We need to talk about masks

The thing that epitomises the age of covid more than any other is the face covering. While there are big issues with lock down, the restrictions, the interference in personal lives, the terrible cost, the collateral damage, the serious problems with the vaccine, nothing quite sums up the whole wretched business like the mask and I can never get used to it. It is the flag of allegiance the icon of conformity. The fact that they come in all different sizes and creative designs only conceals the fact they are potent ideological symbols. Wearing one, makes it clear you are on the right side. Even if you have absolutely no conviction that it does any good, wearing one demonstrates that you are in solidarity with the vulnerable and you care. It signals your virtue. It’s the “workers of the world unite” poster you put up in your grocer’s shop.

When I complain about the mandate, friends keep telling me “och, its no big deal….what’s the problem? people in Asia have been wearing them for years… just be patient, nobody likes them, but, hey, we have been through this for over a year we can manage another month or two surely?…there are people really worried about the virus and it helps them if you toe the line…See it as an act of kindness…we all need to do our bit” etc etc. The overwhelming majority of those in my circle take that line and think that I am being really obtuse and deliberately awkward if not downright misanthropic in doubting the perceived wisdom. They come over as being pretty wearied of my cantankerous obstinacy and unwillingness to shut up. As it happens, most of the time I do. But there comes the time when we need to talk.

I can only speak for myself, but my hatred of mask wearing is visceral. It is not the face covering that I use to stop plaster dust getting into my lungs when ripping out the lath, it is not the mask our friend in Nepal would wear when she ventured into the heavily polluted air of Kathmandu, it is not the masks that the surgeons wear in medical procedures. There is sense in logic in all of those. But there is no logic or sense in the mandating of face coverings in certain public spaces, as is the law in Scotland today. A law that seems unlikely ever to be repealed.  

But my revulsion goes deeper. Masked balls in period dramas always gave me the creeps and I would never watch the phantom of the opera for the same reason.  Faces covered with a mask of an animal or a bird a bear or a goat, often associated with some pagan caper, always unsettles me and even a photomask of a person’s face with slits for eyes does the same. I remember a surprise engagement party that was arranged for a friend of ours while her boyfriend was in a different country. When I brought her to the party, all the friends had facemasks made from a photo of his face. It was so creepy. She did manage to carry it off with astonishing grace but it would have traumatised me. Now, seeing people I know and love and care about obscured behind pieces of cloth is extremely disconcerting. I will never get used to that and I refuse to.

Everyone, I assume, now knows that the science is not only pitifully weak on the efficacy but weighted against any value that face coverings have in halting transmission of the virus. I am not a scientist, but common sense tells me so and there is a simple experiment that pretty well proves it. The decision for the mandate is almost certainly a political one, not a scientific one and it divides people. 

For my own part I simply try and avoid any place where I am required to wear one or, at most, keep it to an absolute minimum. I used to love public transport but now take any other option than board a bus or a train. I walk or cycle or just don’t go. I chose cafes who are more relaxed and who apologise for what they have to do. I make visit to shops, in an out, as speedily as possible. I avoid eye contact with people wearing masks in the street, while exchanging smiles with faces I see. It was not what I wished for, but I guess I can cope with all of that.

Still I have a problem, a serious one that is still unresolved and it is to do with the wearing of masks in Church. It is doubly complicated, as I have a leadership role and there is constant internal argument, that rages in my mind and ties nasty knots in my gut. We are of course following the official line being “Subject to the Governing Authorities” who are there for our good. We are also discouraged from discussing the issue. It could be divisive. “This is not the time” we are told, “to air personal opinions. These should be put aside as we work for the common good”.  We are to be sensitive and considerate of our “weaker brother” who might be fearful of a mask-less community. We should show love. All of this pulls incessantly on my emotions and throws doubts into my resolve.

At the same time the logical reasoned side of my brain tells me this is all wrong. Somehow the experience, the vital experience, of coming together with the people, to worship God should not be hindered or shackled by the diktats of the state. The Free Church of Scotland, would surely be the last church on earth to acquiesce with the government but that is what we have done. Goodness me, this is the denomination that was born out of a rebellion against the unlawful interference of the state in the life of the church.  So this is deeply troubling.

