Have you been wearing your face mask when you go out?
I ask because when I was out and about (wearing mine) I felt a mixture of emotions.
- PRIDE that I was doing my part, small as it was;
- FEAR that maybe I had misunderstood the reports and I was perhaps over reacting; and
- EMBARRASSMENT; this was rather weird, after all.
Then, I realized this whole mask issue was a
perfect great good example of a classic cultural difference. I suddenly felt ELATED that I had a topic for my next blog post. And here we are.
Thank you Novel Coronavirus.
You know it’s cultural when a whole society (group, country, family, organization) is doing it and no one really thinks about (or cares) why. (To be distinguished from individual or idiosyncrasies eccentricities and universal norms that everyone adopts.)
A recent headline in the New York Times emphasizes I’m not the only one thinking about this:
A Debate Over Masks Uncovers Deep White House Divisions
“The Trump administration remains deeply divided over whether to tell all Americans to cover their faces in public to stop the spread of coronavirus,” it read.
Click on the photo for the link to the article.
This is not a post on the importance of wearing a mask. Instead, I intend to treat you to a real-life example of what it feels like to come face to face with a cultural difference that we don’t usually think about.
Yes, face-to-face. I recognize the irony.
I’ve found that when we don’t understand the power of culture and the role it plays in our everyday life, we seek to blame our inevitable discomfort on someone else — their poor decision, their ignorance, their existence — or the idea itself. At its extreme, it’s at the core of xenophobia, but for everyday folks, it makes it easier to leave the mask off.
Indeed it is.
Americans, by and large, do not like to be told what to do. American culture, generally thought to be at the individualistic end of the continuum — rugged individualism some have called it, calling forth images of the myth of our western cowboy — is working against us in this fight.
It’s time to step back and remember we are all in this together. I will be safer if you are also safe. I will be healthier if you are also healthy. And so on.
How about you? How comfortable are you with this face mask on-or-off question?