We do not want to leave the virologists alone in interpreting the situation. That's why we ask in the  series "What are you thinking about?"  leading researchers in the humanities and social sciences, what to think about in the crisis and what they are now worrying about. The questions are asked by Elisabeth von Thadden, the publicist and social psychologist Harald Welzer, 61, heads the Futura Two Foundation and teaches at various universities. He recently published the book "Everything could be different" (2019).

ZEIT ONLINE: What are you thinking about, Harald Welzer?

Harald Welzer: I think about why every phase of the successful enlightenment is obviously followed by a counter-enlightenment that is able to draw attention to itself. At the moment it is the contaminated people who are demonstrating against Corona politics in Stuttgart and elsewhere and thus react to the Corona months of successful education. And like back in 2015 in the so-called refugee crisis, in which the Pegida demos took to the streets, counter-enlightenment disproportionately attracts the attention of the media and politics.

ZEIT ONLINE: What is that supposed to be, successful education?

Welzer: The threat of the pandemic was publicly discussed by the research, politically translated into recommendations for action and ordinances, and the population, who compared and discussed the information, was attentive and alert, willing to be convinced and, as a result, largely agreed to the rules. Society and government have been working in partnership since the beginning of March, a process of mutual learning that can only be imagined in enlightened societies: fantastic! This insightful and willing attitude of the vast majority of the population has been far too little appreciated. I see this as an unpleasant paternalism. The proactive attitude of the citizens would really have deserved all attention as a remarkable resource for democracy.

Harald Welzer, publicist and social psychologist, in the home office © private

ZEIT ONLINE: But it is the good, democratic right to demonstrate that the protesters have recently been taking to the streets. 

Welzer: Of course it is. But these people who subsequently demonstrate against successful measures form a tiny minority, a few hundred here, a few thousand there, and they attract the media and make politics nervous, as if it counted far, far vast majority not in tens of millions. The round at Anne Will has just shown it: 81 percent of the population agree to a cautious easing. But the discussants run after the minority. This disproportion, this imbalance makes me very worried and also outrages me.

ZEIT ONLINE: Democratic pluralism pays attention to the minorities.

Welzer: Naklar does. And the differences of opinion in the interpretation of the crisis must be resolved. But the perception of a divided society that is now being spread is quite unrealistic! What does it have to do with division when a few thousand people, including some crazy people and many rights, take to the streets? A protest is assigned relevance that has none.