COVID on Campus: Masks and More
As winter approached in late 2022, we were warned that a Tripledemic of COVID, RSV, and the flu was oncoming. Various authorities in Canada and the United States recommended we should start masking again—to protect ourselves and each other, and of course, the health care system. Kieran Moore in Ontario said no to reinstating mask mandates, although the Ontario provincial government has a well-established pattern of reversing course and doing the thing they recently said they wouldn’t do. Now that fearmongering is underway regarding new variants escaping China after they lessened their commitments to lockdowns and quarantines, who knows what the new year will bring with respect to calls for doubling down on old policies, logic and evidence notwithstanding. Quebec could even bring back its signature curfews.
The threatened Tripledemic, like the Monkeypox fright before it, sounded like an obviously schlocky 1990s straight-to-DVD B-movie. Mercifully, the vast majority of Canadians—even in Ontario and Quebec—ignored pleas to re-mask. Those appeals seemed to casually assume that masking is just the way the world is from now on, part of the new normal whenever there’s a contagion circulating—which is potentially anytime. Facemasks: they’re not just for COVID anymore!
My place of employment circulated guidelines mid-November that took a “Winter is approaching” rhetorical approach. “Cases of respiratory infection are on the rise”—and you know what that means: “We strongly recommend that you wear a mask on campus whether or not you have symptoms.” The tone of the message had a historical revisionist feel to it. It’s wintertime, and that means masking, as everyone knows—just as Canadians have always done. Overwriting our collective memories is but one of many totalitarian tricks we’ve seen played upon the grand stage of this pandemic. I can almost imagine The National Film Board of Canada remaking The Sweater—except now, the boy’s mother sends money to Monsieur Eaton for a #9 tricolour Montreal Canadiens facemask to protect her son and his friends from respiratory disease while playing shinny outside in the 1950s.
Overwhelmingly, undergraduates ignored the petition from the provost’s office. They were forced to mask last year, rendering campus eerily silent, like a monastery. That masks stifled conversation was plainly part of their overall purpose in society at large, undoubtedly reducing discussions among people regarding the disparities between each person’s actual experience of COVID times—its perils, measures, and remedies—and the stories we were being told about them on the TV. Students would candidly remark to me that they knew the mandatory masking policy was baloney. They were all more afraid of that one inevitable zealot in the room who’d excoriate and report them for non-compliance—a state of affairs they were familiar with from other politicized dimensions of the university experience these days.
There are unintended, counterproductive consequences to the faith people put in facemasks that I’ve witnessed in some of those who continue to comply. I’ve recently had students come to class with a bad case of bronchitis or concerns about having contracted whooping cough, but so long as they wore procedure masks, they supposed they were protecting everyone around. Me, I know I’m grateful for the protection offered by the procedure mask worn by the student who coughed and hacked all through office hours in my small workspace during the final week of classes last semester, otherwise the infection they passed along to me for the holiday season would have been so much worse.
On my commute to work on the train between Ottawa and Montreal, voluntary masking is mainly practiced by retirees, middle-aged women, and some sharp young men. On campus, through December and into January, faculty continue to don masks (usually of the more austere-looking varieties knit with heftier fabrics) at proportionally higher rates in comparison to students—as befits the relative street smarts of professional intellectuals versus our diverse student body. During exam period, mask dispensers at entranceways on campus were typically empty, as if the administration wasn’t really that serious about its entreaty. Maybe it was only another directive from above they were instructed to relay.
My institution’s highest priorities haven’t always been easy to pin down during COVID times. In the summer of 2020, the university seemed excessively keen about the prospect of moving course delivery online. In 2021, I recall one of the deans telling student representatives that the best way to deal with the growing mental health crisis on campus was to advise students to wash their hands frequently and get vaccinated. I remember another meeting in early 2022 in which colleagues debated the issue of what to do should some student unacceptably express solidarity with the Freedom Convoy, rendering some classroom unsafe thereby with their naked white supremacism.
Masks Work (in the Professional Wrestling Sense of the Word)
On the question of the efficacy of facemasking generally, everyone should find somebody whose job involves experience masking in dangerous environments to find out how risible they think it is for ordinary folk without proper training or equipment to mask as a countermeasure against an airborne virus. Admittedly, they tend not to be the kind of people most academics or social elites interact with often.
