To wear a mask, or not to wear a mask? That is the question! As the world grapples with the second (and sometimes third) wave of Covid-19, countries are debating if, where, and in what situations they should make mask-wearing mandatory. Authorities insist that masks are vital for preventing infection. This is true, but not for the reasons we naturally think about. Masks do not protect us from other people’s germs; they protect other people from our germs. For this reason, only if we all comply with mask-wearing regulations we will be cured of the virus. And in the process, we will be cured of the lack of mutual responsibility in our society.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.” Note the explanation that the CDC provides: “Masks are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the mask coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice.” In other words, the CDC is telling us that masks aren’t meant to protect us from others, but to protect others from us. Put simply, if we all behave as if we are infected, we will obliterate the pandemic in a matter of weeks.
Interestingly, it turns out that wearing a mask is an act of kindness even if we only want to help ourselves.
Nature, in its subtle ways, teaches us that giving is good for the giver. It opens our minds to the fact that we are dependent on each other. It shows us that only if we think of one another, we ourselves will be safe, as well. Because we are reluctant to become giving or caring and focus on helping ourselves, authorities encourage us to wear masks for our protection. They are correct; masks do protect us, but only if other people wear them. When we wear them, we protect others!
The more attentive we become to nature’s hints, the more quickly we will learn how to conduct ourselves in the new reality it has imposed on us. In this reality, we are dependent on each other and support each other. We cannot live, even physically, without each other, and we must therefore build our social systems to cater to the needs of all the people. In the new reality, there will be no exploitation, alienation, or oppression because they will cripple the aggressor. Every harm that people do to others will come back to haunt them like a boomerang.
It is still unclear that this is where nature is taking us, but its subtle clues are telling us where we are going. Nature treats us kindly; it leaves us with a choice: to learn quickly, cure our world, and usher humanity into a new era, or remain obstinate and learn the hard and painful way that we have to protect others in order to protect ourselves.