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  • Writer's pictureFred Guerin

On Masks Anti-Maskers and Narcissism

I am rather used to wearing a mask for short periods of time. I have allergies to dust and mites so I have used an n95 mask when I vacuum or in cases where I know that I might inhale particles that could cause an allergic reaction.

When the pandemic hit and people were advised to wear surgical masks I wondered what might be the difference between the latter and an n95 mask. I did some research and my conclusions are below.

A regular surgical mask provides protection against large droplets, splashes, or sprays of bodily or other hazardous fluids. It does not protect you from inhaling smaller airborne particles. By contrast, the n95 respirator mask filters out at least 95% of airborne particles including very small particles.

The n95 respirator is typically reserved for healthcare workers likely because it filters down to 0.3 microns. Since the COVID 19 virus particle is about 0.1-micron one might reasonably conclude that it is just too small to be filtered out even by the n95.

The reality is that COVID-19 particles are ALWAYS bonded to something larger--for example, water droplets or aerosols (i.e. small droplets) generated by breathing, talking, sneezing, coughing, etc. These larger droplets or aerosols consist of water, mucus protein, and other biological material and, importantly, are all larger than 1 micron.

Current precautionary advice from health professionals is that at the very least we use surgical masks since these do in fact filter out larger droplets and some aerosols. That makes good sense. So, the argument that masks are pointless since they don't filter out something as small as the covid-19 virus is patently false.

Now you may still contract the virus even though you wear a mask--especially if you are in the midst of a large crowd of people who are not wearing a mask. However, it has been empirically demonstrated over and over again that you significantly reduce the risk by wearing a surgical mask or an n95 respirator mask. It just makes sense to take any precaution you can that in any way mitigates the possibility of contracting this virulent pathogen.

Unfortunately, there will always remain stupid people who resist wearing a mask because they see mask-wearing as a restriction of freedom, believe COVID is a hoax or what is more likely are those kinds of people one might call 'narcissistic resisters'. In other words, people who love to draw attention to themselves by resisting what is reasonable or obvious. That makes it ALL about them.

However, it is not merely a lack of empathy or sheer self-aggrandizement. In fact, something rather more pathological is going on. The narcissist typically cannot stand anyone who points out their unacceptable behaviour. In other words, they always have to be right and believe there is nothing they need to change about themselves. Thus, in a bizarre way, from a narcissistic perspective, anyone who wears a mask or gets vaccinated is implicitly challenging or criticizing the anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. That simply cannot be tolerated.

This is why you will often see or hear people who do not wear masks screaming and ranting about those who do. Since narcissists are individuals who chronically seek validation, admiration and control, any sort of explicit or implicit criticism of the way they think or behave will typically elicit an irrational, angry, and sometimes violent response.

If people exercise proper caution and follow the best advice from health professionals, we will get past COVID sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, there will always be narcissistic resisters and stupid people. Not much we can do there. As the philosopher Immanuel Kant perceptively noted:

“Deficiency in judgement is properly that which is called stupidity; and for such a failing we know no remedy.”

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