The counter, of course, is that this is simply a health issue. We should comply and we are not compromising. I would like to think that is true but I suspect that something deeper and more sinister is going on and it is to do with the covering of the face. It is to do with the stoking of fear. It is to do with the emasculation of communication. It is to do with bearing allegiance to another god.  When we sing our songs of worship, we sing them through a cloth mandated by the state. When we listen, the preacher cannot second guess where we are, behind our forced facades. When we share, all subtleties and nuances are filtered out.   One, possibly the, most blessed and enriching experience in all of life, for me, is at once neutered and reduced to a bland innocuous and soulless happening. I can’t, I won’t get used to it.

For my sanity’s sake, at least, we need to talk about it.

The Conversation

THE CONVERSATION

This is a transcript of the conversation:

CompliantWhere’s your mask?
DissenterSorry?
CompliantWhere’s your mask?
DissenterI don’t have one
CompliantYou can get one …there’s a pile over there
DissenterNo, I don’t wear one
CompliantWhat do you mean?
DissenterI don’t wear one
CompliantOh, are you exempt or something? a disability? Do you have a card a lanyard?
DissenterNo, I am not exempt
CompliantBut if you’re not exempt you have to wear one… what’s your excuse?
DissenterI don’t have one .. I don’t have to wear one…I don’t need an excuse…I’m just not wearing one
CompliantWhy not? You have to…
DissenterNo, I don’t have to… you know as well as I do that they don’t do any good and a lot of harm. There is no reason why we should wear masks. A mask is a symbol of subjugation, a badge to humiliate. I am just not wearing one
CompliantAch, don’t give us this subjugation humiliation crap. Don’t be silly. Anyway  It’s mandatory, it’s the law and you could be passing the virus on to someone else who could get ill and die – you could  cause someone to die… its your civic duty to wear one
DissenterBut I don’t have the virus
CompliantYou could have
DissenterI could, but I don’t
CompliantBut how do you know that you don’t.
DissenterI don’t have any of the symptoms that they tell you about, the cough, the fever,   loss of….
CompliantBut you could be a carrier of it without knowing it.
DissenterI could be, but I am not
CompliantBut that’s crazy and stupid and reckless too! How do you know? Eh? Have you had the vaccine? Have you been double jabbed?
DissenterNo I haven’t and I’m not getting it…and anyway it’s my decision
CompliantBut that’s selfish!!
DissenterEh?  Its selfish not to take something to supposedly protect myself?
CompliantIts not about you!!!  its your civic duty to get vaccinated  
DissenterOh so its all about civic duty? Well, that’s where you are wrong… It doesn’t prevent infection or transmission, we know that, the evidence is in. We had a perfectly controlled experiment on the Royal Navy flotilla. There were 100 cases of coronavirus among the crew on the Queen Elizabeth all of whom were double vaccinated and they stated that they were operating all the social distancing measures masks and hand sanitising etc. So, there you have it. With the vaccine I can still get infected and I can still pass it on so on that score it doesn’t work. Vaccination can only be purely for personal protection, and a personal choice to do with personal risk. There is absolutely no social obligation to get vaccinated to protect others, and the idea of vaccinating children is not just crazy and senseless its terribly terribly dangerous and irresponsible…
CompliantOh so you’re an anti-vaxer now too.. you’ll be a covid denier as well I suppose…
DissenterOh, don’t give me these names, No!!!  I am not anti-vaccination, I just don’t want this one. I am not sure if it safe…
CompliantOf course it is… its been approved by all the important bodies and…
DissenterBut it’s not licenced, it’s still experimental we have no idea what bad effects may come from it. I have no idea what effect it may have on my grandaughter’s baby if she gets pregnant. We have just no idea what effects it may have on child bearing women or on fertility. You see I remember Thalidomide the wonder drug that was developed by…and it’s hard to believe this … by a German company based on the work of a former Nazi who worked for Mengele.. it was a wonder drug that would sort out morning sickness and it was only when the babies were born that they discovered the horrors of what it did. This vaccine has been tested over something like 4 months and from what I remember it takes 9 months for a baby. So we can’t know if it’s safe…
