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The poetry and brief life of a Foxconn worker (libcom.org)
651 points by isomorph 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 271 comments



Reading through the poems, one in particular stood out to me, ‘A screw Fell to the Ground.’ While it was done eight months before his suicide, the context seems to be relatable to how he may have been feeling—mostly the sound of “someone” plunging and nobody hearing.

《一颗螺丝掉在地上》 "A Screw Fell to the Ground"

一颗螺丝掉在地上 A screw fell to the ground

在这个加班的夜晚 In this dark night of overtime

垂直降落,轻轻一响 Plunging vertically, lightly clinking

不会引起任何人的注意 It won’t attract anyone’s attention

就像在此之前 Just like last time

某个相同的夜晚 On a night like this

有个人掉在地上 When someone plunged to the ground

-- 9 January 2014


I really liked that one as well, but I don't like the fact that the translator translated "掉在地上" differently between the first and final lines, which are meant to mirror each other exactly in order to juxtapose the fate of a screw with the fate of a man. Neither were to receive any embellishments. They both simply fell or dropped.

Here's my take:

A screw fell to the ground

On a night of overtime

Straight down, a gentle clink

Nobody noticed

Just like last time

On a night not unlike this one

A person fell to the ground


I like the first one because it's too easy to think someone just fell over instead of having committed suicide.

Thanks for the insight though, interesting to see.


Yeah I didn't interpret it as having committed suicide. But his other poems hinted at him falling asleep at the line. So it could be exhaustion. Or, it could be metaphorical -- that a person's spirit fell to the ground and nobody cared.


Oh man, I'd really have to bend my perception pretty far to interpret this as anything but a reference to suicide, given how many there are among their workers.


I think you have a point. It certainly can be interpreted that way -- as a reference to the suicides of his peers. The more I read the his other poems in the original article the more I'm leaning towards the "suicide" take.

But poetry is always more fun to leave things ambiguous. Original words matter -- the hardest parts is to translate poems precisely, and try not to let your interpretation of its meaning overwhelm the original.


People collapse in industrial settings all the time.

But a person jumping from a roof is more similar to a screw falling.

I guess maybe if a person collapsed while working, others might stop working and help. But a suicide jump would be just another thing they can’t intervene in.


This was my immediate impression as well. But it was influenced by the use of the word plunged in place of fell.


But do you remember the stories of suicide nets at foxconn.. I would say most of the poems are about suicide


IMO, even the translation of “a person fell to the ground” is representing someone who is overworked and tired. Of what, we may not know, but the feeling he is trying to portray to us is that of emptiness and loneliness.

Like the screw, nobody heard it and nobody noticed when he, or whoever it was in the poem, fell to the ground.


Une vis est tombée

Une nuit, sur la chaîne d'assemblage

Tombée à pic, un petit tic

Personne n'a remarqué

Comme cette fois

Où une nuit comme celle-ci

Un homme est tombé


I particularly enjoy this translation because it can be read from the bottom up or top down.


Here's my version! The only regret is the "man", which in Chinese should be "person", but "person" has always seemed so poetically dead, to my sense.

《一颗螺丝掉在地上》 A Screw Drops

一颗螺丝掉在地上 A screw drops

在这个加班的夜晚 In this overtime night

垂直降落,轻轻一响 The straight fall, the light clink

不会引起任何人的注意 That draws no one's attention.

就像在此之前 Just as once before

某个相同的夜晚 On a similar night

有个人掉在地上 A man dropped.


Now I can't decide if 在地上 is really necessary to get in there. If so, the first line is:

"A screw drops to the ground"

And the last:

"A man dropped to the ground"


I think there's a sense of conclusiveness when "to the ground" is added. Something drops or falls can still be caught, but the author didn't leave that ambiguous.


Geez, that poem really hits me in the gut.


Same, but I wonder what we lost in translation given what the other commenters wrote. I wonder if it hits harder in the native language.


I think this translation did a great job in conveying of the emotion/expression of the original text.

One thing that particularly gets me, while could be thought as somewhat lost in translation, is the expression of "掉在地上(fall on the ground)". It is rare to be used when the subject is a human, but rather when the subject is an object.


> It is rare to be used when the subject is a human, but rather when the subject is an object.

Thank you for that. That really adds to the humanity of the poem that the translation just couldn't possibly.


Ha! Before I came back to reread it that's exactly what I was thinking. Usually it's "摔" for a person who fell.

To use the verb "掉" on a person is unusual, but I think it's exactly the author's point -- that the person is treated like an object.


I think the background story is needed in order to fully understand a poem like this, or maybe any poem. From that perspective, minor loss in translation doesn't hurt. Folks above may spend too much in translation, nitpicking a single word, maybe useful as academic, but reading the story which is ended with such a sorrowful poem already breaks people's heart, how accurate the translation is doesn't matter any more.

I couldn't imagine such a miserable situation with desperate pressures that can drive people to commit to suicide. Xu in this story left with news report, poem and comments on HN, but many others left with nothing and forgotten by the world easily: feel so sad that a life is so meaningless when it becomes a number: see [1], [2].

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/foxconn-l... [2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides


Poor soul had reached such of level of desperation that his digestion of self was like a duplicate object of industry. But as we may seem as copies of the same...we’re not. We are beings experiencing a reality through the scope of a subjective view. It’s all a matter of perspective.


According to some initial Googling, it looks like Foxconn had one year where 14 people committed suicide out of nearly one million workers (2010, their worst year for suicides). The general suicide rate in China is about 22 in 100,000. Seems like the Foxconn suicide rate is significantly lower, right? Or am I looking at the numbers wrong?


You can't compare a corporation's suicide rate to a nation's because corporations filter out people through their hiring process.

You have to compare foxconn's suicide rate to other corporations.


This is a very good point, as unemployment is a possible trigger for depression and suicide.

However after some googling I could not find comparable statistics (sucide rates in large Chinese manufacturing companies). Do you know any sources?


Maybe the emphasis is too much on the suicides. It seems like the concern is not just about the suicide rate, but the general working conditions and lack of freedom in China, in Shenzhen, and at Foxconn. Here's a pro-labor take on the challenges workers are facing on China and efforts to suppress reporting about these challenges [1]. The suicides (at Foxconn, in China, and around the world) are exacerbated by poor economic conditions [2].

China also has a lower suicide rate than the US even [3] although I'd be skeptical of underreporting, given China's low press freedom ranking (176 out of 180 [4]) and low "human freedom" ranking [5]. It's speculation but worth considering that things may be worse on the ground than what's being reported.

[1] https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/condition-working-cl... [2] https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/public-healt... [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r... [4] https://rsf.org/en/ranking [5] https://www.cato.org/human-freedom-index


Yes. Work conditions in China are no doubt worse even than in the USA. I am reminded of an article in The Onion reporting that "Chinese Employers To Grant 15-Minute Maternity Break" [1].

Having said that, I'd assume that the conditions at Foxconn are better than many other (particularly smaller) employers. But it's hard to tell from the outside.

[1] https://www.theonion.com/chinese-employers-to-grant-15-minut...


You don’t even need an onion article for the US:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/10/21/business/preg...


Looked it up, it's 14 weeks which I guess isn't great.


Better than the US which is zero


Then mandatory breastfeeding breaks for the first year paid by the employer.


Unlike the Foxconn workers, those 22 were not all young, healthy, and employed. You are comparing different demographics.


In the UK the suicide rate amongst University students (young, often healthy, in education) is significantly higher (2017 95 suicides[0], about 2 million students[1]), about twice as high. I don't think this is an uncommon number in any western university system (I hope it is uncommon).

It is a bit off that we are shocked and appalled that a companies suicide rate is so high, when it is around half that of young students with their lives at their feet.

[0] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-44583922 [1] https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/Pages/highe...


My reasoning is that it's similar to student suicides that occur on university campuses - although the overall suicide rate by percentage is often much lower than the regional/national average, the topic of conversation is situated on what environmental conditions may be significant causes or factors for those suicides, whether it be student stress/mental health or hostile overwork.


I think you'd need to look at these adjusted by population, for instance well employed people in a certain area


You were probably never even looking at the correct figures. Given the track record of Chinese government at concealing the truth because it's deemed a threat to national security, how are they going to convince people this number is grossly understated?

If you cry you saw winnie the pooh irl, the 3rd or 4th time, people are gonna ask questions and demand you provide an independent inquiry led by a coalition of developed democracies.


These are some remarkable poems. I feel lucky that someone took the time to translate and share these poems on the internet where they can find a wider audience.


What can I tell as an industry insider.

Foxconn was known for giving above market range remuneration, and in addition was very welcoming to "party crashers." Not only they gave high salaries, but also liveable dorms, on-site catering, campus hospital and etc. And they were eager to hire everybody who came to their doorsteps without ever asking for guy's papers (In China, your resume is an official document.)

Downside: zero progression beyond a team lead after few years, unless the worker would have be super duper lucky to be selected for training in on-site college.

Foxconn fortunes turned south few years ago, when it became obvious that domestic companies surpassed them on salary scale. A salary for a machinist with 5 years experience begins at net 10000 CNY a month, and 15k is closer to the median. Foxconn would've never ever gave anybody on the production line 10k a month.

Foxconn is now the "rubber sandals factory" of the electronics world — they can't move up the value chain because anybody with brains run away from them the moment they save enough cash to move up.


I hope this makes people reconsider if they really need a new laptop, iphone, etc. I think a lot of people would pay twice as much for their devices if they could guarantee the workers weren't being exploited.


> I think a lot of people would pay twice as much for their devices if they could guarantee the workers weren't being exploited.

A lot of America has traded their old Main Street for a Walmart shopping complex the next town over. Now they're upgrading that to an Amazon distribution center in the next state over.

On this board, I expect a lot of people will explain (unsympathetically but not completely unreasonably) that the benefits of these exploitative conditions outweigh the costs (this unfortunate soul's death included).

I think you can have reasonably priced quality products and worker well-being, but good luck making your case to shareholders and their apologists.


