In the social sciences, and even real life, unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action. There are three outcomes associated with this intractable law:
1. Unexpected benefit: A positive unexpected benefit (also referred to as luck, kismet and “it’s a damn miracle!”)
Example: You meet a roguish sort at a bar. He appears penniless, extremely charming and slightly underfed. When he empties his pockets in an attempt to gather enough moola to pay for a beer, you spot a guitar pick amongst the loose change. You are at once smitten. In spite of the alarms going off in your head you embark on a relationship with Never Gonna Be John Mayer.
The anticipated, or fully expected consequence of your action is that you will spend six months sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a damp, grungy craphole in a sketch neighborhood, eating ramen noodles at your age, and will “donate” all your earnings to the guitar player’s “career,” which you take waaaay more seriously than he does as is evidenced by the fact that you come home early one afternoon with a nice big bag of groceries and find your “project” not rehearsing or practicing his “craft,” but in bed with a stripper named Jocelyn. #Charlottemoment
An unintended benefit of your action (luck, kismet and damn miracle) would be if after six months of proving yourself to the pauper of the pick-up, the man tells you he is actually heir to a green energy fortune and now that he knows you’re not just about the money, he wishes to whisk you off to his Wyoming wind farm, nestled picturesquely in the Tetons, where you will have a horse named Rocket.
*Note: in the law of the unintended consequence, unexpected benefit has never been scientifically documented ever in the history of the world, not even once.
2. Unexpected drawback: An unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect of the policy.
Example: Monsanto develops genetically engineered corn that grows faster and bigger than real corn, and is impervious to pests. The farmers who grow the Hulk corn are delighted because their yield is humongous. Monsanto is delighted because they’re making bank selling this stuff, which is the desired effect of the policy. What could go wrong?
Since 1996 we have lost more than 90% of the Monarch butterflies on the planet thanks to Monsanto’s GMO corn and Monsanto’s other genius creation, Round-Up weed killer, which kills off milkweed, the Monarch’s main source of sustenance. Think butterflies are for the birds? The Monarch, known as the king of butterflies, is responsible for pollinating vast amounts of our plant-based foods, i.e. should this particular butterfly go permanently belly up, we will not have most veggies, fruit or soy. Think you can live on meat? Guess what your meat eats? Piggies, cattle, sheep and chickens all eat a plant-based diet.
Some might argue that the whole Monarch/milkweed/destruction of the human race was not an “unexpected drawback,” but rather the predictable result of science and nature colliding with greed and avarice. Not everyone will concede this point as many people believe science is the same as voodoo, only less credible.
An example of an unexpected drawback for those people: throwing gasoline on the Weber to get ‘er going. It’ll spark up the grill, no sweat, but adding a highly flammable petroleum product directly to a pile of charcoal and then igniting it is also an efficient way to denude one’s upper personage of hair.
Again, one might surmise that the result should not have been unexpected if only a person gave it the slightest iota of thought, but if that were really the case why would dozens of people lose eyebrows and bangs each year in gasoline-related grill mishaps? To those folks it is an unexpected drawback, usually punctuated by the words, “Oh, shit,” “I did not see that coming” and “someone call 911.”
3. Perverse result: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution backfires). This is sometimes referred to as “being bitten on the ass.”
Example: any day now you expect your boyfriend to come clean with the Wyoming wind farm deets, but instead he informs you he is taking someone else to the social event of the summer—the marriage of his cousin to a guy who once opened for Green Day before they became famous. There will be an open bar and lobster, you’ve heard. Enraged, you go to the Tipsy Cow with your bestie and plan to drown your sorrows.
Three hours later you notice a hot guy at the end of the bar staring at you. He’s shirtless and shredded. His jeans are perfectly worn in. He has sun-kissed long blonde hair, like Brad Pitt in Troy
He buys you a drink and when things are going really well he says he has to take off—he’s got a wedding in the morning. You think, could it be? Yup. He’s related on the groom’s side to the guy who once opened for Green Day. You tell him nothing gets you out of your jeans faster than a good Wisconsin wedding. Score! You’ve got a 10AM wedding date. By 10:15 your boyfriend should be Green Day with envy. (Having regained your dignity you will then dump him.)
