A Volvo ad reminding us of the backlash against seat belts could be what we need to tackle anti-maskers

James Moore
Face masks have become compulsory in many places in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. (REUTERS)
Face masks have become compulsory in many places in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. (REUTERS)

When it comes to YouTube ads, I almost always click on the “skip” tag as soon as possible because I don’t want some bloody grammar programme (even if you think I need it), I don’t want to day trade stocks and I don’t want to buy some big brother-esque management programme to snoop on employees I don’t have. Owner Google’s rather sinister profile building isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

This morning, however, brought a change; an ad I watched the whole way through and then sought out the original on the poster’s channel so I could watch it again. The following quotes are culled from it.

“A violation of my human rights.”

“A public health report says it’s ineffective, inconvenient and uncomfortable.”

“No one can tell me what to do with my life.”

“A terrible idea. Who would ever want to wear this.”

The ad was put up by car maker Volvo. I’m not likely to be buying one anytime soon, anymore than I’m intending to use grammar-thingy-ly. That’s principally because I can’t afford one and I’d need it adapted for disability anyway. But those quotes made for a genuinely fascinating watch all the same.

Volvo lifted them from the public/media reaction after the firm introduced the three-point safety belt. Have you guessed where I’m going with this yet?

It didn’t make me think about seat belts when I first saw it. My initial response was: Volvo’s talking here about face masks. It actually made my spine tingle a bit.

Now, I’ve made the analogy between face masks and seat belts before but Volvo’s ad beautifully encapsulates the point I was trying to make.

The safety first car maker, that’s long been a favourite of families with kids, rams home the point about its belts with a commendably diverse group of people talking about having their lives saved by them after being involved in nasty accidents.

It was a bit triggering for me given the reason for my needing an adapted car. Nevertheless I steeled myself to press on to the final act.

It sees Volvo talking up the latest batch of impositions on motorists’ liberty it’s introduced or is planning with the aim of saving more of their lives. This year it put speed limiters in its cars. The next step: in-car cameras to prevent intoxicated and distracted driving.

It’s enough to have the average Trumpkin or Faragist reaching for their blood pressure meds.

As the ad rounds off to a stirring climax, Volvo says its belts have saved a million lives and opines that it’s determined to save a million more.

How many lives might the mass take up of masks during this second wave of coronavirus infections save? It’s obviously a tough number to calculate. An estimate is the best we can probably hope for. But I imagine it’s quite a lot. No less than the director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US said they’re more guaranteed to protect from coronavirus than a vaccine. Which, of course, we don’t yet have.

Volvo’s measures aren’t really impositions on liberty, even those in-car cameras. They’re simply sensible precautions to prevent people in charge of potentially lethal four-wheeled weapons (if driven badly) from killing themselves and, more to the point, from killing others.

Masks are far less intrusive and they’re a hell of a lot cheaper.

If we want to end this farce of a three tier lockdown featuring rules no one really understands and the wreck of businesses and jobs while they’re in force, we need to start wearing them. Not just on the bus, or in shops, either. Whenever we go out. That even includes when we’re out exercising. I manage it when I’m pushing around the park in a wheelchair. The mask gets a bit yucky by the end of the workout but it’s perfectly possible to breathe even when I’m tackling the hill en route.

If we get better at wearing masks, if we’re prepared to become a Volvo nation, we’d be well on the way to becoming a back to life as normal nation, and isn’t that what we all want? Might I suggest the government gives the car maker’s ad agency a call with that aim in mind?

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