Imagine how viruses must tremble when confronted by the average masked face. Look at all the science in those ergonomic ear loops, that precision stitching, and that form-fitting pince-nez. Look at all the science in that pretty pastel pleated skirt for your face. Viruses must simply abandon all hope, defeated by that impenetrable defensive line.
Without getting into questions of risks and harms, especially to children, I understand that people want to believe their masks really work—like prayers and sacrifices to Poseidon to avoid catastrophe at sea in ancient times. But you know what they say: “If wishes were horse paste…” People filled with dread and anxiety crave reassurance that they may easily wield such power over nature given sufficient commitment to the gimmick. Masks make them heroes, like técnicos. But the professional wrestling fan in me wants to say that masks are for marks. The prospect of masking beyond COVID, upon the slightest whiff of any and every respiratory disease, implies masking forever. If people can be persuaded or compelled to normalize that as a practice, it’s an invitation to impose other burdens and restrictions upon a credulous, craven populace. When a rube shows up at your three-card Monte table and loses a wager, you don’t just take those winnings and call it a day. You bleed them dry for as long as the authorities don’t break it up—which they won’t if they’re in on it and on the take.
If it makes you more convinced of your righteous enlightenment, feel free to call me an anti-masker. Of all the epithets promulgated throughout this ongoing ordeal, anti-masker is maybe the most hysterical, in more than one sense of the word. Among the most ridiculous scenes I remember witnessing during COVID times involved lining up at the pickup location at the local hardware store parking lot, surrounded by a fully facemasked crowd, dutifully socially distancing, outside in the sunshine on a breezy day on the outskirts of a rural town in a county that then boasted a near-zero case count. (That was back in the days before we learned that how garbage the injections are against infection and transmission, when the local paper constantly tracked area numbers with extreme attention to minute detail for the purpose of instilling maximal terror.) The only thing more maddening was trying to explain to an otherwise intelligent friend how bizarre the spectacle was at the hardware store, how damaged people had become, but he couldn’t see it at the time. “Well, there is a pandemic going on,” he rebuked me. Madness.
The reason I have hope that people aren’t altogether lost and won’t fall for forever masking is that I was an early adopter of masks in 2020. That was thanks in part to the urgings of a fellow scholar who has studied prepper movements and was inclined to overreact. I remember in March 2020 being the only person at the Wal-Mart wearing a mask apart from some employees of Asian descent. I got scammed by an online vendor while scrambling to find N95s after the local stores were emptied out of their limited stock. I even published an article that mentioned learning to smile with your eyes while masked. Heck, I wiped down packages and sprayed groceries those first few months. It wasn’t until public health authorities instructed my wife and I to put our negative-testing non-symptomatic teenager into at-home quarantine later in 2020, hounding us daily and answering our questions with inanities, that the incoherent folly of the ongoing public health measures became plainly evident to us.
That mere folly cannot possibly comprehend all that’s happening became clear by mid-2021, when mandates and passports were implemented, the prime minister spewed venom on the campaign trail, helping Canadians to hate each other for his benefit, and sudden deaths and unusual injuries started becoming unusually noticeable within our social circles. But we all learn at our own pace, and while we may be three years deep into this mess, I have no choice but to hope that more people will eventually, if gradually, realize that they’ve been had, harmed, and made complicit in harming themselves and others, including their own children, through their participation in so many pernicious policies. I anticipate that some of those who were most trusting for the longest time will prove most determined to see our abusers held accountable for what they’ve done to us. In the meantime, I’ll keep my own mask on—by which I mean the patient face I wear overtop my impatient one—although it’s starting to form some cracks.
Ideological Anti-Facers and the Exploitation of the Most Vulnerable
Among those still willing to mask are some who will be harder to break through to because they are ideologically committed to it. Anti-Facers, I call them. Masking has become part of their identity. Consider the mirthless, nervous nellies sporting the more elaborate-looking contraptions, their eyes straining as if they were trying to take in oxygen as easily as they admit viral infection. What do they think when they see themselves in mirrors or on Zoom calls? “I’m saving my life! I’m saving your life! I’m protecting the most vulnerable! I’m reducing the burden on the health care system!” Do they anticipate that this is what they’ll look like—what they want to look like, indefinitely—so long as there are respiratory diseases in the world?
