Visitors to New York tell me how surprised they are to see so few masked up people on the streets. But a sizable portion of the NYC population isn’t letting go of the disgusting, soggy, disease vectors strapped to their faces — and they never will.
This set aren’t true-believers in the still-unproven effectiveness of masks; for them, it’s both an identity and psychological disorder. On the streets of any city, the forever-masked are broadcasting their allegiance to authoritarianism, letting you know they’re most comfortable somewhere on a hierarchy of coercion, whether among the hopelessly obedient, or tyrants themselves.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You now have a visual cue letting you know exactly who you’re dealing with and who to avoid. By now, if a masked person approaches you with a grievance, you pretty much know there’s nothing worth engaging with and you have permission to treat them accordingly.
But not all of our neighbors have free will when it comes to masks. There’s something eerie going on now, where liberal leadership still requires low-wage workers and people in service to continue to mask up. If you can sit for a meal at a restaurant and fully enjoy yourself while those serving you, and no one else, are still forced to shroud half their faces, there’s something wrong with you. The help have no faces, which, you get the impression, is exactly how the people who make the rules prefer it.
Masks dehumanize. They sever and isolate us from one another. They are little more than theater at this point, a charade indoctrinating the masses to be ever untrusting, vigilant and inward. Now we are at a point where masks segregate.
As someone who usually prefers to chat with the caterer over the person throwing the party, or enjoys cutting it up with the bartender or shop girl, there’s now a barrier, and it’s not the piece of cloth one of us is forced to wear. It’s psychological. The effect is heightened the more hoity-toity the establishment. For a visitor from another planet, the message would be clear: there are two groups of people present, clean and unclean. The free are seated. The shackled don’t deserve to be seen, merely here to serve, anonymous, replaceable and insignificant.
For months conservatives have reviled footage of wealthy Democrats attending fundraising dinners unmasked, taking it as a sign of the ruling party’s own hypocrisy. While this is true, those attendees were simply in compliance with the rules their party established. Those images — of wealthy white liberals sipping chardonnay while the mostly brown staff leaned over them, shrouded and anonymous — weren’t something to laugh at. They were horrifying. You’d think the racial justice set would be the most outraged, but they weren’t.
It sums up Democratic elites to a tee. But now we are forced to be them, whether we want to be or not, whenever we go out for a pint at the local boozer.
After more than a year of this strange dystopia we understand the eyes aren’t entirely the windows to the soul. Human connection, no matter how fleeting, requires cues from the mouth and the rest of it. We like faces, and we need to see them, in all circumstances.
‘A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities,’ the author Herman Melville wrote.
‘Laughter is day, and sobriety is night; a smile is the twilight that hovers gently between both, more bewitching than either,’ said the nineteenth-century clergyman and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher.
The age of the mask has afforded plenty of those passing, bewitching moments. While New Yorkers steadily shed their face-diapers in most settings, they remain in near full compliance on the subway, only to drop it at whatever packed setting they’re en route to. Like nearly all COVID-era dictums, it makes no sense but the government is happy to continue gaslighting us so long as people will keep playing along. There are no consequences for not wearing a mask on a train. You don’t have to do it, despite what everyone may think. When you catch the eye of another full-faced passenger, and there’s always at least one, you’re bound to flash a quick smile, in the way bikers tend to give a tip of the finger whenever they encounter one another on the highway.
Sometimes, that can mean the world to someone. You never know what good a smile might do. There’s something deeply twisted about hiding your face from someone, particularly when you don’t have a choice.
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