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Hand-washing, face masks and cultural hygiene

The best reason for washing your hands at regular intervals isn’t protecting yourself. You might only rarely wash your hands and still never get sick. This might be because you’re a clean sort of person, or it could be because you have a strong immune system.

In this case, the best reason for washing your hands regularly is to protect the others – people whose immune systems aren’t as strong as yours.

In times of widespread seasonal illness – or during the emergence of new ones – it turns out that wearing a face mask isn’t a guaranteed defence, especially if wearing one gives you a false sense of security or causes you to overlook other precautions like not touching your face.

The best reason for wearing a mask is probably not to avoid illness, but to avoid spreading it if you’re the one who’s ill. A mask might not stop a virus getting in, but it will (combined with washing your hands) make it a bit harder for your illness to get out into the air or onto surfaces and affect other people.

Cultural Hygiene

Which brings us to the idea of cultural hygiene. Are there things that you do, things that you say, or ways that you do and say them that might be fine for you (because you have the “right” perspective on things and a strong constitution), but that might cause harm to others?

Are there people who would get hurt if they followed your example?

Are there people who might, unintentionally or deliberately, hurt others by following your example?

This kind of social damage can be hard to spot, especially in people who are different from us, and especially when we’re in a position of power or influence – so it behooves* us to be mindful of what we’re putting out into the culture.

This isn’t about being paralysed by paranoia or about wrapping people up in cotton-wool. It’s about thoughtfulness, consideration and care for others. It’s about choosing our actions and the voice we use to connect with our audience in a way that works for them and us.

It’s about making things happen and getting stuff done, about living and communicating well, so that things get better.

* You know, like… a blacksmith?

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