I was reading my daughter’s 11+ book recently with her – Goodnight Mr Tom – and I was reminded that masks were implemented by governments often not for the reasons people are told they’re for, but instead for populations to take things seriously, or to feel that they are part of something even if they don’t want to be.
In the book, which is set during the Second World War, a lot of the older generation of villagers are war-weary. They don’t want another war.
They’ve seen what happened in the trenches 20 years before and they’re not interested.
The government then does something quite clever to bring everyone in and frightened: it is made illegal to not carry a gas mask.
These gas masks, as it happened, were not used, but for the whole duration, the whole six years, people would grass up their neighbours and you could be arrested and fined for not having it always on your person. This included children.
You could even be imprisoned for not carrying one.
The masks were frightening.
They scared people. They scared children. And they made the war real.