For most people who are not too far gone, I imagine they studiously avoid looking at themselves for too long while masked. It’s too embarrassing. If you’re still a somewhat reluctant masker—someone for whom it’s not yet the religious garment of a penitent ascetic or wild enthusiastic—only complying for emotional reasons or due to social pressure, I recommend putting it on at home sometime and just staring at yourself in the mirror. For maybe a quarter of an hour. You make others look at you like that for hours, so see if you can look at yourself like that for just fifteen minutes without starting to loathe yourself.
That’s not who you want to be, is it? Not just because it’s unsightly, but because you know it’s a lie. It’s never easy to admit that you’ve been lying to yourself, even when it’s only because you trusted others who lied to you. But should some jerk tape a “kick me” sign to your back, you’d rather somebody told you instead of letting you walk around like that, right? Facemasks aren’t simply akin to some unflattering outfit or bad haircut. You’ve been pranked by people who have profited from keeping you desperate, terrified, and vulnerable. For three years, elite society’s cool kids’ clique made a mint and solidified their power over you while making you miserable emotionally and financially. Brazenly. In your face. They’ve even got you sticking the “kick me” sign to yourself. On your face.
The ideologically conformed are most convinced that they’re masking to protect the most vulnerable. Do you want to know how many most-vulnerables your facemasking has saved after untold thousands of hours of obscuring your mouth and nose behind a bit of cloth? Let me see if I can do the math without a calculator… And it’s zero. You’ve saved zero most-vulnerables. At least no more than are incidentally affected positively or negatively by your otherwise relatively ordinary or indifferent life choices daily. You know, don’t you? Trust me, my inner Charlie Brown voice knows how terrible it feels to understand deep down in your heart of hearts that you’re not some kind of hero. But you’re not. The idea that we can all be heroes by mundane things like washing our hands are among the more insidious-but-flattering lies we’ve been sold the past few years.
Our culture of safety, well entrenched and inculcated for years before COVID times, primed us for mistaking cowardice for courage, neuroticism for heroism, and complacent inaction and minimalist gesturing for virtue. What a sorry lot we’ve become, so well prepared for manipulation and exploitation. Upon hearing our dear leader condescendingly congratulating us yet again for how we stepped up and did the right thing, I can’t imagine anyone with any self-respect thinking to themselves, “That’s right! He’s talking about me! I did that! We did that!” But then I see even educated professionals like the legal counsel for the City of Ottawa go gaga gooey when getting to question her schoolgirl crush at the POEC, and I realize, wow, there’s oodles of otherwise bright people out there who are still in his thrall.
As an amorphous ever-expanding category, the most vulnerable have been among the most exploited members of our society over the past few years. They have been made the excuse for any number of deleterious policies and rights violations. They themselves have been subjected to some of the most abusive policies, especially our seniors in care homes, subjected for too long to antiseptic dystopian interactions with too few people in face shields on top of masks. My late grandmother observed that two years of nearly constant isolation ostensibly for her protection were harder to endure than the London Blitz.
I’m confident that there are many designated vulnerable Canadians who would not have insisted on everybody else’s lives being put on pause or for prolonged periods, putting many on the road to ruin (financially, socially, emotionally) for their sake. Our youth has been particularly unfairly burdened. Grown-ups easily forget how long a year is, let alone two or three, to a toddler or a teenager. As if teenagers weren’t already inclined enough to cynicism and nihilism, we’ve convinced a lot of them that their lives are indeed unimportant, having treated them that way. The legacy of that won’t be brushed aside through trivializing references to their alleged resilience.
But to the ideological Anti-Facers, claims to protecting the most vulnerable are like catnip. There’s nothing that can’t be justified to and by them on the basis of that abstract appeal. Protecting the most vulnerable, as an expression, serves as an enchantment and a rallying cry. No disproportion between theoretical benefit and actual harm is too great. Of course, prudent, proportionate, and focused measures to protect the vulnerable are reasonable and moral, but we’ve been enduring a pandemic of disproportionality for three years now. Personally, I’d like to see an end to the terrorization, abuse, and exploitation of the vulnerable as pretenses for the expansion of scientistic despotism.
Among the categories of people classified as most vulnerable are many whose circumstances have them hooked on meds of one kind or another, or else in need of recurring treatments and procedures. They are inclined to excessive trust in doctors and pharma, although if you asked them, most of them would have plenty of grievances to relate about their prescriptions or quality of care. Unfortunately, their judgment about the needfulness and advantageousness of medical and public health interventions in general is compromised, and they’re too readily willing participants in their own exploitation at the expense of others. I say this as someone who was far too trusting in and dependent on medicine for the first several decades of his own life—until enough damage was done and witnessed to temper the inclination toward excessive reverence for medicine that our culture instils in us.
