ONE FOR THE ROAD
Yesterday, I went to a fast-food joint on the highway. The drive thru looked like it was backed up to mid 2022 so I went inside the restaurant and walked up to the counter––which I noticed when driving past was empty. Thought I found the perfect hack! The cashier took my order, asked if I want fries with that, confirmed if regular or large for the drink, then walked away for a while, only to tell me, “Sorry, no face shield no service.”
Now bear in mind I had been in there in conversation for at least five minutes or so and had already given the order and was about to pay, so whatever magic the face shield provides was already gone, and handing over the food wouldn’t have changed anything. But annoyed as I was, she was right. I did forget my face shield. So she was just doing her job. No hate, ate.
But as I turned around, I noticed, as you will too when you go to any restaurant, that none of the other diners were wearing face shields or masks. But they were sitting down, and we all know that the virus cannot affect you when you are seated. Or at least that’s what the rules would suggest. So I did point this out to her and the manager but they simply replied with the tried and proven: “we are just following guidelines”
Fair enough. I’m sure they both also saw the blatant double standard and the old “Pasensiya na po. Yan po and policy po.” Seemed like the safest way to acknowledge it. But it does raise the question, how far do we want to continue taking this political or hygine theater of face shields, contact tracing counters and granular lowdowns that have done nothing to curb the spread or bring the numbers down?
Because while this may seem quite trivial to many who are reading this right now, and their solution would be as simple as “Just wear a face shield and/or scan or fill out the forms and be done with it,” I’d like to argue that it is precisely that approach has caused us far more harm than good. Bear with me. I have a post buried in here somewhere.
You see, the humble face shield, along with its annoying cousin the contact tracing QR code (among countless other quirky rules) has been the source of so much tension, anger, incompetence, corruption, pollution and extortion at establishments, and of more concern, is distracting us from implementing or enforcing the things that actually matter––like, say, a faster rollout of vaccines to help prevent the disease and Remdesivir and other proven drugs to treat it.
Now I can already read the comments section in my head as I type this: “Any protection is better than none” “Konting tiis lang! We’re not ready to drop our guard!” – or the overly used “Pinoys don’t know how to follow rules and wear masks properly. Thats why we need face shield!”
This would be ok if there was an international study that proved it had any significant benefit in preventing the spread, or if other counties also had nationwide mandates for its citizens. But despite being asked by the Senate president himself, the DOH have yet to provide either. Also, even assuming there is that random 5 percent boost in protection when worn properly at all times, the logic suggests that we are so bad at following rules that the only way to keep us disciplined is to give us more rules to follow. And the problem with that, especially in a pandemic where you want guidelines to be as simple and as clear than ever so it is easy to follow, “the more the many-er” approach only burdens people unnecessarily and creates a dangerous distraction from what is really effective and erodes confidence and compliance from an already weary public.
We are also yet to see the long term effects of creating a society that is becoming more and more dependent on government telling them what to do every micro step of the way, which only stifles individual growth and potential. And that is a slippery slope right there.
The risk to reward ratio is so deeply personal to each and every one of us because it is at the very center of who we are as individuals and where we will end up. Having personal sovereignty over decisions like what treatment or vaccine we choose or don’t, or being able to go to work and support your family despite the threat of getting sick, and whether or not we wear a face shield in a mall or dare to exercise after 9 a.m., is a choice that only we as individuals can make as we are the only ones who will have to live with the consequences of it –– regardless of what anyone tells you.
So while we all understand the need for public health guidelines, we must also be fiercely protective over how much of that ‘risk’ we outsource to a government, because it not only robs us of our individuality, it demoralizes society –– and if done long enough, creates a welfare mentality where personal responsibility and accountability get abandoned in exchange for a false sense of security and inevitable mediocrity.
There are those who will argue for the greater good, of course, and while that is also important and I totally agree that proper guidelines need to be put in place to protect the community at large, we need to also accept that while “the greater good” sounds wise in its wording, it is still an arbitrary concept that also comes with its own limitations and interpretations over who has authority over what is good and bad for who. And therein lies the rub. Who gets to decide? Because we all know that a lot of nonsense and oppressive tools will be sneaked in under that blanket, and some of those will never be taken back, even after the pandemic is gone.
End of the day, we as humans have some undeniable truths to live by, whether we agree with them or not. And one of those truths is: evolve or die. Remember the movie the Croods? We all have our own risk appetite and having sovereignty over that has been the single greatest factor in determining our personal destiny and is what has produced the greatest achievements of mankind. It is what defines us and what drives us.
Imagine if our ancestors lived and died by the adage of not playing with fire. We would still be in darkness. Yes I’m sure many got burned over the centuries, but far more became the best they could be because they were able to see the light and cook their food.
The argument that is always pushed is that these are extraordinary times and that anything and everything must be done to protect everyone because you cannot put a value on life. That is not true. You cannot put a price on life. That is true. But the value of life is in living it. We must not forget that.