What do masks do?
They hide, conceal, distort our human faces. They make breathing difficult. They become petri dishes for the bacteria we breathe out only to be breathed in again and again. They interfere with talking and sneezing. They make eating impossible. They disrupt communication. They prevent what is our most quintessentially human feature from showing itself in full, from conveying emotion, nuance, and the infinity of our expressive palette. They are used in acts of stealth, in acts of unlawfulness. They contribute to the objectification of the human being in perverse sexual games.
When worn en masse they create an army of faceless units. When worn in the open air under a State’s covidian mandates they become a badge of soldierly pride.
Some months ago I chanced to be at a fashionable restaurant in Wellington to meet with a lawyer to discuss legal challenges to New Zealand’s masking policies. A masked waiter served us. At the crowded tables in our vicinity people ate and drank as normal people do and should, but when they ventured to the counter to pay or place another order they donned their face coverings.
I asked our jolly young waiter why he wore a mask when, as I informed him, drawing upon my medical knowledge, they didn’t do anything to stop the spread of a respiratory virus. His simple reply was: “I have to.” He moved his mask down to talk from time to time and I pointed out to him the many merry diners nearby who were unmasked.
“Does it make any sense to you?” I asked. He shrugged.
“Why don’t you take it off?” said a companion to him. He laughed and went about his duties.
Just last week I walked into a bank to cash a foreign cheque. A single podium stood in the forecentre of the floor, with a transparent plastic shield, while in the depths of the office and along the sides were unshielded desks occupied by bankers who wore masks.
One of the bankers approached me, a fashionably dressed cheerful woman who immediately reminded me that I should have a mask on. She wore a black cloth number that went with her outfit. I told her I was ‘exempt’ and produced my official New Zealand mask exemption card. She offered to help me with the cheque but she couldn’t do so at her open desk and directed me to the forecentre podium. I asked why, and she replied that it was for her protection … from me, apparently