Is the face mask yet another manifestation of “the system”? The claim may sound preposterous to infectious diseases experts and most citizens. However, for a large section of society it’s a “truth” worth fighting for, even if it means arguing with friends and neighbors.
It is happening across the globe. In the United States, the mask has become the subject of division between the political supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump. Not wearing a mask has become a symbol of revolt against “the system,” a symbol of freedom from its bonds.
This is not only happening in Missouri or Alabama. It’s also happening closer to home, in the neighborhood cafés and in the village squares. Skepticism is rife about whether the coronavirus actually exists, whether we should don a protective face covering, and whether we should be vaccinated against Covid-19 once a jab does become available.
It’s easy to laugh at the phenomenon. It is also dangerous, because it shows that we fail to realize what is really going on around us. The impact of the coronavirus skeptics is growing with time. The situation is slightly reminiscent of the early stages of Greece’s anti-austerity, anti-systemic wave that peaked in the rallies of “the indignants” in public squares.
It is an explosive mix. No sooner did many of our fellow citizens feel they had finally dug themselves out of their financial despair, than they felt more problems raining down on their heads again. There is something asymmetrical and inexplicable to Covid-19 that is causing stress, insecurity and anger. Meanwhile, social media are fueling anger and altercation. If you add the tensions between Greece and Turkey to this inflammable mix, then you get the perfect recipe for an explosion of indignation and dissent.
SYRIZA is now part of the “system.” The leftist opposition could not adopt the anti-mask campaign. So this time it will be up to others to ride the anti-systemic wave. Greek society is worn down and deeply divided as a result of what happened over the last few years.
Greece went back to a trajectory of reason and responsible management as the rest of the world spectacularly went off track. The country will need a great deal of restraint and solid leadership to survive this latest challenge.