Tuesday 28 September 2021

Masks: How We Hate Change

To mask, or not to mask, that should not be a question.

I have to shake my head at all the protests against masks and vaccines. We hate being told what to do, even if it’s for our own good.

Safety Belts
Seat belts became mandatory in my home province of Ontario on January 1, 1976. I remember people were none too pleased, especially my brother.

One day, I’m driving Dad’s car with my brother in the passenger seat. We’re discussing the law, and my brother is off on a full-scale rant: nobody’s telling him what to do; the government has no right to take away his freedom, blah, blah, blah. Suddenly, I slam on the brakes, and as the car skidded to a stop, my brother slid off the front seat and at the very last moment, got his hands up on the dashboard to prevent him from hitting it. Livid, he turns to me and yells, “What the F did you do that for?” I gave him a sh*t-eating grin and replied in a lilting voice, “If you had been wearing your safety belt, that wouldn’t have happened.”

He wanted to kill me, but I had made my point. 40 years later, I retold him that story, and we both had a good laugh.

Today, everybody wears their safety belt and doesn’t give it a second thought. It’s accepted; nobody protests; everybody does it and agrees it’s the right thing to do.

I was born in 1952 and grew up in an era where smoking was considered a right. Buildings, transit including airplanes, movie theatres, you name it, you could smoke there. And I’m reminded of the old joke: Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a pool.

Everybody in my family smoked except my father and I. Years later, when I lived on my own, I’d visit my parents from time to time. When I’d leave, I’d drive a distance with the windows in my car wide open because I absolutely stunk of cigarette smoke. When I got home, I would strip off my clothes, shower, and put on something else. It was the only way to escape the stench of second-hand smoke.

Fast forward to today. I never thought I would live to see the day, but now, smokers no longer have first right. Clean air is the right, and while nobody has stopped anybody from smoking, smoking is not permitted indoors. Ontario first enacted laws in 2005 to ban smoking in all workplaces and now, people have the right to clean, smoke-free air. As I said, you can still smoke but now, I don’t have to inhale second-hand smoke. All right!

The Pandemic
Every time I hear about somebody protesting about masks, I immediately think there’s another person who doesn’t understand two words: respiratory droplets. They don’t understand the airborne transmission of infectious diseases. This is so obvious, it’s like the person is protesting for the right to do themselves harm. I demand the right to jump out of an airplane without a parachute. (my blog: What the heck is a respiratory droplet? - Nov 7, 2021)

People who have lived in the Far East have commented on the difference of attitude. In the east, people put the community first, themselves second. As a result, people wear masks because they want to contribute to the benefit of the community, not thinking of their own comfort. Here in North America, we value personal freedom above all else, and our own comfort is more important than the community.

Now, let me add that here in North America, I have seen noble acts of generosity, community spirit, and aid to one’s fellow man. However, there is this strain of self-centeredness, a me-first attitude. I’m going to push the next guy out of the way to get the last roll of toilet paper.

When safety belts were first enacted, people didn’t necessarily see the benefit. They had to be forced to buckle up: enforcement by the police, along with fines and tickets with demerit points. Hitting the pocketbook was the best lesson for the recalcitrant.

When smoking was banned, once again, behaviour had to be changed with fines.

There is no doubt masks and vaccines are beneficial to society. The science says so. I’ve heard all the arguments and I’m sorry, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers are just plain wrong. Science wins. But let me add a personal note.

I’ve driven a car for over 55 years, and not once has a safety belt saved my life; not once has a safety belt prevented me from being injured. Why? Because I’ve been lucky enough to have never been in a serious accident. I suppose I could argue that based on my experience, safety belts are useless; it’s government overreach; and the authorities just want to control us. However, I’m sure that most people would agree safety belts are a good thing, that is, we have a public policy which makes sense, preventing injury and saving lives.

I’ve heard people argue they have never gotten Covid, so what’s the big deal? I’ve heard people who’ve gotten Covid say it was mild, just like getting a cold. These people are like me arguing that safety belts are useless based on personal experience instead of looking at the statistics for the entire population and listening to the experts. In the Far East, they put community first; here in North America, we focus on the individual. The headlines have stories of frontline workers, doctors and nurses bemoaning an overtaxed healthcare system, and yet protesters continue to protest while flaunting the rules. Your neighbour’s house is on fire and yet you say you don’t care because your house is still okay.

The Future
Experts correctly predicted the 2020-2021 flu and cold season was going to be milder because of the wearing of masks. People were reducing the release of respiratory droplets and hence, reducing the airborne transmission of these viruses. It’s obvious we all should have been following the lead of the Far East and wearing masks decades ago to better control the flu/cold season. However, over the years, we have collectively gotten used to this flu/cold season and treated just as the normal course of events. There’s nothing we can supposedly do about it, so we accept it.

In January 2018, I had a co-worker ring me to come to her office to assist her with a work-related matter. I arrived at her door to find her teary-eyed, red-nosed, and coughing. Stunned at her obvious illness, I asked why she wasn’t at home recovering, and she explained she had too much work to do. I sarcastically thanked her for coming in to infect the rest of us.