I sometimes hear people insist that you oughtn’t talk disrespectfully of medicine because someday your life will be in some doctor’s hands. First, that’s the kind of thing you say of tyrants, from whom you hope for mercy. Second, what, are we supposed to be overawed by the fact that doctors might typically be expected do their jobs without harming us terribly in the process? That’s a minimal standard of the sort we hold other tradespeople to. Our lives may be jeopardized when the quality of their work isn’t up to snuff either, but we don’t go around bragging about our children or siblings when they go into the trades as if they’ve suddenly become miracle workers.
When I see medical professionals now wearing masks all day and imposing them indiscriminately on their patients, contrary to the practice of medicine everywhere hitherto until recently, I don’t think, “Oh look, they’re protecting their patients.” I think, “Oh look, they’re lying to their patients. Again.” Because if anyone should know that you don’t wear masks that aren’t designed to stop respiratory diseases in order to stop respiratory diseases, it should be them. That said, if there’s anyone who deserves to have their individuality obliterated through mask-wearing these days, it’s doctors. They’ve already surrendered all common sense and judgment to their employers, professional associations, state regulators, and pharma. The Star Wars fan in me now calls doctors “protocol droids.” They might as well be replaced by robots already. Who needs a GP when there’s GPT?
The fact that over the past few years our corrupt media and inept governments have so encouraged mindless adoration of doctors and touted them as self-sacrificing heroes tells us how dubious that framing is. We already knew that doctors possessed an exaggerated sense of self-importance, but the fact that they gladly welcomed being referred to as our most essential workers in early 2020 clinched it. Doctors rival politicians for accepting underserved credit and avoiding deserved blame. Following orders has now become the core of medical ethics. It sure isn’t respect for voluntary informed consent anymore; nor is it doing no harm—and I’m not just referring to the psyche-killers, suicide-assisters, or those accused of being mutilators.
Nowadays we’re told there are staffing issues and our medical professionals are overworked, and our hospitals overrun again. Maybe they shouldn’t have stood by silently or cheered it on when some of their colleagues were unceremoniously dumped for having some integrity and discernment. The mandates were always wrong, bad, and stupid. There was never any conundrum there. Neither the arithmetic regarding supposed relative risks nor the moral calculus ever made sense. At a time when backlogs are long, heart attacks and strokes, etc., appear uncommonly common, and people’s immune systems seem particularly shot, it’s almost like a deliberate decision has been made to make the crisis in the health care system worse yet again, as regards both capacity and dependability. I trust our health bureaucrats and hospital administrators are doing fine, nonetheless.
Imagine if a significant portion of the untold billions of dollars spent by our governments over the past three years actually went toward significantly improving health care delivery. Instead, we’re three years in and crises within the system keep recurring—just like they did before COVID times. Can’t they find a friend or relative of a federal cabinet minister to sign a plum contract to coordinate improvements across the provinces? But then it would be harder to keep blaming the public for the failings of the system, and it would be harder to rationalize measures for controlling and punishing the public for those failures. If a hospital in Toronto or Ottawa doesn’t find a way to regularly declare its beds are full, how else are they going to justify mask mandates in Kapuskasing or lockdowns in Timmins—or whatever more draconian measures might be on the horizon during the next wave or when another pathogen strikes? Pandemics used to be rare, but our prime minister has told us to expect them for decades and generations to come, and some international organizations, NGOs, and charitable foundations seem convinced that some other catastrophic contagion is on its way sooner than anyone else would like.
My instinct now regarding any given doctor is to wonder: Do they know what’s wrong or harmful about any number of COVID times rules, restrictions, incentives, or treatments (or lack thereof), but comply anyway because it profits them? Do they know what’s wrong but play along because they risk being disciplined if they don’t follow orders? Or are they simply remaining indifferent or willingly ignorant so as not to have to worry themselves? Are they a fraud, afraid, or a fool? When people protest that they know a doctor who is “one of the good ones,” it only serves to support my general outlook. One thing I know for sure is that doctors have guaranteed that they’re going to stay busy for the foreseeable future.
