“And when I go out for a walk at night near my house, I put on my mask.”
“Well. You’re very well-behaved.”
How else was I supposed to respond?
She seemed intelligent. A middle-class professional, just about middle-aged, married with children. But she may as well have just told me she was insane.
It felt like that was exactly what she had done, effectively.
Except she wasn’t insane. I knew that, because nothing else that she said, on any other subject, was out of the ordinary. Her mannerisms and modes of speech were regular. She was very polite.
That was it, that was the problem, I realised.
She was very polite. She cared about manners, and about being seen, or heard, to be respectable.
And what was polite right now, suddenly, without anyone having checked around, was to do things that were irrational.
Like wearing a facemask alone at night on quiet streets.
Or by yourself in your car.
I wondered where else. I’m sure that somewhere in this city, among the thirteen million residents, someone is wearing a mask alone in their apartment, right now, perhaps while sitting on the toilet.
My mind went back to earlier in the morning, as I’d been cycling past a 7/11 with a large car-park at the front.
Five young people, early twenties, got out of a van, noisily, into the warm spring sunshine, and jostled, laughing, across the car park and into the convenience store, not a single one wearing a mask, and looking like they were planning to have a great time.
It had been a while since I’d seen a carefree, unmasked sight like that.
And how crazy, that this perfectly normal scene should have stood out. Not just stood out, it made me grin. I could’ve punched the air in happiness.
Did those young people care about being seen to be polite?
I don’t think they cared about a thing.
You tend not to when you’re flowing through the moments of your existence.
I hope they had the best day of their lives.
I hope we all get out of this soon.
And by this, what I mean is that feeling of total conformity, in which we must not only all do the exact same things, but say the exact same things, and signal that we think the exact same things.
I mean that crushing air that settled on the city, and wrapped around our lives and our interactions, but could be, I think, just maybe, about to disperse.
What I can’t put to one side any longer is that everything that has been happening simply doesn’t sit right.
It feels off.
That’s a statement that won’t get much traction with a technocrat, or change the mind of anyone imploring you to ‘follow the science’. You could point out that you have been following some scientists, by the way, just not the same ones as the follow the science cohort, but that’s another angle.
The point here is that there is a valuable characteristic we all have, but that seems to have been sidelined recently, and that’s the ability to sense instinctively when something is wrong.
And by this stage, you hardly need to be especially intuitive to pick up that sense–that something is not right, and hasn’t been right for quite some time.
They–the lockdown and mask advocates–lost me some time last year, I forget exactly when, some time in the spring, I think, when they started closing off the beaches and discouraging people from going surfing.
The beach is just about the most invigorating, restorative, life-affirming place that I know.
The beach is the one place that I would never give up.
To be in the water, away from the city crowds, breathing the salt air, soaked in minerals from the ocean and vitamin D from the sun, working your muscles and your lungs and your heart, resetting your thoughts as you tune out of the stresses of life on land and let your mind focus on reading the waves, and then revelling in the thrill that you get when you catch one… you’re telling me that we have to give that up, as a public health policy?
It’s one of the most counter-intuitive things I’ve ever heard.
The beach isn’t just good for health, the beach is health.
A year on, and I’ve lost count of the people casually mentioning how out of shape they now are. They’ve gained weight. Lost muscle mass. Given up the dance class, or the dance class closed down. Stopped going to band practise. Hardly met their friends. Not hugged their grandchildren, or held their new baby nephew. Spent hour upon hour bathed in blue light at home, while the sun shines outside. Eaten takeaway pizza. Downed beer, wine and shochu in front of Netflix.
Overweight, flabby, blood pressure and cholesterol up, anti-social, paranoid, hypochondriac, germophobic, unfocused, demotivated, low attention spans, hooked on clicking online, and calories, and cans of lager.
And all this, again, in the name of health, on the word of governments and international bodies.
It feels off?
That was an understatement.
This is insanity.
This is immense damage being done to people’s health–mental, physical and spiritual–in the name, most maddeningly of all, of health policy.
It doesn’t pass the common sense test.
It doesn’t fit with what we all know to be true. With what we know instinctively and through experience, and through being human, not data points or components in a computer model.
None of this bureaucratic micro-management fits with the realities of the world that have been obvious our entire lives.
And besides which, you might be able to micro-manage people, for a while, but you can’t micro-manage a virus.
Try asking them–the stay-at-homers–how it ends, and what do they suggest? Just keep doing as you’re told, watching the news. Wait for orders from the mayor, or the prime minister, or someone at the WHO, whoever the hell they are and wherever they might be, and whatever their motives are, and even though they told you to inflict all this harm on yourself, and they haven’t let up for a year.
But that’s not how it ends.
It ends when you want it to.
It ends when you end it.
I’d like it if some other people out there were thinking what I’m thinking.
I’d like it even more if they showed it.
Like by getting out of a van, laughing, and not a mask in sight, under bright spring skies that spill cleansing light, at the front of the 7/11.
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