Hard to make the immediate mental connection isn’t it? We consumers have grown accustomed to thinking about our gadgets as almost incorporeal entities. What connection could they have to any material realm, let alone a war-wracked country in central Africa?
Their actual creation — and after we dispose of them for a sleeker model, their destruction — are complete abstractions. New phones, cameras, MP3 players are simply born (absent meconium or amniotic fluid) as an abstract desire via the glossy adverts wherever one turns.
The only material realm they inhabit is the 3.8″ x 1.88″ x .069 rectangle and the slight tug that 3.53 oz exerts downwards in a pocket. The only reality they remain tied to is the one artfully created by marketing companies: you know, the one full of men with chiselled cheekbones, the one where the iPhone signals status, modernity, style.
(You might have raped your overdraft to get it, but that’s a metaphor, right?)
Most inanimate objects though, like people, have a secret life: did you know that tectonic plates shift at the same speed fingernails grow? That viewed with infra-red binoculars , trees glow in the dark?
That to make your phone, various groups — state-sponsored or rebels — raped and terrorised eastern Congo to gain access to columbite-tantalite, cassiterite, wolframite; more obscure, glittering mineral deposits than you ever heard of in chemistry class, lying buried in black, fecund soil with the bodies of the 45,000 people who die violently in the country each month?