It’s a weird thing watching hurricanes strike land.
Like a sci-fi action movie, with water rising higher than the sky-scrapers and entire oceans being sucked out by some supernatural force, leaving lonely manatees stranded lifeless in the mud where once an ocean supported all life.
We suddenly see how small we are and how tremendous are the forces that surround our fragile lives.
Storms don’t care. We give them human names – Harvey, Irma – as if we can befriend them, as if they are family members.
Then they show up like drunks at a wedding and trash everything anyway. Homes, school photos, your pet parrot – no matter what. Just because we give them a name, that doesn’t give them a heart.
They have taken lives. The death toll for Harvey is at least 70. Irma has claimed at least 11 and she’ll take more.
What we now need is to provide careful, compassionate assistance for Floridians and Bajans. Help them to reconnect water and power, to rebuild every aspect of their lives, from their health, homes and schools to law and order.
And that’s just the physical stuff. The emotional stuff, the mental stuff is another, very human type of hurricane waiting to happen.
All these people have my complete sympathy. I want to go and help pile branches, fill skips, manually make things better. I am sorry for these regular folk, just trying to live life, just about able to afford homes in hurricane alley but unable to afford the repercussions of what that might actually entail.
I wonder about their lives, living in relative poverty side by side with those whose riches do not stop them exiling themselves from tax to get even more.
My sympathy ends with the locals.
For others, I have quite a different set of feelings and a different message.
If you have decided to make your home in a tax haven, you own that decision. You pursued luxury and exclusivity, and you got it. I commend your commitment to capitalism.
But as a tax exile boasting about your luxurious existence in paradise on Instagram, you must also own disaster when it strikes. In return for having the riches to live wherever you wish, the financial means to live securely, and the choice to pay no taxes – not to mention the bragging rights of a home address that includes the initials BVI – you must be prepared to accept great risks and own their impact.
So tough. Tough luck to you. Tough luck to you and your decision-making. Tough luck to your Remainer-in-Chief, Richard Branson, fallen hero of the regular man in the street, who is nothing but another champagne socialist pretending to know what we think and feel while he hides from the hurricane in his wine cellar.
Could you get any more down with the people?
Most people are sheltering en masse in sport halls or the conference rooms of huge hotels. The locals have no such luxuries. All they have is flimsy hits and fabricated spaces. And Branson is hunkering down with his wine in the cellar of his own home on Necker.
For the wealthy elite, the British Virgin Islands are mostly notable for what is not subject to taxation. BVI has: no capital gains tax, no gift tax, no sales tax or value-added tax, no profit tax, no inheritance tax or estate duty, and no corporation tax.
Can you even imagine what that would mean for your income? Technically there is income tax, assessed in the BVI for companies and individuals, but the rate of taxation is set at zero.
Even an EU withholding tax was not mandatory and was abolished in favour of disclosure of information (information prepared by tax specialists) in 2012.
So when you hear the cri de coeur from these British tax exiles led by Branson, telling you the British government has a massive role to play, and presumably for the emergency relief jar to be emptied in their rescue and rehabilitation, I’d close your ears.
I say tough luck. Suck it up.
You tried to cheat the system. You opted out of taxation, which is designed for the collective good, and pursued your individual self-interest.
I am a capitalist. I have no problem with your choices.
But you now own the cost of saving yourself. You want the navy? Fine. We don’t want your family to suffer. We will come and get you. But you owe us the money.
You want the emergency relief jar to save you from the nasty locals with machetes who you were happy to lock yourself away from and ignore? Fine.
But you need to be writing the cheque when Britain invoices you.
Because, you see, while you were there posting photos of sunsets on white sands in your jungle paradise, paying no tax, we were right here grafting to pay for the things we all use.
We pay sales tax, value-added tax, tax on profits, tax on earnings, taxes when we die and even tax on Tampax so we don’t offend delicate city folk by bleeding everywhere.
And we do all of this through the grey mizzle of spring, the eternal darkness of winter and the profound disappointment of yet another year without a proper summer.
So please, spare us your outrage. You have not been abandoned by Britain or Boris. It’s just that we’ve been too busy commuting to the crappy jobs that pay our bills to worry about your regret that you chose to live in hurricane alley.
You can ‘hit out’ at the government all you want; you haven’t helped fund it, so why should it listen?
Branson has been wafting in lip gloss about like Angelina Jolie in a mine zone, demanding assistance from the emergency relief fund. Like some maniacal Jesus of the destitute, he has called for a Marshall Plan to help the region recover.