There is some controversy about mask wearing in our age, dominated as it is by discussions and analysis of the SARS CoV 19 virus aka Covid 19 disease. I’m saying “some” controversy because, officially at least, the debate is settled and masks are demonstrably protective against the virus. There is quite a bit of science that shows this not to be so and although this information is readily available by a simple Google search, most people are not aware of it.
I have a strong animus towards masks for two reasons. One is purely health related, the other is much broader. My health argument is simple. I don’t need to see studies to know that I find it very hard to breathe with a mask on and usually don’t last more than about five minutes and then have to take it off. I’ve heard all the arguments about doctors and nurses having to wear them all day and being fine and even about joggers who can apparently run miles without being bothered. Well, bully for them. I’m in my late 60’s and although I have passed my recent physical with flying colors and have no heart/lung issues, I simply cannot breathe through the damn thing. My suspicion is that my physiological symptoms are based in psychology. I seem to enter something like a mini panic state when I wear a mask. The panic is not helped by seeing masked faces all around me, which I find vaguely threatening. I have pretty much given up on going shopping and although I do try to spend as much time outside (sans mask) as I can, as long as this pandemic lasts, I avoid any place where I am forced to wear a face covering.
Now, the second reason is much broader but no less important. Masks have become a symbol of obedience. Wearing or not wearing one is a moral bludgeon for others to use on you. Why do I say this? Well, on a recent shopping trip (like I said, I can take about five minutes) I noticed about half the people wearing their masks below their noses. It immediately struck me: if you believed this thing actually protects you, wouldn’t you wear it properly, nice and tight around your mouth AND noses? Conversely, if you just believe it’s a prop, then the important thing is to be SEEN to be wearing one, not the prop’s functionality. In other word, your mask broadcasts your obedience to the rules. Everyone else is wearing one, so I will too. It’s tough to stand out. I know because I hate having the mask on my face and yet I usually won’t dare not put it on.
The symbolism goes farther: it is a subtle tool of oppression. Many laugh when I say this but think about it. Are you free when you put a piece of clothing on as you enter a building? By definition you are not because you follow a government edict (yes, it’s an edit, not a law properly vetted and voted on by a legislature) The comparison to seatbelts doesn’t hold water. There are literally thousands of peer reviewed studies and years of experience attesting to the fact that seatbelts save lives. Not so with masks. In fact, until about April this year, we were told NOT to wear them and there are clear warnings on mask packages that the “product does not protect from any disease” Therefore, you are wearing a symbol that signifies at least a slight loss of personal liberty. As someone born and raised in a Communist country, I feel this perhaps more keenly than others. My argument has logic — but of course, you are free to say that you’re glad to give up that little bit of your freedom for the “common good”. I am not.
I reject the notion that I am supposed to be responsible for someone else’s health — I reject it completely. My not wearing a mask is not the reason you get Covid. The reason you get it is because you came in contact with the virus. Could have been from a gas pump, could have been someone in your home, could have been that debit card machine. It’s not my responsibility to worry about it. You can stay at home and not leave if your fear runs that high. Deliveries of almost everything are now possible. If staying at home affords you a feeling of complete safety, then that is what you should do. Do not assume the moralistic high horse of being a better person than me because you wear a mask and I don’t.
Don’t worry, you’re not likely to run into me because, as I said, I try to avoid supermarkets. And if you do happen to run into me during those few minutes I can stand to be in a market, I’ll be wearing a mask. Under my nose, naturally!