The Ofxord dictonary’s 2018 word of the year was “toxic” and in an age where the term “red flag” is becoming almost as common as the word “the”, the question needs to be put to people the degree to which they’re version of whatever story it is is accurate and to what degree it is their cognitive biases and rationalizations are downplaying their own blame and hyperbolizing the blame held by others. In cases of overt abuse where the facts are mostly plain to see, guilt and innocence may or may be easily assigned but, for the most part, that is not possible and life’s anectdotes are rarely that clean and neat.
The greatest problem with this, of course, is it is contrary to empathy. Once one has demonized someone, one no longer considers their humanity or what their side of the story is. The word toxic, itself, dehumanizes someone and reduces them to something subhuman and undeserving of empathy or love. Cutting someone out of one’s life and cutting off all contact used a be a big deal. Ghosting and blocking required one be on exceptionally bad terms with one another. Nowadays, it is done liberally and often justified with the hyperbolized melodramas which people narrate their personal stories as.
I remember, when I got suspended for platonic harassment in college that the proceedings lacked almost any due process and the little there was to be had was a kangaroo court where, largely owing to the cognitive biases of the dean and the police, and the exaggerations of my accuser and the fact that her version had reached them first. I was having panic and anxiety attacks so I didn’t attend the hearing, in part, for that reason and that was my stated reason to the dean of students but also, and this was the deal-breaking reason, I read their correspondence with me and thought “I’m not showing up to this fucking kangaroo court. I’m not the fucking creep you’re imagining me as. Go fuck yourself and cosplay SVU with someone with the mental health to endure that fucking Guantamo kink session!”
Instead of attending the hearing, I filed a lawsuit against the school for a number of reasons but one of the main ones was that their “harassment” rules amounted to an “ugly law” which is illegal under the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) pursuant to the hostile environment precedent ruled in 2019 since there had been regular use of disciplinary threats and inverventions against me based on my social unpopularity which, being borne of disbaility, is illegal.
My lawyer lied, abandoned the lawsuit, and did a number of things in violation of bar association rules for which he could be and should be disbarred for those and and almost every other reason. He was a politician I was an aide for and have complained about through this medium before and I am certain he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In any case, the point in filing the lawsuit was not only to win with my attorney with malignant NPD but to shift the angle to something closer to the truth and to make this a civil rights issue regarding disabilities.
Having been bullied visciously, I know why she probably reported me. While it was something nonviolent and platonic that could have been smoothed over without much effort. She related her cognitive bias and rose-tinted-in-her-direction version of the story to her friends and family who took it without any grains of salt and to engender goodwill with her encouraged her to take a route that would make her look more like a martyr and that would impart public sympathy to her as much as possible. That last part is partially subconscious. I know that because I talk to people about my being sadistically bullied and while I do tell the truth, I am disturbed by how wholly anyone I tell the stories to swallows them.
I have never been solipsistic enough to ever seriously take the advice of someone listening to me emotionally vent. Plenty of people have told me I should have reported my bullies. I step back and think to myself “diplomacy before war, every time. Jingoists always reach for the nukes, rationalists book an upscale resort in Geneva for a week of Metternich and Tallyrand.” And that has always been the advice I have given people for many reasons but, in part, because I have spent my life in politics and raised by a lawyer whose friends were lawyers and have a background in psychology. I do not fully believe unverified accounts of people when they say shit where they have a conflict-of-interest. Absent a clear and present danger, I advise diplomacy. And, whenever, recounting any event it is best to remind oneself of Hanlon’s Razor and to consider all scientific explanations and solutions before doing the melodrama with guns.
The ultimate point is this: the moment the melodrama became the official line the only choice was war or, in that case, a one-sided conflict where the guns and money were all on the other side like Israel invading the Gaza Strip or the Soviets crushing Budapest in 1956. That’s not justice and true justice entails the catharsis of atonement and anything else is a mockery of the word. There was supposedly a worthy and unworthy victim which is seldom ever how stories play out in real life. I am not saying toxic people don’t exist but those people have dark triad personality disorders and absent a dark personality disorder, people are not toxic. To regard someone as toxic doesn’t make things better, it inhibits mutual understanding and worsens any conflict.