Uber CEO’s Dara Khosrowshahi has described Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as “a serious mistake”.
But, hey, doesn’t everyone make mistakes? None of us are perfect, for as Khrosrowshahi explained: “We’ve made mistakes too, right, with self-driving … So I think that people make mistakes. It doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven.”
Uber is a fantastically 21st-century phenomenon, a huge tech monopoly which pays its workers a pittance while promoting itself as the champion of the most empty-brained and shallow political radicalism. Woke Capitalism, it’s called.
Its adverts in the US have focused on racism and homophobia, although cynics might point out that if Uber really wanted to further social justice they could just pay their drivers more, since they make as little as $8.55 before taxes.
Meanwhile the Uber chief executive has to scrape by on just $200 million a year, a pay ratio of about (I think) 7,000:1 to a driver working full time – which compares to a American CEO: lowest paid worker pay ratio of around 20:1 in the bigoted old 1950s.
The company’s forgiving attitude towards the Saudis is typical of Woke Capital, since these companies all bow down before tyrannical and medieval regimes while proclaiming their fierce opposition to moderate conservatives back home. But, then, of course, Saudi Arabia is a major shareholder in Uber, so at least they have an excuse.
Similarly Google, progressive in the west – famously firing a worker for an internal memo questioning official doctrine on gender diversity – while allowing a Saudi app that enables men to track women and prevent them from travelling.
Most recently the American basketball authorities, the NBA, described as “the wokest professional sports league”, and which has even withdrawn from an all-star game in North Carolina because of its law against transgender bathrooms, issued a grovelling apology to China after a general manager of one team had dared to tweet criticism of Beijing’s repression of Hong Kong.
The reason that big business engages in performative acts of wokeness is the same reason it does whatever China or the Saudis tell it to do – these companies want to suck up to the powerful, and to those who would otherwise makes their lives difficult, whether its progressive activists or the CCP. North Carolina is weak, while China is strong.
This is why the annual Pride displays by these companies are so disingenuous, like proclamations of “Workers of the World unite” in the Havel essay; all these firms would quite happily sponsor Gay Shame events, if that’s what the people wearing the boot demanded.
Ross Douthat once defined decadence as “Revelling in coarseness/transgression right up until it requires some risk, at which point, swiftly self-censoring.” As the global market puts more power in China’s hands, there will surely be greater danger ahead.