The mask becomes your face

In the past twenty-four hours, I have seen a headline telling me that the infamous “experts” have decreed that masks, if worn universally and continuously by everyone, would save 100,000 lives — which means the experts have borrowed the climate science models and just changed a few keywords in the program. This is a headline because Donald Trump does not wear a mask.

Another headline appearing the same day in the New York Times informs me that “scientists” have now decided that schoolchildren are unlikely to become the source of a new surge in coronavirus infections — after months of attacking any district or state that dared to send its children back to school. This is a headline now, obviously, because the public school teachers unions, one of the largest and most powerful progressive voting blocs, have decided their members have had enough of this crap and want to go back to their cushy, mindless government jobs as totalitarian babysitters and state indoctrinators.

Within this same timeframe, I have also seen a headline announcing that Dr. Anthony Fauci, a lifelong bureaucratic climber and policy influencer who pretends to be a scientist on television, is now saying it is “time for a mask mandate” — which means he wants to keep his ego-gratifying job, and achieve even more illegitimate power, in the next administration, working for Joe Biden, who has already said he would mandate masks if the experts recommended it.

How to test whether a nation has been completely reduced to a slave state or still retains a faint afterglow of freedom in its atmosphere: In the final ten days of an election campaign, turn the whole election into a simple referendum on whether or not the federal government should have the authority to issue a universal mask mandate. Unfortunately, in the current case, the referendum has already been held many times over, and freedom has lost repeatedly. Donald Trump could not and would not articulate a principled case against the state having the power to mandate masks, since in fact he believes the state should have such powers of social manipulation, his only disagreement being over where it should apply those powers.

All over South Korea, where I live, bus stops and telephone poles are decorated with posters featuring a closeup of a young woman’s face staring blankly, perhaps slightly threateningly, into the camera, while wearing a mask. The caption tells us that wearing a mask is our responsibility and our duty. In all my years living in this often Brave-New-Worldly country, this is the most overtly totalitarian government messaging I can remember, on any subject. South Korea, which was the first epicenter of the pandemic outside of China, has suffered fewer than five hundred deaths from COVID-19 this year, far fewer than a normal year’s flu deaths, and also, sadly, far fewer than this year’s excess suicide deaths. But the very progressive government of Moon Jae-in, which was surprisingly restrained in its approach to the outbreak during the early months, has become increasingly dictatorial and adversarial towards the public, even while such a response becomes exponentially disproportionate to the actual seriousness of the pandemic here.

As a teacher who, for whatever reasons, has always had a certain ability to attract students of a melancholic, troubled, or isolated sort, it has become a kind of mantra of mine, in conversation with such young people, and with classes in general when psychological topics come up, to encourage them to take off their masks, of every kind — that is to say, to face the world of their fears directly, rather than hide and thereby encourage those fears and doubts to fester and mutate, as young people in our over-analyzed and state-indoctrinated age are wont to do. Now, throughout the world — excepting the world’s last, surprisingly steadfast defender of some remnant of freedom, Sweden — the powermongers and bureaucratic controllers have forced everyone into a literal mask. They are now directly mandating meekness and anxiety, dependence and submission, suspicion and distrust toward one’s neighbors — everything that the truest education is designed to help young people overcome. The metaphors here are ripe with the scent of death and defeat. The teacher versus the state. The soul versus brute force. The state and brute force are winning, of course, and causing terrible hardship for the psyche in the process. The teacher’s consolation, however, is the knowledge that in the long run, tyranny’s victory will be transitory, as always. Human power lust and ambition have proved, again and again, to be no match for Nature and Being.

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