There’s an argument that has been doing the rounds today on Twitter. It’s this: that the wearing of face-masks, after the mandate is lifted on July 19, is something that should be done ‘for others’ – as an act of selflessness. It’s an argument that’s been made by politicians like Layla Moran, as well as Femi Oluwole, the self-styled ‘political activist’.
But let’s think about that argument. I’m not proposing discussing the merits of wearing masks or their efficacy. (The evidence for their efficacy in terms of reducing spread of disease is flimsy – especially when the incidence of symptomatic Covid in the general population is tiny).
But let’s assume that those who wear masks for others, not for themselves, are doing so for non-mask-wearers. Because, clearly, they can’t be doing it for mask-wearers who are ‘protected’ by their own masks (unless they don't work).
Those who will not be wearing masks post-July 19 will clearly be of the view that the risks of them spreading Covid will be miniscule. They’ll also be of the view that other mask non-wearers will not present a material risk to them and vice versa. Moreover, like me, they’ll be of the view that those who continue to wear masks might have residual concerns about risks – but they are protected (even if only psychologically) by the fact that they are wearing masks themselves.
So everyone is happy.
But not so. Apparently, non-mask wearers will be considered selfish – even though they clearly present little to no risk based on minimal risk of spread (as verified by the government) and the fact that mask-wearers are, in effect, double-protected (from lower general risk in the population and their wearing of masks).
Therefore, the only conclusion one can reach is that mask wearers will be deriving some other selfish benefit or utility from mask wearing – namely that it will make them feel more virtuous.
The actual utility provided by the mask (to mask-wearers motivated by the selflessness argument) is neither here nor there. Rather, mask-wearers can assume a virtue-signalling high ground based on their selflessness that is, ultimately, selfish.
The wearing of masks will become a virtue signalling act of theatre and the next step in the evolution of identity politics.
But, thankfully, I don’t think it’ll last long. Soon everyone will be skinny-dipping like it’s 2019.