Sure, using Uber undermines public safety, the rule of law, and the very foundation of our labor market. But if you don’t value any of those things enough to contemplate taking the bus to Gelson’s, consider that supporting Uber means supporting three other things that most of us, my fellow progressives in particular, hate rill rill bad:
Rankin/Bass’s classic Christmas TV special Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer airs for the fifty-second time tonight on CBS. That means it’s also time for the thirteenth annual posting of this essay, possibly the most popular thing I’ve ever written. It originally appeared December 4, 2004 on my defunct ethics site TheDo-Gooder.com.
Wednesday night marked the fortieth annual broadcast of the “classic” holiday television show, Rankin/Bass Production’s Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I tuned in for probably the twenty-fifth time (but the first in many years) expecting to find a rudimentary moral lesson tucked amongst all the holly-jolliness and evil-looking puppets. Instead I had the frightening realization that, for forty years, RtR-NR has been cramming several sleighloads of bad ethics down our chimneys. In this holiday nightmare, nearly every character demonstrates a distinct lack of moral integrity bordering on turpitude, and none other than Santa himself comes away as the worst of the bunch. Here’s an ethical play-by-play.
The partnership offers up to $425 in discount shopping points for Shop Your Way Members who sign up as new “driver-partners.” Of course, Uber doesn’t make it easy to earn the points. Drivers have to complete 100 trips within 45 days to earn the full $425. If you’re able to complete the 100 trips within 42 hours of work, congratulations! You’ve earned the equivalent of California’s minimum wage (in Kenmore appliances). Ha ha, not really! You have to subtract an extra 9% for the sales tax on your new toaster oven and 15% for the extra income tax you’re subject to for being an independent contractor. So if you want to earn the equivalent of 42 hours of minimum wage labor, you have to work for 52 hours.
This is a story I heard yesterday. It was told by a young guy at the cafe table next to mine, with a shaved head and rippling muscles, wearing a tank top, cargo shorts, and dog tags. Earlier that morning, he explained, he had been sitting by himself outside when a stranger approached him.
“I think I’m going to kill myself,” the man said.
“I think I’m going to kill myself.”
The young guy looked him over. He believed the man. “Okay,” he said. “Sit down and talk to me.”
The stranger wouldn’t sit down, but he didn’t leave. “Why do you want to kill yourself?” the young guy asked. The man told him he’d had enough. He said he planned to shoot himself. He didn’t know what else to do.
“I’d like to help you. Can I help you?”
The stranger shrugged.
“Can I call the police to come help you? I’ll stay here with you until they get here.” The man nodded.
“Are you carrying a weapon?” He nodded again. “Okay, look — we don’t want there to be any trouble when the cops come. So can I take your weapon away from you?”
Another nod. The young guy stood and gently patted the man down. He found a pistol in his clothes, which he removed. He ejected the clip, unloaded it, and set the disassembled gun down next to them. Then he called the police.
When the cops arrived, they talked to the stranger and asked if he wanted to come with them. He said that he did. So they led him to the car, taking the young guy’s phone number before they left. They called him that afternoon to tell him the stranger’s name and that he was getting the help he needed.
We look at the hate and death in the news today, and it’s hard not to despair, but we are not doomed. We feel helpless, but none of our actions are futile. We change the world the most by intently being as good as we can, by approaching every decision with the aim of being kind.
“I guess I did a good thing today,” the young guy said without pride or drama. We are not hopeless.
Second Update, 7/31/2015: After nearly losing his life, John lost his bike. But he’s refusing to quit. Here’s his video diary explaining his adventure through the California mountains. Please support him.
Update, 7/28/2015: Those of you asking, “What’s the big deal about a 10,000-mile solo motorcycle ride?” should note that yesterday, atop a mountain with this hell road in front of him, John’s brakes died. Luckily, he didn’t. Here’s a post he wrote on the other end. “I’m in some sort of diabetic shock because I just ate a ton of Reeses pieces and I have the choco shakes and my ex girlfriend is texting me ‘OMG COME HOME NOW.'”
A vet himself, of the 82nd Airborne in the first Gulf War, John came out of the army still a kid and developed into one of the most thoughtful and earnest people I know. I met him maybe eight years ago when we were both working at Nickelodeon. In an office full of know-it-alls (myself included) John was the one guy you could pose a question to and be answered with silence, because he was genuinely thinking about what you asked. He also had tattoo sleeves and a rocket-tail goatee and, when he wasn’t between a pair of headphones pumping out sludge metal, he’d come into my office to talk about how to find satisfaction in life.
It says plenty about Uber, our nation’s most beloved villainous corporation, that the newswire documenting its iniquitous deeds fires so frequently that I can’t report them all and instead have to compile the highlights in these occasional digest posts. If you’d like a primer on how Uber exploits its drivers, cheats and gouges customers, flagrantly breaks the law, and endangers public safety, you’ll find some links to my earlier rants at the bottom of the page. Meanwhile, here’s the latest on Uber’s flagitious 1A word I had to look up because I ran out of synonyms for “evil.” doings:
Uber knowingly deceives its customers with the map of available cars users see when launching its app. As uncovered through exceptional reporting by data researcher Alex Rosenblat and published on Motherboard, the map consistently shows cars around the potential rider that don’t actually exist. Despite presenting the screen to users as an accurate representation of drivers available to pick them up, Uber considers the map a “screen saver,” a mere “visual effect letting people know that partners are searching for fares.”