Life without a mask, an invisible revolution



Paris, 18e arrondissement, June 2021. Rue Audran, music escapes from an apartment. At the helm, two young men determined to loosen the grip of health constraints. Immediate success. For long hours, hundreds of faceless faces exulted a few meters below them, their voices pointing out in one breath as ” disenchanted generation »From singer Mylène Farmer. A few kilometers away, in the courtyard of the Élysée, the electro sounds also end up loosing the bodies, masked and sitting for a long time at a good distance.

The end of the curfew was declared the day before, that of the compulsory wearing of the mask outdoors four days earlier. In the streets, that evening as in the following days, the piece of plastic or fabric that has been blocking faces for a year and a half begins an intermittent life. He breaks with omnipresence without opting for disappearance. Some people continue to wear it in all circumstances when others get rid of it with a certain haste. Nobody, for the moment, still forgets it, always at hand when it does not encircle the chin or the ear, ready to hide again the nose and the mouth.

First, it’s a feeling of freedom. ” We speak better and it helps us breathe », Launches a young girl in a village in the south of France. “We start to live again, to see the smiles and the discontent », Adds a shopkeeper. The mask was above all a problem of heat, steam, or itching. Sociologist Franck Cochoy, who conducted a study on mask wearing, confirms this. Before being experienced as a muzzle, the blue square is the experience of multiple physical inconveniences. A tool, admittedly recognized as effective, but quite embarrassing.

This impression of being less constrained, prevented, hampered, it is also the impression of becoming unique again, completes the philosopher Fabienne Brugère. With the masks, we are all the same, they hide us, make us naked, anonymous. Moreover, there were very few original masks, the mask did not become a place where the peculiarities were expressed.. »Bringing it down, even for a moment, would therefore allow us to reconnect with this singularity, a possible truth of oneself, which this false face obstructs. In the eyes of others as of ourselves. ” Wearing the mask integrates us into a uniform population that the pandemic requires to manage. “

This is what the mask reveals, our desire to tear it off as well as our fears of abandoning it, for anthropologist Michel Agier. Anyone who has traveled across Africa, Latin America and the Middle East risks scrutinizing, in our society, the tiny signs of what has permanently taken hold with the pandemic, “How it really transformed our ways of living, our ways of partying, of working, of being with others… “. How do you recognize a profound change? The fact that in a situation that no longer requires it, we keep a type of behavior.

Admittedly, the virus, and in particular its variants, continues to pose a threat, encouraging us not to drop too quickly the barrier that protects us from it, in any case making us hesitant, torn between the desire to move on and concerns. (read the benchmarks). On May 21, 67% of French people were in favor of maintaining the obligation to wear a mask outdoors – including the same percentage of 18-24 year olds. And in the streets where some taste the caress of the air on their faces, others confide a slight dizziness. ” We got used to it, casually, we have to go gradually », We hear. Or : ” Our brain no longer knows.

What these hesitations reveal is the weight of the imperatives of immunity and security, which can be summed up by this slogan, “protect the body, the house, the country”, Michel Agier analysis. I believe politicians downplayed the power of this injunction and its consequences. ” With time, ” it is indeed a social distance that has imposed itself, in our daily lives as in our imaginations “.

June 2021 still, at the ephemeral Grand Palais, which is just opening its doors on the Champ-de-Mars. In front of the spectators, equipped with their masks and a sheet of paper to mark the required distance with their neighbors, a hundred amateur dancers bring to life Happening Storm by choreographer Boris Charmatz. The bodies dislocate, stretch, enclose themselves. The frame explodes, while outside, the transparency of the place reveals another scene, where far from these flashes, under their blue square, the faces seem very docile.

Not so sure, objects Fabienne Brugère, sensitive to the new rhythm of our half-masked lives. ” We have entered alternative forms of life, where one experiences fleeting moments of freedom. Hence some excitement, we want to redo things very quickly because we tell ourselves that it will not last. As if the mask took on the appearance of a switch, chanting freedom and constraint, recklessness and fear. ” Thefear of illness, but also fear of reconnecting with others, adds the philosopher. Some of us found this decrease in social life quite comfortable.. “

Hiding your lips, for example, is also a way of no longer complying with the obligatory kiss. ” The crisis has accentuated the personal traits of our relationship with others ”, adds the historian of sensibilities Anne-Vincent Buffault, attentive to the opposition which is hardening ” between those who pour into euphoria with the lifting of constraints and those who demand their respect in the name of hygienic prescriptions “. But in this transitional period, where the rules sometimes become confused, the historian also detects new social rituals, in terms of differences and proximity.

From this point of view, she argues, the health crisis is encountering a deep movement, and also a global one. That of the women who, in several Western countries, rose up to denounce harassment and sexual violence. ” Don’t touch us without our consent, they said. With great caution, we can think that wearing a mask, which neutralizes contact, will accentuate the ongoing development of civility rituals between men and women. Because since the XIXe century, men have shown themselves a certain phobia of physical proximity, reserving the obligation of contact to women, without always worrying about their desires.. “

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