Some of the Dutch have a completely different vision of the corona crisis. According to them, the seriousness of the coronavirus is deliberately exaggerated (by the government and the media) in order to implement a different agenda. Such ideas lead to conflicts with friends, family and life partners who think differently.
In some cases, even divorce is lurking. In the families we visited, the different worldviews led to considerable tension at home:
What should you do if you really think differently about it at home? “Discussing the content is often pointless,” says sociologist Jaron Harambam. He obtained his PhD at the Vrije Universiteit on research into conspiracy thinkers and is now working at the University of Leuven. According to him, ridiculing is also out of the question.
According to Jaron, it is more effective to investigate where ideas come from and show genuine interest in them. “The radical measures taken during the corona crisis make our future uncertain. People get the idea that the story of politicians and virologists is the only truth,” Harambam saw in his research. “One of the few places where other sounds could be heard was the conspiracy world. So people asking questions were sucked into it.”
What you see a lot is that both ‘sides’ show little interest and few questions are asked. “Ask the other out of curiosity instead of fear of a different world view and a different sound”, Harambam advises.
This will be easier for one person than for another. A productive dialogue is possible with people who simply have questions. “You can talk to them about the content. With people who are stuck in their own worldview, it makes little sense to discuss facts, reality and truth. That clashes immediately, especially if you’re going to talk about ‘the truth’.”
But all the more important, according to Harambam, is to see what you can learn from the other. Therefore, not only ask for the ideas, but also look at the person behind them, he advises. “You have to humanize someone again. You want to see them as someone with a history, feelings and ideas. In situations of polarization you often see this de-humanisation.
And agree to disagree?
Thinking ‘I am like this’ and ‘you are like this’ should be avoided as much as possible in such a situation, Harambam advises. “If your worldview becomes interwoven with your identity, there will be no more room to deal with each other in any other way.”
So, he says, put yourself in the other person’s position. The one who’s not a conspiracy thinker belongs to the mainstream. “So he’s got a privileged position anyway. And those conspiracy thinkers live in a society where their ideas and identities are stigmatized, so they’re already in a defensive dynamic.”
In his research, the sociologist saw that ‘the other’ often went into this in a stroppy, pedantic and fact-checking manner. “Then you’d better think: we’ll park that truth for a while.” Agree to disagree.
Harambam’s last tip: avoid social media and keep the conversation face-to-face. The following applies to both parties: “Nobody is waiting for some kind of pedantic figure to tell you how the world works” So, if you want to keep the dialogue going, “I’ll say: hold on tight with open arms.”