Shortly afterward, I got sick, and I got sick badly. I couldn’t get out of bed for two days, and it took two weeks for me to recover enough to feel relatively normal again. I’ve had the flu before, but it had been decades since I was that sick. There is no doubt she infected me.

Today, armed with all that I know about airborne transmission, I would go to the executive of my company and demand they institute a corporate-wide policy whereby anybody who is sick must be required to stay at home until they are officially declared fit to return to work. This is my personal experience but just now, I Googled lost productivity and discovered analysis detailing losses of billions of dollars each year because of worker illness. My co-worker saw herself as being a self-sacrificing trooper by coming into work while she was sick, but what damage did she do to the company overall by other people being infected with her illness? Here in North America, we have collectively looked at this issue as if there’s nothing we can do about it. However, I point out safety belts and smoking. We managed to change behaviour on a societal level for our collective benefit.

Sidebar: Statistics
Lies, damned lies, and statistics. It’s a funny line, but at what point do we have to pay attention to science?

At the beginning of the pandemic, in March and April 2020, many so-called pundits, notably on the Right, compared the coronavirus to the flu, saying that the number of dead was no big deal. Unfortunately, and stupidly, these idiots failed to annualise the numbers to see the true scale of the problem. Five thousand people died this week. Who cares? Thirty thousand people die each year from the flu! (Numbers for the U.S.)

Now take five thousand per week and multiply it by fifty-two weeks in a year. That’s equal to 260,000! Whoa! Is that statistically significant for ya?

According to the CDC, the coronavirus, Covid-19, is now the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Influenza or the flu is ninth on the list.

There is a significant segment of the population, fueled by propaganda from the Right, who is anti-authority, anti-education, anti-expertise, and anti-science. They distrust the government, the authorities, and the media. I see in the latest that some people are still refusing the vaccine but are buying ivermectin. It’s like we’re watching mass insanity.

Final Word
We may be adults, but we act like misbehaving children: We hate authority, and we hate being told what to do. While this is probably part of our personality, the Right, for a long time, has fostered a mistrust in anything mainstream: the news, expertise, education, and science. If Dr. Fauci told you your hair was on fire, you’d dismiss him a liberal liar. We truly are our own worst enemy.

The province of Ontario, Canada, has enacted a policy of mandating both masks and vaccines. The individual is free to choose not to wear a mask and not to be vaccinated, but that individual is barred from public spaces and businesses. Government overreach? Authoritarianism? I remind you that you can still smoke, but you’re no longer allowed to do so in public spaces or businesses. Is that wrong? I have a right to be healthy, to be Covid-free, and my right to be healthy trumps somebody else’s right to ignore the science. Don’t wear a mask; don’t get vaccinated; heck, smoke if you want to, but you can’t do it around me.

You have the right to jeopardize your life, but you have the responsibility to not jeopardize mine.

Collectively, we were unprepared for this pandemic. Even today, there is a significant segment of the population who doesn’t understand the science and even worse, has taken on an attitude of distrust about the science. We joke about the zombie apocalypse, but I can easily see the danger of blind complacency: I don’t think there’s anything I, personally, can do, therefore I give up and carry on as if nothing is wrong.

Dinosaurs became extinct because of a meteor. Humanity will become extinct because of stupidity.


my blog: What the heck is a respiratory droplet? - Nov 7, 2021
You step outside on a cold, winter day, and you exhale. You see your breath. The cold has condensed the bits of moisture in the exhaled air and formed a mist. When you exhale, you’re not only breathing out air but dampness from your lungs, your mouth, and your windpipe . Those bits of moisture are called respiratory droplets.

Seat Belt Safety by InsuranceHotLine, May 11, 2011
Ontario was the first Canadian province to introduce seat belt laws back in 1976. At the time, only about 17% of Ontarians regularly wore a seat belt. Now the number is 96%, and it's estimated that over 8,000 lives have been saved thanks to seat belt regulations.

The Canadian Encyclopedia: Smoking
Ontario enacted smoking laws in 2005 to ban smoking in all workplaces.

Wikipedia: Respiratory droplet
A respiratory droplet is a small aqueous droplet produced by exhalation, consisting of saliva or mucus and other matter derived from respiratory tract surfaces. Respiratory droplets are produced naturally as a result of breathing, speaking, sneezing, coughing, or vomiting, so they are always present in our breath, but speaking and coughing increases their number.
German bacteriologist Carl Fl├╝gge in 1899 was the first to show that microorganisms in droplets expelled from the respiratory tract are a means of disease transmission.

How micro droplets Coronavirus (COVID-19) can travel in air and infect people. (5:34)
YouTube: Dr. Dhruv Kumar, Apr 1, 2020

Wikipedia: Lies, damned lies, and statistics
"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent's point.

The phrase was popularized in the United States by Mark Twain (among others), who vaguely attributed it to the British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. However, the phrase is not found in any of Disraeli's works and the earliest known appearances were years after his death. Several other people have been listed as originators of the quote, and it is often attributed to Twain himself.


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