In the wake of an undercover TV news report on France’s M6 channel showing what appear to be private dinner parties in luxury venues, the home of French celebrity chef Christophe Leroy was raided and investigations launched. “We will verify whether the gatherings were organized in violation of sanitary rules and determine who were the potential organizers and participants,” Paris’ prosecutor’s office has said.
These “sanitary rules” have ordered French restaurants, bars, and pubs to be closed since last year. Many, including some of the country’s top chefs, have turned to offering take-out and delivery services. Just last week, for instance, I was able to Netflix and chill at home while enjoying a meal by Alain Ducasse – the chef with the most Michelin stars in the world – ordered through Uber Eats. It’s also amusing to see how some of the renowned chefs’ offerings have lower user ratings on the app than McDonald’s and Burger King.
The fact that the pandemic has resulted in these chefs being more accessible to the average citizen is one of its silver linings. How the chefs feel about it, though, may be a different story. In this country, there’s great value in snobbism and inaccessibility. And nothing is more inaccessible and snobby than the notion of flouting all government-mandated rules – from forced closures, to the recommended maximum indoor gathering size, to the 7pm curfew – and throwing a discreet exclusive party reserved for the elite.
That the rich, famous and powerful are finding ways around the rules should hardly be surprising. They’re simply doing what’s best for themselves, as they always have. Those who attend such parties have made a cost-benefit decision about their own risks vis-à-vis the pandemic. If Covid-19 was an actual plague, it’s doubtful that such soirées would find any takers. At this point, one year into the ongoing fiasco, enough people have come to the conclusion that getting on with life is worth any perceived risk.
This might be viewed as selfish, except their behavior isn’t really affecting anyone else’s life. It’s up to each individual to protect themselves from any sanitary risks by doing what they feel is necessary, given their own particular situation. Those who have already had Covid-19, or have been vaccinated, or trust in their good health and immunity, may make quite different decisions from people who have smoked like chimneys their entire lives, or have never laced up a pair of training shoes, or are otherwise compromised either through their own poor lifestyle choices or through bad luck.
Neither the elite nor anyone else can be forced to continue to live like a paranoid hermit out of precaution simply because hospitals are worried about being overwhelmed in the event that you may require their services, any more than the government can stop someone from jumping out a window. As French President Emmanuel Macron, who caught Covid-19 himself, has said, “Zero risk doesn’t exist.”
All these privileged people are really doing in this case is actively exercising their basic freedoms – something that most average French citizens have been all too willing to concede. Every French citizen should be exercising their freedoms in a way that’s comfortable for them and in line with their personal vulnerabilities.
The government can’t know each person’s personal situation, which is why it errs on the side of extreme caution with sweeping rules, but nonetheless provides ample “get out of Covid jail free” cards in the form of auto-certifications that, used cleverly, can literally permit the average person to live normally, if inclined to do so.
You don’t have to be wealthy to live with an elite mentality. Such an attitude can serve well beyond this pandemic. Globalization, for example, was brought in to allow such people to jurisdiction-shop and reduce their economic burden. You, too, can take advantage of globalism to your own benefit. Some have figured that out amid this pandemic by doing their own jurisdiction shopping and working from home in a more fiscally advantageous country. How many such people would have given even the slightest thought to doing the same before the Covid era?
Really, my French friends, jealousy and frustration serves no one. Demanding that authorities further clamp down on other people’s freedom just because you agree to the curtailment of your own isn’t going to help improve your own life. It’s time for everyone to start thinking more like the elite and reclaiming the freedoms that are rightfully theirs.
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