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Home » About the mask, lives that matter and the plague

About the mask, lives that matter and the plague

“Der Spiegel” shows a picture of a tinfoil hat-wearing man with a t-shirt which has theses words on it:

“Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Benjamin Franklin

I wholeheartedly agree with this quote, and I see how it makes sense to wear it during a demonstration against the Covid-19 safety measures. I used this quote often – probably not correctly at times – to make a point, mostly arguing against surveillance.

Edit/ addition 05.09.2020 Hearing the people I write about speak

Today I listened to a radio program on deutschlandfunk kultur “Im Gespräch“. They had two guests: a political scientist (Prof. Dr. Paula Diehl, Politikwissenschaftlerin der der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel) and a liberal politician (Karoline Preisler, FDP-Politikerin). Preisler had already survived a serious Covid-19 infection and had attended the “Anti-Corona-Demonstration” in Berlin to talk to people there.

People who had been to the demonstration were invited to talk about their experience and motivation behind attending.

What I remember is that a lot of people attended because they felt unheard, ignored and patronized during the decision making processes in the corona crisis. In the beginning, it was ok as the decision had to be made fast but as soon as possible transparency and inclusion would have been crucial. We had talked about that before and once again I had the impression that these people want to think, want to question (their own opinion included), want to learn, want to understand and what to contribute. What they need is a full rundown of the processes instead of being told what’s right and wrong. And if the politicians fail to do that they will look for information somewhere else.

While the right-wing demonstrators were looking to demolish democracy what I heard from the people calling was that they want more democracy. They want to be actively included. I am not sure if many of them sympathize with XR, but that’s what they ask for as well: more direct inclusion of the people affected in the decision making processes.

Sure there were points I found hair-raising. Partly there was too little concern about the right-wing highjacking the event with their symbolism for their agenda. Then again the point that this guy made left me thinking I should bring several signs to the next demonstration to make sure that I can make my point clear and also distance myself from potential right-wing demonstrators who might be again animal cruelty too.

Another person asked that the people who have controversial ideas should be taken more serious by the established media. So there’s information on where to place them and how to value their words. The moderator pointed out that they have an interview with the organizer of the demonstration in their Mediatek and there’s also the issue the politician brought up that it’s not cool to have the “mainstream” opinion. 

My impression is that a fair amount of the people who went there actually mainly want information and transparency. They want to develop an opinion, and they want their opinion to be heard and taken seriously. And that to me, is very valid. That’s the same that I want. That’s a basis that I am happy to work with. And on that basis, I think we can find compromises with which most people are happy to live until we come up with something better.

And then there were the hardcore conspiracy people and the nazis. Not sure what to do there.

End of addition

“a little temporary safety”

Let’s look at the quote: it talks about “a little temporary safety”. I agree that this matches the situation. We know so little, and we could be wrong. The plague doctors with their fancy masks were confident and terribly wrong about the transmission of the plaque. In hindsight, we could be too. With wearing a mask, we gain “what we suspect to be some intervention which might help to spread the virus less.” We could replace “little temporary safety” with “hope for a little less virus spreading”.

Also, what are the odds at the moment? Hamburg has (based on today’s RKI numbers) 9 new infections among 100.000 inhabitants on average in the last seven days.

I would argue that wearing a mask and other measures are part of keeping it like that.

I also think that we do not know for sure which part of which measure has the most significant impact and which efforts are useless. Some rules make sense to me, but there are exceptions where they are illogical. Then there are cases where upholding a rule makes the whole rule useless like police officers measuring the table distance in a filled restaurant or when people were not allowed to sit on park benches. We hopefully learn form these incidents.

And the measures threaten existences not only the virus itself. This is really, really hard. I acknowledge that. I am speaking from a privileged position. I acknowledge that too.

It’s all very unclear, evolving and changing and not very well thought through and based on little and terribly inconsistent. 

It’s the best we have at the moment. In some time from now, we will hopefully know what the best path would have been and then we can do that from as soon as we figured it out. Right now it’s basically a trial to find out what works what doesn’t and how it works if it works, and it’s messy.

About the term "Anti-Corona" demonstrations: Look! We are against Corona as well. 
If it would go away when we demonstrate we'd be in the streets in no time!
About the term “Anti-Corona” demonstrations: Look! We are against Corona as well.
If it would go away when we demonstrate we’d be in the streets in no time!