CompliantYes we do. They wouldn’t say it was safe unless it was. The pharmaceutical companies would not risk any mishap. They would be sued out of existence if there was a problem…
DissenterFunny you should say that, because the drug companies were given special dispensation that they would not be sued if there was a disaster. They only took on the work on that basis. Anyway, I’ve read the literature that they give you about the jab and they more or less say that they don’t know if It’s safe…
CompliantWhat! I don’t believe it… you’re havering there …
DissenterWell look I’ve got one here NHS Scotland IMPORTANT INFORMATION please read this leaflet before your get the vaccine under “fertility” it says “There is no evidence to suggest that the Covid-19 vaccine will affect fertility in men or women”
CompliantSo it is safe – there is no evidence that it affects fertility…
DissenterYou don’t get it do you?  It’s a sleight of hand. What they say in the leaflet is absolutely true but it is written in such a way to make you think that there are no effects on fertility, when what it is actually saying is  we don’t know if there are any. There is no evidence that there are. But there’s no evidence that there is not.
CompliantAch, it’s a waste of time talking to you… All these scientist and researchers all over the world can’t all be wrong… or do you think you are right and they are all wrong?
DissenterThey could all be wrong and , of course there are a whole lot of others who say different and you probably won’t here about them because they are basically gagged or black listed or cancelled.
CompliantWho?
DissenterWell… for a start… Sunetra Gupta, Mike Yeadon, Jay Bhattacharya, Martin Kulldorff, Robert Malone, Russel Blaylock, Peter MacCulloch, Karol Sikora, Peter Bregin,David Livermore, Carl Heneghan, John Lee… lots more…
CompliantOh I’m not sure why I bother… but look at it, the vaccine has broken the link between getting the virus and being sick. We know that for sure, So it works..
DissenterNo, we can’t be sure about that
CompliantWhat! Oh come-on! for goodness sake!  you are just being cantankerous. You are sold on conspiracy theories… You should get out more and stop listening to the lizards and phone mask conspiracy seeking creeps..
DissenterI don’t and I’m not…. but back to the point…because one thing follows another doesn’t mean the first caused the second. It is a classic false philosophical argument – there is a name for it but I’ve forgotten what it is – something about correlation and causation – like, every time Grannie comes to tea it rains, so granny caused the rain. There might be a connection between the two but there is no proof that there is. It’s the same with Lock-downs. They say the restrictions work because once these are in place cases drop but they might have been dropping anyway…It can’t be proved one way or the other
CompliantI was right, it’s a waste of time talking to you. You don’t really care do you? You want the virus to rip and if people die, too bad, as long as you can get to the pub and get on with your life. You are putting other people’s lives in danger. I can’t believe you would be so mean and so selfish. You are probably a grannie killer…
DissenterOh!!!  a grannie killer now!  -You know that’s pretty rich. It’s the government who have been killing Grannies!  you know that.. loading them off to care homes to get infected and die lonely and horrible deaths shut off from their loved ones. It is one the cruellest things about this whole debacle and there will be a reckoning. I am sure there will. When people find out what actually happened it could get very ugly… Someone must have known what they were doing. They weren’t interested in people’s lives they wanted to save the NHS and it’s all political. If you don’t see that, you must have blindly swallowed the whole thing. The NHS had to be protected at all costs to save the Tory party. If it collapsed under a Tory government, it would be a disaster for the party and the red walls would rise again. Care homes didn’t matter they were not the NHS. And all this nauseating clapping, sainthood, special services in St Paul’s Cathedral, oh dear,….  and now the George cross…
CompliantI was right, it’s a waste of time talking to you…  …. just keep away from me… …please…
DissenterNo worries.