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Consider Me Called Out, Cyril.

If you felt personally attacked during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s latest national address it might be time to face the uncomfortable truth of your actions. I speak from personal experience, and this is my attempt to normalize admitting I was wrong.

I doubt I was one of the people Ramaphosa referred to when he outrightly wysed people on social media for posting stories and pictures of themselves not wearing masks, in public places, partying like the virus didn’t exist. But consider me wysed nonetheless for doing exactly that. Oh yes the sting of shame, the burny shame. I am ashamed. I, a person who thought I was responsible, who pushed on social media for people to take this thing seriously, who understands that wearing a mask isn’t about me, who more than once stated that it was inconsiderate and selfish to continue as normal when for the rest of the country any form of normalcy is a luxury. 

Yes, that is me. The person who justified greeting people with big hugs and taking off my mask for unnecessary amounts of time in public spaces with the usual: if they’re comfortable taking the risk, so be it ; I’m young and healthy and so are they so what’s the harm ; the recovery rate is 92% so what the hell ; I’ll get it anyway statistically ; I’m drinking/smoking so why take it off and put it back on ; our numbers have dropped we’re in the clear (right?) ; I feel silly wearing this when nobody else is ; I don’t want to be that person. When employment is lower than it has ever been, when the virus is killing people of colour at a higher rate, when more children are going hungry than before and thousands of people have died. When we don’t see this around us, it’s easy to ignore. When you just want to breathe, it’s easy to forget. 

“Some of us are prepared to take certain risks because we have the privilege to do so.”

So it’s funny how fast we turn into hypocrites when our own words and social media posts can be used as an uncomfortable and public mirror that we have to hold ourselves up to. But I’ll bite the bullet and say I was wrong, and maybe you will too but where does that leave us? The concessions we make for ourselves and the nature of context ; socially, economically, momentarily; mean the way we deal with the virus is different. Some of us have to go to work, some of us live alone and therefore the risk of infecting others is lower, some of us work in bars and restaurants, some of us are prepared to take certain risks because we have the privilege to do so. Our economy needs to be revived so boycotting bars, restaurants and malls isn’t viable either.

With this in mind, where does the line of responsible and dangerous behaviour going forward exist? Are we to constantly straddle being an inconsiderate and selfish pandemic prick or a righteous and responsible model of pandemic protocol? It sounds tiring. It is tiring to constantly check yourself, and be constantly checked too (online and IRL). So I’ve thought about this and personally, the choices are… personal. But one thing I hope we can most definitely agree on (again, hopefully) is to wear your mask, wash your hands often, sanitize, keep distance in public and lastly: respect people who do these things even if you don’t.

“But pandemics don’t sleep, friends. So this is me attempting to stay woke.”

Normalize someone saying: “I don’t want to take off my mask” and not having to explain it ; “Please wash your hands” when entering a home and not rolling your eyes; “I’m not comfortable hugging” and tapping that extended elbow like you mean it; “I don’t feel okay today I’m staying in” and not shaming them for ‘having Coronavirus’ or discouraging them by saying ‘It’s probably nothing’.

Of course I’m also aware that Ramaphosa’s scolding might have had the opposite effect on some of us. We might think we know better, have more justifications than reasons to listen, continue to act recklessly to our health and that of those around us because our friends are doing it, or because we honestly just need a break. Or worse, we might continue to petulantly do what we were doing before, because stopping and ceasing our IG party stories and cutting down or refraining from social gatherings means admitting you fucked up. But pandemics don’t sleep, friends. So this is me attempting to stay woke. And that means more than knowing about what’s going on, it means admitting I was wrong and doing better. So consider me called out, Cyril.


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