The Age of Betrayal

How to cope with the emotional turmoil of lost trust?

Sometimes it takes someone else to point out the blindingly obvious to you. A friend recently passed a comment noting that (for a well-mannered “nice” person) I had endured an awful lot of betrayal. At one level I have become accustomed to broken trust, but I hadn’t really stood back to itemise it all and take in its full scope. So here goes…

It is easy to note the ubiquitous institutional betrayal by the weaponised media, medical establishment, legal system, and government. Yet it doesn’t stop there. I have personally been targeted by a large number of censorship attacks. Many times I have been deplatformed without any explanation, or even notification. Each occasion is a breach of the trust we place in institutions to be treated equally, fairly, and lawfully. Confidence in the entire tech industry is undermined when trust is systematically broken this way.

For me to engage in any technological or publishing endeavour is now an expensive proposition. I am in a similar position to companies like Gab, who have been forced to build independent infrastructure and not depend on “Big Tech” applications. My choices are severely limited. For instance, the service I use for domain management is one I choose because I happen to know the CEO personally, and despite different outlooks would hope to be protected from racketeering.

The censorship betrayal problem doesn’t end with the deplatformings. I still use Google apps for my email, for instance, and have not been kicked off (yet). But I do note unusual patterns of nearly all correspondence going to spam at times. Is this an intentional behaviour, or just an accident of how the spam filter AI reacts to certain keywords? I do not know, but I now cannot trust any of these Marxist-aligned platforms. Every service is presumed to be a turncoat until proven to be pro-freedom.

The cost of “cancel culture” isn’t limited to the cancellations that actually happen, either. There is a cost of suspicion and self-protection that needs to be borne by the digital warrior. I have had to create multiple backup domains and email accounts in anticipation of future assaults on my virtual existence. I use a variety of email clients, and have to deal with extra complexity of software upgrades and data management. I cannot depend on backup services like Dropbox ever backing me up in my hour of need, so I have additional layers of data redundancy and extra effort and cost.

One of my joys in the last few years has been taking up photo art, and finding a large and enthusiastic audience for it. I like to send my “pretty digital kisses” out to reaffirm the existence of beauty all around us. I knowingly turn up the software dials to “tolerably outrageous” to give people a little extra smile during dour times when colour is most needed. While my writing may reflect my intellect, my art comes from my heart. Having my 250k+ Twitter followers taken away — years of work and relationship building — was a betrayal that cut deep, even if I knew it was coming.

I have also experienced much personal betrayal. One “friend” with considerable resources did nothing to help me as my means of making a living was repeatedly removed. On reflection this is a two-faced behaviour and a betrayal of our purported friendship, since I had his back, but he didn’t have mine. The same person has attempted to usurp my position and authority as a father, advising my daughter in an inappropriate way — where my word should be final. Disagreement is OK and healthy, but going behind my back is not.

I don’t want to dwell on it, but I experienced a breach of trust by business partners a few years ago after I became a “right-wing extremist conspiracy theorist Trump supporter and QAnon cultist” (note my tongue is firmly in my cheek). I had built up a business relationship with a telecoms client, and that was hijacked in a way that ruined a longstanding professional cooperation. We haven’t spoken in years, and it is a sadness I have long moved on from.

My doctor has displayed a loyalty to his pharma paymasters that broke any trust and confidence I had. My parents failed to back me up when I pointed out that masks are overt child abuse — being medical devices offered without informed consent. My daughter’s school headmistress lied and dissembled and evaded when challenged, and as a display of betrayal of professional trust deserves to be in the history books. Another “friend” took money to do work on my studio, and then partied hard and did a botch job.

I think you get the point. The real issue is not my lengthy catalogue of life complaints, but how do we overcome these setbacks of disloyalty and misplaced trust?

The first thing is to acknowledge these wrongdoings for what they are. Initially we can be overwhelmed by feelings of anger, impotence, and even vengefulness. By naming the breach of trust as a betrayal it separates us (and our present emotional state) from the event (which is historical and cannot be changed). This allows us to accept that we are factually in a victim position, so that we may integrate the changed reality of our relational landscape. That is not to excuse wallowing in victimhood, but rather it gives us space to reflect on the unwanted facts, and thus more choice over how to respond.

My second lesson over time is one of letting go quickly once betrayed. My parents will always be my parents, even if I am cross with them; there is no separation desired or possible. But for former friends who have crossed me, there is no going back. I have had to come to terms with being an “emotional dumping ground” for their inability to deal with loss of face, their cowardice, or their foolishness. The betrayal is done to me, but isn’t about me; it is others acting out their own madness. Don’t let the bad taste linger, just rinse away the disappointment and move on.

The final takeaway is that I have choices over where I place my attention. Yes, betrayal happens and it hurts. But I have also experienced the flip side, and discovered who is truly a loyal friend and ally. Without the hardships of broken trust there would be little meaning to those sturdier relationships. When the pain of betrayal is most searing, it is an invitation to “flip the script” and celebrate loyalty wherever it is shown. We can always redirect the wasted fury of any betrayal into energising more enduring attachments.