WE are going, here in Paris but also in the rest of the world, through the weirdest episode in human history and a number of intellectual skeptics have already started raising dubious questions.
All catastrophes, they say, have precedents, be they floods, earthquakes, volcanoes bursting and throwing up lava, wars and, why not, epidemics too. But was this terror the world is going through for the past nearly a year now possible if Facebook, Twitter and thousands of TV channels going on twenty-four hours a day in all the languages of the world had not existed?
Switzerland-based scientist Prof Jean-Dominique Michel, who tested positive for Covid and cured himself simply by walking into a medical store and picking up a medicine of his choice, says such epidemics are regular routines every ten years or so but this time it is being exploited by the Internet giants as well as by the politicians.
An interesting though very complicated theory but the media, at least in France, are now concentrating on another phenomenon. While all the bars, cafés, restaurants and shops are closed and big stores shut up very early because of curfew timing restrictions, home delivery business has shot up to stunning proportions.
All businesses are locked up, except home deliveries
Stepping out of the door is no longer a routine. You have to wear a mask, keep a long distance from other people on the sidewalk, just raise your fingers and make a sign if you come across a neighbour, instead of stopping, shaking hands and chatting for a while as you did in the past…then be home before 6pm, curfew time!
However, now there is another solution. No need to go out at all, just stay home and feel safe. If you need something, take a few minutes off your TV set that is giving you all the information you need (or do not need) about Covid and its variants all over the world (not to speak of all the vaccination details) and whip out your Smartphone.
On the screen you have images of the products with their prices...hamburgers, fried chickens, sushi or tables, chairs and stools, even earrings or lockets and jogging shoes. You click on your choices then move on to your bank account number. Everything is paid and, curfew or no curfew, delivered at your address in less than half an hour.
Most of these operators, Amazon, Uber Eats and many, many others are American companies. Add to this list Deliveroo, owned by a London-based Chinese American billionaire named Will Shoo and Denmark’s Just Eat.
When you click on your Smartphone you are likely to communicate with someone in the Silicon Valley making money from a long distance. Just to take one example, because of the confinements all over the world Uber Eats has raised its income by 224 per cent — which comes to a modest sum of 1.4 billion dollars.
Newspapers report another phenomenon consequential to home delivery business and certainly no good news for the clean environment cause defenders like our very dear Greta Thunberg. When truck drivers come early in the morning every day to pick up the waste placed on the sidewalks in Paris as well as in all the other cities and their suburbs, they are shocked to find mountains of empty cartons left by the consumers.
As an answer, the home delivery business giants claim they’re already working on developing carbon-free cartons that will be ready by the year 2030...that is in another nine years!
Another phenomenon shooting up at rocket speed and very closely linked to the home delivery business are illegal immigrants. Driving motorcycles and bikes in snow-covered streets nights and days is not a job much sought after by people with regular working papers. The solution is hordes of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean on boats and coming to Europe, hundreds per day, and willing to do the job, often just for a free meal of Big Mac and Coca Cola.
Speaking on the subject in an interview to daily Le Figaro, political analyst Jerome Fourquet says a simple solution is that the authorities should step in to impose not only the prices of home delivered goods but also the salaries for workers. This will cost a bit more to the consumers but all illegal practices will come to a halt.
Meanwhile, as the entire world population is practically under house arrest, the Smartphone operated business is blowing up all frontiers. According to an estimate by Le Figaro, 1.7 million home deliveries are made every twenty-four hours all over France.
The writer is based in Paris.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2021