(M)asking questions

As temperatures rise (air temperatures) and the summer holiday season (cancelled) draws inexorably to a back-to-school close, we are prevented from enjoying the benefits of fresh air, sunshine and salt water on our skins (three of the healthiest aspects of life). Beaches are bare, barren, only the grains of sand simulating life as the fierce southeaster sweeps mercilessly across the South Peninsula. We may not go to the beach.

Teenagers trawl the tar on Christmas’s skateboards, a poor substitute for a surfboard on a perfect beach day in Kommetjie. Dogs and people cluster under shady trees or indoors in the cooling breeze of a fan or perhaps an air-conditioner. Plants wilt as heat radiates from the surrounding soil – we may not water between 9am and 6pm.

Birds shelter in the shade of the branches, flitting out briefly to sip at the sugar water before swooping down again. The terns and cormorants are the envy of the bird world as they roost on rocks at the water’s edge, a constant cooling breeze drifting from the icy sea. Their wings have not been clipped by Covid.

The thing that sets humans apart from animals, aside from the opposable thumb, is free will. Have we given this up so willingly, to perhaps find that we have been manipulated, lied to and controlled through the propagation of fear? And fear of the only thing that is certain in life? Will we come to the end of our life and find we have not lived it?

I am not advocating insurrection, merely some common sense. Unfortunately this is not something the human race has been blessed with in abundance and so we still find the few controlling the many without any concrete reasoning. It is a huge frustration to many of us who still feel that we should comply out of respect for others, yet still have and be entitled to our own opinions on everything. The long lockdown has brought out both the best and the worst in people. Self-appointed law enforcers glare out from behind their masks at those who refuse to wear them, or have them hanging round their chin. Why should some be exempt from this unnatural yet apparently necessary preventative measure? Did we ever try and impose the law on others before we were told mask-wearing saved lives? Did we snatch car keys from drunks to prevent them from driving? It makes us feel petty and nit-picking to be constantly scanning the crowd to see who isn’t complying. At least it does me.

The interesting thing about the reason for the masks is that we have never before been instructed to keep ourselves safe from viral loads ejected from the mouth, especially when laughing and shouting and generally having a jolly good time. I find it mildly horrifying to think what we have been exposed to all our lives through our negligence in protecting ourselves from diseases through this simple act. Think of all the times we have leaned in to hear better and placed an ear next to an open mouth, or wiped spittle from a cheek after an outburst of indignation! The pharmaceutical companies must be scratching their heads as to how to get rid of all the cold and flu over-the-counter self-medication that has been rendered unnecessary by mask-wearing. If only we had known how to prevent these common illnesses. Absenteeism from work would no doubt be minimal if anyone were actually allowed back in the office. Medical schemes have built up huge reserves as few members have claimed for minor ailments. Perhaps we could all have a sabbatical from fees?

In the beginning, we were told that it takes at least 4 years to develop a vaccine, yet here we are with 9 currently pronounced good to go. Is it any wonder that many are sceptical about having a vaccination for a virus with a predicted 97% recovery rate (Aug 2020)? Let’s hope the choice is ours.

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