What would need to rise is a collective consciousness of what a shitty system this is. Most people are too distracted to even pay attention, let alone do something about it.


> Most people are too distracted to even pay attention, let alone do something about it.

This is by design. As long as it's profitable to exploit labor, nothing will change. It is far far easier to keep people distracted and blind to all of this than it is to make them 'wake up,' or make any changes to their lives.


> This is by design. As long as it's profitable to exploit labor, nothing will change.

Do you by chance believe in "Intelligent Design" as an explanation for complex biological systems? It's not obvious to me that inefficient social systems (i.e. not optimized for worker/human happiness) require "design"? If we create an organism who's survival condition is "generate profit" won't it just do that as efficiently as we let it? When I think about exploitative systems as requiring "malice by design" I rarely seem to uncover a solution other than "wait for someone else to be less evil" or occasionally "live with it and treat the worst of the symptoms".


To me the irony is that you seem to narrow Intelligent Design to merely mean a fatuous scientific theory that is unnecessary for explaining the development of complex biological systems. But the very inception of Intelligent Design was in fact "malicious by design."[1]

Intelligent Design was the functional equivalent of `s/creationism/intelligent design/g` in a creationist textbook to get around a Supreme Court ban from 1987. That revised textbook was then banned by a district court in 2005.

I'm fairly certain that Ken Miller and the many others who fought to keep that book out of classrooms in 2004-05 understood clearly that the "Intelligent Design" side was acting in bad faith. I'm also fairly certain they weren't constrained by their knowledge of the "designed malice" of the other side but instead used that fact to rally more citizens to their cause.

[1] https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8498-judge-intelligen...


This maybe isn't the place to get super political but I'll give it a shot.

The systems of production aren't optimized for worker or human happiness, they are optimized for profit making. That is certainly a design choice, at least on a firm-by-firm level. Maybe nobody sat down and said, "how can I make my workers miserable today?" but they have certainly sat down and said, "how can I profit more today?" And typically, when there is a choice between that profit and workers' happiness, profit wins.

Once all or most firms start operating by this logic, the exploitation becomes inescapable. If the firms are smart, they will band together to use some of their profit to influence politics, shaping systems that enable them to make more profits.

"Live with it and treat the worst of the systems" would be sort of like the American Democratic party: enact reforms and put restrictions on what firms can do so that they can't exploit so much. This rarely seems to work, first because firms find a way around restrictions, second because the restrictions are often shaped or even written by the firms that are to be regulated. (If you're going to be regulated, you might as well make it happen on your terms.) As you said, it treats the symptoms but not the cause.

I don't know about "wait for someone else to be less evil", but I suppose that would be people who can see the problems with the current system but propose no solution. Also, you might have some people in this category who do think that the system could work, if only people were nicer to each other. But again, the problem isn't a lack of niceness, it's that the system is optimized for profit at all costs; given a choice between niceness or profit, profit usually wins.

An alternative would be to actually treat the cause of the problem. Have a system where firms are optimized for human needs rather than for profit.


Social systems is created by Humans consciously. Complex biological systems are by evidence we have, created by evolutionary process and in fact, not intelligent.

Company policy doesn't want you to disclose your salary. I think this is an explicit thought out design. Companies doesn't want worker union, history tells us why.

Church policy to stop people from learning how to read. Church want you to keep believing in God and doctrines and has mutual benefit with the monarch via believe in Divine right.

The people will work towards less control. Just as in computers, centralized power is simply not scalable. We will eventually move towards something like worker-owned cooperatives.


I really like this line of questioning as a response to the gp. hopefully I will be able to use this myself.


> A lot of America has traded their old Main Street for a Walmart shopping complex the next town over. Now they're upgrading that to an Amazon distribution center in the next state over.

Despite their convictions to the contrary, those are a different set of people.


True.

It's more like "ONE half of America has traded their old Main Street for a Walmart", and "the OTHER half of America is using an Amazon distribution center in the next state over".

I'm not sanguine that Americans would pay fair-trade prices for household products. (And to be completely fair, there's certainly a half of America that just couldn't afford to pay the prices even if they wanted.)


> I think you can have reasonably priced quality products and worker well-being, but good luck making your case to shareholders and their apologists.

If the market could bear a higher priced product that’s ethically sourced, why wouldn’t companies simply raise the price to what the market bears, and pocket the profit instead of ethically source it?


Congratz, you have a grasp of Apple's business model


You would need stronger unions to fix this. China does not allow real unions and US has weird union laws that make their relationship with companies confrontational (really: Unions in Europe and US are very different).


> really: Unions in Europe and US are very different

I've heard this before and seen a few specifics. If it's not too much trouble, could you summarize the differences? Thanks!


The US has enterprise-level or workplace level bargaining. Most European countries have sector-level bargaining.

In the US workplaces are divided into unionized and non-unionized. Unionized firm is in competitive disadvantage against non-unionized firms. This results a situation where firms fight against unionization very aggressively and unions respond in same. It's very confrontational and aggressive.

In Europe firms with more union members are not in competitive disadvantage relative to firms with fewer union members, because negotiations happen sector level. For example restaurant workers union(s) meet restaurant business representatives and they make industry-wide agreements.


I am not OP, I do not have links to facts but I can give you some examples from people I know, there may be other industries companies with worse conditions.

- working extra hours is paid double and this hours are limited

- you are forced to take you vacation days off, you can't chose the money and work the full year

- your work place provides you food or you get "food tickets" that you can use in stores to buy only food.

- if you have to work on national holly-day you will get paid double

- you are not forced to be a member of any union


>your work place provides you food or you get "food tickets" that you can use in stores to buy only food.

That doesn't make sense to me, different people have dietary preferences of different levels of expense. What's the reasoning behind this?


I think you would like the places that offer you food tickets, this means on top of your pay you get extra tokens to buy food. Some places(not as often) have special places where you can sit and eat cooked food.

I think this is good so the workers won't skip on food, it is also a negotiation thing, when I see offers I see that you get paid X amount + food tickets.


Any readings on how European unions work?


>Any readings on how European unions work?

To me, the major and defining difference between US vs. European management/labor relationships is found in Germany's principle of co-determination.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Co-determination

Under these rules, the boards of directors of companies in Germany are required to include a significant portion of their voting membership to be drawn from worker population. As such, governorship of the company is at least partially beholden to the input of the persons who create all its value.

This is starkly contrasted by US capitalism, where the workers who create all the company's value have effectively no say (apart from collective bargaining and strike) in any directions the company takes. The idea of workers voting on the board is laughable in the states.

Co-determination was enshrined right after WWII, in part because the Germans looked around at the industrialized barbarism of the Third Reich and asked themselves "how can we prevent this from ever happening again"? The answer they came up with, in more ways than just co-determination, was to pointedly not hand the country's capitalists everything they wanted. They decided to place serious checks upon the power of capitalists.

It's important to never forget that once in power, the Third Reich's first act was to round up, imprison and murder labor union leadership, socialists and communists. Co-determination is one way to remember.


The US has enterprise-level or workplace level bargaining. Most European countries have sector-level bargaining.

In the US workplaces are divided into unionized and non-unionized. Unionized firm is in competitive disadvantage against non-unionized firms. This results a situation where firms fight against unionization very aggressively and unions respond in same. It's very confrontational and aggressive.

In Europe firms with more union members are not in competitive disadvantage relative to firms with fewer union members, because negotiations happen sector level. For example restaurant workers union(s) meet restaurant business representatives and they make industry-wide agreements.


I think you're overly optimistic about how little people care about price.

I'd argue that if you could halve the price by literally using slaves to manufacturer them, most people wouldn't care as long as those slaves were on the other side of the planet.


There's also the matter of difficulty keeping up with which products are tied to which bad actors, possibly far up their supply chain.

Distributing responsibility for determining which companies are being ultra-shitty but not breaking the law imposes far too much time-cost on consumers to be reasonable, on top of the regular costs of participating in boycotts. They're not an effective means of enforcing society norms. Regulation is—making being ultra-shitty illegal works way better than imposing a cost of ((time it takes to keep up with and track shitty-company news)+(cost of participating in boycotts)) times (number of consumers) across your entire society. That's clearly untenable and it's not really the fault of individual consumers that boycotts don't work for enforcing social norms, since they can't really work, in the general case, once your economy scales past the local cottage industry level. It's impractical in a global, or even national economy. Then there's game-theoretical pressure to defect from a boycott, et c.

Even the highly-engaged consumer will catch and (weakly, ineffectually) punish maybe single-digit percentages of the awfulness occurring in their economic footprint, at great time and probably monetary cost, unless they check out from the economy almost entirely.


> I'd argue that if you could halve the price by literally using slaves to manufacturer them, most people wouldn't care as long as those slaves were on the other side of the planet.

But I'd say that's mainly because they don't know or don't truly understand the situation. The reason for that is that literally billions of dollars are spent on advertising that papers over human rights issues by blasting competing messages about luxury, fashion, desirability, economy, etc. A passive consumer isn't going to be able to overcome the environment of information asymmetry that's actively maintained by wealthy corporations.

Then there's also the issue of how the race to the bottom also actively destroys most ethical alternatives, which just turns understanding into despair over the lack of ethical options.

I think if you put the half-price, slave-made product and a double-priced, ethically made alternative next to each other in a store, I think consumers would chose the latter if they were both sold under signs that clearly communicated the realities of the lives of the workers that made them. That's not going to happen because the incentives are for the company that mistreats its workers is to lie and cheat, so I don't think the market can solve this issue. It's going to require sustained intervention by ethical governments to fix the incentives in favor of human rights.


People are fickle when it comes to adding ethical considerations to their purchasing decisions. The same person who will buy the cheapest meat without considering how the animal was treated will also vote for stricter animal welfare laws.

In terms of worker's rights, I expect there would be more support for laws governing higher minimum conditions for workers of imported goods than there would be support for more expensive products that directly compete with cheaper products made by more exploited workers.


