- Why are they still wearing masks
- Why are they not wearing masks
(they, in each case, being the other people)
It is interesting, and important, to understand that the reason we have these two groups has little to do with the question: are masks safe and effective? The safety and effectiveness of masks is an ongoing scientific study. We have dozens, possibly hundreds of studies measuring the safety and effectiveness of medical and non-medical masks, in many different medical and non-medical situations. Few people, if any, are interested in completing their own personal meta-meta-study before coming to a conclusion. If every decision as small as "wear/don't wear a mask" required a personal meta-study, no decisions would be possible.
How do we decide? Fortunately, this too has been well and thoroughly studied.
"Though truth and falsehood be near twins, yet truth a little elder is."
- John Donne 1635
First, we decide what is true. Whether we are right or wrong is of little consequence. We decide first on a truth. Knowledge, existing even in plants and most animals, is based entirely on truth. Is that plant Safe to eat? or Dangerous? Even young humans, up to a certain age, cannot comprehend untruths.
"the ability to deny propositions (i.e., truth-functional negation) is, in fact, one of the last linguistic abilities to emerge in childhood" - L. Bloom, 1970
Learning and accepting truths is a first sign of intelligence. Understanding untruth requires a higher level of intelligence.
Or is that just silly. After all, some people believe masks are safe and effective. That's their truth. Other people can believe masks are dangerous and ineffective. Each has their truth. Yet, each is the untruth of the other.
The statements are in opposition. Each individual believes one truth, or the other, at a time. Those who don't care act without either belief, - perhaps wearing a mask when required, and not, when not required.
Behind the Mask
When we see someone wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask, we also need to understand that mask wearing (or not) does not indicate or demonstrate belief. There are many reasons for someone on either side of the mask belief to act in opposition to their beliefs.
Belief vs Disbelief
Belief is easy, common, intelligent and simple. Like all animals, we are designed to learn, to form beliefs. We all know how to form new beliefs - we practice it all the time. Even a feeble one hundred year old grandmother can learn that she has a new great-great-great-great granddaughter named Alice and believe that she is beautiful.
But changing our beliefs is hard. Harder. Really difficult. Changing our beliefs means changing ourselves, giving up a part of ourselves that we have created, supported, and grown, sometimes for years. Many of us still remember our first love - we still want to believe even decades later. When someone close to us dies - we don't want to believe it. This is true of all of our beliefs. The longer and harder we hold onto a belief, the more it becomes a part of us, the more connected we become, the more difficult it is to change - no matter what evidence we encounter.
People who have adopted the belief masks are safe and effective, who have held onto their belief over time, have protected and grown their belief, sometimes in the face of opposing opinions. When safe and effective believers see someone who is not wearing a mask, they might speak (internally or outwardly) about their beliefs, even challenging those who do not believe.
People who have adopted the belief masks are dangerous and ineffective, who have held onto their belief over time, have protected and grown their belief, sometimes in the face of opposing opinions. When dangerous and ineffective believers see someone wearing a mask, they similarly speak out (internally or outwardly) about their beliefs.
The specific belief does not affect the process. The same belief formation process applies to the belief that eating tomatoes, playing football, or parachuting, is safe or too dangerous. Of course, no-one would deny the dangers of parachuting, but they believe the benefits are worth more than the danger.
No believer is able to change their beliefs without considerable effort. Learning is easy. Changing what we have learned is hard.
Communities: Another Layer of Intelligence
Communities - contrary to popular opinion, are generally intelligent, more intelligent than individuals. Communities consisting of many individuals, can hold, discuss, and analyze many variations of belief across many different situations, with many different gradations, dimensions, and colours of belief. This is impossible for most individuals - and they don't often have the time or inclination to try.
When a community makes a decision, the community becomes an individual, sometimes like a tyrant, or dictator, or a mob, supporting a specific belief (rightly or wrongly) with more force than any individual.
Communities, like individuals, might decide to believe that:
- masks are safe and effective
- masks are unsafe and ineffective
- we don't have a community belief: individuals are free to make their own decisions
Diversity is natural, healthy, even intelligent. Communities are more likely to recognize the values of diversity and of freedoms. Communities are diverse. Sometimes, communities form around specific beliefs.
We live in many different communities, from our family and household communities, to our faith communities, to our work communities, our market and business communities, to many layers of corporate and government communities - each vying for attention and power. A community that believes masks are safe an effective, depending on their belief and their power, might enforce mask use, even on individuals and communities who believe masks are dangerous and ineffective. Communities who believe that masks are dangerous and ineffective might likewise forbid mask use, even on individuals and communities who believe masks are safe and effective.
