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Sunday reflection: It’s time to unmask ourselves

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most beloved of Jesus’ stories. It tells of a man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and was waylaid by robbers, who left him half-dead.

Three people passed along that same road, the first two being a priest and a Levite (a lesser cleric). The third, a member of the hated Samaritan tribe, was the only one who helped the injured man. But why did the first two not help? The standard answer is that they were both callously unconcerned with the victim; but this hardly sounds right. The Old Testament (the Guide Book for the priest and Levite) is replete with injunctions to be kind to anyone in need. There must be another reason for their neglect of the victim. What might that be? They were both functionaries in the Jerusalem Temple (the heart of the Jewish religion); if they were to come into contact with a corpse or spilt blood, they would automatically become defiled, and this would prevent them from partaking in Temple worship; to regain their purity would involve a lengthy and expensive ritual in Jerusalem. It seems that the reason for their avoidance of the injured man was their desire to remain pure.

In contemporary jargon, from the viewpoint of the priest and the Levite, the victim on the roadside was a “bio-hazard”, a source of possible defilement. Well, lo and behold, we have been bombarded with a similar lesson for the past 20 months: that our neighbour or passer-by represents a possible “bio-hazard”, a possible source of lethal contamination.

For the priest and the Levite, the value that trumped caring for the injured man was purity; for us the supreme value is safety. Indeed, “health and safety” has been our rallying cry for years now: it has had some minimal successes, “wear your seatbelt”, “no smoking in pubs”, but mostly it has been a monumental, costly inconvenience. But in our current panic-situation, with a super-lethal virus scouring the globe, how are we to ensure our safety, safeguard our health?  Answer: Cover half our faces.

Interestingly, in an earlier epoch of human life, a mask was used to hide one’s identity; that’s why Dick Turpin covered his face when he was waylaying coach travellers on England’s roads, and why Jesse James concealed his identity while robbing trains in the wild West. And the face covering now being used preforms the very same task, achieves the exact same goal – it hides the person’s identity.

Wearing one really has little or nothing to do with your health; it is instructive to recall that in February 2020 the then U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, stated clearly that face masks do not work to prevent the spread of a disease. In July 2020, the mask policy in various parts of the UK also changed, but this had more to do with political manoeuvring and public opinion, not with any new discovery regarding masks’ effectiveness. No, mask-wearing is another step in achieving two goals: (1) that people comply with the diktats of “health officials” and (2) that people stay apart, become distant. Masks make both recognition and communication more difficult. How prescient was the philosopher Wittgenstein, when he noted that “The face is the soul of the body”; hide the face, you effectively lose sight of the person.

It surely is high time to unmask some of the sinister results of covering our faces. Indeed, it is not difficult to uncover the fact that face coverings do little or nothing to prevent the spread of a virus. Viral particles are infinitesimally tiny, not even visible using an ordinary microscope (they are measured in units of length called nanometers. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter).  And to think that a piece of cloth, with relatively large openings between cloth fibres (equally invisible to the naked eye), can miraculously prevent the spread of a virus (far tinier in size), is thinking that is essentially magical. In other words, viral particles can easily flit through the mask on your face; to think that the far bigger openings among the mask’s fibrils could thwart the viral particles is to trade in illusion. It is not based on “science”, but simply on the message of those pushing the narrative. It may convince the wearer that they are somehow safer, more protected; but any protection is negligible. And when they tell you to wear two masks, you know that they are walking on very thin ice.

Whether you believe that we are descended from our pre-historic primates (Evolution) or that we were created out of dust (Genesis) – a debate in which I have no great stakes – one thing is absolutely certain: since we learnt to walk on our two legs, humans have always inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide. Humans cannot continue with any other combination. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. But when you cover your mouth and nose with a cloth (face covering), this process is being interfered with.

You are no longer inhaling pure oxygen, nor exhaling pure carbon dioxide. Now you are inhaling and exhaling a mixture of both, as both gases get trapped in the interstices of the mask. True, you may not drop down breathless from so covering your mouth, but just think about the long-term effects of this unhygienic, unhealthy practice. This, by the way, is not conspiracy speculation. This is basic science. A lower-than-normal level of oxygen in the blood is called “hypoxia” and can, in the long run, lead to various illnesses.

Of all those wearing masks, I genuinely feel sorry for the elderly, and I hope there is no hint of condescension in this. They deserve to be enjoying their retirement in the happy company of their grandchildren, etc. Instead, what do I see?

Many of them go around with half their faces covered, as if they’re deadly afraid of contracting some lethal pathogen. Instead of luxuriating in the joyous rays of their golden years, they are instead subjected to a deliberately induced fear. They really look to me like puppies on a leash or puppets on a string, waiting to do whatever the master orders: “sit”, “stand”, what have you. That is no way to treat an adult human being. To return to the parable of the Good Samaritan: ironically, I view these elderly mask-wearers to be akin to the man in the ditch – they are the victims and are in need of help.

Having noted that word of compassion for the elderly, I cannot avoid a note of exasperation at the behaviour of younger people who still follow all the “rules”, especially the mask wearing. I mean, the elderly may not be au fait with the latest technology (i.e., the internet), but surely anybody under the age of 60 has access to the internet, either on their own or with the help of others.

Unlike the mainstream media, the internet provides access to other authoritative sources, who will, at least, offer competing knowledge regarding the efficacy or otherwise of covering the face with a mask.  But unthinking compliance seems to be the order of the day, with little or no questioning, let alone curiosity. Aspects of centuries-old human behaviour have been changed overnight (masks, no handshaking, etc), and most accept this without a whimper.

What is the effect of wearing these face coverings? How does the wearer feel?  I can venture a couple of guesses. Not only does a mask represent a physical constriction, it also represents a psychological infringement (though many may not feel or acknowledge this).

My impression is that wearing the mask makes some people feel ill-at-ease, uncomfortable, even ashamed; I make eye contact with these people and they quickly look away, apparently aware of the rather ridiculous spectacle of walking around with a cloth around one’s lower face. Others, I surmise, feel content, as though the face-covering is a badge of pride, worn in the battle against what is presumed to be certain death, if any defence is temporarily lowered or concentration even momentarily interrupted.

The fear-sowing propaganda has worked fiendishly well. That last adverb is decidedly chosen.

 

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