>The same person who will buy the cheapest meat without considering how the animal was treated will also vote for stricter animal welfare laws.

A more expensive meat says nothing about how the animals were treated. Maybe it just means some business owner is making more money from it. Voting for animal welfare laws is much more impactful.


>In terms of worker's rights, I expect there would be more support for laws governing higher minimum conditions for workers of imported goods than there would be support for more expensive products that directly compete with cheaper products made by more exploited workers.

I think this is a good point, and is also likely why conservatives tend to prefer "minimal government" and "market forces."

As a society I think we need someone to keep us in check as individuals. Note: This doesn't mean totalitarianism, we can come to the same conclusions democratically.

This just means that socially we're more likely to vote for fair working conditions — but privately it's incredibly easy for us to be tempted into a choice that benefits us in the short-term and hurts someone else (or even ourselves) in the long-term.

I know I can buy more expensive meat from farms that treat animals ethically and supports local farms. When I look at my bank account as I'm grocery shopping on a Sunday... I'm not buying the more expensive meat. I'm capable of it, but I'm also financially risk-adverse.


There have been plenty of successful boycotts and news exposes in the past to get companies to deal with various issues and they seem to have worked.

If you want the depressing version what will more likely happen is all those workers will be replaced by robots and they'll be forced back to their previous far worse conditions


I think you underestimate the degree to which social media is providing a check on power.

More and more slave owners are being revealed every day, and people with their dollars force companies to improve policy.


They would doggedly refuse to face the consequences of their actions, as people do with meat.


That is a depressing way to view the world.


In a song with 49 million plays on Spotify alone, Kanye West said "Nike, Nike treat employees just like slaves Gave LeBron a billi' not to run away," right around the time when Nike was getting serious heat from its labor conditions overseas

The share price did not move.


A world where Kanye could move the stock price of a large corporate would be a confused one.


Nike has been getting heat for labor conditions overseas for like the past 30 years


It is only if you buy into the denatured myth of "humanity" that has prevailed in modernity. The reality is that we (with all our capacities, including ethical cognition & emotions) did not evolve to exist in faceless societies of billions, spanning the entire globe. These societies obviously are not feasible in the long-term - that they ever could be is a (false) consequence of that denatured superstition.


In my experience it's also a realistic way to view the world.


I am reminded of the following Terry Pratchett bit:

“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

"So we can believe the big ones?"

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

"They're not the same at all!"

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"

MY POINT EXACTLY.”


My point being, some points of view are more constructive than others.


Agreed, but believing that people care more than what they really do will just lead you to wasting your time trying to inform them.

A better approach is to accept the reality and work from there.


naivety is a convenient point of view when you're not the one being exploited, @adamc


I hope people would actually do some research before biting on the clickbait. Foxconn has a lower suicide rate than the national average, and compared to working conditions in most of China is virtually first world.

If you want to see REAL human suffering, look to something like the shipbreaking yards in India and Bangladesh.


> If you want to see REAL human suffering, look to something like the shipbreaking yards in India and Bangladesh.

Or the e-waste recycling done in Ghana:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/burning-truth-...


Has the rest of the world had to install nets to catch suicide jumpers?


You know that they have been working many years on a suicide net for the Golden Gate bridge, right? I believe installation began some months ago.


The Golden Gate Bridge is a landmark, not a workplace.


We're talking about places where they don't even bother to put up nets because it's cheaper to scrape them off the ground.


yeah, not sure you're that familiar with the site this is posted on. Its an anarchist blog/forum that makes exactly zero dollars from advertising. Not sure there's anything I can say that would change or effect the idea that somehow these peoples suffering is something to be sneered at or simply dismissed.


One could hope this kind of thread was not a place for whataboutism and pain metering.


Consider what those “exploited” workers would be doing if enough fewer people bought iPhones for their labor not to be needed. Would they be better off than they are now?

Presumably they are not being held against their will, so this is the best job they could find.

Low-skilled factory labor is a worse job than sitting in a Silicon Valley office all day, but it’s probably better than rural poverty or unemployment.


I fully agree with this. To quote Paul Krugman:

>You may say that the wretched of the earth should not be forced to serve as hewers of wood, drawers of water, and sewers of sneakers for the affluent. But what is the alternative? Should they be helped with foreign aid? Maybe–although the historical record of regions like southern Italy suggests that such aid has a tendency to promote perpetual dependence. Anyway, there isn’t the slightest prospect of significant aid materializing. Should their own governments provide more social justice? Of course–but they won’t, or at least not because we tell them to. And as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress for the sake of what amounts to an aesthetic standard... [0]

[0] https://slate.com/business/1997/03/in-praise-of-cheap-labor....


No one is arguing that these factories shouldn't have been built. No one is arguing that these jobs don't pay more. The concern is the conditions for the worker are simply inhumane and the companies commissioning this work should be held responsible for knowingly profiting off this behavior. These would be Apple-owned factories, not Foxconn's, if Apple hadn't figure out they can pass the blame to rights abuses to whoever's name is on the building.


In that essay Krugman treats wage and working conditions as interchangeable, and I think that's the right approach. Two different jobs with different wages can be equally desirable if one has better working conditions than the other. So to say "Apple should pay more" vs "Apple should have better working conditions" is the same statement, there's no meaningful distinction. Either way the workers would benefit at the company's expense, and the tradeoff between working for, say, Apple vs what the best job there was before Apple built the factory is the same.


I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here?

desirability = wage - working conditions?

Apple paying marginally more than another job doesn't excuse the working conditions in the factory. There isn't a formula that makes subhuman conditions acceptable.


Consider what those “exploited” workers would be doing if enough fewer people bought iPhones for their labor not to be needed. Would they be better off than they are now?

This is the same attitude that led to the rise of unions in America.

The factory owners kept telling their circle of friends that the workers were better off than not working at all. It was all a big echo chamber until one day "better off" turned into "not good enough" and people died.

I'm not a big union guy, but I see a lot of history repeating itself in SV.


You sound like an imperialist from the 1800s. Sure the factory job pays better than the field, but this doesn't excuse cruelty to the worker.


Can you point out where I said I think cruelty to anyone is excusable?


I don't think industry in developing countries necessarily needs to be exploitative. We don't need to stop these industries but we need to demand reasonable treatment and living conditions. The very fact that the workers' alternative is poverty means that they'll have a high tolerance of mistreatment, and that any good capitalist would be dumb not to exploit them. This asymmetry between employee and employer is not a justification that they should "just be happy they have any work at all", it should be a reason to demand symmetry from the employer.

There's no straightforward solution, but the status quo is not good enough.


> I think a lot of people would pay twice as much for their devices if they could guarantee the workers weren't being exploited.

It's interesting that we think in terms of what extra amount we would pay.

Apple commands the highest profit margins in the industry per device manufactured which is in part due to the negotiated labor costs it pays to companies like Foxconn.

Why not instead ask Apple to pay more for labor instead?

They already go out of their way to source recycled materials and conflict free materials. Is it so hard to expect them to pay or ask their ODMs to pay living wage labor costs with favorable working conditions?


Doubt it. Didn’t happen with rubber. Didn’t happen with chocolate. Didn’t happen with Californian tomatoes. Technology will press the exploitation out when you don’t need people.


Progress is incremental. A Foxconn worker has a much higher standard of living than his father who worked in a toy factory. His father had a higher standard of living than his grandparents who were subsistence farmers. This wouldn't happen if everyone had to pay twice as much for devices.


I doubt doing farmwork 12 hours a day is worse than doing the same mundane repetitive action 16 hours a day.


You're correct that farming is likely better than factory work. It might even be more rewarding writing code 9-5. The problem with subsistence farming is that you might starve to death if a drought, flood, or disease kills half your crops.


And in the modern U.S., the very same can happen to the working poor if they loose their job, or an unforeseen expense comes up to make paying for life's necessities suddenly impossible. Perhaps even at the same rate that a natural famine once every decade or so has killed off the poor; last season at least 80,000 people died in the U.S. from the flu [1], a disease that disproportionately affects the working poor and homeless due to poorer overall health. Not much has changed for the poor in this modern world even if they aren't subsistence farmers.

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/26/health/flu-deaths-2017--2018-...


You were responding to a comment about starving to death with some info about flu deaths...

Starving to death is indeed very, very rare in the United States.


But evidently flu deaths are not so rare. Just as starving to death is a consequence of economics for the farmer, dying of the flu is a consequence of economics for the poor in the United States. One cannot pay for food during a famine, and the other cannot pay for health services during the yearly epidemic.


What is your point exactly? That industrialized civilization isn’t actually better than abject rural poverty, because a tiny minority of people still die of poverty-related causes? How do the numbers stack up on each side?

80,000 people is less than 1 in 3750 Americans — I’ll take my chances with those odds over living somewhere with regular famines.


Working in a modern factory and living in a dorm vs living in a rice paddy with no power, no running water, no transportation other than walking.


> I doubt doing farmwork 12 hours a day is worse than doing the same mundane repetitive action 16 hours a day.

Then why do Chinese farmers line up outside the gates of factories hundreds of miles from home in the hope of getting a job? If farming gave them an equivalent or better quality of life, they would just stay at home and keep farming.


Because their cousin is sick. Because they want their daughter to go to school in the city and move up the socioeconomic ladder. Because their parents are injured and can no longer work. These jobs require sacrificing all of your personal freedom to support others. They require enduring human rights abuses themselves to so others don't have to work this very job. The reasons why farmers are leaving their fields isn't for their personal well being at all, it is altruism.

The intensity of farm work isn't even comparable. You aren't toiling in the fields doing the same exact thing for hours every day, every month, every year like you do in a factory. Most labor happens during harvest and planting seasons, maintenance labor throughout the year is focused on improving your living conditions or other local projects, something you can't do if you are working for the factory. Unfortunately, things come up that can only be fixed with immediate or continued access to capital, so you have to send one of your family members hundreds of miles away to work in a factory to fuel an emergency fund. The problem with farm work isn't the work, it's the lack of enough pay to deal with disaster.


