It does not take a Robert Langdon from DaVicinci Code to realize that the mask is a powerful symbol. A person wearing a mask is a startling sight that affects us on a visceral level. It instantly triggers our deeply-rooted fear of illness and death. It unconsciously raises our brain’s stress and anxiety levels while alerting us of impending danger. Each masked face is a reminder that things are not normal, that we should be afraid, and that we are still looking for outside forces to save us.
On a human level, the mask dehumanizes the people around us. How can we relate and associate with other people if we cannot tell if they’re smiling or not? How can we connect with other people if we can only communicate using muffled words through a piece of cloth? We can’t. Quite to the contrary, the mask says: Stay away from me, I don’t trust you.
A few weeks ago face masks were said to be useless and even dangerous against COVID-19. Now, people are urged to wear them and some cities are making them mandatory. Was this complete 180 made for health reasons? Or to create a specific social climate?