Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 27 Jan 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Phones, capitalism and the principle of redundancy

Capitalism wants you to buy more stuff. It’s how the system works. Each time people try and replace capitalism, people die on a large scale either because the beast is so tenacious or because the people with the will to change it are absolutely crackers. This makes me think that capitalism, in some form or other, is going to be around for a while. There are many problems with this, but one I’ve just become aware of.

And it’s a problem of redundancy. I’ve recently been looking at replacing my phone, which I’ve had from two and a half years and which, if experience is anything to go by, may soon go ‘phut.’ I have an Apple Mac, so by rights, I should be looking at an iPhone, but there are some fairly large alarm bells ringing about the ethics of that decision, not least conditions in factories and how the materials in it are mined.

Having a phone whose essence was hewn out of rock by weeping five year old orphans who have to sleep in a bucket of pigswill so I can get my email when I’m on the move doesn’t appeal. So I’ve been looking around at other phone providers. Just one problem. They all use Andoid, which means neither my new phone or my Mac will talk to each other, thereby defeating the reason for owning a smartphone in the first place.

This is particularly true of Fairphone, whose phone is easily the most ethical on the market, with a supply chain that can be audited as far as possible, a commitment to ethical principles and a modular system that can be used by the user to replace any misfiring parts. This seems ideal, but the operating system in use is, again, Android. You can use an alternative called Sailfish, but again, it won’t talk to my Mac. These might be first world problems, but they’re problems nonetheless.

There is a problem here. And it’s one of redundancy. Apple don’t want you to go with another manufacturer, so they’re locked them out. Buy a Mac or an iPad, and your phone, by default, needs to be an iPhone if you’re not going to be endlessly buggered about. And PC manufacturers are the same. So it goes, on an endless loop, of technology, all of which contains materials obtained in the kind of working conditions that would make anyone wither and die, cast on the scrapheap years before its time.

The point, of course, is that you pay Mr Apple or Ms Android a few hundred quid each time you change any of your kit, over and above what the original device cost, because you need to get another device to harmonise with it. This is madness. Armfuls of cash are being shovelled towards these people, just as a massed brigade of bastards is arranging child labour in inhumane conditions to shovel precious materials to them.

This, it seems, is eminently sustainable. The West is fine with any kind of cruelty it can’t actually see, provided that it is in some way benefiting and provided that it happens a long way away. It’s why we trade with Saudi Arabia, despite the fact they kill people for wholly spurious reasons and regularly seem to build extensions to the dictionary definition for ‘barbarism.’ But they have oil and buy things they can kill people with who don’t like their shitty regime, so that’s fine. We’re all getting something out of it.

Except it isn’t sustainable for me. I don’t have much money, but that I do spend has to go on making the world a better place, because otherwise being alive makes no sense. Over the coming months, I have some hard decisions to make about what I do with the money I have, because the idea that I’m putting death in my pocket each time I pick up my mobile phone is starting to sit pretty ill with me.

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