Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Reaching COVID vaccination refusers with empathy

Let’s first establish how we don’t help them change their minds.

Bombarding them with medical or scientific proofs or facts. Those have been around plentifully. Adding to them is not going to help.

Arguing. Arguing often makes people defensive and strengthen their positions. Especially if they assume that you’re hostile or fooled, and they are privy to crucial information you’re lacking.

Marshall Rosenberg (Non-Violent Communication) stresses: Empathy Before Education. You want to teach something; first, show empathy.

Many anti-vaxxers feel under attack. Some of them are. But even if their fears were paranoid, not substantiated by objective fact-finding, it’s worth it to hear and acknowledge how they feel (and sometimes are) victimized.

Agree where you truthfully can. “They’re lying!” Yes, unfortunately, there is a lot of lying going on on both sides of the debate. “Big Pharma just wants to make money.” Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is as much into ethics as the weapon and the tobacco industry. “This is just like the Holocaust.” Yes, you feel threatened in your survival and abandoned by all.

Notice that when you’re mild and friendly, their pronouncements will also soften. Don’t then say: “Ah, you admit it’s less bad.” Don’t destroy the new safety they’re building with you, just because you feel you need to win.

You could say: “People who feel so protected by G^d that they don’t need to look both ways when crossing the street also don’t need vaccinations,” but then, say it very calmly. Be very friendly when you say: “I wonder if mandatory vaccination is different from smoking bans and mandatory safety regulations like wearing safety belts or helmets.” Smile!

When you feel like screaming at them or crushing them with decisive contra-arguments, don’t. Don’t ignore this anger and shove it under the carpet (or it will burst forth eventually). Just promise you’ll say it later. Have some empathy for your battled self, praise your patience and love.

The most important thing is to keep them talking by being interested in what they have to say. This is not for a rush job.

When they say feeling deeply unseen, abandoned, etc., say casually: I guess that it’s not the first time in life you feel like that. Ask them when and how that started, and how it’s been ruining their lives. Show empathy for how bad it was. When they feel you’re on their side, say casually: “This injustice has to stop, and your hurts need to heal. As long as that has not happened, you’re vulnerable to people who want to manipulate you.”

“Good for you for seeing injustice and caring enough to oppose it. Yet, being angry makes you powerless. Try staying calm, happy, to gain power.”

When in doubt, be on their side instead of trying to get them on your side.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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