The Emperor’s New Mask

It’s been almost a full month since I put a mask on my face (see previous blog White Feather).

While in my hometown most people in the street do not wear masks, I am usually the only person inside a shop not wearing one.  And it’s been absolutely fine. It’s true what people say: the hardest bit is at the start, and soon it becomes second nature (except it’s actually our very first nature, but there). It’s got to the point where I don’t even carry a mask with me, and that feels very right indeed.

I notice it feels slightly more difficult to walk unmasked into a shop or place that I have worn a mask in before taking this decision, and when that happens I review why I’m doing this, and remind myself that in both the spirit and the letter of the law it would be inappropriate not to mention illegal for anyone to challenge me about what might have happened to me in the interim to change my behaviour.

I remind myself of the school children sitting hot and muffled for up to eight hours a day, trying to concentrate on what their equally hot and muffled teacher is attempting to transmit, of babies and toddlers growing up missing the vital facial cues that link them into our communities, and I bring to mind that someone has to start normalising bare faces again, for their sakes.

The longer we indulge this scientifically illiterate hygiene theatre, the longer it will continue. I hate to say it, but this is on us.

Know that every single sign that announces YOU MUST WEAR A MASK TO ENTER has the (more often that not unwritten) coda UNLESS YOU ARE EXEMPT. And the only person who decides who is exempt is YOU (no doctors will issue notes), and you need carry no ‘proof’ of exemption, although as I mentioned in my earlier blog, you might like to carry an NHS card – if in Scotland just fill in your postal address here. I carry a card in the back of my phone cover, and I haven’t felt the need to use it yet, and I’m certainly not going to wear a sunflower lanyard: the state of my mental or physical health is no one else’s damn business.

I was once during this month asked if I would ‘pop on my mask’, to which I replied that I was exempt. And that was that. I made my purchases and left, thanking them with a smile.

And in case you were thinking that masks are on their way out anyway so why go to the trouble of possibly causing a fuss, I want you to consider this: if we let widespread community mask orders take their place unchallenged in the narrative as an effective tool in combatting viruses (when in actual fact the science in favour is risibly weak; and the negative side-effects are dystopian), then what do you think will happen when some new variant is discovered next winter, or next year? Out will come the mask orders again, and our children will be muzzled anew.

Do not underestimate the impact that one individual going mask-free can make – it is sometimes just the sign that others were waiting for. The more people go maskless, the more those who mask up out of compliance rather than conviction will start to question their actions.

None of us can control anyone else. All we can do is act individually, and trust me: your actions are more powerful than you think.

And if you needed a reminder of why it matters to act now, please watch these two videos that emerged in the last month (1-2 minutes each).

Many years ago I worked in corporate communications for Honeywell’s European HQ (whose motto, somewhat ironically given my previous paragraph, was ‘Helping You Control Your World’). No conspiracy implied whatsoever, merely opportunism:  what a glorious business opportunity to have government-mandated mask orders as a recurring part of life, and what better tech status symbol could you have than the Xupermask?

And – in the second video – I’m not sure having my smart mask alert me to take it off when too much CO2 has built up inside it is quite the selling point the World Economic Forum wishes me to believe it is.

Please, give serious thought to declaring yourself exempt.