An open letter to Tim Cook (Apple) and Phil Knight (Nike)
It is all over the internet regarding the CCP’s enslavement, torture and forced indoctrination camps for the Uighurs. I am no friend of Islam in any of its variations, but since all people are made in the Image of God, they are all deserving of what Thomas Jefferson called “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Or perhaps as the Jewish philosopher Levinas states “the presence of the human face demands an ethical response”. Long before the Uighur persecution, came the horrific treatment of opposing Qi Gong groups such as the Falun Gong cult. I am no friend of their particular faith as well, but they as human beings made in the image of God, deserved better. Before that the slaughter of the student protestors at the Tiananmen Square massacre, now being scrubbed from Chinese history and probably our history as well, was done by the same CCP. And when I was a child, Mao’s “Great Leap forward” killed as many as 40-60 million people of the Chinese population, depending on which source you read. The common denominator in these public, and probably many more private nightmares, is in fact the very political dictatorship that you find yourselves so profitably connected to.
I have had the privilege of teaching philosophy and ethics and comparative religions for many years here in the Denver area and sometimes in around the country and even in other countries. Only in the worst possible position is it to be maintained that partnering with dictatorships is in some way “ethical”. Even solidly atheistic ethical theories such as emotivism, or egoism, find themselves hard pressed to defend the practices of the CCP. Forced organ transplants from political prisoners, imprisonment of the entire population now of Hong Kong and of course the perpetual threats against the people of Taiwan, merely add to the dubious content of your business partner’s resume.
Please tell us in good conscience how none of this bothers you? Please tell us, other than the obvious motive of making billions of dollars off slave labor, what possible goods or values you are in the business of creating? I have no problem with your corporation making as much money as they can. I am just wondering if there is any horror story emanating from your partner, where you would finally say “enough”?
In the movie “Schindler’s List” the story is told of a businessman, Oskar Schindler, who was a member of the Socialist party of Nazi Germany. As a collaborator with the government, he made millions of Francs using the slave labor of Jews provided to him by the government. The right palms were greased and presto the government officials made money, Oskar made money and of course the Jews were worked until they were no longer useful, and then they were just killed.
The great joy of the story was the development of the conscience of Oskar Schindler. Like the Grinch of Dr Seuss fame, his heart grew, and he realized, in Levinasian terms perhaps, that these slaves were in fact people. They had a face. They were made in the image of God. He repented of his evil and spent his fortune bribing the same Nazi officials to keep over 1000 Jews alive, hence “the List” or “Arc” from the novel.
Or perhaps you have maybe heard the story of William Wilberforce. Born into wealth and being a member of Parliament, he spent most of his adult life in Parliament advocating for the end of the English component of the horrific African slave trade. Under the tutelage of John Newton, former slaver, now Pastor and author of the famous song “Amazing Grace”, Wilberforce used a tactic of inviting pro slave MPs to dine with him by the Thames River. A horrible stench would arise as a dark ship drew closer and closer to the dock where they were having their tea. When the ship docked Wilberforce would take the MPs on board the slaver ship where they met several freed slaves and saw the beyond horrific conditions that their support for the slave trade had perpetuated. William was blessed by the Lord to see Parliament outlaw the slave trade shortly before they died.
I am inviting you to look beyond your profits and see the slaves in China as people with a face, with the image of God deeply embossed upon and in them. I am hoping and praying that you will have a Schindler awakening, by God’s grace, and see the slaves as people who need your support and not your collaboration with the evil slave masters. Levinas saw the slaughter of his family in the Shoah or Holocaust and asked if perhaps ethics (which had died in German scholarship led by Nazis like Martin Heidegger) if perhaps after the deaths of over 50 million people in WW2, if ethics should no longer be treated as the red-haired stepchild of philosophy, but instead the first component of our philosophical studies. (“Ethics as First Philosophy”) As the Jewish and Christian faith tells us, all human beings are made in the Image of God. As philosophy on its better days can attest, we have a moral obligation to treat others as equals to ourselves who possess their own ends! “Ends in themselves” as Kant would argue.
Your friend President Obama often spoke of the goal of “being on the right side of history”. We now look back at Wilberforce and Schindler as people who are in fact on the right side of history as it were. Please consider what side of history you both wish to be remembered for. There were thousands of companies whom we have forgotten because they collaborated with the slave trade of England, and the Shoah of Nazi Germany. We remember and find praiseworthy both Wilberforce and Schindler precisely because they stood for the rights of their fellow human beings to be free and to have their own meaningful lives before the Lord.
Please, please, please give us the opportunity to see a great sea change in your business practices and lives! I would love to thank God for the changes that are possible and tell my grandchildren (13 so far!) how yall saw the suffering populace of China, not in terms of potential profit margins, but in terms of people who need the help of companies from the western world.
In addition, if you are looking for a place to settle your businesses after you pull away from the nightmare of the CCP, might I suggest building your factories in the Philippines. They send people all over the world to work, because there is virtually no industrialization in the country. The former dictator Marcus enriched himself for over forty years and did not invest the USA’s money into a country that could have become an economic power such as South Korea, or Singapore or even Hong Kong before it was brutally subjegated by your business partners. There are millions of people in the Philippines who desperately need jobs and you would find a very welcoming and friendly community and though your profit margins may not be as good, you would stand before the world and know that you have done a good and godly thing.
This is my invitation. The Lord Jesus tells us that even evil people know how to give good gifts to their children. We all stand in need of the Savior, who died for my sins as well as yours. I am not petitioning you as your moral better or any nonsense like that. I am a sinner who found forgiveness thru the cross and now am called to try and bring reconciliation to a broken world. I invite you both to consider the cross of Jesus and the works of your own hands. I am praying for yall in both these considerations.
What a powerful and beautiful message and request you have made to these people! Thank you and we must be bold in these uncertain times. Imagine the impact that these leaders …..Tim Cooke and Phil Knight would have in this world if they stood up and bravely made the change to put Christ and people above profits!! I too implore and request this of you! Bring these jobs to the USA and other nations that don’t enslave humans. All things are possible in Christ our Lord!