'Our me-me-me society won't help us get through the coronavirus pandemic'

You see selfish behaviour everywhere, and it’s at every level, from individuals to whole countries during the coronavirus pandemic, says Polly Hudson

Boris Johnson has left everyone scratching their heads lately

I regretted it immediately. We were at the theatre, to see a show my son had been learning about at school, a super special early Christmas treat.

Behind us were five women in their thirties who, from the off, talked, and not even in stage ­whispers only during the big musical numbers.

They chatted at the top of their voices throughout, as though they were at home in front of the telly rather than surrounded by people, and being incredibly rude to the performers on stage a few feet away.

Half-way through the second act, I snapped. Although that makes it sound much more impressive than it was, because obviously I just meekly and incredibly Britishly pleaded with them to be quiet. Please. Thank you. Sorry.

It did not go well. I was stupid for trying. What did I think they were going to say, “We had no idea we were disturbing you, please accept our apologies?”

‘We’re living in a Me Me Me Me First society’


AFP via Getty Images)

Of course not. They knew they were being loud. They didn’t care.

It reminded me of whenever I’ve seen anybody ask someone to wear a mask. The last time, it ended with the person (already prompted twice by staff in the dentist’s office) answering the polite, reasonable request with, “You f***king bitch, mind your own business”.

The irony of saying that about a global pandemic – by definition, everyone’s business – seemingly lost here.

Now there’s a potentially serious new variant, so we’re being asked to do something. The something that a worldwide study found to be the single most effective public health measure at tackling Covid. Wear a mask.

Boris Johnson’s mixed messaging has left everyone guessing



The reaction to this small ask, and my uncomfortable theatre experience, has left me with a depressing realisation.

We’re not living in a Me First society. We’re living in a Me Me Me Me First society.

This was impossible to ignore thanks to the amount of maskless people going about their business on Monday – in shops, on public transport (where you’re meant to have never taken them off anyway), everywhere.

They knew the mandate was coming into effect the following day, and why, but still they refused to take part in the communal effort to save Christmas – and, you know, lives – until there was no other option.

Admittedly the messaging has been insane over the last few months. There will be some who think you must not need to wear a mask if the man with the most important job in the UK doesn’t.

But there are others who know this isn’t the case, but don’t want to wear masks, so they just… don’t. Similar to the kind of person who feels like chatting loudly in a theatre, so just… does.

Apart from no one dies if people talk in a theatre.

The truth is that there are a lot of utterly selfish individuals out there. We see it on a larger scale with rich countries not doing enough to supply vaccines to poorer ones because they’re too worried about themselves.

And what gets lost is that helping them is the best thing we can do if we’re worried about ourselves, because if everyone’s vaccinated, spread is reduced and variants less likely to develop.

We all need to look out for each other, with masks, with sharing vaccines, with compassion. Only then is there hope for us all.

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