Masked Up

There is little doubt that masks do far more harm than good. Cloth masks are permeable to 97% of viral particles. A study by the University of East Anglia concluded that wearing masks was of no benefit and could increase infection. Experts in respiratory disease and infection protection from the University of Illinois have explained that face masks have no use in everyday life – neither as self-protection nor to protect other people. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that neither fabric masks nor surgical masks can prevent the spread of covid-19 by coughing. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine, published in May 2020 concluded that masks offer little or no protection and that the call for masks to be compulsory was an irrational fear reflex. A German study showed that masks had no effect on infection rates.
Dr Fauci, the American covid-19 supremo, expressed real doubts about masks. On May 28th 2020, he admitted masks are little more than symbolic. Virtue signalling.
A meta study on influenza, published in May 2020 by the CDC in America, found that face masks were of no help. The available evidence shows clearly that masks do not work but do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems – including short-term problems such as breathlessness and long-term problems such as brain damage and death. And yet, despite all this, there have been suggestions from various authorities that mask wearing and social distancing will need to be permanent. It has also been suggested that masks should be worn in the home. The sceptical will find it impossible to avoid the conclusion that there is far more to masks (and compulsory mask wearing) than meets the eye. Dr Vernon Coleman
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A smile missed and a frown lost… only now can Marcus indulge in the luxury of retrospection. 

With newfound clarity, he realises that recent events were gradually eroding the warmth from human expressions. A clinical blue mask had morphed into a precious token symbol, edging humanity ever closer into a realm of paranoia.  

Marcus leans back on the cool marble of the kitchen countertop with his arms crossed and takes a moment to recall the vanishing stream of familiar faces along the main street of his neighbourhood. A once bustling route with an easy familiarity suddenly transformed into something almost unrecognisable.

As the fervour of mask wearing took hold, he found himself longing for the days when someone’s lips could be read, their expressions could be followed, and fellow citizens weren’t seen as the embodiments of a global disease. A series of tectonic shifts played out before him at such a pace that he couldn’t successfully navigate the moving ground beneath his feet. 

He knew quite early on that something was deeply wrong, and even now an uneasy physiological response to the ordeal accompanies him everywhere like a dull stabbing pain in his temples. At the time, he was oblivious to the fact that something sinister had been set in motion. Now, there exists a clear line distinguishing life before and life after.

In the initial stages, he made an effort to maintain a positive outlook. Each hopeful morning as he cycled past a cluster of oak trees in his local park, he would sense them reaching out to him, towering over him like ancient protectors. Then, as if in acknowledgement of their efforts, he would breathe in the air around them deeply, thanking them for their familiarity in an increasingly strange world. It was his way of trying to shake free from the web of thoughts that constantly tangled his mind.

But flashes of his nightmares would haunt him during the day. He would see countless sleep-smudged faces looking back at their reflections in a warped mirror, standing in a trance-like stupor as they contemplated which mask would match their attire for the day. 

Gazing at the roof of his dilapidated garden shed, the cynical statement that ‘you must never let a good crisis go to waste’ materialises as an unpleasant echo in his mind, forcing him to purse his lips in disgust.

He was all too aware of the tidal waves of commercial opportunism that had flooded the scene. PPE companies sprang up in suspicious quarters managed by even more suspicious individuals. Government contracts were doled out to friends and donors via a convenient VIP fast-track route without the proper scrutiny that a conventional and competitive bid system would have offered. Undoubtedly, the fast-moving situation led to the unquestionable elimination of numerous essential checks and balances. 

He lets out a sigh, a momentary release of tension, and gently closes his eyes, shielding them from the intense mid-afternoon sun. The warmth of sunlight filters through his closed eyelids, creating a soft, reddish glow behind the thin veil of skin. In that moment, he embraces a brief respite, finding solace in the muted dance of sunlight and shadow on the canvas of his closed vision. Yet, this fleeting moment is quickly eclipsed by the resurgence of challenging memories — the echoes of feeling like a captive within the confines of his own home.

It was such an appalling time in so many respects. The scraps of freedom offered by the government, to which he clung desperately, now reveal themselves to be nothing short of a grievous affront. Embarrassment washes over him as he reflects on the gratitude he felt while heading to the local supermarket for his weekly, graciously permitted food shopping. But far from being an outing of liberation and respite, he encountered the dozens of glassy eyes from his nightmares, frozen in fear and devoid of vim and vigour.

He shakes his head in a mixture of disbelief and disappointment as he recalls the pathetic swirl of excitement he felt in the pit of his stomach as he cautiously glanced toward the naked face of a fellow shopper. Reaching for his favourite bottle of red wine, he gave a subtle nod of recognition as if they were both members of the same secret society. 

Amongst the more militant shoppers, Marcus saw a swift judgement settle in their irises, whilst a supercilious sense of moral authority pervaded the air around them. Their eyes were the eyes of trauma, reminiscent of creatures lurking in the darkness of a thick forest. They were the ones who troubled him the most — and still do. They were the ones who became deeply invested and embedded in the ruse. They were the ones who sought to deny him the opportunity to exchange intimate information with the world. They were the ones who took it upon themselves to police their neighbours, harass non-mask wearers and criss-cross the streets in a bizarre dance of avoidance. 

