Agony, Art, and Apple
It is a clichÃ© that artists are among the last-ditch truthtellers in a society. It is also true. These days, for example, as corporate journalists become less willing and less able to contradict the ruling script of American life (e.g., there is no alternative to 21st-century monopoly capitalism as a way of running our country or organizing the world), it is increasingly the artists who help break the actual news about what is wrong and what change is possible.
Who is passionately exposing lies and delusions on the part of both the Obama corporatists and the dog-whistle right? Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert — comedians, for God’s sake. Who wrote a famous open letter to Laura Bush declining her dinner invitation with the explanation that Ms. Bush had chosen to live in quiet harmony with a murderous and criminal regime? Internationally-celebrated poet Sharon Olds. And who, now, is sending chills down corporate and consumer spines with his little one-man show about the people who actually make your iPhone? An overweight, nervy actor and monologist named Mike Daisey, whose theatrical monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” brought audiences the story of Chinese workers leaping to their deaths from factory complex roofs to escape a wretched life in service to Apple. The New York Times and other corporate media have since picked up pieces of the story of how the electronics industry runs horrifically dangerous, hellishly abusive, city-sized factories. But it was a solo guy with a touring one-man show who told it.
It’s one more reason why artists should have way more societal stature: they are among our default sources of truth when the official tellers choose to shut up. Read on Daisey’s blog how Apple is now acting very, very afraid of these revelations. And listen here to an edited live performance of Daisey’s monologue aired on the radio show This American Life.