I wear a mask. It’s uncomfortable, and if I have to wear it for longer, I carry several and change them as they start hurting my ears. It is also harder to understand each other both soundwise, and of course, there are no facial impressions which is hard too. But for me, that’s all ok.

However, I can understand if you based on your own reasoning come to a different conclusion, and you want to use your fundamental freedom to express this opinion even demonstrate for it. That’s cool with me. Not what I would do, and I heard some more than questionable reasons. Overall there’s enough unclarity to be upset.

Let’s make things easy again

or outrageously complicated (read conspiracy theory)

I would very much prefer if things were easy and straightforward. Unfortunately, they rarely are. Not even if you break your foot. I mean if you ask enough doctors about your broken foot and how to treat it best even there will be likely some different recommendations. Some doctors will agree with each other others will have excellent reasons for a different way of treatment, and others might be dentists. Some of the dentists will say they have no idea about broken feet and some will claim that they know best, as will some of your colleagues or neighbours or people at your bakery or your friend’s friend’s someone who had the very same thing and knows the only one real pure cure. Some will tell you it was your karma. And some will tell you a true story about one case where this standard treatment which seems to be the best option went terribly wrong. Bäm. I bet you know a very similar story from someone who had cancer. The opinions are countless, the recommendations are many, and there’s not one absolute 100% sure perfect path to guaranteed healing no matter how confident the opinions are presented or renowned the doctors are.

Essential liberty: How much does your life matter in the eyes of others?

This brings me back to the quote at the beginning where he speaks of “giving up essential liberty” to gain – what I defined as “MAYBE a little more temporary safety somehow”. What’s our essential liberty? ESSENTIAL LIBERTY! That’s a big one. To cover or not cover our face because it is likely to spread a virus somehow less that might not affect you or your loved ones but some mother or father or relative or weak person somewhere. Is this an essential liberty to you? To me, this sounds a lot like a courtesy. The little chance to make some person I do not know a tiny little bit safer by doing something that causes me a little discomfort is ok. You might have your own reasons to value your comfort higher. I also wear a helmet when riding a bike, and I drive very cautiously with a seatbelt on, I do not drink when I drive, and I do not even drive when I feel bad for another reason. I only drive when I know I can do the best possible for a human to keep others and myself safe. I have been called uncool and anxious. That’s ok. I am comfortable being me, being cautious, accepting that there are dangers in the world I can’t control, accepting that I am not invincible and doing what I can to everyone stays safe in an unsafe world.

Inevitably this brings me back to the thought that of cause my life matters. In fact, I want my life to matter a whole lot – not only to me and my friends and family but to everyone – to all of humanity. For that, I need all lives to matter just as much as I want mine to matter. I can’t just value some hand-picked lives. If mine matters, all must matter equally to me. Who am I to draw a line? To assign importance? That makes black lives matter so important. That makes the “sick/ disabled/ marginalised/ discriminated/ ignored/ old/ …/ risk group I do not know and will never meet” person’s life matter so much to me. And this is why “refugees welcome” is essential to me too. Their lives matter! Their lives need to matter just as much as mine does. Their lives need to matter to me just as much as mine matters to me.

There are people out there who think my life doesn’t matter just because I wrote these words or because I disagree with them or just because I am a woman, a woman who doesn’t even fully identify as one.

You know what?

My life matters and your lives matter,

and everyone else’s lives too.

And this is where my comfort comes into the equation: my comfort matters little. I understand that your comfort matters to you. I know that some are scared to lose the little they have because there are so many who have way less. (You see the irony there? I still think it’s valid to be worried – let’s talk about that as well) In a world where everyone’s life matters, I imagine there’s enough comfort for all of us too.

So if you want to make your doubts about the corona measures heard please do so. If you have doubts about the plans and ideas that the people are waving flags and wearing icons that show their right wings nazi ideologies, please do so too! Don’t let your execution of the fundamental right to demonstrate and voice your opinion freely be highjacked by people who want to abolish just that. No matter if they agree with you on whether or not to wear a mask. The fundamental freedom at stake here is much more important than the questions about the corona measure, which can be discussed in a different conversation/ demonstration.

Maybe have a “march against the corona policies AND right-wing policies”. Be creative and use your essential liberty wisely and not to help abolish just that.

Edit later that day: Here are some links in case you aren’t sure which icons and flags are associated with which ideology here are some links to Wikipedia:

If you go down that rabbit hole you’ll get a feeling for it pretty quickly and the black, white, red stripes might become more than just nicely decorated jolly people marching along with you.