COLM MEANEY: The Damage Has Been Done

It’s time to take stock, to see what we have gained and what still needs to be faced. I mean, compared with 2020 or 2021, things seem much better now. Behaviour that seemed outrageously bizarre back then is nearly a thing of the past now. Indeed, things got so bad in the summer of 2020 that I had to rename my usual walking area: formerly it was known as the North Circular Road (NCR), but because of the weird behaviour of some of my co-walkers, I called it the Neurotic Citizens Route. Later on, a highly intelligent acquaintance of mine was walking alone, masked, in the heat of the summer. When asked why, he replied quoting a phrase of the then UK health secretary Matt Hancock, “that he was acting as though he had the virus”. So it would be great to think that such antics and attitudes were completely a thing of the past. Alas, that is not so.

The following appeared on our parish newsletter recently:

“As there are many viruses around at present, to protect ourselves and others we request a mask while coming to Mass over the next few weeks”.

Now I hope I don’t offend too many people in one go, but this is pure gibberish. Are they imagining some pristime time when there were no viruses on planet Earth? There have always been a plethora of viruses circulating our planet, and we humans have adapted over the millenia to deal with them. This kind of announcement annoys me, because it serves to perpetuate the covid story we have been living under since March 2020 – and especially because I know some members of the parish council in question, and they are sitting in the church pew quite placidly, without a mask in sight on their precious faces. And as proof that, to some extent, the nuttery continues globally, I received photos the other day of a liturgy in one of our churches in the Philippines: the bishop was masked, as were some clergy and the altar servers.

In 2020 I had a sense of pity for people acting like this, because they were clearly the victims of a tremendous campaign of fear-mongering. But this is now mid-2023, for goodness’ sake, So now my overriding sense is one, not just of annoyance with such people, but of judging them complicit, no matter how unconsciously on their part, in perpetuating the dystopian mess which has been created.

My critics will say, “but it’s merely a mask”, why the strong reaction? If only it were simply a mask. Can people not see the symbolism of having half the face covered, of not being able to see the mouth, of having difficulty hearing the words, of being unable to fully see facial expressions? Other people were controlled by having to wear certain symbols on their bodies (think of the Jews during the third Reich) or had their liberties limited by rules of segregation. But now, people willingly don the mask, and somehow cannot see how it is the tactic par excellence wielded by our would-be controllers.

The mask represents self-censorship, and embodies the acceptance of the story that has been pedalled for too long now. In September 2021, Joe Biden said that his patience was wearing thin with the 25% of Americans who still hadn’t undergone the experimental therapy, i.e., hadn’t been “vaccinated”. Well, my patience is also wearing thin, but not with the unvaccinated, but with those who continue with the silly rules & weird practices – the cringiest, for me, being the wave at the “sign of peace” during the Mass, since actually shaking hands could endanger us all!

It’s not exactly rocket science to see that this is a hopeless morass of illogical and childish behaviour. And if you are careless enough to engage with such people and question their behaviour, the only response you will get is either a petulant “we’re in the midst of pandemic, you know”, or the most embarrassing scene of adults giggling embarrassedly, not knowing how to account for their carry on – and who well know that three years ago, such behaviour would have stuck them as exceptionally weird, and unbecoming of a rational human being.

At this point, I think it’s an example of how some people’s behaviour has been irreversibly changed, how some mindsets have been irretrievably damaged. And to manipulate people’s minds so expertly – well this is a hideous achievement; what a poisonous legacy to bequeath to future generations. Yet I see it every day. I see these otherwise healthy people walking around with half their faces covered, although fewer by the day. I’m never rude or uncivil to people wearing their face coverings, but by now I want to be in their company as briefly as possible, if at all. And day by day, any esteem I had for these people lessens. I still respect them, of course, as divinely created creatures, destined for something unimaginably great. But for the present, some people, it seems, have been changed forever. And I consider this to be very sad. (Latest update: May 2, 2023, was the first day since 2020 that nobody in church wore a mask).

This quote embodies great wisdom: “Behind each mask wearer is a mathematical equation involving (a) amount of TV watched, (b) reliance that person has on others for their self worth, (c) fear, (d) research they refuse to do, (e) reliance they have on government for their income. The greater these variables, the more intense the compliance to all things illogical and inhumane,” (Jason Christoff).

So please don’t tell me that “it’s only a mask”. An article in the Irish Independent of May 6, 2023 ended by referencing the WHO.

“The WHO also recommended against members of the public wearing masks for months, a mistake many officials say cost lives”.

Now let that last phrase sink in: COST LIVES. The sentence is almost a by-the-way, throwaway comment, a mere afterthought. But the reference was not to some guinea pigs in a laboratory experiment; no it was to individual, unique, irreplaceable human beings: some who suffered from wearing a mask, some who suffered for not wearing one, and some who died.

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