Understanding what is really going on around us is one of the toughest parts of this job. There is nothing easier than settling for what the people inside your own bubble believe and are talking about – whatever that may be – or harboring the illusion that something you hear from some random person outside the bubble can be trusted as the truth. I often remember an old and dear colleague who invariably came to the office saying, “People are upset by this…” or “Do you know what’s going on out there?” I couldn’t help myself one day and responded, “You must have stopped by that kiosk again today.” He got mad but he laughed. Making sure you have your finger on the pulse of society is a constant task, but the familiar routine is also very attractive.
The economic crisis taught us how to listen more, especially those who were outside their comfort zone. It was an important lesson belatedly learned by our colleagues in Britain and the United States when they failed to see Brexit and Donald Trump coming.
Why the preamble? Because I see a lot of people around me shocked by some of the things they hear about the coronavirus and the vaccinations. It’s as if they have never browsed social media or the internet, or channel-surfed to catch one of the many late shows on television. There’s another world out there – whether good or bad is irrelevant. It helps in nothing but we cannot ignore it nor should we dismiss it out of hand.
The powerful presence of this parallel world does not mean that most people are part of it. If that were the case, we would have said goodbye to the West and to Europe politically and culturally a while ago. A part of this section of society, meanwhile, embraces both worlds: getting vaccinated while at the same time propagating every new madcap or outrageous theory about the provenance of the coronavirus, the shady interests lurking behind it etc, etc.
But our shock at some of the theories and beliefs circulating out there shows that we have lost touch with a part of society. We inhabit the same space, but speak a different language. The chasm that divides us must be bridged. It is not just a matter of communication, but also of finding the right code for getting through. If we manage to change a few basic things – like improving public hospitals, for example – and rebuild the country along the same efficient and professional lines seen in the vaccination program, we will be able to win these people over.
What they need is a discussion without judgment and tangible proof that someone cares about them.