Then why do Chinese farmers line up outside the gates of factories hundreds of miles from home in the hope of getting a job?

Because they've been forced to relocate from their farms to manufactured cities by the government which then bulldozed their villages.

Then once they're in the city, their choice is to work in the greenhouses of a big government-backed company, or work in the factory of a big government-backed company.

There are many documentaries about this.


I take your point, but a higher standard of living that has increased suicide rates? If we think about the results of those products, as the consumer isn't going to be buying directly from Foxconn but integrated into something from Apple or the like, then is that a 'fair' distribution of wealth made from the final product. It's a tricky one, for sure


The suicide rate of Foxconn has always been significantly lower than the US. Part of the reason is because healthy, working adults aren't likely to commit suicide in the first place. Even so, in 2010, which was by far the worst year, 14 Foxconn employees committed suicide out of 930,000 employees [1]. The US suicide rate is 13.7 out of 100,000 [2].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_suicide_r...


It's worth noting that there are qualitative differences to be considered, and people committing suicide at that rate (or any rate at all) should be investigated to address the conditions of these workers. To simply look at a comparison of the rates misses out that different factors and motivations drive these suicides.


Why the downvotes?

Suicide rates are also very biased by how employers, friends and family, and authorities handle the death.

Across many cultures people tend to underreport suicides - but to different extents.

It's also worth noticing that some behaviors leading to death like overdose, heavy drinking and dangerous activities are not counted as suicide but sometimes they share the same psychological conditions.


Interesting, thanks


I wonder how many subsistence farmers committed suicide.


Well, 79% of suicides in China (2009-2014) were in rural areas. There was a massive drop in the country's rate as people moved to urban areas.

As a related note, during the worst year, Foxconn had 930k workers, and 14 deaths by suicide, so approximately 1.5/100k.

In the US, all age groups above 14 have a suicide rate over 10/100k.


I haven't seen anything on subsistence farmers in particular. The closest is the general rural population. Around 80% of Chinese suicides are from the rural population, and the overall Chinese suicide rate is an order of magnitude bigger than the Foxconn suicide rate.


Southeast Asia has a very, very large problem with subsistence farmer suicides. Some programs such as restricting access to human-poisonous pesticides have helped where they were implemented, but yes, if you're worried about suicide, you should look at the rural areas, not at the factories.

Coincidentally, the same seems to be true in USA - https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/06/why-are-amer...

Urbanization is a powerful force; it happens because people want to leave the rural life behind, and as it continues, it pushes the contrast ever more in favor of urban life; people move to the cities because of the opportunities, economy and culture there; and as they do so, they "carry" even more opportunities, economy and culture away from the rural areas to these cities.


progress is only incremental because of this absurd belief that any improvement in your life means you have no room to complain - it's how we in the west justify the continuing imperialism of the developing world that we destroyed


Part of the problem, for developers, is that build toolchains are a garbage heap of hacks that get slower and slower.

So you need crazier and crazier laptops to support the containers and IDEs and transpilation and asset pipelines and all that.

I code on a 5 year old laptop very happily. But the only reason I can do that is I code close to raw language, with a minimal build chain. I expressly design my software to need less support.

Most pros don’t have that luxury. It’s incorporate the new hotness or we won’t be able to attract the cheap devs fresh out of school.


I work in biology, and barring the simplest scripts everything computational we do is run on the university supercomputer because its waaaay faster and cheaper than keeping expensive hardware up to date ourselves, in fact I can get away with just using my phone and the supercomputer if I REALLY wanted. I know in video editing, similar 'rendering farms' are used instead of the top spec personal machines of yore. How long until developers also adopt this philosophy of remote computing, or is the switch already happening?


We tried to do this here. It's fairly functional, but there's a number of issues procuring enough exclusive-use hardware, and interfacing with devices - such as phones - is nigh-impossible remote. There's just too much latency to fully move everything remote. The heavy toolchains we use aren't actually THAT heavy - it's measured in minutes, not hours, so remoting introduces too much friction to make it work.


this resonates with me.

I recently had to buy a new laptop because the cheap dev laptop I had (6GB RAM, Celeron Quad-core) couldn't run IntelliJ with a reasonable amount of performance, even when I tweaked the settings significantly for lower resource consumption. It was the CPU -- it was just way too slow.


I definitely feel it.

I'm currently on an ancient HP elitebook that's my main programming machine, but I compile on a different machine with ssh and use Vim for all my text editing.

Opening pycharm on it makes it crawl, and it struggles on the web without noscript.


You're dead wrong, unfortunately. I was just in a thread on a Tesla forum about a wireless phone charger kit, and people were bragging about cancelling their order from one place that sold it for $x in order to buy it from another place that ripped it off and sold it for $y.

There were justifications, of course. "oh, they're all made in the same factory anyway". "company A probably didn't even design it in the first place, they just want you think they did. It's all marketing". "They didn't lower the price when they removed this one component that's no longer needed".

These are all people who don't need the gadget in the first place, and can easily afford to pay the higher price for it. In fact, they were going to in the first place, before the cheaper option came along. They think they're wise consumers. They think they got a bargain. They think you're a sucker if you "overpay".

Lots of caveats, sure. I have no idea who designed the product. Maybe they're both ripoffs of someone else's part. Maybe they are built in the same factory. Maybe the only difference is who is making a huge profit off the markup, and how much they're making off of it.

But the point stands. People want to pay as little as possible, they feel virtue in that, and they'll invent reasons to justify paying less, no matter what.


I think it's a generational thing.

Back in the 80's AT&T used to use the advertising slogan, "You get what you pay for" to indicate that its phone service wasn't the cheapest, but it was the best.

Today the 20-somethings I work with balk at paying more than $10 for a logoed T-shirt. This is true for the vast majority of people in that age group, which is why stores like Ross and TJMaxx flourish, while the high-end department stores struggle, and luxury brands (coughLVcough) cope by moving production from Italy to China, or import Chinese workers into European factory camps to keep the "Made in Italy" logos on their goods.


What am I supposed to do as the consumer. Am I to not buy new electronics at all in protest? If 10,000 of us were to do this do you think the drop in revenue would be attributed to dissatisfaction with the working conditions instead of underperformance in sales and marketing?

If there was a way for me to paypal $20 to the employees myself on top of a new iPhone there could but its not something that consumers have much control over and I am skeptical that just using outdated devices addresses the situation


I don't think there is anything that consumers could do when the entire market is supported by this model. This is something that will have to be driven by government regulation, not the market that benefits from this system. The best thing you could do is support politicians who care about these human rights abuses, and who don't care about angering shareholders.


Individual consumption choices definitely matter [1], but working alongside others in your workplace and community is even more impactful. It's a longterm bet, but if you start talking with others around you about their own conditions, I think people will eventually start to see the parallels. Imagine if American workers refused to support trade deals unless they included rights for workers as part of them, for example. But it starts with recognizing that the people around us are in the same boat.

[1] I am currently resisting buying an iPhone XS even though I really want one, because I'm trying to work on mine.


This looks like a hunt for culprits, even if such course of action does not make much sense. Please be aware that these are suicides, not murders. The workers, even the suicidal ones, are free and self-responsible people, presumed to be capable of taking care of themselves and their life, which includes their physical and mental health. Here's a dull, yet important word of advice for everyone: be aware and caring of yourself as a living person and don't hesitate to change course if your current path leads to misery of any kind, let alone to (premature) death.


It sounds like he did try to change course by moving and applying for other jobs and positions. The tragedy, well one of them at least, is that the system doesn’t value poets (or librarians). This guy had to die for his work to make it out into the greater world.


Indeed, it's sad to see that high of a price for one's recognition. That reminds me of Pieter Hintjens' words - "Ironic that dying turned out to be the greatest marketing stunt of my life."


Companies just won't advertise that they are made using exploitative conditions. The 'ethically made' technology label will have the same fate as organic, fair trade, etc. type labels: it will be priced out of reach for the vast majority of consumers.

Those in silicon valley with their Model 3 and sustainable earwax-based soaps will rave about their latest ethical laptops, while the rest of the country saves up income for years to buy the cheapest new model computer available and strives to make it work as long as possible. Most consumers are already well priced out of paying more for preference or good conscious.


Priced out of reach?

How were people able to afford the technology of the 80s and 90s that were made in developed countries? The biggest change from the shift of everything to China has been increased corporate profit.

The 80s Walkman or VCR made in Japan, the home computer made in the USA or GB were affordable. My 25 year old model M keyboard was made in Scotland. With the steady rise of automation it should be possible to do whilst paying workers a decent wage whether in China or at home.

If we have to lose the bottom of the market and the £300 laptops that are barely functional after a single software installation and a security upgrade, well everyone would benefit from losing those.


The answer to "How were people able to afford the technology of the 80s and 90s that were made in developed countries" is that many of them were not able to afford that, and did not, especially in poorer countries.

The number of households having such devices was much lower, in large part because of the cost; devices such as home computers, laptops and smartphones changed the world not when they were invented but when they became cheap enough to be really widespread; when you could buy a Japan VCR or USA computer without having Japan or USA levels of income, which the vast majority of global population don't. If we lose the bottom of the market with the cheap smartphones, well, then hundreds of millions of people worldwide would not have smartphones.


Yeah, but no.

A VCR was pretty much ubiquitous. A home computer was not, in most part not because of cost but because of not being able to see the point. Smartphones are more expensive than they've ever been. If you buy cheapo you're buying something a few years old and terrible.

There was no lack of them in other countries, what has changed is the number of countries able to afford consumerism at all.

Are you comparing like with like? No. The hundreds of millions of people worldwide buying cheap are NOT buying Apple or Sony either, are they? They're buying the brands that aren't even in first world countries.


No shareholder will agree to cut profits. The price of sustainability will be tacked on top of existing profit margins, as it is in all products where it is relevant. Like all sustainable products, it will be available only to those X% income levels who can afford to pay the premium on sustainable products.


