Yes, 'Karen', We Have Rights. The Right To Be Protected From A Deadly Virus
Ahh, is there anything more Australian than heading down to Bunnings on a weekend, swinging by the sausage sizzle, failing to follow basic health precautions and harassing a bunch of retail workers? ... wait, what?
Let’s back up. Over the weekend, a video filmed by Melbourne woman Kerry Nash (or 'Karen' as she's known online) went viral (ha!) for rocking up to a Bunnings in Melbourne without a face covering. The video shows her arguing with staff who very patiently explain that it's store policy to wear a mask. Now, it’s unclear what anyone was doing in Bunnings anyway, since Melbournians are literally under government-mandated lockdown and should only be venturing out for essential reasons. But let's leave that aside.
Wait til this Karen finds out about 'no shoes, no shirt, no service'. pic.twitter.com/2dvLE90dOa
— cam smith (@sexenheimer) July 25, 2020
As Victorian coronavirus case numbers remain high, last week it become mandatory for residents to pop on a face covering before heading out.
And as much as I like complaining, it’s a fair call. Study after study has shown that face masks are effective against reducing COVID-19 infection rates. Researchers at Texas A&M University recently found that the small act of wearing a face mask in public is one of our best weapons in preventing human-to-human virus transmission. This huge meta-analysis found the same. That’s why mask wearing has been so effective in places like China, Korea, and even New York City.
Like many anti-maskers before her, the woman who took the video framed her refusal to wear a mask around ‘human rights’ and ‘discrimination’; citing irrelevant pieces of legislation and probably irritating the shit out of human rights lawyers everywhere.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time an Aussie has claimed that wearing a mask is a ‘rights’ issue. Musician Ziggy Alberts recently got backlash for claiming on Instagram that face masks “strips Australians of their basic rights in what is supposed to be a free society”.
I don’t believe in cancel culture, except for this guy. pic.twitter.com/SrSOV7Nypi
— Melody Forghani (@forghandi) July 19, 2020
And look, I get it. Wearing a mask isn’t something that Australians are used to. It will take us a minute to adjust. But that doesn't make it a violation on our human rights. Reading Ziggy’s Instagram story felt like an attack on my human rights, but that didn't stop the Human Rights Commission from telling me to "stop calling them". Wow.
In the end, if the simple act of wearing a mask will stop a bunch of people from getting sick, ending up in the ICU and even dying, isn’t that a human rights win? I’m no Julian Burnside, but I’m pretty sure the inherent right to life is one of the biggies.
In Australia, most of us are too lucky to know what a genuine attack on our civil liberties feels like. But Victorians are dying from this disease every day. Every morning, we wake to hear the sobering numbers of people who have died overnight. Those people had rights, too. So let’s mask up, Melbourne – and leave Bunnings out of this. Surely your DIY project can wait.
If your head is a little scrambled, make sure you pop over to WHO.int to get all of your official COVID-19 updates.
Main image credit: @sexenheimer & @forghandi, Twitter
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