Muscles and Masks
Returning to my focus on facemasks specifically, the wearing of masks by people authorized to use physical force has been among the most disconcerting aspects of this newfangled custom. When the Emergencies Act was implemented in Ottawa in February 2022, the masking of the faces of the forces marshalled and deployed decidedly enhanced the brutal aesthetic of the violent action taken against the protestors. Many ordinarily gentle, compassionate Canadians applauded this federal government flex, too. It’s extraordinary what people can get used to and align themselves with when manipulated by prostitute media at the service of swindler politicians who vilify those they’ve deliberately harmed. To this day, many Canadians still believe that our whole system of government and way of life was this close to being overthrown by racist, misogynistic, Nazi, confederate, arsonist, rapist, foreign-agent insurrectionists because the television said so. Extraordinary.
The normalization of masks worn by police forces, generally, and not simply when enforcing sundry stupid COVID measures against businessowners, parents, pastors, and more, has greater symbolic significance. Masks deindividuate us. A police officer in a mask is no longer Officer Jones, whose kids play on your kids’ hockey team. A police officer in a mask is an objectified unit of force. Facemasks on police are inherently intimidating, and where and when they are no longer mandated but some officers continue to choose to wear them anyway, you can be confident that intimidation is the point. A police officer in a mask projects an image of authority without accountability, their effective anonymity conducive to acting with impunity. Their faces blotted out they are but armed instruments, halfway to becoming the Big White quarantine enforcers of China, en route to becoming Robocops.
The worst sight I beheld along these lines was on Remembrance Day in 2021 when members of the armed forces and cadets in attendance at the cenotaph were all wearing standard issue black facemasks as part of their uniforms. This image stood in stark contrast to the way in which I was used to seeing armed forces members in Canada interacting with civilians—for instance, with smiling faces at booths at county fairs conversing with locals young and old in ways that build trust and respect. Here instead, at a solemn service to commemorate our veterans who died defending our freedoms, they stood at attention, outdoors, in the wind and rain, as anonymous troopers inserted intimidatingly amidst their neighbours, faces replaced by stark, blank visages protecting nobody. It felt foreboding and more than a little chilling. Even as a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, someone with tremendous respect for our men and women who’ve served, I was distressed. If they’re willing to follow that patently senseless order, to mask up under those circumstances at that event, I thought to myself at the time, what other orders are they willing to follow? Maybe it’s best we keep sending our military resources to far-flung Ukraine. Who knows when the DND will decide to call upon them for help with more than “information operation campaigns.”
Forever-Masking as Proto-Transhumanism
I don’t mean to dehumanize voluntary maskers with my critical remarks; the masks themselves already do that. I’m arguing for rehumanization. Masks depersonalize. They efface you. Literally. Masked you is not you. Your mask consumes you. It absorbs you. You surrender yourself—your personality and your identity—to it. Your mask is not only unbecoming; it becomes you. When mandates are in place and masks are imposed on everyone indiscriminately, conformity in submission is their real purpose, not public health. Masked you then becomes one with the horde or hive, an interchangeable part of a modular collective, as replaceable and disposable as the masks themselves.
It is surprising that the experts didn’t take advantage of the concern that the virus infects through the eyes to impose fully sealed facemasks to totally obliterate your individual personhood. Maybe that will be the next step in turning us into an undifferentiated mass suitable for totalitarian governance. They did make some people in certain circumstances wear those ridiculous face shields proclaiming “Face Shield” across the front of them in some massive font as a way of mocking you. You might as well write Blockhead in giant letters across your forehead beneath it.
But it’s not only the infelicitous aesthetics of masks or the way they depersonalize you that’s the problem. It’s what they imply about our very nature, and what they portend for what’s to come that concerns me. To put it plainly, facemasks—especially when we’re effectively told that we need to be ready to wear them indefinitely because there are always diseases circulating—tell us that our human nature, and the nature of the world into which we are born, are themselves the problem. Or rather, they’re the enemy. Our fundamental life processes are reinterpreted as anti-life. The most basic conditions of life become our nemeses, wholly objectionable.
Masking represents a rebellion against nature, against existence as it is given to us as inherently intolerable. It’s a manifestation of ingratitude, accusation, and grievance—as well as pride, insofar as we’re confident that we can do better. The imperative that we must do better, or rather, become something better, is implied. Everything about us that’s not good enough, that poses a danger to us, should be radically remade, broken down and built back better. Ultimately, this endeavour requires incredible interventions to undo and transform the givens of our embodied existence. Despite our palpable flaws we nevertheless suppose that we possess the wisdom to fix ourselves by becoming something more and different.
