Ann Keiffer

The Stuff We Buy

I was sitting on a wooden bench
outside a barber shop,
checking my iPhone
for texts and me-mail.
Though busy pressing, thumbing,
sliding, and deleting,
I still noticed a little boy
hippity-hopping down
the sidewalk about
three hippities ahead
of his walking-fast mama.
As he passed in front of me,
he looked inside the barber shop
and said, “Look, Mommy,
it’s a hair-cut store!”

And, of course, that’s exactly
what it was. I was still grinning
after the two went by, enjoying
the boy’s straight-forward way
of identifying the place where
you go to get your hair cut.
And I thought it might be interesting
if all businesses had to be identified
by the boy’s truth-in-advertising,
no-frills sort of nomenclature.

We might have:

The Burger, Shakes, & Fries To Super-Size Your Thighs Store,

The Coffee So Expensive You Can’t Buy Small, Medium or Large Store,

The Huge Quantities of Huge Things In Huge Containers in a Huge Store,

The Shrink-Wrapped Plastic Crap for Kids Store

The Cheap Clothes and Housewares Manufactured for Your
Consuming Pleasure by Poor People In Other Countries Store,

The Tech iCon Smart-Phone
Assembled in China at the World’s
Largest Contract Electronics Company,
By Hand…By Hand…That’s Right, By Hand,
By Men, Women, and Children
Who Live in Stacked Dormitories,
Sleeping in Bunks Stacked Five High,
Working 10, 12, 24-Hour Shifts in Compulsory Silence,
Doing the Same Repetitive Mind-Crushing,
Muscle-Clenching Nano-Movements
Endlessly, Like Robots, Not Humans,
So Many Stressed-Out Workers
Attempting Suicide by Jumping
Out of Windows, the Company
Improved Working Conditions
by Installing Nets

I got a rap on the head and a laughed-till-I-was-horrified experience at a recent performance of The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by journalist/performer, Mike Daisey. Daisey brilliantly, hilariously, and shockingly laid it out. 50% of all the world’s consumer electronicsnot just my marvel of a phone—are manufactured by one company, Foxconn, in Shenzhen, China. Altogether, 98% of the world’s consumer electronics come from Shenzhen, nicknamed The City of Ambition. When we look at price tags, what we don’t see is the human cost.

Ann Keiffer
February, 2011

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About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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