It’s Saturday 29th March and Britain’s been shut down for a week. My first order is a wrap from a place in the center of town and I wait for 37 minutes for those halloumi fries to be ready. Mr drum n bass dating agency drops in when I’m at 30 minutes and thinks better of it and rejects the order but it seems like too late for me to do that at this point and eventually I deliver it to Bedminster and earn £2.50 for my first hour of work. Next there’s two curries both in Southville and the hourly wage is bumped up with extra fees (Deliveroo pays extra fees to get riders out at peak times, usually weekend evenings and when it’s raining). After that I pick up burritos from the harbourside and chat to the other riders from a safe legal distance about how great it is to cycle on empty roads. As i take the burritos to Cotham I’m listening to a podcast from the New York Times of questions about coronavirus from children, which hits at the right level, a sample: what colour is the virus, how does the pandemic get in your body, when will there be basketball again? And an epidemiologist tells us that a virus can get a virus. A virus can get a virus? This tiny sliver of information blows my mind and i get lost down a rabbit hole of viruses within viruses within viruses within a bat within a pangolin within a human person. Is this the pangolin’s revenge on humans for being the most trafficked animal in the world or is that just eco-fascistic dreaming?
The police are getting a mild grilling in the press for being heavy-handed and seemingly arbitrary and petty in the application of the new law imposing lockdown on the UK. In Derbyshire they dyed the ‘blue lagoon’ of Harpur Hill black to deter visitors in what might be the bleakest news of police incompetence from Brexit island this week, if it wasn’t for the racial profiling and risk of infection to thousands of prisoners and immigration detainees in their ‘care’ and that of private contractors during this crisis. I used to go climbing at Harpur Hill but that was several decades ago. They’re also using a drone to creepily shame anyone driving to beauty spots in the peak district to go walking. I think cops use drones because they’re bored and they’ve got new kit that they have to make use of otherwise they might lose the funding for the next year. A group of us occupied an Israeli armed drone factory in Oldham last year (and another team did the same in Kent) shutting it down for three days. Despite being only three peaceful protesters on a roof, the cops surrounded the building with up to five or six vans, riot police, a few police cars, even drafting in the fire service and a mountain rescue guy for advice about how to get us down. They sent a drone up to look at us every morning and every evening. When on the evening of the third day we decided to come down, I shouted down to a cop, ‘we’re coming down, come and open the door’, he replied, I’ll have to get the fire service to come and get you. I replied ‘or you could just come up the stairs and open this door, and we’ll walk down?’ He shouted back, what door? I pointed to it. Less than 20 minutes later we were on the ground. How many drones does it take to figure out how to take the stairs? When you’ve got the technology, you’ll use it, even if you remain fundamentally incompetent in its application. Now the police, responding to criticism are seeking to clarify the rules on how to apply the law. Perhaps a good idea is that they start with their own officers. Here’s a picture of three cops yesterday in Clifton, in a small takeaway, clearly flouting their own rules:
The current law in place in the UK to respond to the corona situation explicitly states: “no person may participate in a gathering in a public place of more than two people”. The exceptions include when these people live in the same household. The other legal defence available might be that this gathering of three cops within two metres of each other ‘is essential for work purposes’ although would buying a magic roll hold up in court as essential? I know that they are pretty tasty but does that make them essential? Elsewhere cops are appearing ‘over-zealous’ in their crackdown of others’ non-essential business. And I receive this from Deliveroo warning that police will close down any restaurant where riders are gathered less than two metres apart:
What about when I’ve received reports from my own eyes of police officers breaking the law and putting restaurant staff in further danger than necessary by gathering in their space?
In one of the many intentional glitches in the Deliveroo ‘algorythmic caring’ for its workforce/independent contractors, two people phone me yesterday from Deliveroo to ask if I’m ok. I say, yes I’m ok, but will you pay for the £10 hand sanitiser that I bought to try and keep people safe while I deliver them overpriced burgers? We’re working on that, they both say. I also ask about how I would possibly get a sick note from a doctor if I do get the corona-virus and have to stay at home for two weeks, since the NHS is not issuing sick notes unless you’re hospitalised. Angelina from Deliveroo replies ‘A lot of people have that same query and I’m afraid I can’t answer that, and you should check the website.’ Then why are you phoning me if you can’t answer any of my questions? I didn’t say that, they’re just doing their own shitty job in this giant corporate algorithmic web of pointlessness in which they get paid not very much to give precisely as little information as possible. The less they know the better. At least they’re still human, and in a few years time they’ll have been replaced by an AI Alexa-like disembodied voice repeating ‘you may check that on our website, roocommunity.co.uk’ as we shout screaming into our phones. And a few years after that they’ll deliver factor-made takeaways to your house with a drone and pass all the amassed data about our food consumption to Nestle and the cops. And I’ll have been replaced at the university by a ‘assistant prof bot’ able to recite Foucault better than I ever could although it might implode after trying too hard to launch ‘Panopto-mode’ and assess all students for overly radical views to be submitted to the Prevent counter-terror virtual hub while also outlining critical theory for Masters students, at the same time as self-reporting for academic bias. A few hours later I get this email:
Elsewhere in corporate corona-washing news, Deliveroo announced that it will be offering free meals to half a million NHS staff across the country. Wow that’s great that Deliveroo is offering a small part of its millions to the front-line staff dealing with this terrible crisis. Except when you find out that this will be paid “through private donations and corporate contributions”, and is soliciting donations from customers through its app.
In sum, Deliveroo will be asking other people to pay for meals to NHS staff during this tough time which they will exploit to their own gain in brand reputation. Tell me something to cheer me up before I fall asleep and wake up to the news that we’ve drifted further into a dystopian nightmare. At least the mountain goats are making the best of this situation:
Tomorrow the pangolins will take over Number 10 after the last minister is dragged out coughing and spluttering over how they took back control from the foreigners before the world ended and Brexit island fell into permanent self-isolation.