No man is an island

The World Health Organisation has now recommended face coverings for indoor spaces  to stem the transmission of the novel coronavirus. This is the reason for the regulation applied in the UK from the 24th of July, which requires people to wear masks in shops, supermarkets, post offices, banks, indoor shopping centres, and when buying takeaway food and drink. The new regulation has come into force as a result of research, scientific knowledge and facts. However, not everyone is convinced.

Research, conducted by Hélène Barcelo at the Mathematical and Science Research Institute in Berkeley California and  Dr Valerio Capraro, a senior lecturer in economics at Middlesex University, has indicated that right-wing people are more likely to be reluctant to wear masks. They state that ‘people who identify as politically right-wing are more reluctant to wear face coverings to stop the spread of coronavirus’. They consider it “shameful” and an “act of weakness”.’

The question is, why do people who lean to the right politically feel uncomfortable with wearing a mask? We are currently experiencing a global pandemic. More than 65,000 people have died. Masks would potentially prevent the spread of the virus. It is everybody’s responsibility to prevent contagion, so why would this make people feel uncomfortable?

What makes right-wing people different from left-leaning people? We might uncover what their priorities are if we look closely at the ideologies to which people from the right-wing align themselves. Traditionally and conventionally right-wing parties are more inclined to believe in maintaining a capitalist society, whereby you, as an individual, are primarily concerned with looking after yourself and your own.

Left-wing policies and ideologies are more concerned with understanding the individual’s role within a wider community. Hence, one could argue that left-leaning people are more likely to be concerned with their own well-being within the context of the well-being of others within their communities and society.

Research has also indicated that women are more likely to be proactive in wearing face coverings. Again we have to think about why this might be. Women, as statistically more likely to be primary caregivers, are constantly considering the well-being of others, so wearing a face mask might just be another aspect of that.

One could also argue that right-wing leaning people are less likely to trust institutions and organisations such as the World Health Organisation, suggesting that they are driven by emotions rather than data. Some are suggesting that wearing a mask infringes on their civil liberties. Sorry: we are just trying to keep you alive. We cannot discuss your civil liberties if you are dead.

‘No man is an island’ is the title of a very famous poem by John Donne, telling us that we are not alone. We do not live alone; we are part of the bigger fabric of society, and our actions have reactions and consequences for others. ‘Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main’. Perhaps this is why left-leaning people are more aware of their role within society, hence their willingness to don a mask.