A recurrent meme on Face Book asks if we would turn our lights on during an air raid as stark comparison to going out in public without a mask. It makes me laugh for two reasons. First, and I hope that more people read this one sentence than any other that I have, or will write:

Wearing a mask is to protect other people from you.

It is to prevent your spittle from being distributed in the world. Unless you are a health care professional working in a contagious environment, wearing the appropriate safety gear, the mask does very little in protecting you, the wearer. Sorry, that is just how it is. When you wear a mask it is because you care about the people around you. When you do not wear a mask in public, well . . .  (F#@k you)

So why is it that so many people seem to disregard such basic information? What is it about human nature that that seems to bridge this obvious cognitive dissonance?

Let me explain the second reason for my meme laughter. It was thought that the bombing of London would so completely demoralize the English that the war would be as good as won, once the bombing started. Honestly, I can imagine the fear I would possess if I knew that bombers where on their way to Vallejo. I, like the British before me, would hunker down in a bunker. (Ha! Hunker in a bunker.) When the All Clear would sound, I would then reemerge and literally pick up the pieces. Or I would not.  I would either be alive, or I would not know the difference. This point may seem very direct and almost harsh, but it is reality, its core truth cannot be denied. If you are dead, you no longer have fear or dread. If you live through a bombing, you may be traumatized if; the bombing was very nearby, you witnessed someone dying, or if you were injured; but, and this is a big but, but you would have survived. Your personal experience of the bombing was that you lived. If you were further out from where the bombing occurred there would be even less, or perhaps no, trauma at all.  As it turned out, the routine of gathering in the bomb shelter, this forced common experience, galvanized the British spirit which in and of itself was a stunning defeat for their attackers. We all know that that war ended.

So let me just break this concept down in super simple terms:

  • If the bombing killed you, the thought of future bombings has no effect on you.
  • If you were affected by the bombing, your behaviors would change, but you are in a very small cohort since the experience was localized.
  • If you were not affected by the bombing, (the bombs were not dropped on or near you) the experience of living, of not really having your life threatened, is the thing that you most remember and the one that affects your future behavior.

Sheltering at home has protected most of us.  The bombs are dropping on someone else’s house. There is no loud noise that can shock us. There is no demolition whose pieces we must pick up. The greatest number of us do not even know someone who has gone into the hospital let alone someone who has died from all of this.  This is the why. This is the reason why we so easily disregard the truth. Our personal experiences tell us that it is safe. That it has been over 2 months and nothing bad has happened . . . to us. Our gut instincts tell us the danger is not real and wearing the mask is, well, uncomfortable.

This is the why, and only the why.

Please wear a mask in public.

Wearing is Caring!

Until the next time,

Tommy Judt

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