Mask debate, mask debate, mask debate — say it fast as your inner 12-year-old snorts and giggles — because there seems to be an awful lot of public mask debating going on right now. Particularly in America, where privileged white Trumpies are screaming I Can’t Breathe because they have been asked to wear face masks in shops, rather than because there is a police officer kneeling on their neck.
In London, there were protests in Hyde Park during lockdown by people screaming that their human rights were being violated because they were being asked to stay in; the same people are now screaming that their human rights are being violated by masks, even as the UK government’s lame-ass policy falls short on specificity.
(On London buses the instruction is to wear a face-covering “if you can”, which allows passengers to suddenly develop T-Rex arms that cannot reach into their pockets to put one on, even as they sit next to seniors in full hazmat gear).
This is not really about masks, though. I mean, nobody likes wearing masks, unless you’re the Lone Ranger, or an extra in Eyes Wide Shut.
No, it’s about collective responsibility versus individualism, and how for decades we have been programmed towards the latter for economic reasons (I shop therefore I am), but when disaster strikes, we can only survive collectively. Just ask climate change, currently in the wings, sleeves rolled up, doing press-ups.
But mostly it’s about stupidity and the viral spread of fake virus news — the Trumpies or the protesters in Hyde Park, some of whom think Covid is a sinister global plot to take away their personal freedom. I know this because I have seen their social media feeds, laughed out loud, and been unfriended.
Embarrassing disclosure: turns out I was unknowingly friends with people who are not only public mask debaters, but who also posit such theories as Covid being made in Chinese labs by illuminati 5G masts, and that any future vaccines are a government plot to secretly microchip us all.
(Because we don’t already freely overshare every aspect of our personal data for harvesting via Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc). It's like the Dark Ages but with smartphones.
My theory is that the internet is like fire. When our ancestors discovered how to make fire, they probably burned themselves a lot. From blisters to full-scale immolation, it would have taken them a while to get the hang of fire; fast forward a million years, and we are all part of a digital wildfire, scorched with misinformation, falling down into blazing rabbit holes of stupidity, burning with self-righteous I-am-ness.
The fire fanners — the Big Tech overlords — are pleased with all of these wildfires, because of revenue. Soon they’ll be in their spaceships, off to colonise Pluto, as Earth is consumed by its own greed and lack of decisive collective action. Which I know sounds like the plot of a terrible conspiracy B-Movie, but it’s already happening. Probably. A bit.