Assumption of malevolence


As I sat at a picnic table near the boardwalk along Lake Ontario, I watched parents pushing children in strollers, local residents walking dogs and chatting, and a squirrel accost me for my choice in sandwiches (seems he preferred nuts over chicken).

It wasn’t long, however, before the gentle peace of wind and waves was broken by an angry tone.

“Hey! Your dog left a package back here!” shouted a woman to people further along the boardwalk.

“Sorry?” came the gentle query.

“And let’s just say it’s a present I wouldn’t want to step in,” the angry woman shouted while mimicking the slide of sneaker on grass.

“He did?” the other woman questioned, turning back down the boardwalk.

“Yeah! You want to get back here and pick up after your dog,” the first woman barked. “It’s over there behind the bench.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see him do it.”

“Of course not! You were too busy talking to your friends,” the woman sniped as she stormed across the park to some other destination.

The dog owner reached the bench, and after a few moments of searching, bagged the offending substance and rejoined her friends.


I appreciate that dog dirt litters our parks and streets and beaches, and that the angry woman was fed up with this happening in her neighbourhood.

And based on the demeanour and response of the accused (woman, not the dog), I am confident that this was not a typical dump-and-run, but rather an innocent oversight.

Sadly, rather than assume any degree of innocence, the angry women immediately jumped to an assumption of malevolent or at least willful ignorance.

She could have approached dog owner calmly with “Excuse me, but your dog seems to have left something behind that you may not have seen.”

Instead, she attacked with a tone that suggested the dog owner herself left the steaming pile.

At least in North America, there seems to be a growing trend to assume malevolent intentions before acknowledging the possibility of innocent ignorance or unfortunate stupidity.

Are there malevolent self-centred people in the world? Certainly.

But should that be our default assumption about anyone who slights us or causes us discomfort?

If the answer is yes, then I want out of this society. It has become too angry for me and I have no desire to be victimized by it.

I wish both of the women in this story well.

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