WASTED ENERGY

No Shame

Will Wheaton, writing on his site, presents a gentle reminder to everyone who isn’t lazy or selfish out there.

 This whole thing we are living through is a lot, and it’s really understandable to want to get back to normal. The thing is, science and virology don’t care about your timetable, and until science and virology have a vaccine for Covid19, this is our reality. Wishing it would go away, and acting accordingly, is only going to make this worse. Refusing to follow medical guidelines, because you’re pissed off and frustrated is only going to make this worse. Ignoring medical advice because you’re bored and want to go to the beach is only going to make this worse.

 

Selfish, ignorant people are going to make this worse. Don’t be one of them. 

He goes on to ask everyone to be mindful and self-aware. He asks everyone to be patient and make the best of the situation. He asks everyone to choose to be kind. 

He’s asking nicely and simply. Will is a better man than I am. 

When I went out last weekend in my mask, I was shocked at the idiocy of those I encountered who were not wearing masks. The arrogance. The holier-than-thou attitude. These men, nearly all of them were men, would not be caught dead in a mask. Keep it up, and they’ll just be caught dead, I thought to myself. 

I wanted to glare at them and mentally shame them into protecting themselves and others around them. An employee at the nursery where I was shopping for flowers insisted a gentleman wear a mask. After the third time, he finally pulled a mask out of his pocket and put it on. Of course, it was off his nose and mostly around his chin after two minutes. My blood began to boil because this asshole would not wear a mask in public. 

The stress of everything came crashing around me. Causing a scene was not going to help the situation. So, I did what I could and hyper-focused on my wife and what we were doing and did my level best to ignore the idiots around us.

Later, I found Michelle Goldberg’s story in The New York Times about social shaming.

 The only tool ordinary people have to try to combat this deadly entropy is public shame, and so there’s been an enormous amount of it, both online and off. “The Social Media Shame Machine Is In Overdrive Right Now,” said a BuzzFeed headline. Indignant people are posting photographs of neighbors violating social distancing guidelines and flooding the police with tips. The mayor of Providence has urged residents to “socially shame” anyone not wearing a mask or gathering in large groups. “What is clear is that people across Tampa Bay are watching each other in ways that range from vigilant to possibly obsessive,” said a piece in the Tampa Bay Times.

 

Donald Trump has polarized the response to the coronavirus so that compliance with public health directives is coded as progressive, and defiance is conservative. But people on the left used to know that when it comes to public health, shaming is generally an ineffective strategy. “Shaming people is, I think, like ‘Just Say No to Drugs,’” Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, told me. “It doesn’t deal with people’s psychology, with people’s economic circumstances, their own fears and anxieties, and so it just seems wrong to me.” 

It all seems so infuriating.

When I told my wife about my internal dialogue and feelings post-nursery visit, she reminded me that everyone is going through their own emotional problems with wearing a mask. People are just scared. Everyone is waging their own private war right now, and those battles are not straight lines of black and white.

Most of the time, I don’t get worked up about what’s happening outside these four walls. Other times, I think we are all going to die. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and fear. Plus, it’s not always a wave to ride, but a slow roll.

I believe everyone is doing the best they can. Some people are idiots, and some are just struggling. Me shaming anyone isn’t going to help. It doesn’t do them any good, and it won’t make me feel any better. Those shoppers without a mask aren’t evil or stupid. They are just trying to manage this terrible situation the way they think is best. They might be wrong. I think they probably are wrong because I listen to the scientists and the experts, but the bottom line is I can’t change them. 

My responsibility is to myself and my family. I want my friends to be safe and healthy. I want everyone to do the right thing and pay attention to the scientists and healthcare workers who know what’s going on. This is a crazy situation, and nobody knows what’s going to happen next. 

Everyone just wants this thing to be over and finished. I believe following the proper guidelines will accelerate the end to social distancing and mask-wearing in public. More importantly, it will save lives. I hope you do too. Some day in the future, this will all be over, and the anxiety, fear, and stress will be focused elsewhere. We can still do our best now. We can always keep on keeping on.

And me being angry about the maskless dudebros is wasted energy.