Another ‘dog day’, so named because these hot and sultry days of summer (in the northern hemisphere at least) are associated with the Dog Star Sirius rising with the sun.
And ‘Freedom Day’ to boot. ‘Freedom’ to all those key workers, NHS staff and care helpers who cannot avoid the risk of prolonged exposure, to all those who are struggling with the health burden of long covid, to all those who are clinically vulnerable, and to all non-double-jabbed workers who have to spend their day in unventilated buildings on these dog days. And of course for those having to isolate who can not escape to a 16th-century grace and favour manor house in the Buckinghamshire countryside complete with a swimming pool and 1,500 acres of extensive grounds1Cope, R. (2020). Everything we know about Chequers, Boris and Carrie’s luxurious stately retreat. [online] Tatler. Available at: https://www.tatler.com/article/chequers-prime-ministers-buckinghamshire-country-home [Accessed 19 Jul. 2021]..
My heart goes out to you all. Happy Freedom Day.
Amongst all this Government inspired propaganda encouraged by a compliant media, will I be throwing away my mask? I’d no sooner stop wearing a mask in enclosed spaces than furiously ride my bike through a crowded pedestrianised area.
Why would it be wrong to furiously ride my bike through a crowded pedestrianised area? It will be against the law of course, but even if it wasn’t, it would be morally wrong. Regardless of the law, we all have a moral obligation not to risk imposing unnecessary harm on others. When I ride my bike, I don’t intend to harm any pedestrians, and I will take necessary precautions to avoid a tragic accident.
By refusing to wear a face mask, a coronavirus carrier, whether asymptomatic or as yet undiagnosed, is displaying a callous disregard for others by spreading the virus and continuing the pandemic with mutant variants.
And I have no idea if I am asymptomatic or as yet undiagnosed.
It could be argued that the elimination of all risk is impractical, for by merely riding my bike I might hit someone. This is clearly ridiculous, but should we then be under a moral obligation to avoid actions with a ‘high’ risk of harm to others, while not being so obliged when the risk is ‘low’. Riding furiously through a crowd imposes a very high risk of serious harm. By contrast, the chance that I am an asymptomatic carrier, that I could transmit the virus and that that transmission will cause serious harm is extremely low.
While it may be true that we can not reduce all risk, the precaution of wearing a face mask is relatively low-cost mitigation. It might be annoying, but nothing compared to dying of covid and any long-term symptoms.
Then there is the cumulative effect of the risks. Even if the risks that you might impose are low, if enough people impose such a low risk, the cumulative effect could be a lot of harm. It’s not always clear cut that “low risk” is acceptable.
In my cycling analogy, one careful rider cycling through a crowded pedestrian precinct might be considered low-risk but with twenty cyclists, the potential for an accident is dramatically increased.
I suppose the ‘public’ space needs to be considered too. Anyone who goes into a pub, cinema or football match, makes a conscious decision to expose him/herself to the risks of air-borne viruses and microbes. He/she consents to that risk and either goes in or turns away. On public transport, at work, or when essential food shopping, there is often very little choice, so the resulting harm could be said to be non-consensual. Like being forced to play Russian Roulette.
Again, drawing on my cycling analogy. Generally, every cyclist (and every road user) has agreed to a system called the Highway Code. OK, I accept some do flout it, but it allows for everyone to ride bikes, even if it imposes a risk of accidents, because we all stand to gain from that system. The issue isn’t the size of the risk, but what we agree to.
Maybe today’s post has become more rambling than usual, but I have tried to put down my thoughts as to why I will continue to wear a mask – to minimise harm to others and help stem this pandemic.
In the meantime could I express my thanks go to everyone who is continuing wearing a mask to protect me and to keep this virus under control.
- 1Cope, R. (2020). Everything we know about Chequers, Boris and Carrie’s luxurious stately retreat. [online] Tatler. Available at: https://www.tatler.com/article/chequers-prime-ministers-buckinghamshire-country-home [Accessed 19 Jul. 2021].
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