I was reading an article about a partially blind man who was refused entry to a taxi because he had a guide dog with him. The taxi driver, under the caring umbrella of UBER, simply would not allow him into his cab. The man with the dog then took the driver’s name and badge number before taking him to court. The said court later fined the driver for the breach of rules, and the law.
My initial response to this was a short outpouring of incredulity, disbelief that somebody could treat a disabled person in this manner. UBER came out with a statement that apologised for their employee’s behaviour but have not given any compensation. I believe that that ‘franchisee’ has had to stump up the costs so all is fair. Or is it?
From what I understand, UBER drivers are little more than poorly paid workers who have no rights, no standard wages, and no guarantee of contracts. They provide the cars, take knock-down fares, undercut traditional taxis, and basically lower the working conditions of themselves and the rest of the sector. In addition to this, they are the vanguard of a new capitalism that has decided that RIGHTS is a word that should never be paired with WORKERS. And there’s the rub.
Capitalism has never been about the need to be fair. Okay, it has gone hand in hand with a liberal approach to economics that has blythly informed us that this is the model for eternal happiness and contentment. Francis Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’, some thirty years ago, confidently predicted that liberal economies and democracy were the template that had reached perfection whilst delivering the goods of prosperity and contentment to the vast majority of the world’s people. China has provided a different template and, before the recent virus, it had made itself into the second most important global economic power. No democracy there.
So, the western capitalists have been taking a look at what can be, and should be, done in order to protect their interests. In a wonderfully Orwellian manner they have created invisible enemies out there whose sole intent is to rob the poor workers of what little they still have left. Simple solution, easy answer, End of Democracy.
Back to the UBER driver and the non-burning question of how we got here. The answer is the same one that could have been delivered to textile workers in 19th century England: The good times are over, now we use machines and take your livelihoods as forfeit for progress and profits. Stick with it or suffer at our indifferent hands. Our mill and factory owners are now wealthy politicians who tell us that our enemy is the taxi driver or the disabled ‘snow-flake’ with the guide dog or those foreign forces that would seek to destroy all that we know and understand.
The problem is that, when you are fighting unseen adversaries, it gives us very little time to combat those who are in plain sight.