Maskholes And The Protection Of Rights
NOTE: I originally wrote this on May 13th, 2021. The contents of this post are old-hat now, particularly since the mask mandate in Colorado has been ‘lifted’ to many extents. I post it here as a historical perspective, mostly as a culminating comment a long time coming, on the pandemic and individual rights. The argument here is straightforward, and personally, I find it very obvious, but many other individual-rights-minded people seem to disagree.
In that vein, I no longer really care too much about the specific, timely events that inspired this post, other than to note that if a business says it ‘requires’ masks and such, it should ACTUALLY require masks and such, not just pretend to so as to allow people to make truly informed decisions about their health.
In case you read through this (or not) and believe I am deserving of some vitriolic emotionally-ridden comment, please be aware that any comments I deem too offensive or idiotic WILL be deleted. In that light, it really probably isn’t worth your time (or mine).
Ever since the pandemic hit in February 2020, for me, it’s been an interesting question: can people be required to wear a mask? You’d think from someone like me, given my previous posts touting the doctrine of essentially, “You can’t make me,” the answer would be a unilateral “no.”
If I were to go entirely by the spirit of individual freedom and only by that blind principle, that would be the answer. This is the path many who advocate extreme individual freedom have taken. However, that path is short-sighted and doesn’t take many important basic elements, including context, into account. Elements that are required if the eventual conclusion should be taken seriously. Without them, we run the risk of coming off as an asshat that likes to spout, “muh freeduhms,” like it’s the smoking gun argument to end all arguments.
So What Are These Other Elements?
The first thing we need to lay out is where one individual’s rights end and where another individual’s rights begin. When I speak of rights here, I speak of very few actual fairly broad right(s).
The primary and only right we all have is the right to our own individual lives. That’s the fundamental right from which all other rights we might enjoy originate. The right to life is shorthand, though, and because of that, the meaning of it can get “lost in translation.” I define the right to our own lives as the right “to dispose of the fruits of our efforts as we see fit.” This encapsulates the relationship between the rights of free will (the ability to make independent decisions) and the right to (private) property succinctly.
What Doesn’t This Right Give Us?
The inversion means that it doesn’t give us any right to harm others (cut their lives short) or steal the fruits of their efforts (property). It doesn’t give us any claim whatsoever to dispose of other people’s lives, their free will, and their property as we see fit. It doesn’t give us the right to defraud others, scam them, put them in danger for our own amusement or edification, treat them like property (objects), or in any way molest their well-being.
When I talk about individual freedom and individual rights, it is this fundamental (and singular) right to which I’m referring. Subscribing to the ideals of this notion permits some actions and prohibits others.
If I knew I was HIV-positive and willingly engaged in sexual intercourse with another person without telling them about the danger, most people would find me at fault for endangering someone for my own gain. If I were a cult member and decided to spread Salmonella to my neighboring town by adding it to various places like public salad bars, most reasonable people would find me guilty of endangering others. If I had some highly contagious and life-threatening disease, and I consciously did nothing to keep myself from infecting others until I contract and die from it myself, most people would find me pretty self-centered.
If all of that is true, then it is equally true that not taking measures to stop the needless transmission of a novel coronavirus that is life-threatening to those with medical conditions and the elderly during a pandemic is just as thoughtless and endangering. And if it’s endangering, if it’s potential molestation of someone else’s well-being, then it’s not a right. It doesn’t matter where you are, private or public, just like it doesn’t matter if the HIV-positive individual has sex in Times Square or their bedroom.
Of course, there are more factors than simply the right to our own lives.
These factors include the time, the place, and the intentions of those involved. If you set up a space where people can come, whether they’ve tested positive for COVID or not, and do whatever without any precautions, then it is up to individuals to decide if they want to be in your space. If they decide to take that risk, then that’s on them. However, they made that conscious decision.
In my ideal world, the government would be uninvolved in as many things as humanly possible. There would be no taxes as we know them today. There would be no government grant programs, including programs for the arts, sciences, and research. There would be no mandatory schooling nor obligatory federal bureaucracy and institutions. There would be no welfare, corporate or otherwise. There’d be no government-sanctioned social justice, no laws protecting certain classes of individuals simply based on who they are (we hate it when police are treated special, but not gays?), no bailouts, no private jails, no micro-managed gun control, no healthcare as a right (as it’s a claim on someone else), etc. All that would exist is the unprejudiced protection of our rights. All the rest of these things would have to be headed up by and managed through groups of concerned and interested individuals in a sustainable way to exist. If they can’t seem ever to be headed up, then maybe they don’t really need to exist.
