There are few humans on earth who have not seen or heard the COVID-19 Rules repeated over and over again.
Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Wear a mask. Keep six feet back. Wear a mask. Keep six feet back. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside. Stay at home. Don’t go outside.
Now you have seen the rules once again, in written English. However, by now you have experienced the repetition of these rules in many other ways. Not only that, but you have probably become a walking repetition of the rules yourself. I certainly have.
Allow me to illustrate what I have just said:
In this photograph, taken during the first half of April, 2020, you see a lady about to cross the street. She is aided by an apparatus that is a combination of cane, cart, and chair, giving her stability, mobility, and the option of sitting down if she gets too tired. On the apparatus she has affixed a sign that states one of the COVID-19 rules, “Keep Back 6 ft!” . Please note the exclamation point. She wants to make sure the world knows that she means it! She has become a living, breathing repeater of that rule.
The lady is also personifying the rule: “Wear a mask”. It is not just any mask. It is an N-95, which filters at least 95% of airborne particles. She doesn’t need to write it down. She is a living, breathing repeater of this rule. So is the gentleman who is standing beside her. He is not separated by six feet. In fact, he would have been closer had he not seen me taking his photo. Before he saw me, he was standing beside the lady, prepared to support her as she crossed the street. As soon as he saw me, he hastily separated, as though he were doing something wrong that could be “used against him in a court of law”. I waved at him and gave him a thumbs up and turned away, hoping that he would go back to supporting the lady in her perilous trek across the uneven asphalt.
You can’t see me behind the camera, but I am also silently repeating “Wear a mask” through my behavior.
But wait a minute. Aren’t we all violating the rules, “Stay at home, Don’t go outside”? Are we flaunting authority? Are we rebels? No, nothing so exciting. We are merely taking advantage of the small leeway we have been given. IF we stay six feet away from each other, AND wear a mask, AND keep moving, THEN we can go outside, BUT not for prolonged periods of time OR for any other purpose than to exercise our bodies, UNLESS we are buying ESSENTIAL goods OR if we are one of the dauntless workers delivering ESSENTIAL goods to the millions of people who are obediently self-isolating.
Behind the lady and gentleman you see one of the delivery men (most are men) that make it possible for the millions to obey quarantine without starving to death. You can’t see his head because he is bending over, but he too is wearing a mask.
No one here is a rebel. We are all outside, but isolated from one another, not by the rules, but by our fear of COVID-19.
This picture is repeated over and over again all over New York City. Eight million people have radically altered their behavior in a few short weeks. How did the authorities get eight million New Yorkers to behave in lock step? The answer lies in the repetitious use of numbers. Remember, numbers themselves are repetitions: 1+1+1= CONTROL.
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