By Emma Hughes
It’s late – the first night of Victoria’s fifth lockdown and the reintroduction of mask mandates. I’ve braved the walk from my car to Coles without my mask, in silent (and slightly terrified) defiance, but start to loop the ties around each ear as I approach the sliding doors.
‘I suppose I’d better put this on,’ I sigh in resignation.
‘I’m not!’ A man responds from behind me and I look around to see a tanned face smiling from ear to ear. ‘It’s all bullshit anyway, all of this. Masks don’t stop anything.’
I feel an instant sense of euphoria. It’s the thing we aren’t meant to say out loud. Stuffing the black fabric back down into the depths of my bag, I agree and we launch into a conversation about studies and protests and government-suppressed truths. There’s a newfound sense of lightness as I stroll the aisles, breathing deeply, shoulders back. I’m not alone in this. I’m not going crazy after all.
Masking provokes heated debates, but there’s little reason for the furore. Study after study has shown that masking provides little protection against the spread of the tiny aerosol particles that make up SARS-CoV-2. Even Mr Science himself, Dr Anthony Fauci, admitted this fact in his private emails, before changing his tune for the cameras. The fact is, you would be just as ‘protected’ in trying to use a fishnet stocking as a form of contraception or trying to carry water with a sieve, as placing a mask over your face and thinking you are stopping the spread.
Don’t believe me? Just check out the fine print on the box that your disposable mask came in.
Yes, there is a caveat for N95 respirators that frontline workers wear. But even these have a margin of error, and that’s after they are carefully fitted to the specific wearer to ensure that there is a complete vacuum seal.
Masking is useless. It isn’t popular to say so, perhaps because we want to believe that we are doing ‘something’ to fight against the invisible threat that has had us locked in our homes for more than 200 days over the past year. And, perhaps because our health-overlords tell us over and over to just shut up and do it.
The fear of being arrested or fined is enough for most people to fall into line, despite many privately acknowledging that the requirement is ridiculous. Walking through the suburban supermarket aisles you will be more likely to see it worn as a ‘beard’ or below one’s nose as a slight act of defiance (or perhaps just being sick of breathing in recycled air).
In fact, not only are masks not effective in stopping the spread or protecting anyone, they are actually dangerous for our health. Study after study has revealed the ill-effects that we are bringing on ourselves, from psychological damage, to the toxic build up of carbon dioxide, the increased chance of respiratory illnesses, staph infections and the inhalation of unwanted particulate matter. This doesn’t even begin to quantify the damage that masks are having on children, who have a less than two in a million risk of dying from Covid-19, but are being forced to hide their faces to ‘make us feel safe’.
So why do we do it? Why do we push down the logic and questions and dutifully comply? Part of it is social contagion. The fear of standing out from the crowd and being seen as different. If everyone else is doing it, we do it too. But if the evidence doesn’t back up mask-wearing and we follow along anyway – what does that say about who we are?
I’m not a rebellious person by nature. I like to blend in with the crowd and I certainly don’t fancy getting arrested. But something about the entire Covid-19 experience has awoken a dragon within me. I don’t wear a mask anymore (the exemptions are quite broad), and I walk those streets and aisles with my head held high, smiling at everyone I meet. If nothing else, I know that by doing so I’m contributing to stopping the spread of something arguably just as contagious and deadly as the virus.
I’m stopping the spread of fear.
Emma is an everyday Victorian with a background in medical/personal injury law. She lives with her family in the suburbs and enjoys fact-checking government health experts by obsessively reading studies and listening to interviews with front line doctors.
Reignite Democracy Australia seeks to give a voice to everyday Australians, the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not necessarily represent those of Reignite Democracy Australia. Reignite Democracy Australia recommends that individuals conduct their own analysis of available information and legislation to make independent decisions that are right for their own situation.