Should you wear a mask, or is it a bad idea? What would existentialist thinkers say about it? Is it giving up on your freedom for the sake of safety?
The question of whether one should wear a mask nowadays is purely philosophical to me. Around the world, we’ve all seen how governments reacted to the issue of COVID-19. Harsh restrictions put on travel, social distancing, and obligatory quarantine.
In some countries the authorities’ response was bollocks. Citizens coming back from abroad had to install tracking apps on their phones. They were supposed to check in a couple times a day or were visited by the police. This Orwellian reality was by many taken as necessary, giving up our freedom for the greater good.
Before I move on to elaborating on my argument why I don’t and won’t wear a mask, let’s establish a few facts – those that we can all agree upon.
Human lives matter. This isn’t a debate whether you do or don’t care for other people’s (or your own) health. Noble motives of protecting others are clear to me, no reason to worry. I like people too!
Mask give some protection. In order for a mask to work, they have to be used in a special way. They do have their benefits, but they don’t make you 100% immune. I’ve educated myself on masks’ effectiveness from the Vox video below, and let’s be honest – those who wear masks don’t always follow the instructions mentioned in the video.
It’s your job. If you work in a restaurant, as a security guard, or at school (the case closest to my heart), then I won’t hate you for telling me to wear a mask. I understand full well that there’s responsibility right there on your shoulders. If something was to happen during your working hours, or at your premises, you would face grave consequences.
But. There is a but, and a huge one.
Sortre, a great philosopher, was one of the most eminent thinkers of the existential philosophy. He often criticized bad faith, which is the belief that something is necessary. To illustrate that, he often condemned capitalism for creating the illusion that you have to make money. This feel of necessity is absolutely arbitrary from the existential point of view, as you don’t have to do anything. There is no one answer to the question of how to live, so why would a system tell you what to do?
This might seem irrelevant from the pragmatic perspective, but sometimes we should forget about being practical. Let’s think about other examples of bad faith.
We often do things without thinking why we do them. This is why conformity is a disease of our civilization. You have to get higher education, because everyone else does. You have to get a steady job, because that’s how it is. You have to go to church on Sunday, because all your family does. You have to be atheist, because all your friends are.
A real-life example would be going to prom – most of us have been there, done that. Every one is dressed to the nines, in brand-new suits and dresses. Now, imagine if someone got there in a tracksuit. Feeling all cozy, Nikes on their feet, a-okay.
How appalling would that be?! They would be crushed to the ground by mockery, weird looks, even hate. How could you not dress appropriately!
Yet, when you think about it (you don’t have to be blazed to do that), it doesn’t add up. Nothing adds up, and that’s the point. What is appropriate, and according to whom? These rules are supposed to make our lives easier, and society organizes our species so that we can have dialogue in a civilized world and live our lives.
To my mind, masks have become bad faith quite quickly. It’s developed to such extent, that random people in shops, buses, or at school go after me, asking me what the hell I am thinking.
I am thinking that it’s not alright. After 9/11, people gave up on their privacy within months. Invigilation for the sake of safety. States controlling citizens for their own good. Sounds familiar?
If the threat of coronavirus was obvious, maybe I would be talking something else now. But it isn’t! The data is inconclusive, the mortality rate varies between countries (depending on the demographics), WHO’s guidelines change every so often.
The media has made a sensation out of it, because traditional media are dying. They will hold on to whatever they can to attract viewers, spreading fear and paranoia as a result. Thank God (or whoever there is to thank) for the internet. Only do know how to use the web, and we’ll be alright (or at least better).
Or will we be worse? Fake news spread faster than news. Everybody can say what they think on Twitter, no fact-checking, no thinking! Should I believe what I see on the internet?
Another things that struck was the hypocrisy. I will get scorned if I commute without a mask, but it’s alright if you’re on a political rally?
Centre, left, or right – does politics make us immune from COVID-19?
What if you protest? No matter if the cause is right or wrong, will coronavirus take a break to let you march peacefully?
You may laugh at me. At my being anti-system, at thinking beyond frames, maybe at my thinking at all?
This is your life, and I won’t tell you whether you should wear a mask or not. I can only try to make you think for yourself.
Question what is certain while you still can.