I wasn’t old enough at the time to remember the relative pricing of those things as a consumer, but things like walkmans, televisions, and IBM laptops seemed much more affluent then compared to now.


Sony themselves were perhaps. There were plenty lower down the market made in Japan brands though, such as Aiwa, Akai, Sharp and dozens of others.

A TV was a cheap almost commodity thing when CRT based by the 80s. Only the arrival of widescreen CRT and flat screens that pushed the prices into the absurd. I imagine the 60s and 70s was the era for TV prices to be dropping.

Sure there's been a little inflation and price rises too. Overall the switch to China hasn't benefited first world consumers from price benefits from the brands. The price benefits have been in places like Primark with a £1 T shirt and the unknown brands on Amazon marketplace. A pair of Levis or an Apple device is just as "for the affluent" as they've ever been. Often more so, despite manufacture moving somewhere cheap.


> out of reach for the vast majority of consumers.

Everywhere I look people are walking around with the latest iPhone (this time they literally named it "excess max"). People you wouldn't expect to have it. As for me, I'm in the top 10% of earners and I carry an iPhone 6, of which I have replaced the screen and the battery.

So we want ethically sourced tech? Maybe you're right and we wouldn't be able to keep buying the new model year after year. But we could definitely afford to have them if we saved up and then took care of what we owned.

Maybe there would be a trend toward repairability, durability, and maintainability of tech, things of practical matter, and away from inane concerns such as fashion and emojis. Maybe the Apples of the world would have to disburse some of their two hundred billion dollars to the factory employees. Maybe then some of the hands that assemble the iPhones would be able to hold the finished product.

Maybe all of that would be a good thing.


Call me cynical but most of the populous has an amazing ability to turn a blind eye when they’re benefiting from it in some way.


It would have to be enforced by regulations or law. No different than child labor laws and overtime compensation laws. Businesses, shareholders, do not care about worker exploitation.

And if prices double, it's plausible sales drop to one quarter what they are now, and the problem gets even worse.

If all the technology just went away and these people went back to working in the fields, because they had no other choice, would that be better? Maybe it would be less stressful but they'd also make less money. Maybe they're worse off from having the choice. Maybe they're not entirely responsible for making this choice because of deception, the trap that is earning more than your peers but still not being wealthy enough to ever quit.


Unfortunately, like with clothes, paying 10ntimes as much would still not guarantee this.


I'm curious how much it would cost to say double the worker's salaries (or halve their hours at the same pay).

How many Foxconn man-hours does it take to produce an iPhone, and what is the average hourly wage?


The problem is that the lowest paid workers everywhere are those who are going to buy a cheap laptop or phone and who aren't going to make choices intended to keep other workers from being exploited (They can't - their other choice is not having a lap or phone at all).

The solution can't come from consumer choices. It has to come from either labor militancy or the state putting forward some kind of solution - basic income, minimum wage or something else.


Or we could just sell them for the same price but lie about the exploitation.

High-quality lies are quite cheap. You can build whole worlds out of them for nothing.


Would their lives be better if we bought fewer laptops and phones?


Another perspective is this: China's extreme poverty rate (people living on less than $1.90/day) fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 6.5 percent in 2012. China is rapidly entering the global middle class, and their workers are rapidly demanding better conditions.

All of that was because China wanted to industrialize, and they did it. Should we avoid buying labor from countries that are pursuing rapid industrialization?

(This is a genuine question, actually, on my part. I'm still torn between "capitalism has brought tons of people out of poverty" and "real people are exploited every day.")


AFAIK the Fairphone 2 is the only ethically made cell phone, and it actually cost half the price of an iPhone X :)


It's not available outside Europe, sadly.


Not buying a laptop doesn’t influence practices. What does is buying a laptop from a manufacturer who prioritizes labor conditions. No such major manufacturer exists. Which is why this isn’t going to be solved by individual choice but either by regulation or by declaring it to not be a problem.


Unfortunately 'lot' does not have any definitive size. I'd imagine just considering how people think here, that there would not be more than 2-3% people who'd pay 25% more for a gadget because of ethical concerns.


The price of the device is not at all correlated worker exploitation. Genuine apple devices cost 10x an average phone you could get in China, yet who does Foxconn produce phones for?


Wouldn't this just result in more of these people being unemployed rather than exploited? And if those are the two options, is the former a better outcome?


Honestly, I paid £2400 for my new macbook. They don't need to increase the prices. They need to pay decent salaries and don't take over 50% profit.


Paying people more than the prevailing market rate is a form of charity. Why should Apple contribute charitably in that particular way, rather than giving an equivalent amount of money to, for example, people suffering from famines in Africa, who are much worse off according to any metric you could imagine than Chinese Foxconn employees?


it can be a business decision for happier and better working employees


We’re not going to have a market solution, only a regulatory one; if one is coming at all


Prices wouldn't even have to rise. The gross margin on an iPhone is ~60%, meaning there is plenty of leeway to improve working conditions while maintaining profitability. Of course this would mean less profit for shareholders and executives, so this would never happen.


Would the Foxconn worker fare better in this scenario? How?


I wouldn’t, and I doubt anyone else would either.


I think guilt and shame are losing their power to control behavior. On the whole, I think this is a good thing; they’re toxic emotions.


These poems are heartbreaking to read. It seems to expose something fundamental about the working conditions for so many Chinese laborers. The science-fiction reader in me can't help but feel like these poems represent a certain kind of dystopia realized.


In a similar vein there’s also this book called “An Anthology of Chartist Poetry: Poetry of the British Working Class, 1830s-1850s” whose title says it all. It can be read online through Google Books at this link: https://books.google.ro/books/about/An_Anthology_of_Chartist...


And in a similar vein there's also Robert Tressell's "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" which is an amazing story even for the modern labour movement.


But other companies can build their phones without such appalling working conditions? Don't they?

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/foxconn-l...


They accept much lower margins than Apple, in part because Apple is notorious for pushing its suppliers for lower prices to boost its margins.


damn that just makes me not buy Apple even more.

I buy Samsung phones because I know they treat their workers very well for the most part both in Korea and abroad. In Vietnam, they built daycare, hospitals, school, park, housing for the entire workforce. In Korea, they give out huge bonuses to workers and will promote talented people.

I also buy Samsung for the same reason I buy Hyundai, it's not that I can't afford the more expensive brands, I do it out of patriotism for the motherland and scream "TRAITOR!" with the windows up when I drive by a Korean person in a Subaru.


I just Googled "Samsung worker conditions". Seems like the United Nations, China Labor Watch, USD Today, The Guardian, and many others don't agree with your assertions that Samsung are saints. Then there's the corruption and press manipulation in South Korea. Surely not the worst company in the world, but absolutely not the best.


I'm an Israeli and have similar mixed motives for liking Mobileye more than Tesla Autopilot.


shalom...i was joking but yeah i do feel proud of what my people have achieved and you should be too. i love watching historical documentaries on israel, especially i feel a certain kinship towards both korea and israel because as underdogs surrounded by not so friendly countries historically have made it and fiercely protected by the people.


This has depressed me...not just because of this guy's brilliant poems and the potential within, but because there doesn't seem to be an end in sight for any of this suffering.

Even if you don't personally buy laptops or phones, companies like Google/Amazon etc. are buying them on your behalf to put in the "cloud". There's really not much average people can do to stop this.


China at one time tried to move towards a social economic system. It was optimistically labeled their 'Great Leap Forward.' We can debate whether it was socialism or communism, but it's irrelevant. And indeed during this time there was little to nothing in the way of lingering and emotional poetry being widely shared bemoaning the conditions of work and the lesser relevance of the individual. And that's because people had more pressing matters. Some 30,000,000 - 50,000,000 Chinese starved, to death, in a period of about 4 years. That is upwards of 5% of the country. To put a face to those numbers, imagine every individual you've ever seen or known. And now imagine 1 out of every 20 of them starving to death in the next 4 years.

The current huge progress in China has been because they've become a capitalist nation in every way except name. Capitalism does not create utopias. It results in massive inequality, and there will always be a demand for the worldwide lowest common denominator of labor costs. But at the same time it creates a system where individuals can achieve immense success through their own merit and one where you don't have people dying of starvation.

The point of this is that you can't compare what we have to utopia. It's almost certainly literally impossible to achieve utopia with our current resources and technology. Instead you need to compare what we have to what else we could realistically have. And the current system is pretty bad. It just happens to be better, by a pretty wide margin, than every other system we've been able to consider and trial.


China is definitely extreme but you don't have to go too far to see overworked people, it's much more common in the US than people realize. Everyone is overworked. I think that Starbucks got popular partially due to this.


The problem with this is that numerically we work far less than ever before. We work nearly 200 fewer hours per year today than we did just a few decades ago! [1] I think people's discontent is about something much more fundamental. People's lives are pretty pointless. In times past, I think war, overt inequity, and nationalism gave people things to fight for. That's not to say we live in a utopia now a days, of course far from it. But the causes for our problems today are far less clear and solutions even less so. And so what is the point of people's lives?

This hypothesis I also think helps explain the explosive rise in things ranging from 'internet activism' which often results in little more than hurting mostly innocent individuals to the sharp increase in radicalism and division in US politics when actual differences, in spite of rhetoric, are little more than two sides of the same coin. People are trying to find meaning in their lives and its manifesting as it always has throughout humanity's history - division and conflict.

[1] - https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/USAAHWEP


> it's much more common in the US than people realize. Everyone is overworked.

Indeed, Alexis Ohanian has been speaking out about this very recently too.



Check his twitter and LinkedIn as I've seen him touch on it on both recently, but yeah that's one of the articles I've seen.

I think this is the first one I saw https://qz.com/work/1458073/reddit-co-founder-alexis-ohanian...


I think one lesson that be learnt from this sad story is that when you feel you are trapped in a depressing job or place, think of change, take the courage to pack up and leave for a new job or place. Don't be passive and endure the same depression over and over.


