It’s the end of the year, and blog posts are infecting the internet with words like “mindset”: the answer, apparently, to being healthier, richer and more successful next year. I gave up New Year’s resolutions years ago so I’m shrugging off the advice as nothing more than an excuse for a bit of buzzword bingo.
But there are some things I can’t shrug off.
People of a certain age have been sharing a blog post by music writer Pete Paphides in which he takes Andy Kershaw to task for being ungenerous about George Michael’s musical legacy.
Most of my Facebook friends were on Paphides’ side, except the one who described the article (accurately) as: "Man Entitled To Opinion 'Total Dick’ Says Journalist During Thousand-Word Article About Himself."
I’ve been impressed by the stories of what a nice person George Michael seems to have been. And perhaps being a great human being is more important than being a great artist.
In musical terms, though, I think Kershaw was right that George Michael wasn’t “among the greats”. I also think he was wrong to say it when he did but that’s not enough to write him off as a bitter and nasty person, as some of my friends have done. No-one has the right to make judgements about someone else's personality when you don't know what's going on with them. (And it’s public knowledge that Kershaw has had struggles in the past.)
And then I went on LinkedIn (I was bored, OK) and saw this article. I read it because someone I know recommended it; then I wished I hadn't.
My bullshit detector always goes off when I read things like “personal growth”. The article has a standard clickbait headline, 13 Things You Should Give Up If You Want To Be Successful. Oh, and one of the 13 things involves “mindset”. So far, so uninteresting.
But what really pissed me off was number 11 on the list: Give Up The Toxic People. It’s a very common bit of self-help advice. I’ve seen it doing the rounds for years and I’ve never liked it, because what gives anyone the right to decide another human being is “toxic”?
And this time it’s personal. Because this year, someone I love decided I was toxic and that they were better off without me in their life. And when you make a judgement like that, you hurt a real, three-dimensional human being.
I’m not always a nice person, but I do my best. I know I say what I think more often than is considered normal in our culture. I know I sometimes say (or post) the wrong thing. But most people I know think I’m OK and realise that my heart is in the right place and don’t write me off.
I don’t believe that people are toxic. I believe situations people find themselves in are toxic, but that’s a different thing.
So if you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, how about this one: just don’t judge other people.