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Our society’s obsession with convenience, with everything on demand, is killing people. On Monday a food delivery rider was hit by a truck in Sydney and died at the scene. He was the fifth rider to die in the past three months.

Death appears to be the inevitable endgame for an industry built on exploiting various people. Companies such as Uber Eats’s core innovation is to class their workers as “contractors” depriving them of minimum wages and a suite of other labour protections. The riders are often new migrants who are poorly trained and receive limited safety advice.

Meanwhile the delivery apps’ business models are squeezing the life out of traditional brick and mortar restaurants, strong-arming them into unfair contracts, taking a fat cut and eviscerating bottom lines.

There is a lot that is terrible about these services. And a lot of us know that but we can’t stop using them. What does that say about us?

You are not evil

First things first: getting food delivery doesn’t make you a bad person. Philosopher Leslie Cannold says it’s a mistake for people to think they’ve done something wrong by ordering takeaway.

“An individual pulling out of the market doesn’t really change the reality for delivery riders,” she said.

“If they’re still out there, and they’re still unsafe, just making a little less money, is that really a good thing?”

Instead she says it’s far more effective to act collectively. Petitions, protests, and raising awareness can often bring about meaningful change. Holier-than-thou grandstanding about not using Uber Eats any more is less effective.

The problem is that too often we tend to individualise problems that are structural in nature. As individuals we did not create the late-capitalist hellscape where underpaid migrant workers die on the road. But because the culture we live in is so individualistic and atomised, our impulse is to shunt responsibility on to the lazy individuals who ordered in, rather than the tech companies that profited off death and the governments that allowed it to happen.

“It’s convenient for the big institutions that run our lives for us to tear ourselves to bits and not ask the big questions,” Cannold said.

What’s holding us back?

Of course individual choices do still matter. They’re just not nearly as free and easy as we like to think.

Food is a perfect example. It’s nearly impossible to be ethically pure when we eat. All meat, even the stuff that isn’t tortured to death in a factory farm, is environmentally and morally dubious. Plenty of our fruit and vegetables are picked by hideously exploited migrant farm workers.

Given that, it’s tempting to throw in the towel and give up on doing better. The old internet-Marxist slogan about how there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism is too easily repurposed as an excuse for inaction.

But just because being ethical is hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to be better.

“Ethical perfection is impossible to achieve,” director of the Ethics Centre Simon Longstaff said. “But what you can do is try to be ethically better.”

For Longstaff, the futility of seeking perfection is too frequently used to justify shirking our ethical commitments. And while our choices are refracted through the culture and political economy we inhabit, he says too often we get stuck disbelieving the extent to which they do matter.

If we all try to be a little better at the margins, we can move the chains. As Longstaff says, a challenge for ethicists is rewiring our unthinking customs and practices. We order delivery by default, glossing over the potential harms. But change happens when more people opt out. And more people opt out when the narrative starts to shift, jarring against our lazy default.

That’s starting to happen. Already media reports on rider deaths are slowly changing the narrative around food delivery. Opting out alone won’t do much, but doing so collectively in the context of media and government pressure might do a bit more.

You’re not a bad person for ordering Uber Eats. And you probably won’t stop rider deaths by opting out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be better. Who knows, you might bring a few more people around.