Thursday, August 18, 2005

RETIRE THAT PHRASE

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Another phrase in political currency devalued by over-printing...

What they mean to say is UNANTICIPATED

The key word to look for is the noun, CONSEQUENCES...in this case definite observable results, "facts on the ground", that resulted from an action or an inaction. There is a direct line drawn from the thing done (and not doing a thing is an act of volition, read your Kierkegaard) and results we must live with.

The trouble is with that adjective, UNINTENDED.

Recall the ad campaign in Old Blighty during the battle with Mr. Hitler, extolling the Brits to conserve petrol..."Is this journey necessary?"

This is the question we should ask ourselves whenever using an ADJECTIVE.

What does UNINTENDED add to the noun?

NOTHING
The adjective in this case is so much white noise, used to obscure clarity. We must deal with the fact that there are consequences. In the case of Iraq, the fact that the servants we chose to practice good stewardship over our defenses piddled away a much improved resource is a fact, a fact manifest. Whether the consequence was UNINTENDED is not germane to assessing the damage. Using the adjective does not diminish the carnage on the ground, or the responsibility of the servants.
A better adjective is UNANTICIPATED. A less pleasing adjective, for this word implies responsibility. I always like to use the building contractor analogy (allegory? metaphor?). We can all agree that shelter is a good thing. A building contractor voices commitment to this shared ideal. But he blindly refuses to anticipate the consequences of using cheap materials tossed about by dodgy subcontractors with bad records. However, this is not UNINTENDED, it is UNANTICIPATED. And it is the contractors job, and professional duty inasmuch as a building contractor chooses to call himself a professional, to suss out the consequences of his action. After the building collapses, it will serve him little in a court of civil law to announce that the implosion was UNINTENDED. At this point, also, the survivors of the devestation will care little to hear form the contractor that he is "under grace", and make mistakes, but is forgiven by his personal savior. And the jury of his peers will be little impressed that he truly believed the building would stay up, with the aside observation that he is "the type of guy I could have a coffee with".
Damages to the plaintiff...next case, Rusty....

1 Comments:

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