IIt’s hard to sympathize with all of the social media influencers who have sneaked into Dubai to snap photos of themselves in swimwear while the rest of us are stuck inside, but Priti Patel and Michael Gove have my way shown. This may mark my final dive into the waters of contrarianism, but what the Home Secretary told MPs about influencers made me see things through the eyes of those poor, stupid narcissists. I’m talking about the influencers.
The government is clearly very irritated that at a time when everyone should keep quiet, a group of wealthy young people not only refused, but published pictures of themselves who did not. As always with this pandemic, there is confusion as to whether this is actually against the rules or just finding a loophole in them. But the government would prefer if we didn’t focus on that detail because what matters is the “spirit” of the rules.
People who break the “spirit” of the rules are horrible, the government says, and we should be very angry with them, not the people who designed these limp rules with gaping gaps between what they actually say and their “spirit”. It would not help the public to think too much about whose job it is to translate the “spirit” of the rules into actual rules, and whether their continued failure to do so while holding high office is not an infinitely more nationally harmful form is guilty of parasitism than the influencers.
Patel and Gove are like sloppy fence builders shaking their heads at a fox that got into the hen house despite their poor efforts. “What a bad fox!” they complain. “But we cannot be blamed for the fox ignoring the spirit of the fence.” We are urged to join this rhetoric on corporate taxation as well, and to devote energy to ensuring that international corporations only pay the taxes they are legally required to pay and not what they should be legally required to do if our legislators fail to do so would have. Don’t let us down. In defense of predatory corporate institutions, the idea of paying more taxes than the law requires out of a sense of the “spirit” of tax law in a fictitiously just society is likely a difficult task for a general meeting.
“We see a lot of influencers on social media who indicate what parts of the world they are in, mainly sunny parts of the world,” Patel told Parliament. “Going on vacation is no exception and it is important that people stay home.” This statement illustrates the idiotic situation the government has gotten itself into. Patel criticizes influencers for showing off on social media, but it’s showing off that makes their trips legitimate. Having just gone on vacation in peace is definitely against the rules, but you’re allowed to travel to work if you can’t otherwise do it at home. If your work – how you make a living – publishes pictures of yourself scantily clad in exotic locations, you must travel to do so.
If your work publishes pictures of yourself scantily clad in exotic locations, you will need to travel to do so
I realize that the influencers look like they’re on vacation, but pretending they’re on vacation is their job. If you don’t think it’s making a living from it, you can’t say it’s not work unless you define work as something you shouldn’t enjoy. And even then, if they don’t get brain scans, what evidence is there that these influencers are enjoying it? Perhaps all that sunbathing and oiling, constantly checking that the sunlight falls conspicuously on the buttocks and the shimmering sea, becomes tiresome after a while and some of them long for a living they could make from home – they would don’t even need to take it off in the morning.
Gove also went to great lengths to define exactly what the problem was in the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, which can be summed up as follows: “Grrr, why are these awful people so annoying ?!” He said that international Travel might be okay “if there is a strong business reason”, but that people “shouldn’t go abroad to improve their Instagram profile if people shouldn’t go abroad for other than essential reasons”. However, having a strong business reason is not necessarily a major reason. Improving your Instagram profile could be a big business reason.
Does he want to find out how powerful the business reason must be before it becomes material? Does It Matter When You Make £ 1 Million? Or should it be expressed in terms of the traveler’s existing wealth? If you are doubling your wealth, does it matter? Or should it be needs-based? If you have no money and are making a little, is that more or less important than if you already have a little and are making a lot? Or have burdens and make burdens and burdens?
The authorities have relied heavily on the word “material” throughout the various bans without bothering to define it, except implicitly. For example, children going to school don’t seem essential, nor do academic exams. the other way round is the financial services sector and the functioning of the real estate market.
In general, enjoyment rarely appears to be essential, but economic activity is common. The key point in pubs and restaurants, according to ministers, is that people make money to run and work for them, not that people have a good time going to them. If there was a way to secure the former without the need for the latter, they’d go for it – possibly even without a pandemic.
Even in the face of this terrible disease that has led so many to reassess what is really important to them, the oppressive priorities of an uninspired UK government remain unchanged, lurking right behind the health emergency: profit and GDP are essential. We’re a country of ruthless zero-hour contracts, a “business-friendly”, loopholed tax regime with easy access to building permits, construction sites everywhere, and post office closings.
The government defines money as our being. Well, for years it cannot come to terms with a civilization that is so empty and then suddenly becomes astute about Instagrammers.