The fact that we breathe—that we breathe in air—and then exhale it (gasp!) must be found abominable. It’s altogether unacceptable. The simple act of breathing, one of the things you cannot but do in order to live, must be reckoned first and foremost as a threat to everybody’s life. Facemasks do not tell people—especially not children—that they are safe. Young children brought into a society in which facemasking is common are being accustomed to believing that the very world in which they find themselves is essentially and pervasively hostile. They might be responsible for killing people simply by existing, and every waking second, anyone else might just as easily kill them, too, just by standing there. Pardon my academic jargon, but that’s screwed up. As if we don’t already do enough to teach our younger generation that everything is unsafe and that they should be afraid all the time and therefore need immensely powerful authorities to constantly protect and rescue them.
The main lesson we are to learn from masking is that the human condition is intrinsically inhumane, hateful unto itself. In masking, we are saying that we should rather be another kind of being than we are, existing under conditions other than those in which we find ourselves. We should transform ourselves and the basic facts about our existence into something other than what is given, because the way things are is unbearable. If only we didn’t have these mouths, these noses, these lungs, breathing in this air, etc., we would not be such a threat to ourselves and others with every breath we take. Facemasking should be looked upon therefore as a form of transhumanism, or at least proto-transhumanism. Facemasks are a symbol of our rejection of our human nature and our aspiration toward becoming something other.
Roughly four hundred years ago, when Francis Bacon laid the comprehensive philosophical groundwork for the modern scientific-technological project, dedicated to the transformation of human nature under the guise of relieving our suffering, he admitted that his purposes were indistinguishable from those of magic and alchemy. We are to supersede human nature by superimposing new natures upon ourselves. He was particularly infatuated with the digestive system, where processes of putrefaction transpire, as evidence that our own bodies are our worst enemies. He mused back then whether we might be able to circumvent or replace our entire nutritive process from mouth to anus.
Analogously, facemasking is not simply a psyop keeping us in perpetual fear of a virus; it heralds a desire to save us from the horror of our biological respiratory system. (Although Francis Bacon would be disturbed by the way masks force us to resorb our exhalatory excretions.) What other parts of our humanity ought we jettison or replace? Lockdowns during COVID times were deliberate contraventions of our nature as social beings. The mRNA shots compel our human cells to manufacture non-human proteins, a kind of baby-steps transhumanism unwittingly embraced by billions of people that’s radical enough without speculating about self-assembling nanotech or DNA-alteration technologies. Pharma and public health are already talking about our immune systems as if they were like phone batteries needing recharging, or software platforms in need of regularly scheduled updates. The stealth transhumanism of the mRNA injections already shows that such transformations can and will be imposed upon us without making the effort to fully explain to us what’s being done to us, let alone ask for meaningful consent.
As with enlightenment doctrines of progress and Marxist theory, this whole process is designed to feel inevitable, and resistance is presumed not only futile but immoral. If you object, you’re the problem. You’re the danger. We should be gradually (or rapidly) transformed so as to exist and coexist altogether differently. (Marx talked about “the socialization of the senses” and other weirdness as part of “human emancipation,” his term for abandoning our humanity.) A lot of these changes can be achieved psychologically, but more extensive and invasive alterations would be required to accomplish them all, ultimately. You can go through every facet and function of our minds and bodies and find them wanting and hazardous, in need of enhancement or replacement. Artificial wombs, wireless telepathy, digital memory, and more. Facemasks program us to be more accepting of further modification for our own good. Just like we were informed that your vaccine doesn’t really work unless everybody is vaccinated, and your facemask doesn’t really work unless everybody else is masked, you can imagine hearing people say things like “My implants don’t work unless everybody is implanted,” or, “What makes you think your DNA is so special?” If you don’t embrace your transhuman transformations, you’re a threat to everybody else, don’t you know—especially (you guessed it!) to the most vulnerable.
One doesn’t have to suppose the logic of this leads all the way to techno-feudalism, but it doesn’t require much imagination to see how docile and dependent we could be rendered in the process. It seems we’ve forgotten lately that we’re morally obliged to imagine that any power that can be abused will be abused. Anyone who says this is all farfetched hasn’t been paying attention to how quickly things have been moving the past few years, and how we’ve become used to all manner of things we previously never would have thought we’d tolerate.
