By Ahmet Abdulaziz….
Indeed there is no doubt, that the present COVID-19 pandemic, is going to change the world. The way it has engulfed the whole world is rare in history. The World Wars, and other pandemics in the past, took many more lives, but always remained restricted to a limited part of the earth. The overall atmosphere of general fear has far surpassed the actual loss of lives in the world.
There have been many lives lost in different pandemics in the past. The COVID-19 has so far taken much less in human lives as compared to them, but I am sure the overall impact of fear that it brought is much more than all past pandemics.
The world is indeed not going to be the same. By the time we say farewell to COVID-19, we will see that there will be many social, cultural, and psychological effects that will have been settled into our brains. The more the period of this pandemic extends, the more changes we will see in the changing world.
In one of my previous columns, I had mentioned that one of the social changes that we are presently going through is the usage of face masks in our daily lives. We see almost everybody out there having a mask on the face. Usage of the mask is no more something strange, that would make people turn and look. We are all in the same boat. Yes, the new world order is going to have a soft corner for masks.
Another important point is that masks have not been used only against COVID-19. These also save us from pollution and other germs that might be dangerous to our health.
Will face masks stay as part of our daily lives, once the COVID-19 pandemic is over? That is one important question that many like me ask. There have been too many varying responses to the above question, but there is one aspect that I am sure most have not noticed. Someone put forward a very new and thought provoking theory, which indeed deserves to be taken seriously.
Culture of every society actually is what people get used to over a period of time. We all get affected by what others are doing. Mostly out of necessity, but we all follow each other. We all notice each other and mostly adopt the same behaviour. This is what we call culture and social norms. These are what society accepts and allow.
With all this in mind, if the usage of masks becomes a social norm, what would our next generations feel about it? Would they shun using the mask or they would continue using the facemasks as part of culture?
Facemasks have become a compulsory necessity due to the ongoing pandemic, but even before that, we used to see people in polluted cities, like Beijing, Delhi, etc covering their faces with masks. So in a number of cities in the world, the usage of facemasks has already been accepted as a social norm. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it an acceptable social norm in other parts of the world too.
So if we continue covering our faces with masks in the years to come what would our future generations, say after twenty or thirty years from now, feel about this social norm.
Some people believe that the next generation, with the above assumptions, would start believing that our nose and mouth are our “secret parts”, which we are supposed to keep covered. This is something very awful and interesting, and I think that social scientists and experts of human behaviour would think over it.
However, the above assumption led me to raise another question. Whether the “secret parts” that we keep covered, also had become our “secret parts” to be covered, somewhere in the past. Due to some particular reason, at some particular point in history, human beings had started covering some parts of their body, and the following generations continued the same custom, without even thinking that under what conditions their forefathers had started covering them.
So to put it straight, the question is whether the post pandemic era would adopt face masks to cover face and nose, as culture, or it would shun with the culture of covering our “secret parts”, altogether?
Indeed the world is not going to be the same anymore.