Mon 03

The Masks Are Off

What Max Reckons One unexpected benefit of the pandemic is how easy it is to see who’s a selfish prick. Previously you could really only guess at that. Sure, you could pick up hints from how they were standing, or whether they were in the process of berating serving staff, but you couldn’t be sure. Now, though, at least in my part of the world, where it has become mandatory to wear a mask while out of the house, you can see with just one glance who doesn’t give a crap about their fellow citizens.

For example, today I passed by a woman who had a mask dangling from her chin while holding a coffee. So I could tell that she cared about me a little, but not more than her coffee. Two people who stood on opposite sides of the path while holding dogs on leads cared to avoid breathing all over each other, but not so much about everyone trying to divert around them. The dude who pounded past with no mask, breathing all over everyone, didn’t give a single shit.

I really like how this is so clear. Obviously the selfishness itself isn’t great. We can do without that. But you can’t fix a problem without identifying it, and for that, this mask business is super helpful.

I’m not saying we could fix a lot of societal problems by rounding these people up and firing them into the sun. That would be silly. Accurate. But silly. Because we’re not going to be allowed to do that. Also, you know, once you get into rounding people up, for whatever reason, that has a bad vibe. We don’t want to start with that.

We have to live with these people—even though, clearly, they don’t care much about living with us. But that’s okay; that’s what we’ve always done. Now it’s just clearer who appreciates the social contract and who doesn’t. Which I feel like has been a growing issue: How when you live in a city instead of a village, most of the social penalties for being a selfish prick fall away. A person can successfully avoid the appropriate consequences for being a selfish prick forever, because their bad reputation doesn’t stick with them. But not so much now, when they wear it on their face.

P.S. Seriously, where does this come from? The thing that perplexes me is how kind and generous kids are. Kids are so naturally selfless and empathetic, you have to stop them giving away their stuff. Are we beating this out of them? Or does something happen in the teenage years? Crazy.

P.P.S. Also obviously there are exceptions. For example, some people believe they are fighting a global conspiracy bent on human enslavement. Are these people selfish pricks? Yes, yes, they are. Because it doesn’t take that much to educate yourself. It’s the Information Age. But they are also super misguided, which is probably more relevant to their motivation than the selfishness.

P.P.P.S. About the runner—I ran 15 kilometers on Sunday in a mask. It was fine. I also gave pedestrians a wide berth because I value their health more than my slight inconvenience.


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towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 741 days ago

<blockquote>it doesn’t take that much to educate yourself</blockquote>People are super-bad about that, though.
People's naturally instinct when considering "Is X true?", is to try to confirm that X is in fact true. So they look up things consistent with that idea, instead of looking for facts that disagree with it.

So basically everyone attracted to a conspiracy theory ends up on conspiracy websites that list all the reasons why there is a conspiracy, and none why it might be bogus. They don't end up on the skeptic websites, because they don't think of that. Those websites are for people who are already skeptical and want to confirm they're right to be so :P

What's also an interesting (and depressing) notion, is that being "smart" doesn't protect people from this pitfall. To the contrary, the smarter you are, the better you'll be at justifying your beliefs, regardless of whether they're true. If you look e.g. at mensa members, some have decidedly nutty ideas.

<blockquote>About the runner—I ran 15 kilometers on Sunday in a mask. It was fine.</blockquote>Do keep in mind you're not all people. (All people would be a lot cooler if you were, but our species would not survive long.) Some people have more trouble breathing with a mask than others.
I mean, that runner probably doesn't, but it's possible. It also depends a lot on the mask, I've found out.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 741 days ago

Oh poo, blockquotes don't work.
If there some sort of markup that does?

Radiatia (#6360)

Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Posted: 740 days ago

I hope you and your family are safe, Max. I'm across the ditch in New Zealand and I'm acutely aware of how things have gone to shit in Melbourne (I have friends there too), so I do hope you're doing alright and able to get through round two of lockdown relatively unscathed.

Amy (#8212)

Location: US
Quote: "'Jesus.' 'Eliot, actually.'"
Posted: 728 days ago

"Kids are so naturally selfless and empathetic, you have to stop them giving away their stuff."

I felt really called out by this! And I'm not actually a kid.

Brenda (#7217)

Location: Berowra Bushland
Quote: "entering your world via the book portal is awesome"
Posted: 705 days ago

I wear a mask in crowded situations and it is true I have begun giving the 'stink eye' to those who stand to close to me in a check out line. Recently I purchased a couple of face shields and find I can breathe easier and cant touch my face - it swivels up for my coffee. It has piqued interest from other older people having breathing trouble in masks. I like that others can see my face and I can smile at them. Perhaps parents could sell the idea to their little kids as having super powers and for all the teen generation that already feel invincible decorate and make it a fashion icon.

IdealA2 (#2108)

Location: United Kingdom
Posted: 607 days ago

August was a million years ago, but I'm logged in so hope you don't mind me commenting here.

I do worry about this narrative, now during the pandemic, and going forward, if it becomes the norm.

As much as those claiming masks are "unconstitutional" etc. are idiots, and those who can should wear one when appropriate - there are legitimate [medical & psychological] reasons why someone cannot wear one.

There are exemption ID schemes, but I don't want people to have to wear a brand to avoid prejudicial treatment, or even outright abuse from those who think they are being selfish.

Most people who cannot wear masks will take every precaution to avoid putting others at risk, but ultimately I think we should treat it as a largely private choice where those who can, protect those who can't, without prejudice [and those who actively advocate against it on spurious grounds, are ignored by decent society].

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