So No One Anywhere Has To Wear A Mask Ever, Right?
In protecting our rights, the government has a legitimate concern in taking measures to protect us from others when performing necessary daily functions in public places. If you scoff at that, well, they already do exactly that. The local institution responsible for doing so is the police department. By virtue of existing, the police department is tasked to protect you, out there in public spaces walking around, from a myriad of things, including active shooters, bombs, muggings, reckless drivers, and riots. So, protecting all of us (including those with medical conditions and the elderly) from danger (like a pandemic) is a legitimate concern.
If protecting the population from the dangers of a pandemic that might kill a fair percentage of the population (I personally know of three people who’ve died from complications) isn’t a legitimate concern, then you honestly should also concede the others too and eliminate the police. If you’re going to make that argument, you might as well stay consistent and go all the way.
This means that, whether we like it or not (though there are things we can do, as we’ll see), it is legitimate for the government to enforce certain non-invasive (as in, not vaccinations) measures in the short term to stop the spread of a novel virus that, I remind you once again, is potentially deadly to a large section of the population. Wearing a mask is not invasive for the majority of people. Unless you’re using super sketchy sources (or super biased echo chamber sources), the consensus among most scientifically minded people is that it has minimal impact on your health when done for short periods of time. It’s also the consensus that it hinders the spread. Literally, “Normal” flu transmission was almost eliminated this year. I wonder why?
On a side note, if you’re a self-aggrandizing prick who says, “If you can smell a flower/fart through a mask, you can get a virus,” then you’re ignorant. You’re ignorant of how smells work, and you’re ignorant of how viruses and masks work. This isn’t the point of my article, but if you did any research besides the mining of your own self-righteous over-inflated opinion, you’d quickly realize that’s a really, really dumb thing to say.
In my ideal world, the government would only enact the bare minimum and give leeway for choice where enforcement isn’t essential. Your local video game shop is not really an essential public space and can probably choose whether to have masks. Your local grocery stores are pretty essential, and the people who have to go there probably need a little more protection. These are just off-the-cuff value judgments.
Most places and people would be able to make all the decisions necessary for their level of comfort. People could know what public spaces would provide protection and which others would not. Businesses could make the decisions regarding their customers as they see fit granted they are not a truly essential resource (like food.)
We’d have a say in the policies and what the bare minimum is, and of course, there will be winners and losers in doing so. When I don’t like a particular law or mandate, I am constantly told, “Well, then participate in the process and change it, Asher!” This is usually after they discover I’m a cantankerous dyed-in-the-wool ultra-capitalist individual liberty advocate. They’re not necessarily wrong, on the face of it. If I can’t actually participate, then they have less of a point. If I find something important enough to do, I actually take their advice and participate in the process. I have spoken at several official meetings and advocated for many things to the extent I was interested.
It’s Fascinating To Me How Quickly Everything Turns
Many of the same people who often argue for social safety nets for the chronically ill, the disabled, and the elderly because “how we treat our feeble reflects on us,” are the same people who, when confronted with rational measures to prevent the transmission of a virus that is life-threatening to those populations, suddenly take up the mantle of “individual rights” and “personal freedom.” You’d think, watching them, they’d fought in the trenches of this fight their whole lives and have really thought this through. Talk to them for ten minutes, and it quickly becomes apparent they have not.
The same people who threw up, “Engage in the civil process Asher!” are often the same people who suddenly don’t want to do the same when it comes to something they don’t like. When it comes to something that makes these moderates uncomfortable, a notion they rarely have to deal with, suddenly all bets are fucking off! At once, there are all sorts of hypocrisies, fallacies, rationalizations, attitudes, and tons of, “but I’m special!” No, you’re not, you’re still just like me… welcome to the club.
This isn’t rocket science, but you’d think it was, given all that has transpired this last year. Own up, people. Take your own fucking advice. Get involved.
Speaking of people or organizations that don’t want to get involved and yet don’t want to participate in following the law, today, we have the northernmost King Soopers in Fort Collins, Colorado. After observing two women wandering around the store without facial masks, despite the store advertising (on its Google listing and elsewhere) that “masks are required,” we asked what the deal was. We were informed by a clerk that the “manager was no longer enforcing the mask policy because [they’d] probably lose half [their] customers.”