He did pack up and tried other things. They didnt work out so he had to come back to Foxconn.


He tried, and went back only when he had no other option


A competing factory is using really hardcore AI to coerce people to do this kind of thing. Some people can see through worlds. I spotted this as soon as this made the front-page.


Can you give more info?


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8561326

Similar discussion from about 2 years earlier. I think that we react and reflect similarly is a good thing, though I've no clue how conditions changed overall in this time.


Foxconn employs almost a million people. When you compare the rate of suicides among it's employees to rate of suicide in China as a whole, there's no significant difference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxconn_suicides#Analysis

May be this statistic is forged somehow, of course - but all the media pieces I read about Foxconn suicides don't even try to gather up meaningful analysis, blaming all suicides on the company instead.


This adequately describes my life and job, except I stare at invoices all day entering similar information day in, day out, submittimg electronic data to a handful of government agencies for twelve and a half years now. I'm basically a piece of OCR software that's told to sit there, be quiet, be perfect, if you call in sick we're holding it against you, no you can't take time off that month is blacked out, no you don't need a cost of living raise, produce produce produce! I'll regularly just zone out for who knows how long, usually snapping back to the world when my head starts to dip or my eyes go unfocused enough to start to cause discomfort. Realizing, this is my 'life' and likely will be until I die.

--

《我就那样站着入睡》 "I Fall Asleep, Just Standing Like That"

and

"My Life’s Journey is Still Far from Complete"

hit way too close to home. You'd think my life would be drastically different in midwest America. I'm not standing at an assembly line, I didn't have to leave my home town to go far away to a factory, but I really am expected to be more machine than man. I'm expected to sit at a desk, not talk, limit my trips to the bathroom, limit getting up with the exception of the 2 daily parades of 2 laps around the office that are done as a group, if you're sick you're expected to be at work unless dying although every cold and flu season corporate stressed "if you're sick stay home" ha! Everything is about efficiency and production, merit-based increases rarely cover cost of living increases, I get 5 weeks of vacation a year but blocks of time get blacked out and we work any holiday that's on a weekday while local management (and most definitely corporate) is at home with their families.

I saw Office Space in theaters when I was 14. I thought it was satire. Oh how wrong I was. It is life. Actually, it's better than life.

While I enjoy the luxuries of sitting and, sometimes working HVAC (it was in the 80's in my office most of the summer), I do highly repetitive work that is effectively data entry that in 5, 10, 15 years OCR software will do the bulk of. Want to advance? Well, you better have a 4-6 year degree and be willing to move to other states multiple times to earn an extra 10-20%. Want to get sick? Do it on your own time. Want to take a vacation with your family? Ehhhh we'll see but don't count on it. Want to enjoy a holiday away from work? Hahahaha better be one of the few people that get drawn to have it off. Want a raise? Ok you can have a merit based increase once a year, if you were sick you get less, if you made a few errors each month while trying to make unrealistic production standards you get less, weren't cheerful enough based on your manager's arbitrary determination you get a little less...

I come on sites like HN, Reddit, even Facebook. I hear people talk about their jobs. I hear people bitch that the company retreat wasn't at some place cool this year, I hear people complain they only get 2 months of maternity/paternity leave, I hear them whine how oh boo hoo they have to work 4 more years at their job to be able to be FIRE (ha, I will have to work until the day I die, cry me a river), I hear that tens of thousands had the luxury of walking out of work to protest sexual harassment policy when I can't call in without a doctor's note or it counts against me and even with a doctor's note I know it's going to shave several tenths of a percent off of my MAYBE 2.6% merit-based increase on my annual review.

Damn Foxconn employees, I feel you. Oh how I feel you.


Folks, ryanmercer shared a story about demoralizing work conditions, in a thread about terrible work conditions, and your first response is to question how much he's done to ameliorate it?


This was my thought too. Frequently, with liberal subjectivist-indvidualist ideology, we are guided into individualising problems to the highest degree, to the point where qualitatively existing and horrible structures of violence are not questioned at all. The onus is on the sufferer to stop suffering, rather than to change the system such that others don't have to suffer in their place. Mark Fisher wrote about this kind of issue especially in regards to mental health and depression, too.


When you see someone drowning from a capsized boat, is your first reaction to rush to a table to design a new boat that doesn't capsize that easily? Or is it to help that individual?

ryanmercer is talking individually; it's normal to respond that way as well. It doesn't mean it's their fault or responsibility to improve their situation, much like it's not the drowning person's.


Right? I did not expect to get a suicide hotline number. I was just like "yeah man, I kinda feel these poems a bit".


Questioning doesn't have to mean doubting. People are curious, it's normal.


Please consider calling someone to talk about what you're going through. While I don't know you, I sincerely hope that are able to find a way out of your pain. Others have done it, and you can too, but you actually have to take some steps to do it. I suggest as a first step, you could call the suicide hotline if you don't feel like you can deal with this. In the US that number is 1-800-784-2433 or 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-799-4889 for TTY for the hearing impaired). More info can be found at http://suicidehotlines.com/national.html

See here if you're not in the US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

Stay safe, and I hope you feel better soon.


Thank you, I'm not at risk but maybe others are.


Wow that sounds rough. I assume you've looked for other jobs? Would be interesting to hear that part of your story also and your decision to stick with this position for the foreseeable future


>I assume you've looked for other jobs?

I'm 33, have a GED. Despite what the internet says, most companies want minimum 4 year degrees. My own primary employer, will flat out tell you bachelors minimum if you want to move up and even then you need to be willing to move to another state to move up 1 or 2 positions. My current manager had to move from Indiana to California to become a manager, then some years later when a management position opened up here she was able to move back. Someone else I know has now lived in 4 states for the company in the 12 and a half year she has also worked for the company, we also recently had someone here in our office take a management position in another state and her husband still lives here because financially it made the most sense.

This year alone I've had 3 companies outright refuse to even talk to me purely because I don't have a degree, in anything. I don't want one, I don't want to spend another 4-6 years spending every minute of my free time outside of work pursuing a degree, taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt, so I can what... start entry level in a new field making 5-10k more a year, competing against people literally half my age, needing to tack on another 10-15 years on how long I'll need to work because of the added debt?

We need AGI so bad. Hey AGI, figure out fusion. Hey AGI, figure out food. Hey AGI, figure out how to automate most industry so people can pursue things they want to with little worry of income, so they can live to work instead of work to live.

You know, the thing that makes it the worst is. I had the occasion to go out to San Francisco this summer and visit some companies. It was a massive shock, people just doing their thing, no absurd dress codes, no concertina wire, no barbwire, no micromanaging people, no team lead or manager able to see every employee under their command at every moment, people having quiet conversations instead of being glared at if god forbid they spoke, drinks and catered food instead of "you have 30 minutes for lunch, you must prepare your food off the clock and can not eat at your desk", no sign on the bathroom door telling you to clean up after yourself, to wash your hands, etc (I shit you not, at one point the bathroom situation got to the point where we were threatened like children to have a bathroom pass/monitor system implemented if we didn't get it together).

I mostly tolerated my work situation until I started meeting and talking to people in Silicon Valley and in tech in general. Until I saw how Silicon Valley-types work. Now I come to work and it absolutely feels like I'm working in some Soviet office in the height of the cold war, where you have to be paranoid about every single thing you do because you're being monitored every minute you're on the clock for pay.

I totally feel these Foxconn workers. I know in general factory workers in China have it at least an order of magnitude worse, but damn do I relate.


Don't let the lack of a degree hold you back. I'm a college dropout, and I've done just fine (better actually than most of those who graduated.) So has my brother, who also dropped out. Some of the most successful people I know don't have a degree - but they did all have to learn to hustle and do things differently. Many did not have a conventional career.

Yeah it's a disadvantage, but that doesn't mean you have zero possibilities - but you will have to try harder and be more creative in searching for a career for yourself than those with a degree.


I feel for you, but I also think it's not correct to compare yourself against work conditions in China. In a country of 1bil + people, there is hyper competition, esp for cheap labor at a degree that one can not even imagine here in the US.

Relatively speaking, you (being a worker in the U.S.) Have tons more opportunities to improve your career conditions, provided you establish the baseline needed for that particular career.

Software development, given how hot of a market it is, does not require traditional 4 yr degrees. You maybe looking at the wrong companies....


>Software development

You do realize not everyone does software development for a living, right?


How did you find out about this website?


hackernews + data entry. The plinko board routed me directly to the software dev slot.


Thanks for posting Ryan. The more that people hear about the worker's struggle, the more we can come together as a cohesive class and make changes that improve conditions for all workers. It's unfortunate our modern politics tries to divide us so much through our identities to disrupt a cohesive political movement comprised of workers.

>I hear that tens of thousands had the luxury of walking out of work to protest sexual harassment policy

Yes. A lot of people on HN are very out of touch with the realities of the working class. I have to laugh at the distorted idea of equality pushed here, which is very similar to a politics aptly described in Black Politics After 2016 by Adolph Reed[1]: ... society would be just if one percent of the population controlled ninety percent of the resources so long as that one percent were itself twelve percent black, seventeen percent Hispanic, fifty percent female, and so on.

>Damn Foxconn employees, I feel you. Oh how I feel you.

I teared up reading what he said, but I also smiled at how well he described some of the same feelings that I've felt. I will never know him, but I feel close to him in that sense.

[1]: https://nonsite.org/article/black-politics-after-2016


>A lot of people on HN are very out of touch with the realities of the working class.

Yeah, I'm always amused (and even dumbfounded) by some of the stuff I see in threads here. I'll screenshot stuff and shoot it off to friends and we'll just laugh at how entirely different beliefs, and sometimes even how delusional stuff tech people believe, can be.

I find common differences tend to be gender-issues, compensation expectations, thinking it's wholly ok to spend 10-15$ a meal for an individual on some meal delivery service, finding cars idiotic and unnecessary, thinking anything less than a 2-3k$ macbook might as well be an abacus, travel, time off etc.

