This is a collection of poems from someone named Xu Lizhi. He was a Chinese migrant worker who worked at Foxconn corporation.
Foxconn is one of the pillars of our western society. It manufactures many of our smart phones, computers, monitors, televisions, videogame systems, and other electronics. A lot of the high tech stuff that we personally value, and that drives our communication and economy, is manufactured by Foxconn. It has 12 factories in 9 Chinese cities.
Xu Lizhi took his own life in September 30, 2014, at the age of 24. He had returned to Foxconn, after failing to find a job in selling books and unable to become a librarian, which was his dream. He became another Foxconn suicide.
I found reading about Xu Lizhi’s life journey, and then his poetry, to be incredibly moving. I feel a sense of connection with his suffering. Like him, I am a sensitive person, and I have also suffered. I also feel guilt that I am reaping the benefit of the exploitation of people like him. I have a smart phone, computer, and other electronics partly because of the commodification of much of the manufacturing process, through the relentless drive to reduce marginal costs at all points/levels in the supply chain.
And I am reminded to be mindful of language. That “supply chain” is a term that comes from the perspective of the corporation. That, from the perspective of labor and environmental impact, neo liberal dynamics produce something that I feel would be more accurately called an “oppression chain”, “violence chain”, or “extraction chain”.
It is moments of connection, like this, that really give me the strength to keep going. To keep pushing onto this frontier. To deeply feel love and connection with all humanity. With nature. To feel love for, and grief at the suffering and suicide of, Xu Lizhi. To acknowledge and experience my grief at the ecocide that we, as a species, are inflicting upon our planet. To feel compassion for myself, and for all life caught in the web of the hierarchical systems within which we all operate. To see beauty in the poetry that Xu Lizhi wrote, as I see great beauty in the ecology of our planet, even as it is profoundly and rapidly changing.
The only way to completely experience love is to also experience pain and suffering. All emotions must be felt equally. The only way to emotional truth is directly through.
Grief is not despair. Grief is the acknowledgement of pain and of loss. Allowing a wound to form creates the potential for its healing.
I believe that this works not just at an individual level, but at all social and biological scales. I also believe that healing happens in the relation between self and other – again, at all scales. This, to me, is one of the underlying mechanisms underlying justice, in all its forms.
I share with you my vulnerable self, my tears, as Xu Lizhi shared his with me.
I leave you with this: A poem written by another Foxconn migrant worker, regarding the death of Xu Lizhi:
“Upon Hearing the News of Xu Lizhi’s Suicide”
by Zhou Qizao (周启早), a fellow worker at Foxconn
The loss of every life
Is the passing of another me
Another screw comes loose
Another migrant worker brother jumps
You die in place of me
And I keep writing in place of you
While I do so, screwing the screws tighter
Today is our nation’s sixty-fifth birthday
We wish the country joyous celebrations
A twenty-four-year-old you stands in the grey picture frame, smiling ever so slightly
Autumn winds and autumn rain
A white-haired father, holding the black urn with your ashes, stumbles home.