There was no choice but to try and communicate with an array of mask designs, from floral patterns to smiley faces, each one trying to convince onlookers of the humanity residing beneath. But the grotesque suction cup motion of mask over mouth proved to be quite unbearable. It was a reliable physical barrier to ward off deep and meaningful conversation and a guaranteed way of removing the pleasantries of everyday social interactions.  

He admits to himself that for a short period he succumbed to the psychological struggle and was exhausted by the constant effort to fortify himself against the unyielding onslaught of propaganda techniques.

As several days merged into one rolling nightmare, he began to entertain the idea that the virus was something else entirely. Risk aversion grew to comical levels as common sense was superseded by a seemingly contortionist and dexterous virus. 

Desperate for truth and sanity, his eyes stung bitterly as night after night he spent several hours carefully sifting through masses of information online. Time and again he would rock back in his swivel chair, overwhelmed by sheer disbelief as he unearthed insights and revelations that completely dismantled the narrative he had been fed. He discovered that the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the US originally said in no uncertain terms that masks were “useless, but if it makes you feel better, you can wear them” coupled with “there's no reason to be walking around with a mask” before changing his mind to align with the unfolding agenda.

One night in particular was a transformational experience, forever altering his perception of the world. Yet, the process of sharing this newfound understanding to others would prove to be a gradual mission, for many were simply not ready. He wasn’t yet brave enough to say to the man at the bus stop with fogged up glasses that he could make him see clearly again. Nor could he muster the audacity to advise a woman sporting a grubby mask beneath her nose, that discarding it would serve her better. But the image of a solitary soul, stalking the streets adorned in a gas mask would forever spur him on. The sight was so surreal that it compelled him to freeze in place and stare at the military-grade contraption as involuntary bubbles of dumbfounded laughter escaped his lips at the sheer madness of it all. 

How could there not be a substantial human cost to all that had happened? The unassuming mask — an iconic symbol of the ordeal —will undoubtedly contribute to unprecedented levels of anxiety and isolation. It will surely contribute to the hindrance of mental development in young children who struggled to perceive, learn, and interpret facial expressions. The once boisterous child is now likely to shrivel up and retreat into a detached world of muffled voices. Will newborn babies be deeply scarred from being greeted into the world by a gaggle of masked faces rather than loving, reassuring and comforting smiles? And what about those who rely on lip reading to navigate their environment? The hearing impaired clearly struggled to communicate in an already challenging world. 

In a once improbable version of reality, democracy itself was suspended and replaced with dictates and dogma. Monumental infringements of civil liberties were ignored or overlooked. Looking back, Marcus found the ease with which this had been done quite extraordinary. The well-rehearsed politicians, the flimsy and illogical scientific models, the unquestioning and incurious mass media, the clueless and opportunist celebrities, the useless but money-making tests, and the complete suppression or marginalisation of dissenting voices were all frantically waving blood-red flags. 

As though conjured up from a George Orwell novel, a neat procession of dark, sombre suits greeted the population almost daily. News briefings all over the world were craftily repetitive and purposefully navigated towards the inner recesses of people’s consciousness.

The sinister, franchised mantras quickly became ingrained in muscle memory. The ceaseless body count of the dead and the blatant displays of coercion sanctioned by the government ‘nudge-unit’ merged together as a repugnant, murky and spine-chilling fusion of nefariousness. It was easy for people to lose their bearings in the nightmare now set to be congealed in the arteries of life here on in.  

Marcus suggested to a close friend that the world was in some sort of psychological warfare. He was scoffed at, of course, but confident in his knowledge, he pointed out the mass use of neuro-linguistic programming as a strategy to modify behaviour and make people unquestionably compliant.  

Given this understanding, it was not surprising how quickly the world was shepherded into lockstep, how citizens were locked down, how freedoms were locked up, and how mindsets were locked in. People living in city and suburban landscapes and even in the most remote regions on planet Earth, all surrendered to the unprecedented pressure. Suddenly, the world was drained of life and laughter.

Marcus can now say from personal experience that the force of acquiescence is frightfully tenacious. That an unquestioning public will give rise to an increasingly bold authoritarian government with the freedom to issue legal sanctions and fines with impunity for actions by sovereign individuals.  

One thing is certain, fear breeds irrationality. A tremendously flawed but firm, ritualistic narrative is much more palatable and worthy of emotional investment than a questioning narrative prone to induce feelings of anxiety. Regrettably, for many, the truth still resides in the realm of irrelevancy and expendability. 

In an effort to alleviate the weight on his shoulders, he rolls his broad shoulders back and forth, feeling the tension dissipate with each measured movement. Raising his hands above his head, he intertwines his fingers, embarking on a slow and deliberate stretch, extending his body to its utmost limit. Long ago, he forgave the great swathes of his follow citizens who were hateful, mocking, and contemptuous towards him and those who held views similar to his own. 

Marcus now finds himself looking forward with a mixture of hope and expectation. He anticipates a revolution, a collective motivation propelling individuals to unravel truths for themselves. As he lowers his arms, a silent appeal reverberates in the silence around him — a call to the world, urging it to subject every assumption to scrutiny. It is a heartfelt appeal to embark on a profound exploration and to question the very essence of the reality that envelops us.

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