Here in the midwest, you're quite happy if you get 2-3 weeks of vacation a year, you can't survive without a car, for many travel is a luxury and international travel is a rarity yet when I was in San Francisco I noticed on every popular dating app person after person with mention of 'been to 3 countries this year' '87 countries and still going' and photo after photo in different exotic locations standing in front of pyramids on two continents as well as laying next to a tiger or painted bright colors with an elephant... I was like yeahhhhh I have nothing in common with these people...

It really concerns me. In my most recent blog post I call YC out directly a bit because here they are the 'kingmakers' of the bay area and they still have this myopic view of things. The partners are founders of companies that did well, Sam was in the first batch if I recall correctly, Seibel has run 2 companies through, almost every single partner and co-founder of YC have at minimum a 4-year degree (Sam and maybe 1 or 2 others being the exception) several have masters, some have multiple masters and there's a few with doctorates. Most of them have lived in the bay area for many years, their friends are largely in the bay area, their partners/spouses are bay area culture...

Bay Area culture is not what 90% of the country is like, California itself is quite an oddity compared to rest of the country. Mutli-million dollars homes and apartments, semi-functional public transportation, app company, interview with 3-5 people to see if you're a 'fit for the company culture, do you have our vibe mannnn' is fucking alien. The blue-blooded, several thousand dollar suit, fortune 500 corporation I work for doesn't give a shit if 'you fit the company culture' they care if you can sit there as a serial number and churn out work.

Catered lunches every day, vitamin water? Dude! I've worked every Thanksgiving for the past 12 years and will again this year, in an office job, and you know what we will get? Day or two old bagels and some off-brand milk. The water that comes out of the GREEN AND WHITE stainless steel spigots in the 'kitchen' at work comes out milky, no vitamins but plenty of calcium and lime! And if the wind is right, we get to breathe jet exhaust, inside our office, a few hundred yards from some runways and our team at our hub, gets to breathe jet fuel all night as the planes idle outside of the building and that exhaust comes right inside.

It's so strange. There's such a disconnect between tech types and the rest of the world. Tens of thousands of people walked out of Google to protest, after being told it was perfectly ok. At one of my jobs, I got sun poisoning and had to make sure I didn't throw up (from the sun poisoning) in the graves I was digging and you know what, at that point in my life I was 100% fine with it because it was the best money I'd ever made and a little sun poisoning and sweating a few pounds of water weight a day was perfectly acceptable! Or how about throwing trucks for a dollar above minimum wage all year long, basically at whatever temperature outside was, ha I'd like to see a lot of tech types try that for more than a month.

sigh


" I was in San Francisco I noticed on every popular dating app person after person with mention of 'been to 3 countries this year' '87 countries and still going' "

... And as a french person living in the US I'm always fascinated how Americans seem to love doing 12 hours of airplane time to spend 5 days in Paris when my middle-class-earning-median-wage parents would not do 4 hours of driving if we were going on vacation for less than a week (read 9 days) and have 8 weeks of vacation. It's all about perspective.


It's in your power to educate yourself to a new career path is it not? Do you prefer coding to data entry? It is entirely possible for one to be self educated in the software development space.

I assume you are not a Chinese citizen living in China. Count yourself lucky that you are not competing in a population pool that is stratospherically higher than pretty the rest of the world. Outside of China and India, having even serviceable software development skills can land you in a position that pays better than the average.


Could you get a job at a fast food restaurant or something? Data entry isn't usually that well-paid, for the same money it might be possible to switch to something more active.


Fast food is minimum wage, which is 7.25$ an hour here (it's also rarely actually full-time and lacking in benefits). I make more like 16$ an hour, so if you look at the article linked below I'm a bit shy of lower middle-class for Indiana.

https://www.deseretnews.com/top/3184/35/Indiana-What-it-take...


Minimal wage in Guangdong is around $9 per hour ($7 wage + around $2 from state assistance), not to say that living is still many times cheaper than in the west if you are just looking to get basics.


My main language is not english and I wonder what "hands like flight" could mean. I looked on Google but I can't find anything.


Presumably just the distinction between the rest of your body being upright and still, but your hands moving very quickly (like something flying) as you solder or screw or assemble.

It occurs to me that there's another sense in which the movement is like an animal in flight, in that pausing the movement to take a break is often not an option.


Thank you !


Just about anything sounds like it would be an improvement on that. It sounds trite, but do whatever you need to do to find another job. Maybe you need to be very thrifty for a while to save up a cushion first. But make a plan to get out, and then get out.

Life's too short.


I second questions about whether you were looking for another job. Judging by your blog, you're a pretty smart person, and you seem to have enough knowledge to at least land an entry-level programming job. Have you tried? If not, what prevents you?


>I second questions about whether you were looking for another job

I pick up consulting work where I can but fact of the matter is, most companies want degrees. I don't have one. I also have a bankruptcy which automatically makes me persona non grata for many companies such as anything remotely dealing with finances or customer financial information, anything requiring a security clearance, etc. "he filed bankruptcy, he might try and steal customer money" "he filed bankruptcy, he's more susceptible to recruiting attempts for potential espionage" that sort of thing.

About the only thing worse for employment thank a bankruptcy is a criminal conviction, felons truly have it the worst. Make a criminal mistake and you have a giant scarlet letter, manage your finances poorly in your youth and you automatically lose the ability to be hired for some industries.

I applied to a company doing the same thing I do now, they flat out rejected me for not having a degree citing they wanted someone with a four year degree, despite the fact I've been doing the work twice as long as their company has existed. As I said in another reply, sure I could go get a degree but doing a degree while working full time, that's probably going to be 6 years for a 4 year degree and be 20-60k$ of debt, so I'll be 40-ish gunning for entry-level work against 20-22 year old applicants. Ageism is unfortunately very much a thing in non-tech companies and is absolutely an issue with startup culture, VCs simply don't like anyone in their 30's or higher and many VCs, co-founder of YC Paul Graham included, are on the record with opinions that they prefer younger individuals.

>programming job. Have you tried? If not, what prevents you?

I used to program for MUDs as a teen, I hated it (mind you, c++ isn't exactly an easy language). I hated it for recreation and I'd rather stand on my head than go into the field. Why trade one field I hate for another field I hate (and would likely hate even more, that I'd probably also be mediocre at at best) that pays more?

So people will say "do what you love" yeah well, I've been working since I was about 12 (legally, 3 cents a paper delivered) and full time since turning 18. I haven't had time to find out 'what I love'. If sucks but hey it is what it is.


> Why trade one field I hate for another field I hate (and would likely hate even more, that I'd probably also be mediocre at at best) that pays more?

For the money? As a programmer, it is very possible to just FIRE at some point and turn all the corporate world nonsense into a mere bad memory.


I have like 30 tabs open from things I promised I'd return and read (until an accidental closing of the browser saves me from these obligations). But as I began to read through this, I could not stop.

Xu's poems are remarkable. A creative soul trapped inside, and eventually swallowed by, the meaningless pit of capitalism.

我被它们治得服服贴贴 They've trained me to become docile

我不会呐喊,不会反抗 Don't know how to shout or rebel

不会控诉,不会埋怨 How to complain or denounce

只默默地承受着疲惫 Only how to silently suffer exhaustion

While being a peasant is in no way desirable, at least you don't have to sell your soul pretending that a life spent serving a gigantic corporation in return for scraps is desirable.

Most work is simply absurd - a place of drudgery and despair. We can say that while still accepting that it beats poverty.


The poetry is so beautiful. One day I was in a park and stopped at a spot that had so many trees and the sunlight was streaking through the leaves and the tree branches. It was extremely beautiful. I felt a strong urge to hug the tree and weep. I left all this for a life in a gray cubicle and the human ant hill.


this sort of suffering is unfortunately necessary and endemic to capitalism, conscientious consumerism or not. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism


I "worked" at the Xingda Hongye PCB factory in Zhongshan for a month. They let me stay in the factory dormitory and eat in the cafeteria for free, but didn't pay me.

It was good! Afterwards I got a job in Shenzhen that paid, so I moved. But the Xingda workers were from all over China, each with fascinating stories, and very happy to meet a foreigner.

I wish I could go back there now. I just finished 4 years working at a microSD card company in Taiwan. I've been trying to find a job since March; unemployed since August. I've given up on my dreams, and I'll take anything. I don't even know how to apply for jobs now. The only two interviews I had were from people who already worked in the company telling their HR to talk to me. Recruiters are ignoring me. Prayer hasn't worked. Sharing side projects on HN hasn't worked. Please tell me the email address of someone who can give me food and shelter.


Just looking at your website in your bio, you seem to have a good amount of experience, interests, side projects. However your resume looks awful. Remove all of the side images and links, remove the objective section, format your experience to make it cleaner and more readable (at least put blank lines in between jobs). Start your resume with a section summarizing your skills. Remove the 2 month or less duration jobs and round the other ones to fill the gaps. Good luck.


I feel like the bigger issue could be that the most recent work experience listed is from 2014


Not sure why you’re being downvoted. A big resume hole is a huge red flag to recruiters.


Why?



A hole in the resume indicates that you're not prepared to volunteer an answer to the question "what were you doing?".

You'd be better off adding an entry to honestly say, "Backpacked through Asia", or "Recuperated from significant physical health issue", or "Caregiver for unwell family member" or "Mental health break following death of partner" or "Citizen journalist and volunteer" or whatever. That at least shows, 1) you're not hiding something, 2) you may have broader horizons than your peer applicants. At least, it would kick off a conversation (which ideally, you're prepared to have) around this thing you've done. If you can highlight how it may have strengthened the qualities you bring to the role, then it may end up as a net positive.


Makes sense, though I guess I don't understand why a hiring decision-maker wouldn't just ask an otherwise good candidate, "Hey, what's up with 2010 to 2012?"

Do hiring people (HR, managers, etc) tend to assume the worst of people?

