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I dislike the values of a certain popular car-sharing service, which has shown itself to be shameless in its predatory pricing. Yet my wife and I use of this service for our teens on weekends so that they can travel safely. Is this ethical?


Posted: 04 Mar 2015

If you participate in capitalist consumer culture at all, you are constantly navigating one part of this question: Is it ethical to patronise a business whose values are in opposition to yours? And the answer rests on degree. Some people don’t like to shop at Checkers; some won’t eat at Nando’s. But for some, convenience — or love of the product (see: Lulu Lemon) — outweighs whatever values conflict a consumer might have. It sounds like, in this case, you’re not outraged enough by the transgressions of the car-sharing company to cease using its app when your teenagers need a ride. Am I right? But there’s another question here, one you did not ask: Is it ethical to outsource the driving around of one’s teenagers late at night to strangers, in the interest of having a relaxing adult time? On one hand, it’s a no-brainer: Better to have a sober stranger drive your children home than a drunken friend. Your first obligation to your kids is to keep them safe. But the ride-sharing service also allows you to recuse yourself from yet another one of the unpleasant aspects of parenthood: it’s a straight line from hiring a nanny to hiring tutors to paying for a car and driver. The question, really, is what do you lose by not doing those late-night tours yourself? Some parents swear that the best talks they have with their teens are in the car; others feel that picking kids up from parties is a way to keep tabs on what they’re doing. The potent ethical dilemma embedded in your question is not whether a person ought patronise a company he or she dislikes, but the extent to which a parent’s need for an evening off can or should supersede his or her obligation to connect with kids after they’ve been out partying. The answer, in both cases, is entirely up to you.


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