Facemasks, fear and freedom – parallels with personalisation

What lessons can we learn from the current restrictions and how does that relate to personalisation? Martin Walker, policy advisor at TLAP goes shopping and notices the range of facemasks.

I am a big fan of my local market and have supported a few traders there for years. That’s been tough to keep up in the current circumstances and lockdown regulations. I committed to a turkey that turned out to be three times too big. The cheese stall had a queue round the corner, and for weeks it simply was too hard to get into town so I found a local butcher’s shop – good, but just not the same.

I quite like the ‘take notice’ element of New Economics Foundation’s five ways to wellbeing (opens new window), though I’m not always very good at it. I guess I notice the things I want to notice - my wife calls it ‘man looking’.

This week, when ‘going to the market’, for some reason I did notice people wearing their facemasks and I watched their behaviour as they went about their shopping. I thought back to the early days of the pandemic when facemasks were like gold dust, and hand sanitizer too.

Wearing a mask is just one thing we’ve all had to get used to. The way people behave towards each other whilst out and about is another. Some people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid others as they walk. Some people get far too close. Some people have a facemask on, but wear it around their chin as if it’s some sort of inconvenience to their excursion

These days wearing a face covering has become an aspect of self-expression. I was struck by the variety; one young man’s mask had the face of a dog, tongue panting. An older man bearing a beaming smile with oversized teeth. Pink ones, black ones, leopard print, flowery, surgical, disposable ones. And then there’s the people without a mask, expressing the right not to comply, or medical exemption.

I’m simply amazed at the way our capitalist society has responded to the new requirements. From empty shelves last spring, to masks as fashion icon and a plethora of choice on everything - from hand sanitisers to face coverings.

What has all this got to do with personalisation?

I couldn’t help relating my observations at the market to my professional work. Is there a better way to articulate citizenship, rights, responsibilities, choice and control than the myriad ways we have come up with to interpret a set of guidelines on Covid?

  • citizenship – we’ve seen active citizenship, and symbiosis between central and local authority in order to get things done
  • rights – we’ve got a legal framework to operate within that sets out the aims and objectives for a common good, and the curtailment of a range of freedoms necessary for achieving that common good.
  • responsibilities – people taking on different responsibilities and adapting their behaviours to make the new legal framework work – and finding different ways to interpret clear guidance, some meeting minimal requirements and others operating to the letter.
  • choice – making choices about individual lifestyles within this legal framework and how these choices impact on other people, and those charged with looking after ‘the system’.
  • control – it’s felt to me as if it’s never been more important than now to feel in control of my life and to be aware of the choices I make and how they impact on those I love. Not hugging my mum is counter-intuitive but it’s the right thing to do if I want to make sure she sees tomorrow. There’s only one person who knows what’s best for me to feel in control. And that’s me.

Let’s hope we don’t forget quickly this rarefied experience and the life lessons it has given us.

Let’s also think about how we can apply them to the policy of personalisation so that people needing care and support can self-direct how best they can stay safe first and foremost, but also have the fullest life possible both during and after a pandemic.


Add your comment

Leave this field empty