dried out word that offends people. And…perhaps we need a new word. But people, good people, Christians in fact, use the word ‘religion’ to speak about how they’re growing into a Christ-like life.

And so to make a statement that Jesus > Religion is simply unfair. Jesus and the Christian religion are intimately tied together. Religion is a way of life. Religion is the VERY thing this man is calling for. Jesus did NOT hate religion. Religion is a means to Jesus, and if approached in that way, those liking and disliking the video can actually come upon common ground.

Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

As a writer, I can relate to this guy a lot. I often write papers that make awesome points that contribute to the exact opposite of my thesis. I end up at the end of the paper saying, “Wait, where’d I go wrong?”

I just tend to think that this is dangerous for the future of the Church. Influencing this many people and convincing them that ‘religion’ is wrong is scary. Very scary. We do need Jesus. But we also need prayer. We need accounable discipleship. We need confession of sin. We need baptism and communion. These are elements of religion that most in the Church are unwilling to let go. Because, for them, this is where Jesus is. This “Jesus and Jesus alone” mindset is ok, but only if religion gets included in the definition of ‘Jesus’.

-B

On PS22 and Music

If I had one criticism of PS22 and their teacher, it’s that he is probably not teaching proper singing or performance techniques to them at a young age. Its common thought that this creates ‘bad’ habits that will influence the art in a negative way, later.

I was thinking that as I watched this.

And then I thought, “so what?”

There are probably many many children singing in children’s choirs around the globe inside of Universities, etc. that don’t enjoy the music they sing. I think I’d argue that that fact is more destructive to the art than something like PS22 is.

When musicians come to hate music, it might be one of the saddest days on earth.

If anything, performances like these are creative, unique, and stretching across boundaries. Right? I can see some of these kids rushing over to their friends’ house after school and being super jazzed to load up YouTube and show their friends what they did at school that day.

These are kids. And they’re excited about what they’re doing.

That’s the future of America, I think. Creativity is key. Technology (because it is simply an embodiment of creativity) is key. Fine arts (because they are simply embodiments of creativity) are key. The study of maths and sciences (because they are products of creativity) are key.

And so when I cringe to see the kids moving their bodies so much, I have to stop and think…”how proud are these kids of their work?” or “how much will the enjoyment of this experience influence their lives in the future?” You can experience the excitement within the last few seconds of the video. Sheer joy.

Because in the end it doesn’t matter if they’re singing Mozart or Lady Gaga (though it might be nice for them to understand both forms of the art); they’re singing. They’re practicing. They’re performing. And they’re enjoying it.

And, better yet, they’re doing what they do…well. We don’t have enough of that in today’s world.

It’s cool stuff. It really is.

-B

I really don’t like the song that much, despite its catchiness. Gaga wrote the song with her dad taking shots on the piano after her grandfather died. I just don’t, quite…get it. It doesn’t speak any sort of message that I would consider life changing, and I don’t think the lyrics are very poetic at all. Also, the music video was ridiculous.

Regardless, though, the act of singing it is moving something inside of these two groups. It’s weird to think that something’s moving inside of these groups when the lyrics to the song suck. But, you know, perhaps that speaks to the power of music within the soul. It probably does.

Reflections on Branches UMC in Florida City, FL

The Wesley Fellowship at Duke, of which I am fortunate to serve as an intern from the Divinity School, took a small, but strong, group to Branches UMC in Florida City, FL this past week for a winter break trip.
 
Branches UMC is a United Methodist Church in Florida City, FL (about an hour south of Miami, right next to Homestead).  Most will remember the area in relation to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. To say that Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida is an extreme understatement. Homestead was pretty much wiped out.  Ever since, Florida City, thanks to help from the US government, has had a rebirth of its economy. It’s impossible to fully grasp the amount of impact Hurrican Andrew had on the area without being there. Everything, in one way or another, reminds visitors of the devastation. 
 
Branches UMC also houses a mission program within its walls, one of three Branches sites within South Florida. This mission program was our main focus throughout the past week.
 
For years now, Branches has provided an after school tutoring program for the community’s children.  They tutor every child, help them with homework, pick them up from school, and act as a bit of a liason between the church, the schools, and the community. It’s an incredible witness to the community because it is a place free of gang violence, drugs, and other issues. It’s a large undertaking for such a task, but the staff and volunteers at Branches are there every day, rain or fire, to minister to this community.
 
As you’re probably aware, South Florida is ethnically diverse.  While English is still the “main language,” nearly everyone is somewhat bilingual and many businesses operate almost completely in Spanish if at all possible.  But it’s not just, English or Spanish, White or Latino, or Latino or Black either.  These generalizations do little good. There are Cubans, Hondurians, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Haitians, as well as a representation from every race, country, and nationality.  These people are different than those they see around them and they’re conscious of this fact.
 
Because of this, the large collection of ‘illegal immigrants’ (more on that term another time), the extreme poverty, and other aspects such as weather and climate, South Florida is a type of place that you may not be used to in any way.  As a white male, though I grew up in Florida, I was very underprepared.
 
But it’s not just race.  It’s also class. There are the extreme rich (though most of them live closer to Miami).  There are the extreme poor (many live 10 to a small house). There are those who run their own bakeries (and there are some really good ones), and there are those who can’t find work.  There are skilled day laborers that stand on the street waiting to see if there will be any work for the day (and their stories will bring tears to your eyes), and there are those who drive fancy cars and have season tickets for the Heat.  Perhaps our whole world deals with these issues of class, etc, but the racial tensions within South Florida seem to make the problem even more…real.
 
To make it one step worse (or perhaps in some ways…better) the church burned in 2010.  
 
The whole church, more or less, went up in fire, destroying everything. 
 
And here’s where I’d like to dwell for a moment.
 
Obviously, the fire is a defining moment in the church’s history.  But not because it changed them. I see it as definining because of the way they reacted.  From the morning after the fire the pastor, Audrey Warren, stood before the communion table and said, “Don’t come for communion if you are unwilling to forgive whoever has done this.” Imagine the rage in your heart if everything you had worked for had been burned. Now imagine a complete and utter message of immediate forgiveness.  I think that’s what Jesus used to speak about.
 
This church sings songs with lyrics like “out of the ashes we rise,” “you fail us not,” and “you’re bigger than the battle,” in ways that I could never dream to.
 
They begin worship with the call, “God is Bigger” and respond, “All the time.”
 
Because God is bigger than a fire.  God is bigger than lost computers, guitars, and desks.
 
And they recognized that.  Immediately.
 
Because they’re here, for a purpose, and are working to do whatever they can to make some sort of difference.  Because it doesn’t matter if the parents have ‘papers’ or not…these kids are in school.  Because the Gospel matters just as much in this church as it does in any other place in the world.
 
There was a fire. It happened.
 
But that wasn’t so important.  That moment when a child’s face lights up because he finally understood it was important. That moment when they came together as a community over a campfire to sing songs about making beautiful things out of the dust was important. That moment when they welcomed strangers on their staff retreat so that they could learn just a little bit more about what they do was important.
 
Branches is a family. A family of Americorp workers.  A family of staffers.  A family of volunteers.  A family of college kids just trying to have eyes opened toward the work of the Church and future of the Gospel. A family of ministers and those in need of that ministry.
 
It’s an amazing place and you ought to go.
 
-B

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 57 other followers

%d bloggers like this: