You can’t walk into a room with Jean Tree (jeantree on IG) without feeling the aura of mysticism that surrounds her. So I was thrilled when my former Uni mate consented to interview with MaskZ of Sweden about her version of health care in a health crisis.
To give you a sense of Jean’s ethereal aura, let’s begin with her recount of an age-old anecdote that proves the difference between those who create problems and those who solve them:
It makes me think of this story someone told me a long time ago about a man who died and was visiting Hell. He saw that in hell, it was a room full of people sitting around a cauldron of soup, each with spoons very long, longer than their own arms. The cauldron of soup was full and the people were starving because they could not get the spoon to reach their own mouth.
The man then got sent to Heaven, and he saw the same scenario, except the people were full and satisfied, he was confused and asked the angel, "I don't understand the difference?" To which the angel replied, "In heaven, they feed each other."
Jean didn’t bring this up for NO reason. What’s the message here?
Right in line with MaskZ of Sweden’s mission, Tree promotes an ideal living that prioritizes health and safety of the community above all else:
We all have one body, and in society we are also one body. We cannot function when a part of our body is sick, or in need of treatment, and in the large scope of things, there are parts of our body as a society that are and have been wounded and desperately in need of care, that has largely been ignored. We cannot say one body part is more "essential" than another, because all the parts function differently and have tremendous value as a system.
There’s a major lesson to be learned here. When an entire community, country - even the world - is gripped by illness, cures can only be procured when 100% of people are compliant with health protocol.
...Which means there’s a major need for uniform protocol. It doesn’t do much good for a chunk of the populace to claim that they are immune to a disease, yet see others who are susceptible and falling to their literal deaths around them.
So now we’re left with the pressing questions: what protocol is in place? If there isn’t any, what should that protocol be? And how do we get 100% consensus on it?
Jean digs deep into personal accountability when it comes to personal health care: If we can tackle the "why" in what we do, then we are able to ignite intrinsic motivation with health, which I believe is extremely important. External motivation lasts only for so long, and eventually wears out. I think that when people show up for themselves, they will keep showing up.
In Jean’s eyes, protocol doesn’t necessitate being politicised. Taking charge of health affairs comes straight down to the grassroots level and the individual. We have to internalise correct health practices to holistically bring about healthy change.
But perhaps that's the problem with the current state of affairs and with any body of people fighting against our pandemic circumstances: the requested and, in some cases, mandated behavioral changes (like wearing PPE in public spaces) can only come to fruition when we are intrinsically motivated.
This means that we have to wear masks, maintain social distance and restrict our interactions simply for our own good. There is nothing extrinsic to motivate us; no rewards of extra time off, no discounts or promotions, no extra employment benefits...it’s hard to execute these changes because the motivation has to come from within.
And is that the inhibitor? We are often so driven to success and prompted to action by the external rewards we reap - so much that we forget what it means to conduct ourselves well - just for the sake of it.
A large portion of the world's mandates and action regarding COVID19 has been reactionary. It seems like it will be a long learning curve for many countries to understand what are the necessary actions to curb widespread sickness. Preemptive mechanisms, like those seen in Asia, became enmeshed in culture based on all the lessons learned in 2003's SARS epidemic. Countries in Asia equipped themselves with nation-wide emergency plans, preemptively ready to act rather than react. The numbers give away the effectiveness of emergency preparedness strategies.
Jean herself follows her own protocol when it comes to a proactively healthily engaged lifestyle - and it’s no easy process, but facing a challenge is her mantra and goal-setting her alibi: I do my best to stay proactive in understanding what "healthy" truly means and taking action on it step by step. The pandemic itself wasn't something that made people more aware of their health, rather, it was the catalyst that exposed the flaws of the health system...we are reactionary and use whatever to temporarily relieve symptoms and/or find a quick fix.
Jean hearkens to a swift difference between types of medical treatment: those that treat the symptoms and those that treat the cause. The problem in regards to Covid19 is that so many of us are part of the cause.
We have to move from being the cause to treating the cause of widespread viral contagion. It presents no relief to temporarily treat a headache that is, at the root, caused by dehydration, or back pain that is caused by poor posture. In the same vein, why continue putting yourself at risk by interacting in public spaces without proper protection? When asked about the advice Jean would give all her followers, she kept good community practices in mind and didn’t hesitate to treat the cause: I would say, wear a mask of course, and just be mindful of others. When we wear a mask, we are not wearing it for ourselves, we are wearing it for others...In the same way, we all wear masks... because we are community minded and thinking of the other.
While this is a treatment on the surface, Jean also promotes healthy treatment within. And naturally, when faced with a problem, she was ready to find solutions. She described a previous run-in with her own health and faced her solutions with zeal: I was able to start changing my nutritional needs to better support my physical body, and start tuning into my emotional and mental states of being.
So we shouldn’t be afraid of change. It involves listening to real needs in real time and reframing our actions and behaviors in a way that is conducive to the healthy function of yourself and your community.
Jane adds: Throughout time, human beings constantly adapt to new situations, and this is no different. We have things that were "normal" before that should not have been normal, and yet we practice them and then it becomes part of culture.
And that's the beauty of what Jean has to say. Norms are in place and as we learn about ourselves, norms must change. Culture is only ever ingrained and is in constant flux, often influenced, always fluid and never absolute. The idea of wearing a mask and staying equipped with a simple hand spray doesn't have to seem so foreign or such a burden. It becomes part of our cultural etiquette to respect those around you by being a part of the solution against contagion, not contributing to its problem.
It also becomes intrinsic to be courteous to yourself, giving your body the modicum of respect and protection that it deserves.
You have only one body anyway. Is it such a large price to pay to adapt to a new culture of personal protection to protect your body? I think not.
I am inspired to be healthy because when you take care of your health, you are able to live the life that you want, Jean affirms. So if you follow in Maskz Of Sweden’s shoes alongside Jean Tree, we’re taking the healthy route. We’re being community-minded, not as part of the contagion, but as part of the cure.