This article was first published on Instagram on April 2, twelve days after Ontario lifted its mask mandate.
The Dark Side of an Easy Ask
Even though masking is no longer mandated in Ontario, some businesses choose still to enforce it, believing that the smallest safety benefit is worth the smaller ask to mask.
Their unwavering dedication to public wellbeing, even while hospitalizations vanish and variants weaken, illuminates a troubling fact: we have constantly minimized the social and psychological costs of masking.
Now that we’ve passed through the miasma of daily case counts, it’s time to be honest about how face-coverings made us an uglier society.
Throughout pandemic, we heard nothing except how easy and costless it is to mask — even though it’s flatly dehumanizing to be forced to do it, and it keeps everyone under the thumb of a ballooning health authority.
Thoughts like these were unbecoming while cases were rising, so we made no allowances for such privileged worries. Before long, we couldn’t fathom any good reason for someone not to wear a mask.
We convinced ourselves that masking was such a free act of kindness and empathy that a bare face became an insult to anyone within sight.
So we waged war on each other instead of the virus, and what could’ve been uncontroversial guidance — allowing for some principled opposition — instead turned into an ideological bloodbath.
Our willingness to dehumanize a lone unmasked shopper stunk of an Orwellian evacuation of critical thinking that stains mask wearing to this day. Those imperfect, soiled cloths — we knew — did only marginal good, yet we fancied a bare face as being tantamount to murder. The real murder was logic, as we grossly overstated the stakes of masking just to have an enemy.
Something deeply authoritarian happened to the symbol of the mask as it gradually transmuted from a medical device into a tribal flag. Its ability to signal correct thinking and a willingness to “play for the team” fast eclipsed its safety benefit.
In practical terms, the mask functioned like a visible record of one’s goodwill, which became eerily compulsory to demonstrate in order to be left unmolested in public.
The urge to “get along” displaced any individual doubts about the growing nonsensicality of mask rules. It was a game of follow the leader, and it was “unkind” not to play.
The mask experiment showed us just how well we would take to a Lord-of-the-Flies level rewrite of social norms overnight.
And so the mask experiment showed us just how well we would take to a Lord-of-the-Flies level rewrite of social norms overnight. We proved that there’s no amount of change we won’t accept as long as it’s positioned the right way.
The mask mandate, in essence, had us piloting a rudimentary behavioural credit system, a way to score and police our kindness with (ironic) cruelty. Not only did we embrace it, but some of us deputized ourselves to defend it.
Truly it is remarkable how masking became such a recipe for social engineering and that so many failed to see the complexity in something so simple.
As an example of this, I was volunteering at a St. Vincent De Paul thrift store. While bringing in a bag of donated clothing, and not wearing a mask since I had been eating a snack, I was confronted by a retired nurse (who should have known better) who — among other things — said “Don’t you respect us?!?”
Fortunately for her, I didn’t reply. But after a couple more incidents with other people (although I’m sure she instigated a confrontation with another person,too). I told one of the supervisors that I was going home and wouldn’t be volunteering there anymore because of the harassment. He sadly agreed about the atmosphere. That was the summer of 2021 –18 MONTHS after the CCP virus has shown up in the states.9