Compulsory masks? Time to ban alcohol.

It’s a mad time right now. Making it through a single conversation without encountering words like ‘unprecedented’ or ‘new normal’ is an almost insurmountable challenge.

In the current cray-cray climate, almost every new day seems to herald a new list of things that we must or must not do in order to be socially responsible citizens.

This week, mandatory masks are the new thing.

For the lucky, corona-infested populace of metropolitan Melbourne (where I live), masks will be compulsory as soon as we step outside our front doors as of midnight tomorrow. And if we fail to fully shield our lower facial orifices, the heavy hand of the law will be poised, ready to slap us (with a fine).

Many people have accepted the impending mandatory masking as an unfortunate necessity born of our far-from-over coronavirus crisis. Others have taken their acceptance a step further and become vocal champions of the mask, decrying anyone selfish enough to dare show their shnoz in public.

But others are less sold on the hiding of our face holes.

I find myself with a foot in each camp. On one hand, I get it. If a disease is both very virulent and crazily contagious, taming transmission is probably a good thing. And adding extra barriers will probably help to prevent us from uncontrollably French kissing and spitting in each other’s faces.

But there’s something that doesn’t quite compute for me.

If it’s so necessary for us to each take a personal hit to protect the health of our fellow humans, shouldn’t we be extending our endorsement of restrictions a lot wider than mass mask-wearing?

By the same principle for example, all alcohol consumption should also be banned from midnight tomorrow. After all, intoxication is one of the most common precursors to violence, road accidents, and a bunch of other antisocial behaviours that harm humans and society at large. Our indulgence places others at risk… just like our indulgence in a bare lower face. Yet we won’t land a fine for ordering a wine.

Smoking anywhere in public should likewise be prohibited. Secondhand smoke has enormous potential to harm the lungs of proximal innocent bystanders in much the same way a bare lower face has now been deemed to pose a secondhand respiratory risk. But we haven’t and probably never will outlaw public smoking.

While these are just two examples, there are a whole host of other possible prohibitions we could declare in the name of protecting each other. Consuming junk food while pregnant. Forcing junior doctors to pull 20 hour shifts. Offering jobs that require a person to sit on their bum staring at a screen for 9 hours every day.

All of these behaviours harm others. But most of them are scarcely frowned upon, let alone illegal.

So if we need to wear masks to protect the people around us, fine. But let’s be consistent with that concern when it comes to other harms too.

Originally published at on July 21, 2020.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store