Letter: The Snarling Mask of Anonymity 

Wednesday, January 13 2021

There was no way on Earth I was getting involved in this.  Until, that is, my attention was caught by a single anonymous snarl in the December 16 Sounder.  The snarl was an anomaly, bracketed by a sea of smiles and side-by-side with a cartoon human hugging a snowman, the act summarizing superbly the pathos of this winter’s loneliness.  The snarl itself excoriated the “able-bodied anti-maskers”.

We’ve all had different journeys through life and, with rare exceptions, we each know only our own path in its entirety. How many of those journeys passed through experiences whose consequence was a vivid aversion to any obstruction – even a simple winter scarf - over the face of an otherwise “able bodied” human being? What reaction would such a person have when faced with the ignominy of having to apply for an exemption for any regulation mandating the wearing of masks?

We all have our demons.  Being shamed in their presence is not productive.  Even when carried out from a virtual masked anonymity, there is a word for it: bullying.

Pelion on Ossa, the havoc of the last nine months has piled up, chief among it the loss of friends, family and loved ones and the fear of becoming ill or realizing illness.  I need not detail the other consequences.  With it has come a miasma of fear that has become, with rare exceptions, the currency of news media, almost to the exclusion of any other meaningful news around our planet.  The mandated restrictions imposed by our government are accompanied by words and phrases hitherto used almost exclusively in prisons (also in schools; the irony is not lost).  It is a wonder we are still sane, more wonderful still that our community is still a priority.  

But therein lies the rub.  When the demands of community become onerous to a member, that individual’s contribution becomes lessened or, in the limiting case, actively counterproductive to the community.  When absolute compliance is required, the word is “totalitarian” and the consequences to morale are devastating.

One of my favourite Tolkien characters said: “If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener, I’m going to get angry”.  The character, like the author, had just experienced a war against totalitarianism unprecedented in history, returning home only to find the consequences of a slow conversion to totalitarianism there, with friends encouraged to inform on each other at any perceived breaking of “The Rules.”  

I understand his outrage entirely; if I hear ‘how dare you’ much oftener, I’m going to get – irritated.

~ Paul Metcalfe