If you’ve spent any time online in the last few days, you can’t help but see all the bad news that keeps seeming to appear about personal taxi service Uber.
While the service has come under plenty of criticism in the last 6-12 months over some of its practices, the last seven days or so has seen a major upsurge in negative stories around the brand.
- Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt on Journalists (Buzzfeed)
- The Moment I Learned Just How Far Uber Will Go to Silence Journalists and Attack Women (pandodaily)
- Sexist French Uber Promotion Pairs Riders with “Hot Chick” Drivers (Buzzfeed)
- Uber Exec Proposes Smearing Female Reporters Who Criticized the App (Valleywag)
- Uber Driver Told Cancer Patient She Deserves to Be Sick After Canceling Ride (New York Daily News)
Quite the list, huh? And that’s just in the last seven days – run a Google search, and the number of results are staggering. So it’s clear that Uber may not only have some very questionable business practices, but morally questionable ones at that.
Yet for some, this may not matter. Over on Facebook, my friend Justin Kozuch shared?a news story on why the City of Toronto is seeking a court injunction against Uber operating in the city. The story from the Toronto Star highlights a sizeable list of risks, including:
- increased risk to passenger safety due to lack of driver training and mechanical inspections;
- unregulated fares resulting in price surging (which Uber did to Torontonians in last year’s bitter winter);
- increased safety risk to drivers due to lack of training and vehicle security equipment;
- inadequate insurance that fails to meet municipal codes and may not provide proper coverage for drivers, passengers and other road users.
Again, quite the list. Despite this though, and despite the multitude of examples of Uber’s approach to ethics, it seems turning a blind eye in lieu of convenience is the more popular route. It’s not just Uber where this is happening, though.
When We Silently Complain
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about why the bullshit attitudes towards women needs to stop (warning: contains graphical and disturbing imagery). One of the examples I used in it was that of Ray Rice, who was the running back for the Baltimore Ravens at the time.
Rice was caught on tape hitting his then-fiancee, and (at the time) received a pitiful punishment from the NFL (a two-game ban, which was increased when more details came out about the case).
However, Rice was seemingly just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the issues that were about to unfold for the NFL.
- NFL Star Adrian Peterson Arrested for Child Abuse (BBC)
- Face It, Women, The NFL Does Not Give a Shit About You (Jezebel)
- Panthers Disappointed in Greg Hardy, But No Discipline Imminent (Charlotte Observer)
- The NFL Needs to Take Domestic Violence Seriously (TIME)
- Misogyny and Homophobia in the NFL: Is America’s Crisis of Masculinity Playing Out In Its Favorite Sport? (Huffington Post Gay Voices)
Much like Uber, this is quite the collection of events for the NFL, and all from this year. Following these articles, videos, etc., social media lit up with condemnation, and calls to boycott the NFL, etc., especially when this damning Keith Olbermann video came out, attacking the NFL for its degradation of women.
Some of my friends over on Facebook were the most vociferous in their condemnation. Then game day one arrived in the new NFL season.
Many of these critics were now cheering on their teams, and paying into the money machine again either by going to games themselves, and buying the relevant beer, food, etc., or they were paying the cable companies to get live access to the game.
While the NFL issues didn’t necessarily appear forgotten, they did seem out of mind now the cheering had begun.
Away from the US, here in Canada there’s currently a case involving media personality Jian Ghomeshi and domestic violence around his sexual preferences:
- More Workplace Allegations Made Against Jian Ghomeshi (CBC News Toronto)
- Dirty Little Open Secrets: How the Jian Ghomeshi Scandal Helped Turn the Tide Against Bill Cosby (Salon)
- Jian Ghomeshi: How He Got Away With It (Macleans)
- Can Jian Ghomeshi Salvage His Reputation? (Toronto Star)
Again, much like the Ray Rice/NFL case, there was a lot of condemnation and outrage on Facebook and other social media channels, as friends and their connections moved from incredulity to anger and disgust.
Yet according to Facebook today, five of my own friends are still “fans” of the Jian Ghaneshi Facebook Page.
The irony of that,?given the way a Facebook Like can be seen as an endorsement, isn’t lost in light of the way those same folks decried Ghomeshi and his behaviour. Damn you, forgotten Facebook Page Likes!
The Right of Choice and Why It Needs to Be Defended
Going back to the Facebook post I referenced earlier from Justin, many of his friends still supported Uber and stated they’d continue to use the service. And, as Justin mentions himself in his reply, that’s exactly how it should be.
Critical thinking should always trump emotional reaction. If we can’t have the former, then we’re in serious trouble. It’s your choice [to continue using], and I respect that decision.
And that’s correct – people make their own decisions based on their needs at a given time, thanks to the freedom – or the right to choose freely – that so many men and women gave their lives for in order we could live ours without fear of reprisal (where legally acceptable, of course).
But sometimes, don’t you wonder if the choice is a little more black and white than that?
Take Uber. Clearly a company with both business and ethical issues that permeate from the top down. And while they fired the driver that abused the cancer victim, the senior executive that promoted the idea of abuse against reporters he found questionable is still at the company. Not much in the way of double standards there.
Or take the NFL. Since the avalanche of cases related to spousal abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, public violence and more became evident, they’ve gone on a damage control exercise, employing four women whose role it is to advise the NFL on domestic violence issues.
Many, however, see this as mere lip service and not a bigger endorsement of taking the issue seriously (especially given the fact it’s been reported that the players’ union, the National Football Players Association – is attempting to have Ray Rice’s ban lifted).
Perhaps most of all, we should take us and how we react, not just initially but moving forward.
We’re Defined By the Decisions Who Make Us What We Are
As Justin mentioned in one of his replies to his Uber discussion, “critical thinking should always trump emotional reaction”. Never is that more true when it comes to violence, hate, ethics and other emotionally-charged topics, and the discussions and actions that follow them.
While it’s natural for us to take an emotional stand initially, it’s the critical thinking stand that is more important in the long run. Our judgements can often be clouded by emotion – our longer-term thinking, less so.
It’s why we, as humans, sometimes need to ask ourselves how ethics that may not impact us personally impact the bigger human angle around us.
- If we choose convenience over ethics, are we saying people that get hurt by poor business ethics is of no concern to us?
- If we support a sports franchise where the owners have shown their true colours, are we in danger of saying “Out of sight, out of mind”?
- If we take a popular stand on public networks, then don’t follow that through in private, are we really taking a stand at all?
It’s these kinds of questions that Chris Tuttle answers so eloquently over on Facebook:
I’ve had difficulty not using a service that I really like, but I can no longer justify or overlook bullying, sexist intimidation, and privacy issues in order to have a fabulous clean car. #GoodbyeUber”
Yes, we have choices, and the choices that we make should – for the most part – have little or nothing to do with anyone, or anything, that isn’t in our immediate circle of impact.
But if we always take that path, at what point does the human race finally implode on itself and simply look out for our own personal interests? Because, for me, that would be a truly sad day indeed…