"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Gabriel Delahaye's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.
This week, a young New Yorker wonders if it's OK to make people do their job if it's raining out, a woman in California is worried that one of her two privileged daughters is slightly more aware of her own privilege than the other, and the editor of a college newspaper pretends that anyone cares about what is printed in college newspapers.
Is it ethical to order food for delivery during a thunderstorm? If I'm doing it to avoid going outside and getting wet or struck by lightning, isn't it wrong to have somebody else (with little agency to refuse) do it in my place? — James J. Stranko, New York
As a New Yorker, James, you should know that not ordering food in a thunderstorm is as unrealistic as not taking the subway. What are you going to do instead? Cook?
One suspects, James, that if the food delivery workers in the New York service industry were not primarily Asian and Hispanic, you might not have the same problem. One suspects, James, that were the soaking wet delivery person at your door white that you would feel comfortable in the idea that they were simply doing a job, without the suspicion of exploitation. What you are feeling is called liberal guilt, and it is a horrible kind of guilt, because it keeps you from enjoying the subtle privileges bestowed upon you by generations of racial subjugation.
Incidentally, included among those privileges is the ability to go out in a thunderstorm without the fear of being struck by lightning because just as you are not afraid of a camera stealing your soul, we have given up on childish superstitions.
My two college-age daughters are traveling to France. Each was required to pay half the cost. Daughter No. 1 used money she earned at a part-time job. Daughter No. 2 used money she received by subletting her apartment, for which her dad and I pay the rent. Daughter No. 1 thinks this is unfair. Is it? — Linda Fletcher, Long Beach, Calif.
I understand how difficult this situation must be for you, to have one daughter who is clever and fun, and another daughter who is pedestrian and complains a lot. The thing is, Linda, as you well know, life is not fair. For example, 98 percent of the world does not have access to safe drinking water, but you have the time and leisure to write a letter about your two daughters and how they are paying for a trip to France.
Is that fair?
To teach both of your daughters this important lesson about personal responsibility and financial independence, you should kill yourself and make each of them pay half of the funeral costs.
My college newspaper ran an opinion article supporting a professor who had not been rehired. The article now appears at the top of any Internet search of the professor's name. Hoping not to discourage potential employers, the professor asked us to remove the article from our archive for two years. Should we? — B.B., New York
My friend Scott used to be friends with a guy named Damon. Scott and Damon would talk on the phone most days, and go to the bar together a few times a week to cruise for dudes. Most of this stopped, though, when Scott got into a serious homosexual relationship. One day, Scott called Damon just to see how he was doing. Damon said he was doing fine. Scott pressed a little harder, insisting that they used to talk every single day, and it had been a few weeks since they'd talked last, surely Damon could come up with something better than "fine." Damon sighed and told Scott in his lazy stoner drawl, "Well, I'm sort of in this war with a gay black magic website in California."
This is a pretty typical Damon story, but basically he used to post messages on a gay black magic website in California, using his full name. Now that he was finishing up a PhD, he was worried that the gay black magic website, which showed up in any Google search for his name, would pose problems for getting a job teaching. But the gay black magic website refused to take down his posts. War ensued.
My point is that, a fucking gay black magic website in California refuses to take down years-old message board comments out of editorial integrity, so I don't even know what your question is.