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481. Following (IV)

I do not care about mask mandates, some people do—some people have built their entire identity, as with resistance to vaccines, around whether or not they will comply with government-mandated masks. As with being vaxxed, it is a classic issue to mobilise the right because it involves state compulsion; so, whether or not you personally feel annoyed by masks, as a principle and to remain in-group on the right, you will be opposed to masks and vaccinations.

That said, I am not studious about wearing a mask—and have not done so ever since the latest requirements came in. Now, there are some people, probably those who feel the need to signal “in-group” to the right or who are narcissistic or disagreeable, who somehow manage to make this into a big issue. They end up filming themselves filming someone else on a train: “He’s not wearing a mask!” “So, so—your mask is down, who are you to tell me I’m not wearing a mask, mate?!” “I’m filming you.” “Well, I’m filming you.” Cue 100k shares on Twitter.

Perhaps these people are just stupid, though more likely they get a little narcissistic frisson from being “an anti-mask person”. “It’s like Hitler’s Germany, bloody Gestapo,” says someone who, in their free-wheeling barbarism, would be happier in Hitler’s Germany than not. Anyway, the other day I walked into a theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon without a mask, and in a moment three girls and an effeminate man were on me. “Sir, sir, could you possibly put a mask on?” said the man, his voice raising to a quasi-neurotic pitch. “Oh, I have asthma.” The man relented, “Oh, that’s okay, sir.” This was the first time I had been challenged on the issue, first time in months. The setting is somewhat important: a state-subsidised theatre. People in the theatre are, by and large, a bit neurotic—and, being funded by the state, this combines with a bureaucratic mindset. So it made sense it would happen there.

Now, do I have asthma? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that a doctor once technically recorded this to be the case and gave me an inhaler; and no, because, afterwards, I worked out the reason I had trouble breathing was that there was black mould growing in a hidden corner in my flat. My personal diagnosis is that I am not asthmatic, the bureaucratic record says otherwise. “What is truth?” asked Pilate. I trust the experts; the doctor told me, the file says so.

The whole scenario recalls Jünger’s concept of “the Anarch”, not an anarchist but rather a man who makes an internal exile in conditions of unfreedom and cultivates a detached attitude to the prevalent regime. The attitude is summed up by the following quote: “The Anarch knows the rules. He has studied them as a historian and goes along with them as a contemporary. Wherever possible, he plays his own game within their framework; this makes the fewest waves.”

Now, I do not identify myself with this concept; and it would be beyond pretentious to say, “Mask mandates? Naturally, I cultivate the attitude of the Anarch. Oh, you haven’t read Jünger? Where have you been, dear?” (Places cigarette holder on the mantlepiece and drapes self on the chaise longue—très Weimar). However, the above incident pretty much illustrates the Anarch’s attitude; no melodramatic videos to post online (in a sense even this post is not in the spirit of the Anarch) and no, “You put your mask on properly first, mate.” In a more prosaic way, you could just say the Anarch exploits loopholes; except the concept does contain the notion that you play your game within the framework—a loophole is invisible, whereas to actually know that, from the bureaucracy’s own standpoint, you are “medically exempt”, even if this is absurd, is more Anarch-istic. You play the game within the framework to create your own free space—“forest clearing”—in an unfree world, yet you make no waves.


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