The aforementioned exploitation of the most vulnerable is similarly visible in the way in which, say, brainchips currently under development by leading geniuses are touted on the premise that they’re invented to help disabled people. Naturally, brainchips are not actually about helping disabled people. Not really. They’re about using disabled people to figure out how to affect any given person, or all people. They pretend to be about restoring natural human functioning, but their promise exceeds that by leaps and bounds. I’ve heard someone very intelligent say we’ll need the brainchips to defend ourselves against AI or something like that. We must become cyborgs to fight the machines or survive the singularity, I guess. If you can’t beat’em, join’em. That sounds to me like a forfeit, tantamount to betraying oneself, rather than a strategy for victory.
Now I know there are those out there who’ll say that all technology is inherently transhumanist, and it’s on balance good, and you’re already on board with enough of it, so all your qualms and scruples are only hypocrisy. As if airplanes were indistinguishable from wings. As if you’re already a cyborg because you read books. These arguments rely on eliding important distinctions. They engage in occult syntheses in pursuit of an allegedly superior mode of being that’s really only an attenuation achieved through admixture with what’s lower.
Compare facemasks worn to protect against respiratory disease to eyeglasses, the other apparatus people are long used to wearing on their faces. There are such things as binoculars and night-vision goggles, for instance, lenses and devices that bestow powers of sight beyond those of ordinary vision, but nobody is telling us we must normalize wearing them regularly because normal eyesight is bad. The point of eyeglasses is not to alter, let alone indict or disparage, our natural powers of sight. Eyeglasses restore our natural powers of eyesight when they falter. They are based on the premise that human sight is a genuine good. Eyeglasses are therefore unlike facemasks, which are premised instead upon the idea that breathing itself is fundamentally bad. Facemasks imply it would be better if we didn’t breathe at all. They’re consistent with the radical Baconian impulse to change human nature, under the cover of a moral-sounding appeal to reduce our suffering.
Moreover, eyeglasses possess aesthetic qualities designed to enhance personal expression. They add character to your face rather than suppressing or erasing it. When masking was introduced early on in COVID times, ordinary people followed that creative impulse and sewed together masks using colourful fabrics featuring fun patterns, adding personalized flair. The authorities had to put a stop to that, though, imposing bleak, nondescript masks instead where they could—for example, the rule on my campus last year that procedure masks specifically were required on all faces. It is as if imposing sterile dreariness were the real purpose of those masks since it sure wasn’t health. Now the diehard maskers prefer something all-white or off-white or all-black, something purely functional and even mechanical-looking if possible. The occasional lavender procedure mask has become the jauntiest thing, but let’s not permit more panache than that, please.
For the power play of the pandemic to work, people had to be made to believe that sickness is an injustice, and that politicians—with the assistance of their technocratic experts, supranational partners, and let’s not forget, consulting firms— can so control nature as to minimize and defeat that injustice. By deferring to those partners, politicians have endeavoured to evade responsibility for the consequences of their decisions. Treating sickness, and even death itself, as injustices to defeat through sufficient resolve and imagination with unlimited means and authority is part and parcel of that rebellion against nature of which facemasking is emblematic. But it’s bonkers to believe that every time you get sick you’ve been wronged, and that it’s the responsibility of political powers to prevent sickness at all costs, dictating the myriad details of everybody’s existence in their minutiae toward that end.
The project to eradicate sickness is inhuman, even anti-human. It leads to transhumanism, under the auspices of techno-oligarchs masquerading as aristocrats, for whom no amount of power to rule and overrule us for our own good will ever be enough. If there’s one thing COVID times has demonstrated, it’s how badly so many people want to be ruled, and how loudly they’ll insist that everybody else must be strongly ruled, too. Submissives long to be dominated, and there is definitely something BDSM-adjacent about the public humiliation involved in facemasking. That aspect of the masking phenomenon complements our society’s current fetish for injections—including injecting people under duress. And children. How is it people can’t sense how creepy it is we’ve all heard the word vaccine about a billion times the past three years? We’ve been subjected to unrelenting injection porn for the past two years, bombarded by picture after picture of people being punctured. And we’ve seen how visibly excited our prime minister gets when those over whom he exerts his power get injected—from little girls and boys on up—whether because people were charmed by his voice or compelled by his commands.
