Let’s start with a bit of Shakespeare, adapted for COVID-19:
To wear a mask or to not wear a mask, that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of the virtue signalers for not wearing a mask
Or to put on a mask in a sea of troubles.
I’ve opted, for the most part, to suffer the slings and arrows of the virtue signalers.
Each person has to analyze the benefits and risks of wearing a mask. As Thomas Sowell loves to say, there are no “solutions” to life’s problems – there are merely tradeoffs that we need to analyze and make to come up with the best possible outcomes. As I did my tradeoff analysis, I concluded that in all but a very few number of circumstances, not wearing a mask is the most beneficial course of action.
Let me walk you through my analysis, and by doing so, I hope to give you a template for making your own mask decision.
I’m a 54-year-old male in good health. If I get COVID-19, odds are that I will have mild to no symptoms – and I have no symptoms. Yes, I could be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 – guess what, we are all carriers, oftentimes asymptomatic, of deadly staph and/or strep bacteria, as well as cold and flu viruses – and then, of course, there are those times when maybe we were in a hurry and didn’t wash our hands as thoroughly as we should have after using restrooms, so we’re constantly passing around viruses and bacteria – it ain’t a pretty picture, but it was the reality before COVID-19 and is the current reality.
Now that I am practicing better personal hygiene – and should’ve have been before COVID-19 showed up – the odds of me transmitting COVID-19, especially while I am asymptomatic, are greatly reduced. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? No.
So, the benefit of wearing a mask is that maybe, possibly, conceivably, but not likely, I might be an asymptomatic COVID-19 carrier AND that I might avoid, via some random encounter, transmitting the virus to someone at risk.
It could happen. But it could also happen that when I drive to the post office today, some driver will hurt me, or I will hurt her. Yet, we still both get in our cars at the risk of hurting each other.
“Agoraphobia” – fear of places and situations that might cause panic, helplessness, or embarrassment. “Agoraphobic societies” is an oxymoron – if people are not interacting because they have fear and panic in the presence of each other, there is no society.
But, you say, you could interact with a mask on! Yes, but there are two definite downsides to wearing a mask.
1. “The mask” is a signal to each other that we are a danger to each other. Prolonged signaling to the brain that “other people are a danger to me” will train the brain to see others as “dangerous objects” instead of human beings with whom we should be trying to build relationships.
2. Facial recognition and expression is the primary way that human beings develop emotional bonds like trust and friendship, and it is the way we can discern people’s emotions and intentions. By covering our faces, we are depriving all of society of the primary tool of relationship-building – seeing and interacting with each other’s faces. This downside is not theoretical – the psychologists, the neurobiologists, and even the philosophers know it. Don’t believe me? Read this commentary by the eminent conservative British philosopher, Roger Scruton, from his book Beauty – A Short Introduction:
Human beings are alone among the animals in revealing their individuality in their faces. The mouth that speaks, the eyes that gaze, the skin that blushes, all are signs of freedom, character, and judgment, and all give concrete expression to the uniqueness of the self within.
The benefits that seeing my face brings to others, and the benefits that seeing their faces brings to me, far outweigh the minimal risk that I, as a healthy, asymptomatic 54-year-old man, will transmit COVID-19, or will become gravely ill from the virus.
Ergo, I don’t wear a mask and am not bothered in the least by others without masks.
Would I ever wear a mask? Yes – if I were going to visit someone in an elderly care facility, someone who asked me to wear a mask on their private property due to their ill health, or someone who is immunosuppressed. But we should be taking those precautions anyway, with or without COVID-19.
So if you’re catching a lot of flack from the virtue signalers about not wearing a mask, rest assured that you have rational grounds for ditching it in most circumstances. Just smile at them and say, “I wish I could see your lovely face and smile – that would really make the world a much better place if we all started doing that again.” — Kyrie Eleison