Wearing A Mask Is An Act Of Love
Philip McKibbin is the author of Love Notes: for a Politics of Love, published in New York by Lantern Books. At 6:30pm on Tuesday 15 September, he will be giving a free public talk at Time Out Bookstore, entitled ‘A New Vision of Politics’. www.apoliticsoflove.com
As New Zealand adjusts to the reintroduction of COVID-19 restrictions, divisions between us are worsening. The timing of the outbreak is unfortunate. The fact that it occurred so close to an election has given politicians struggling for relevance, like those of the National Party and New Zealand First, an incentive to ‘politicise’ the crisis (or, more accurately, to use it to advance their own political agendas). We got through the first outbreak of COVID-19 by cooperating. If we want to eliminate the virus again, we need to work together.
Now is a time to show love. Throughout this crisis, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reminded us to ‘be kind’, good advice which most of us have followed. But love isn’t just about being kind. It’s about working together for everyone’s well-being.
The most loving thing we can do right now is follow the health advice we’re being given - by our government, by our health officials, and by the World Health Organisation. The advice they’re giving us is evidence-based, and we have every reason to trust it: we know it’s supported by thousands of scientists here in Aotearoa and around the world, and we’ve all read news reports about the deadly outbreaks overseas. By listening to the experts and following their advice, we’re showing love for our fellow Kiwis and helping to look after our community. It also sets a good example, which others will follow.
What does love look like during a pandemic?
Wearing a mask is an act of love. My mask protects you if I’m sick, just as your mask protects me. This is the case whether we’re using medical-grade or non-medical-grade masks: both types of mask help prevent the virus from spreading. (Read the government's recommendations on masks here: https://covid19.govt.nz/health-and-wellbeing/protect-yourself-and-others/wear-a-face-covering/.)
Staying at home during lockdown is an act of love. If you’re in Auckland, this is a way to support the well-being of your community, including its most vulnerable members. It’s also a way of showing love to yourself - because even though it’s tough, it’s in all of our interests to get rid of COVID-19 as quickly as we can. We know from experience that physical distancing works: it’s how we beat the virus the first time around.
Getting tested if you’re sick is an act of love. The news that community transmission had returned to our country after three months without it was difficult to hear - but we should be grateful to the whānau who agreed to get tested when tests were offered, and we should emulate their example. Because they got tested, we learnt very quickly that the virus was back in our community, and now we’re able to work together to contain it. If you’re sick, or if you become sick, you can show love for your fellow Kiwis by getting tested.
This is a challenging time for our community. We cannot afford to be complacent - and we need to be wary of those who try to undermine public health efforts. We should be sensible, yes, and it’s always important to think critically, but we owe it to the people who are suffering because they are sick with COVID-19, to the hundreds of thousands of people who have already died from it, and to the families who have lost loved ones, to take it seriously. We must stop the virus from spreading.
Now is a time to show love, and values can guide us. Courage will help us to avoid succumbing to fear or giving in to conspiracy theories. We should trust, because although some people won’t follow the health advice, most of us will - and we shouldn’t let suspicion of others discourage us from doing the right thing. (After all, when we do the right thing ourselves, it encourages others to do their bit.) And optimism will ensure we remember that New Zealanders care about each other, and that we’ve already proven to ourselves - and the world - that when we work together we can beat COVID-19.
We can defeat this virus. As Dr Ashley Bloomfield said recently, 'The virus is the problem; the people are the solution.' With love, we will contain COVID-19 again and protect each other from harm.