Richard Hogan: Masks save lives, not enslave them

Richard Hogan: Masks save lives, not enslave them

The sharp rise in positive Covid 19 cases elucidates that we are heading into the second wave. While, we were united in our sense of shared responsibility to flatten the curve during the first wave, there is a very real sense of fatigue and anger as we move into this next phase of the pandemic. Quite simply, we are exhausted and world-weary. 

It is important to acknowledge that before we face back into another challenging time. That sense of camaraderie that sustained us and kept us warm over the initial wave seems to have dissipated. 

Those wonderful stories of altruism and the indomitable nature of the human spirit like the 99-year-old captain Tom Moore who raised £12 million for the NHS by walking around his house seem long forgotten and have become replaced with negative stories about blame and conspiracy theories. 

None of which are going to help us manage the winter months. This is not the time to be divided or to look around for someone to blame. This is the time for unity and compassion.

I see it on my commute into work, some people flagrantly ignoring the mandatory mask-wearing protocol. They see it as an affront to their civil liberty. Things are tense. People have lost their livelihoods and many are earning a fraction of what they need to sustain their house. I spoke with one taxi driver last week who told me he had earned €200 euro in the last two weeks. 

When he factored in his insurance and fuel it left him with a meager €20 to live on. Our society is under pressure but we cannot let it collapse by blaming and pointing the finger. This will not help us through, this will tear us down. 

When we experience fear, as a species, we often respond by trying to either: control, seek reassurance or avoid the situation altogether. But those natural responses are quite futile in our current predicament so we might look to more negative responses like blaming or becoming hostile to soothe our overwhelming sense of fear or powerlessness. 

However, this is the time to be resolute and come together one more time as a society. We cannot let the fabric of what binds us together, our humanity, unravel. 

Those marches we have seen all over our screens of mass crowds marching on RTÉ, all without masks, are not advancing any positive political movement but are, ironically enough, advancing the movement of this virus, the very thing they say is ’fake news’. 

No government wants to shut down its economy and provoke the wrath of its people. That is why they have had such long debates with NPHET about moving to level 5. This is a time for logic and focused thinking. The science is clear, keep social distancing, wear masks and wash your hands repeatedly. These are the most efficacious ways to defeat the spread of this particularly nasty virus. Not getting angry and wilfully ignoring the CDC recommendations. Wearing a mask will not make you a slave, it might in fact save your life or the life of someone in your family. 

What will make you a slave is ignorance, this seems to be the real deadly virus in this second wave because it is spreading so rapidly and causing huge civil unrest. Of course, we are jaded by this global crisis, but generations before us faced worse global threats and generations after us will also have to face challenges, too. 

What do we want to say when this pandemic is over? What will we see when we look back? Civil chaos because we were under pressure? This is an opportunity to show our children how to manage adversity. Do you blame and point the finger? Or do you show grit and determination by coming together and supporting each other?

The only way to defeat this virus is global solidarity and a unified strategic approach. As Yuval Noah Harari, the great historian and philosopher recently said, ‘I’m not so afraid of the virus, I’m much more afraid of the inner demons of humanity coming out, people reacting to this crisis not with solidarity but with hatred, that’s the biggest danger we face’. 

Ignorance is always a threat to our safety, it’s why people view others as lesser than, why some attack because of gender, sexual proclivity, race or religious devotion. We must now come together one last time to face the inner demons that lurk in our species and face this new challenge with all of the dignity and courage we faced the first wave.


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