September 7 will be a crash test for both the Greek state and society at large. The return to school will test not just the education system, but also the government, local authorities, parents, children and, most importantly, the mentality in which perceptions, beliefs, prejudices and shortcomings are fomented.
The obligatory use of the face mask and its free provision through local self-government bodies is only halfway to the measure’s success. The feelings of relief from this decision can give way to grief as easily as it was accepted. If the face mask is left exposed on a desk or hurriedly scrunched up and shoved in a pocket because of the belief that children don’t need to wear it during recess, then it will be rendered useless.
Enforcement can be undermined in many ways by politicians, teachers and parents. The effort made to protect public health does not have to deal only with the individual practical issues that arise. This effort is faced with a wall of irrationality, the ubiquitous “brain-dead” individuals, the purveyors of the “no child with a mask at school” slogan, the conspiracy theorists and those who politicize the use of the mask, considering that its non-use is resistance to the “government of the right.”
As the pandemic consolidates its position and the scientific community struggles to disarm it, an entire world is fed by the misinformation and distortions of any attempt to limit the spread of the virus. How do students discipline themselves when teachers turn a blind eye to them because they themselves follow the measure halfheartedly, or parents at home curse the invisible enemies who fight us or try to implant “chips” in our bodies?
How will the gap between the power of the “should” and the anti-systemic notions of the “should not” be bridged in the mind of young children or teenagers, who are by nature unruly? The question is not theoretical, but absolutely real and on September 7 an answer will be sought. A complex and consensual one at that.
Opposition support is not water to the government’s mill, but cooperation is needed to contain the pandemic. It is perhaps the first time that a simple gesture can transform symbolism into action while at the same transforming action into symbolism. This is the first time the mask will have a revelatory effect.