The current mask debate has come to epitomise the woeful society we now inhabit. Now, ever since the COVID question arose, there have been pro-maskers. After all, it is a natural response to don items of clothing for the purposes of protection against an environmental threat. A coat, a hat, a pair of gloves. Masking up feels right as an extension of what humans reflexively and habitually do.
And so, social media users are flinging their limp, lethargic near-lifeless bodies onto the bandwagon to deliver their pithy mask missives. Some are even deleting their pronouns to place this centre stage (where their Black Lives Matter proclamations had once emphemerally resided).
My mask protects you, your mask protects me is a favoured standby, and on the case of it one of those perfectly balanced and reciprocal sentiments. That is until you deign to unpack its logic. At its most basic level, while masks may stop saliva spray, a normal breath will still fire out a sizeable percentage of 100,000 virus particle throughs the ample gaps of non-surgical-quality fabric. On another level, even if masks were effective, my mask can protect you only if I have COVID. And if I am bug-ridden, I am already infected, so your mask cannot protect me.
It is beautiful post-fact bunkum, and social media is awash with it. It is the sort of tosh that the less discerning populace laps up without question. Some of the Twatterati have however abandoned post-fact re-engineering in favour of blunt brute force. You see this in the numerous Twitter bios along the lines of, ‘Blogger, AFC fan and occasional skier. Wear a fucking mask’. Nothing like a touch of shock-value f-bomb and faux hard man chic. These are the people who cannot articulate a scientific rationale so just bark out an intimidating order to shock an audience into action or compliance. You occasionally see executives in business pull this one, when they are running out of ideas to save their failing organisations.
The point with all this maskology is that it’s neither logic nor scientific rationale that has prompted vigorous adherence and fanaticism, but changes in law that give no-marks a fat slice of power and a turbo-charge for self-righteousness and the domination of others. We are now staring to enter do it because I said so territory. The line that infuriates a child who doesn’t understand the reasons for a parental decision that was likely taken for parental convenience. Nowadays, as adults, the same people not just accept this line, they propagate it with all the vim and vigour they can muster. I wonder at what stage in life those inquisitive, tenacious kids lost their motivation to challenge?
We have been so focused on documenting COVID deaths that we have missed the fact that generations have already died inside. If the Government announced that only Sagattarians and Aquarians had to wear masks, you would not rule out gangs of Librans out on the streets spearheading vigilante crackdowns.
The failure to question and to seek evidence comes back to bite us not only in our domination by others but in our exploitation by others. Airlines, as we know, took advantage of the increased fear of terrorism after 9/11 to impose all manner of restrictions on passengers that made sense only when you realised that they were shovelling up mega profit off the back of it. ‘No, you cannot bring your 330ml can of coke through security, but you can buy one for £3 in our shop‘ (which is supplied by the same regional wholesaler).
It is no secret that the airline industry is populated with career psychopaths and the fiercest protagonists of legitimate exploitation, and the Con Air boys and girls are not alone. Shed not a single tear for any of those charlatan organisations who will now go under after finding themselves on the wrong side of the COVID wire. And at the same time, do not be sucked in by the false dichotomy of ‘do as we say or you will not be a good citizen’. Regrettably, this is where we now are with facemasks.
Facemasks are of course simultaneously a symbol of both disruption and of the new normal. If it made sense to wear them in shops, then they’d be mandatory in pubs. As it is, takeaway restaurants now have to mandate mask-wearing for customers at the till, whereas the sit-down areas are mask-free. There is no logical thread that runs through the whole sorry caper.
The ongoing mask business allows the country to once again function, but at the same time it reminds us that the lockdowns were always ‘necessary’. A salient piece of retrofitting so that our most recent piece of history can be more comfortably reframed when the time is right.
So, once again, why should we keep wearing them?