Individuals who believe masks are safe and effective might have a hard time thinking of situations where masks are dangerous and ineffective. Individuals who believe masks are dangerous and ineffective might have a hard time thinking of situations where masks are safe and effective. Gaining a more comprehensive, a more intelligent understanding often requires a community.
However, once a community takes a strong hold of a belief, the community begins to behave like an individual. The belief becomes a part of the community. Once either belief, is held as true, it becomes difficult to change. Even after a community changes its belief, many individuals in the community might still hold on to the old, discarded belief. In addition, if a community changes it's belief, it often holds onto the concept that the prior, now discounted belief, was correct at that time. There is little to be gained - and some potential risk - in admitting a wrong in the past. Denial is a river of convenience when belief changes.
It's easy to stand on either side of the safe and effective vs dangerous and ineffective question about masks without realizing that these are four independent beliefs co-joined to create one message, to support one decision. The elementary beliefs (not counting the additional "don't' know don't care" beliefs) are:
Masks are safe.
Masks are dangerous.
Masks are effective.
Masks are ineffective.
The claim that masks are safe and effective basically says "wearing masks is good," while the claim that masks dangerous and ineffective says "wearing masks is bad." Note: Masks, being things, do not act - they cannot in themselves be good or bad.
Who Wears Masks
It's not hard to notice the age difference in mask wearing. Younger people are less likely to wear masks (unless forced to do so by their elders). But don't make the mistake, often promoted by the media, that age is the important factor in belief about safe and effective. Age is just a number. The real factor has more to do with health and disease. It's not the elderly who are more likely to wear masks, it's people who fear for their health. But, we might also notice that people who are handicapped, or who already have a chronic disease, are also more likely to wear masks.
Masks are a preventative. Designed and marketed to prevent dangers. People who perceive themselves as vulnerable are more likely to reach for effective and to discount dangers of the preventative action. Note: When there is no danger, preventatives are superfluous and only their dangers are relevant.
Mask wearing depends on fear, on the perception of danger, more than on a belief in safe and effective. If we are not afraid, safe and effective is less important. A perception of danger leads to mask wearing. Then the belief promotes itself. Wearing a mask promotes our belief in masks. Once the belief is held, like all beliefs, it become difficult to challenge much more difficult to discard.
Cure is Better than Prevention
Know this: if we want to make money... Preventatives are better than cures. Prevention is better than cure is a powerful marketing mantra.
We can sell preventatives, like masks, to everyone - whether they the disease or not.
Sales of cures, on the other hand, are limited to those who have the disease, and limited to the short time when they have the disease. We can only sell cures to those with no disease by marketing them as preventatives.
Cures are not profitable. Preventatives? - profitable.
If a preventative marketer wants to make money, the key to marketing preventatives is well studied: increase fear. As fear rises, people and communities are more likely to reach for (buy) the preventative. It doesn't hurt to discount cures. If cures are common, if cures as safe and effective, sales of preventatives will fall.
Risk vs Benefit
In any activity, any sport, for example, actions that increase risk (sometimes even cheating) often improve successes. Even as many budding football players bodies are damaged and drop out of the sport, those who attain high success can earn more money than a safe job.
When an illness is easily cured and forgotten, like simple cuts and bruises - higher risk activities like singing and dancing together, have minimal negative consequences compared to the benefits. But, when we believe the risk is high, we look for preventative actions.
A History of one Belief
In the 1600s, Galileo challenged his community's belief that the sun revolves around the earth. His community penalized him in many ways, finally with permanent house arrest. There were individuals and small communities that believed in Galileo's heliocentrism in the 5th century BC, two thousand years before Galileo was imprisoned for refusing to change his belief.
Today, there are still individuals who hold variations of the earth-centered belief and individuals who hold completely different beliefs, like the flat earthers. They're not interested in changing their beliefs. And if they were? Believing is easy. Changing beliefs is hard.
To understand belief, we must study beliefs, how they function, that they function independent of truth or falsehood of the individual belief. Masks are xxxxxx is a belief.
Diversity is Intelligent, Diversity is Healthy
When we study belief, the theory of positive and negative beliefs, we notice that even simple beliefs, like masks are good or masks are bad, become more and more complex the more we look. We also need to recognize that the hardest beliefs to change are not those that are right or wrong, but those that we have supported through our statements, our actions, and our communities.
To increase our intelligence, to improve our intelligence in any situation, we need to tolerate and accept differences in belief and corresponding differences in actions. When we are wrong, we can recognize our errors sooner, through the examples of others. We will also learn that right/wrong, black/white, good/bad, safe/dangerous, effective/ineffective are simplifications - sometimes useful, but seldom sufficient to meet all of our diverse needs.
to your health, tracy
Author: A New Theory of Cure