When I complained to customer service about this policy, and that if they are not going to enforce the mask policy, then they need to advertise that they are not going to enforce the mask policy so that consumers can make proper choices about their health (see above), I was informed that this particular King Sooper’s real policy is that “masks are recommended.” The staff floor manager attempted to assert to me that “recommended” was equivalent corporate-speak for “required,” and I said that those two words are very different meanings. I was given a phone number to the “higher-ups” to discuss further policy.
I know that King Sooper’s technically can’t advertise itself as not requiring masks because then they’d most likely run afoul of the extended Colorado state mandate of mask-wearing in public spaces. They are supposed to require facial masks and turn away those who refuse to wear them.
I was told this King Soopers has the personnel, largely security, that can enforce the mask policy; however, I could not confirm that they actually enforce the mask policy.
To me, it’s not so much that people inside aren’t wearing masks, as with that knowledge, I could abstain from going there. And currently, I will until this whole pandemic situation changes. If they don’t want to enforce it, they MUST advertise they don’t enforce it so that consumers can make proper health choices. They can’t lie.
“But, they can’t say that!” I hear you cry. Well, yeah, that’s because it’s illegal. But rather than actually follow the laws to their potential detriment (allegedly “losing half their customers”), as many individuals do daily, they decide as a large business to skirt the issue like a little middle-schooler playing hooky. What makes them more special than I, libertarian-wonder, to not have to “change the law”? What makes them more special than all the immigrants who’ve had to suffer under unfair laws but do it anyway? What makes them more special than those who find themselves in dire straits because of debt and can’t pay their taxes?
Nothing makes them more special. If they want not to have to mandate the wearing of facial masks, they need to take it up with their state representatives rather than not enforce it at all. If you believe otherwise, then there’s a whole number of laws I’d like to skirt under because I don’t personally like them, and they hinder my life. Not paying taxes would be a start.
You Can’t Argue To Follow The Law If…
You can’t argue for me, immigrants or whoever to “follow the law,” insinuating we must work properly to “change it,” but not hold other people, no matter how like you in opinion they may be, to the same standard. I definitely think that the state mandates and COVID enforcements could definitely use some work. Are they unfair? Sure, they can be! Are they equal? Probably not. Are they perfect? No. But, all us lowly citizens have to follow them, and if we don’t like them?
“Well, just get involved and change the law like a proper adult, Asher.”
The end of the line is: the government has a legitimate concern regarding public health. It does have a moral authority to require the minimum of protective measures in situations that merit it. Outside, masks probably ain’t doing much, but in a crowded bus or airplane? Masks are probably a good idea. Can the government over-reach and step over the bounds of this authority? Sure, and they do it all the time. We are privileged in this country to be able to push back and say, “No, this is too much.”
And sometimes, we lose. Sometimes we don’t get our way. Does that mean all of a sudden we should not obey the law? Uh… no. If I advocate that murder should be legal and lose, and then I go and commit a murder, am I any more justified in doing so? Sometimes people, even large groups of people, don’t get “their way.” Sometimes this lasts for quite a while. That’s life.
I’m constantly told by many people, mostly moderates, about how the government is helpful, the government is necessary, and that our government (being at its core a democracy) has faults but is “the best way.” I don’t think it is the best way. I really don’t. I don’t believe in unfettered democracy for everyone where everybody gets to decide anything. I’m not alone; when pressed, most people actually don’t.
Yet, at the same time, all these government apologists often turn their heels when it comes to an issue that upsets them, that inconveniences them, like wearing a mask. Suddenly, it’s a whole different issue, and if I were to tell them the same advice they tell me, well, it’s just different, alright!
I call bullshit.
It’s not different. We have gotten ourselves as a society to this point where we are experiencing a pandemic (due mostly to the feeble response by the indispensable government that’s supposed to take care of all those things nobody else will), and now we have health mandates. Don’t like them? Then work to change them, you know, like an adult.
I don’t like taxes, having to pay for roads I don’t use, having to pay for other people’s kids’ educations, that I can’t walk around buck naked in public, that some places ban wearing masks so I can’t fursuit there, that special “no competition” clauses continuously squash local businesses, that murderers get off “Scott free” sometimes, and on and on.
JOIN THE FUCKING CLUB.
Get involve and change the laws and participate in your society like an adult, rather than skirt under them and endanger consumers by playing both sides. You aren’t a safe place for immuno-compromised individuals or other at-risk individuals if you aren’t enforcing mask-wearing. By telling people you ARE enforcing them publicly, when you’re really not, makes your space even MORE dangerous. That’s not cool.