I find myself wrestling with a new problem; in these uncharted days of coronavirus, can I defend myself against a person not wearing a mask?
Strolling around my local streets, I see quite a lot of people not wearing masks. On a number of occasions, I have politely pointed out that they are endangering not just themselves but, more importantly, me. If I am lucky, I will be told that they are “exercising” and do not need a mask. More often I will get a stream of abuse.
I am reminded of the advice given many years ago by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt – “Speak softly and carry a big stick”.
In many countries, citizens have the right of self-defence. This a legal justification for the use of force in times of danger. You may defend your health and well-being from harm. Note the inclusion of “health”. Surely, I can defend myself against a coughing and sneezing coronavirus spreader, who is most certainly endangering my health.
We, in Israel, have no shortage of scofflaws who crowd together, maskless, for parties that could easily be postponed till better times. And, for a change, the ultra-religious, the religious, and the non-religious are all equally at fault.
Pandemics are nothing new for us humans. Over the centuries, there have been many deadly pandemics, from the Plague of Athens in 430 B.C.E that killed some 100,000 people, through the Black Death that wiped out more than half of Europe’s population, to the ongoing Zika Virus epidemic in South and Central America whose full impact is not yet known. Once considered punishment from the gods, we now have a better understanding of these pandemics. While we may not yet have a cure, we know how to reduce, if not prevent, their propagation. We know how not to infect each other.
Masks and distancing. Not complicated, not expensive, but reasonably effective. But even these simple measures are too much trouble for our many scofflaws.
Are we soon to see softly-speaking, law-abiding citizens following Teddy’s advice and carrying cudgels in case they meet a pandemic-denying curmudgeon, a vexatious anti-vaxxer?