I've hired a few people in my career, though never with any sort of restrictions placed upon me. I guess it would not have occurred to me that a resume lacking a perfectly recorded timeline of work-age experiences should be a disqualifier.

I suppose this idea that a gap in a resume is bad is pervasive in modern HR departments?

I'm sure it depends on industry, level of job, availability of candidates, etc, of course; but otherwise, this is the mainstream thought?

I have at times gone for years of just fucking around with nothing noteworthy to declare on my CV, and I've never had a difficult time getting hired. Maybe it's not as big of a deal in my fields. I guess the only jobs where I've worked for Faceless Megacorp are ones right after I earned various degrees, so a resume gap wouldn't have come up then. Still, I've never been questioned about my resume timeline in 25 years of working, so the idea just seems a little strange to me.

It makes me a little sad for people, in a way. Everybody should be able to fuck around for a while if they want to.


I think it's a bigger issue because there's no mention of anything beyond that year; even if you didn't work past that year, the resume should have something mentioned about more recent years.

Also, if I was hiring someone in tech and they took a break for 4 years without coding in between, that would definitely be an issue since any skill, experience, knowledge, etc could be rendered useless if not consistently practiced or used.


There was a HN article posted recently about taking a long sabbatical from work (2 yearsish) that had a lot of insightful comments.


Maybe Peter has updated it recently, but the current CV lists August 2014 to August 2018 as latest work experience.


FWIW, that link is old. Their personal website has a link to a newer resume, which includes another eng position from 2014 to very recently.


Send me an email at nico at sapico dot me, if this is still correct. > https://github.com/peterburk/pagefish

- Now I have 3 years continuous relevant work experience, I’m looking for a suitable job in New Zealand so I can get the Skilled Migrant Category visa. (Canada’s Express Entry and Australia are also options).

I'll install Skype if you have it.

PS. I'm not gonna ask for a resumé change and i can give you an introduction to a software development opportunity in Canada. I know they are looking hard for employees and experience with electronics could be a big +


Thank you! I'll send you 4 versions of my résumé, take your pick. My Skype username is peterburkimsher.


Replied to email, added on Skype.


I don't understand how an experienced technical contributor who can speak five languages ends up sleeping on a factory floor unpaid in China. I don't mean to demean your story, I only mean very literally that I don't understand it. How did you end up in such a situation? You were in California, Switzerland, Vancouver....how did it get to this point?


> I don't understand it. How did you end up in such a situation?

mental illness


I would have disagreed with you, if I hadn't read the top-level comment author's posting history.

Yikes.


Perhaps there's some emotional issues I have right now. But please don't mistake cause and effect.

I didn't lose my job due to mental illness. I feel very discouraged because I've failed to find a job, and now I'm physically separated from my girlfriend and other friend groups. I'm trying to make new friends, but my parents keep moving me around (Geneva, now UK, next Germany). Instead of teaching me how to get a job, people just tell me my résumé is awful, as if that would help.


I think if you are clever enough to figure out how to create all the many things you have created, you are clever enough to look at a range of successful resumes and emulate them. This is a much less involved task than any of the projects listed on your website.


>>Instead of teaching me how to get a job, people just >>tell me my résumé is awful, as if that would help.

Hey full eempathy and encouragement for you, but you’re making a mistake here.

First, yes a resume is a small thing but unfortunately they can matter and can influence your succces so flip that bit in your thinking as soon as possible.

Secondly some could interpret the comment as attitude of being ungrateful or low motivation.

Forget whether or not you meant it, just think about how it can be heard.

Yes we’re all friends here and honesty is good. But still, however much it sucks for you now, still gotta lead with your best foot.

Sometimes a friendly community is also one with people who may offer help or offer suggestions, in proportion to how well your message comes acrosss.


Mental illness can catalyze the cause->effect cycle when it comes to perception/internalization/response however.

For what it's worth, I was diagnosed with autism just over 10 years ago, and I perceive a lot of the areas I still trip over as having a strong emotional component and/or basis.

Autism is generally recognized as a cognitive (ie, logical) developmental disorder, but emotional processing is also heavily impacted too, and I don't think there's as much recognition or acceptance of that - which is very unfair, since good emotional equilibrium is fundamental to being able to manage things with happiness and confidence. Also, social skills such as communication have a strong emotional foundation, and trying to teach such skills as pure logic is unbelievably confusing :/

As a (kind of obvious, but still possibly useful) aside, I go completely emotionally off-kilter when my nervous system is overloaded, which happens all too easily for me due to thyroid issues. That's just me though. (Currently looking for alternatives to thyroxine, which once you start you can't safely stop!)


> people just tell me my résumé is awful, as if that would help.

Improving your resume would definitely help, I see from your comment history that several people gave you the same kind of advice over and over (e.g. remove the pictures, remove or shorten the preamble). Of course it may be that everyone else is wrong and you are right, but maybe you could give it a go?


I don't see what you're seeing. Nearly all the comments and submissions I see are discussing technical matters, or policy. There's some portions that are a bit whiny, argumentative, or ungrateful, but I don't see anything implying mental illness. Can you point out what I'm missing? I'm really interested.


I went through the above OP's comment history as well, very peculiar.


Exactly, I would never think something like what the OP above said could be true


I see from your comment history that you've been looking for a job in New Zealand, and have been applying for jobs through Seek and TradeMe.

I'm from New Zealand myself (although I've now moved to Australia). I wish I could give you some positive advice on finding a job in New Zealand, but all I can say is don't be disheartened that you haven't had any success in finding a job applying from overseas.

Most recruiters in NZ will as a blanket rule just trash any resumes they receive from people not in New Zealand. A lot won't even take resumes from people in different cities. You really need to be in the country and ready to start work, most recruiters will require you to actually turn up in person for interviews, which isn't so bad if you only need to fly from one city to another for a day, but isn't practical if you're overseas.

It's just not worth recruiters time to work with international candidates. Often they aren't actually serious about moving countries and are just fishing.


> Please tell me the email address of someone who can give me food and shelter.

In China or anywhere?


Consider reading Herman Hesse (Siddhartha) or Jiddu Krishnamurti (Think on These Things), and questioning your belief of an omnipotent god deciding things for you, as you mention in your blog.

Begin making decisions for yourself and following your own will. Don't be afraid of getting help from your parents or friends. You are a valuable individual in the world with a finite life. You are loved. Enjoy your life and do your best to make a living without harming others, but do what it takes to survive comfortably.


Is moving back to the west out of the question?


That's where I am now, following my parents like a parasite.


I meant to write a quick answer but there are so many issues with your resume that it turned into an essay. After I saw you have not updated your current country, I felt like I should not have spent so much energy. It makes sense if you intended to send out your resume after fixing that, yet still. I am replying as this is already written and hope it can be useful:

I have an academic mindset so resume advice of others who know your line of work would be better than mine.

I am not a psychologist. But I felt that you could have a hard time finding helpful criticism. If I am mistaken in the following, only take the bits that are right.

So it is a cognitive issue. If it is from stress, meditate. For me, I learnt meditation slowly, if that is actually what I am doing. If your issues are from mental health and medication, here's what may help. Your cognitive state is obvious from your resume. Whatever mindset led you to adding those images on the second page, that mindset is working against you in social matters. Even if perfect resume is sent out, you may give unwanted impressions willingly or unwillingly during your interview. Shutting down such thought processes is important.

As for looking for work, I am not the best person to give advice, but here's my two cents. Think of what categories of jobs you want. In your case pick just one or two categories given you must be under time constraint. Have a plan to land those jobs. Make your resume so it will help you in that plan. Remove unprofessional things, one or two could work, but couchsurfing is not something I could imagine, in my wildest dreams, on a technical resume. Adding your references to your resume is absolutely unnecessary. If they asked you for references, which is unlikely, provide.

Remove all those programming languages from your personal interests section. If you know them, add them somewhere else. Remove most personal matters, but one or two, if you wish. Ideally they'd show some skills, soft or hard, that are not seen or inferred from other parts of your resume. Remove religious matters unless you are applying for a religious organization. Adding religion can backfire in some scenarios, and will not help your resume stand out among other applicants. People reading your resume want to see relevant details.

Current extracurricular activities should be removed. Your language section is very impressive. If it can placed on first page, that's a big help. You speak and understand French, English and Asian languages. Look into job postings in Ottawa (bilingual requirements are common) and Montreal. More than a few companies in Montreal, not speaking of multinational companies, ideally want a French speaking candidate. So you're suddenly ahead of the curve. And the cost of living in Montreal is not high.

Your education section does not, whatsoever, convey what you have studied except your M Eng degree. Write the full degree name. Master of Engineering. Your education at Geneva doesn't seem right. You were there for 15 years? If there was a gap, write what is reasonable and not shocking. Perhaps only write your graduation year. Convey what you studied in Geneva and Santa Barbara. If it is irrelevant to your line of work and presentation of yourself, remove it all together. Do not use parathesis in your professional experience descriptions. Shorten your volunteer experience significantly. Use bullet points. Find some resume examples, from some university websites, or from people who work in your ideal field. Write it that way but convey what you have. Remove very short experiences unless they are very important to avoid looking like a job hopper. If you must include your GRE (I do not know if you should), put it in the same paragraph as your Master's degree. Remove your education from under your name. If you are capable as your resume suggests, you should be able of figure out a good part of what I have suggested, and add to it, and find a way to get a job.

Perhaps make a one page resume to have your languages be seen by the recruiters. Otherwise, seriously spend sometime and improve the professional experience section.

You are not entirely desperate at the moment if you are with your family, have food and shelter. But you are mentally desperate as you suggest. When expressing such levels of desperation, contradicting yourself can make it tough for others to want to spend the time to be helpful, such as this comment of yours that I am replying to. I am sorry if this sounds harsh but it seems true and it seems to me that I should state it nevertheless.

Good luck.


Don't be so self deprecating. Almost everyone has down periods. Stay in the game and pull through. Contributing to an open source project should help your resume in between jobs.


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