This is not an anti-masking post. I am not anti-mask. I always wear a mask when out in public and I want others to do the same. But we people, as a civilisation, are engaged right now in a losing battle against human nature – and this must be acknowledged.
Be honest. When you mask up and go out, assuming you are not vaccinated, do you feel yourself to be immune or protected against getting (or spreading) Covid 19 just because of your mask? If yes, then you’re like me, and you’re kidding yourself.
Do you genuinely observe the two metre rule, or do you ignore it becasue you’re wearing a mask and so is the person nearby? Personally I have seen little or no observation of, or enforcement of, the 2 metre rule in any supermarkets since April/May 2020, when strict one-way systems with hard yellow dividing lines were put in place among the aisles (measures since scrapped).
People are diligently wearing masks and (usually) sanitising hands before entering the shop, but that’s pretty much where the caution ends. Human nature demands a level of calm, and people seem to find that calm in a flimsy bit of cloth over their face while carrying on as normal.
Masking has some profound psychological effects on us all.
But masking on a daily basis isn’t natural and has some profound psychological effects on us all. The human brain has evolved to recognise faces, to understand signals like smiles and grimmaces, to interact with each other based on facial expressions. Even a simple thing like an exchange with a person at the checkout, or walking past a stranger on a footpath, can become oddly threatening or detached, because faces are not seen.
It wasn’t long ago that covered faces were viewed with great suspicion (letterboxes, anyone?), and if you walked into a shop with a covered face you’d trigger some kind of security alert. Now, the reverse is true; masks are seen as safe, good, protective and reassuring. The visible human face, a deadly thing to be avoided. What a wierd, forced way for the human mind to operate! This counter-intuitive behaviour was always bound to feel grating, awkward and at times sinister. But do it we must, for the greater good, until further notice.
We need to know what the endgame is.
For this, as well as so many other aspects of Covid protection, we deserve to know now what the endgame is, what the critieria must be for no longer having to wear a mask in public. Is it vaccination? Is it the R number reaching zero? Is it less than 10 new cases per day? What? Again I find myself desperate for clarity from a government offering nothing but confused waffle.
One fears the urges to see people’s faces and will ultmately prove too strong. Once vaccinated, a person will naturally be less motivated to wear a mask, and may resent doing so. If that person lives or works among vaccinated people, even more so. The danger is that over time, the feeling of criticality will fade, until nobody cares any more, vaccinated or otherwise.
So where is the message that vaccination won’t excuse anyone from following the rules? Because if that message doesn’t come out, pretty soon people will make their own rules.
What does science think? If science thinks it necessary then we must be given a clear instruction to keep wearing a mask no matter what, even after vaccination. The clarity of this message, the urgency of it, is critical, to prevent lapses, to prevent peaks.
Right now, nobody knows what's going on.
If however the science says the masks aren’t helping, or are doing more harm than good, we must be honest about that, too, and offer people the choice of whether or not to see each other’s faces again.
Right now, nobody knows what’s going on with this because no clues are forthcoming from an apparently clueless leadership.
We have been patient but now we deserve to know the plan.