Our younger generation has been harmed the most by COVID times policies, and we have no sense yet of what repercussions will follow from forcing them to hide their faces or our faces from them, making them fear the basic conditions of our coexistence, shortchanging them with respect to their education, stunting their development as social beings, and otherwise making them sacrifice themselves to slightly assuage their boomer grandparents’ outsized fears. Of course, it doesn’t help anything to further tell grandparents that they’re the worst if they demanded their grandchildren get the COVID shots in order to feel safe enough to visit with them. It doesn’t help anything to tell parents that if they took their children to get the COVID shots to protect their own parents, they themselves failed as parents. It’s not best to shame victims; ignorance is better pardoned than blamed.
That said, I wish by now more people would figure out that our subsidized national news outlets are purveyors of disinformation—and I don’t just mean the Toronto Star. The CBC is still useful as a source of information about the government’s positions and intentions, I admit, so long as you know how to read it—like Soviet era Pravda, or perhaps its Chinese equivalent. Of course, it’s not easy to determine what alternative sources or which skeptics and critics to trust instead, if any. But given how untrustworthy our expert class has become and how broken our science is—the numbers and models, the studies and trials—everyone is stuck having to exercise their own best judgment, whether about masking or anything else. If you’re one of those people who prides themselves on their faith in science, I regret to inform you that while your god isn’t quite dead, it’s on a ventilator being given Remdesivir and Midazolam. Hopefully it’s not too late for its resuscitation and reformation.
Speaking as someone employed in education, I think everyone from teachers and their unions to administrators, boards, and ministries of education need to own up to how much harm they did to students during COVID times. The benefits of the school closings, remote learning, compulsory masking, and so on, was negligible; the harms done were disproportionate. As someone who talks candidly to students about how they’ve been cheated and mistreated, I can assure you that even if educators won’t admit their dereliction to themselves, their students won’t forget having watched adults charged with responsibilities toward them act neglectfully, overanxiously, and abusively throughout all this.
To be sure, to the extent that they were convinced that they were doing the right things and the harms they endured were morally worth it, many young people still haven’t quite realized yet the degree to which they were made complicit in their own suffering during COVID times. There’s something almost diabolical about making people feel righteous for participating in self-harm and the collective imposition of harms. I expect that in time, many will figure out and rightly resent what was done to them.
To the adults who let their own parents languish in near solitude in long-term care for days and weeks and months to years on end “because there’s a pandemic going on,” imagine what you’ve taught your children about how to care for you. Or whether to. Pre-COVID, Millennials and Gen-Zers were already showing that they weren’t particularly fond of boomers. Not only did they regard boomers’ values as obsolete (and not “ok”), but they had also figured out that while they struggled to get ahead (and got ridiculed for their struggles), the wealth and cozy retirements of boomers were built on massive debts incurred at the expense of future generations. And now our governments are rapidly expanding medically assisted suicide eligibility for young and old alike.
So that we might heal as a society, my outlook is that we must be more forgiving of each other, while making no more excuses for our abusers. The corruption, fraud, and malfeasance of our leadership—their long train of legislative initiatives, emergency measures, and prevarications all tending the same way with a visible design—remains ongoing. Reinstating mask mandates in 2023 would be a surefire sign that a concerted effort to harm us again is gearing up once more. Don’t let them get it underway.
I should make it clear that I have no animus toward voluntary maskers in the meantime, except to the extent that some of them yearn to force facemasks upon the rest of us again and again. As I said, you shouldn’t blame victims. I pray that God may send a hundred million moths to eat up all our facemasks, but I wouldn’t force anyone to remove theirs if they were determined to wear one—no more than I’d insist on confiscating anyone’s lucky rabbit’s foot. I just hope that people will regain their senses sooner rather than later, for their sake and our children’s. Except for my German co-worker who railed vociferously when vaccine mandates were not implemented at the office. He should wear his mask indefinitely, like an armband for his face. I trust he’s keeping up to date with his boosters.
The antihuman trajectory that masks represent must be resisted. Maybe I’m wrong to worry now. Some of you might think I wrote this article a year too late, that masks are behind us, a thing of the past, and while a handful of holdouts may cling to them, they’re not coming back en masse. If that’s where you’re coming from, I wish I shared your confidence. I’m seeing calls for the return of mask mandates from multiple places nearly daily in my newsfeed presently. Heck, in a press conference on December 30, Pierre Poilievre entertained the idea that maybe vaccine mandates should be brought back for some travellers. Clearly, nothing is off the table. Like the prime minister keeps reminding us, “You might be done with COVID, but we’re not done using COVID as an excuse to mess with you.”