At ten o’clock on Saturday morning you stand on your porch in the sexiest dress you own, wearing the highest heels on earth. In the distance you hear what sounds like a Singer sewing machine chugging your way, which is immediately explained as a rusty dented maroon 1990 Chevy APV rounds the corner, belching exhaust as it comes to a stop in front of your house.
The driver does not resemble the guy you met last night. His beautiful body is now swathed in a poop brown shiny polyester double-breasted suit with melty burn marks on the lapels. His long tresses have been pulled into a double man bun that looks like something Hattie McCoy wore when the wagons rolled West and women feared bats would nest in their hair. He wears smudged glasses, cockeyed. One stem is missing.
You could run back inside and lock yourself in, but, like the gentleman he is, he has already reached over from the driver’s seat and kicked open the passenger door for you.
At the wedding, when you get out of the dust buster-shaped vehicle, which your date has parked beside the bridal party’s limo, you realize you do not know your date’s name, and he is 5′ 4″–facts you overlooked the night before because your ass never left the barstool and you had no frame of reference as to scale, plus frankly you were mesmerized by his tanned, chiseled chest. At 6’4″ in stilettos, you are in a perfect position to view the top of his man bun while he is eye-level with your breast area. None of this is lost on the boyfriend, whose date is Scarlett Johansson’s prettier twin.
You are seated at the children’s table. There is no lobster. The drinks are not free. You are humiliated and embarrassed at every turn.
Maybe you shouldn’t have elected someone, I mean elected to date someone, out of anger and frustration. The Law of Unintended Consequences will bite you on the ass every time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately, and what lessons might be learned from the passing of a loved one. I try to remember all the advice my mom gave me over the years—some spoken and a lot that I picked up by observing her. She left enough good lessons to fill a book, which I mentioned to a friend the other day. Imagine my shock upon hearing she was reading a book called The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell YOU.
I volunteer as the president of a small fine art photography organization, so I have living breathing board members, regular members and people who think someday, if I do A, B and C, they might then become members telling me stuff all day long. (Weekends and nights included.) Add to that my dad, who is the leading authority on most stuff as he reminds me constantly that he is very old and therefore very wise, various family members possessing various degrees of perspicacity, tons of friends, business associates, editors, readers, a massage therapist, medical professionals, my mom’s friends, strangers on Facebook and a waitress at our local fish fry joint who all want to tell me what to do, how to do it, why I need to do it, where to do it, with whom I should do it and what will happen if I don’t do it. And now I should add dead people to the list of folks who have something to tell me.
In a super condensed nutshell, here’s a sampling of Mike Dooley’s top ten list of items the dearly departed wish to tell us:
My eyes are rolling so far back in my head I can see the guy at the table behind me pretending to write a script at Starbucks, and all I can think is why the hell didn’t I come up with this first? (The same thought I had upon glancing for the first time at the cover of Chicken Soup for the Soul, a favorite of my dear Aunt Grace who also collected Wizard of Oz Franklin Mint plates and Shirley Temple memorabilia.)
I don’t know if dead people really want to tell us our pets are as crazy “there” as they were here, but it’s a lovely thought—Delgado and Thelma stealing hamburgers and ripping skunks in two. I’m just not 100% convinced the deceased are dying to tell us anything now that they’re gone. Given my experience, people are plenty happy to do it while they’re alive and can literally text, yell, email or phone in their advice, critiques, comments, arguments, opinions and #fakenews. Sure, you can’t talk back to someone who’s met her maker, but the dead also can’t keep arguing with you until you bang your head on the table and ask the waiter for an order of cyanide pancakes so you can be dead and not have to be told anything further by anyone, including other dead people.
Nah, I don’t think the dead have a big long list of stuff they want to tell us, unless it’s the combination to a safe that contains a few million in unmarked Benjamins, or that there was a large insurance policy they never told you about, naming you beneficiary, or most importantly, that I am actually an aristocrat with a title and land holdings in Worchesterchestshiresham. You’d hope, if they were able, that the people who precede us in death would make a sincere effort to communicate important information such as I just mentioned. Otherwise, I’m not feeling it from them.
Living people, however, sometimes have good suggestions. Here are a few I’ve collected:
1. Park inside the lines.
It is perfectly acceptable to color outside the lines, but just because you’ve got a shiny F150, or a Maserati, does not make it cool to park on an angle, taking two spots, because you don’t want your doors dinged. Even though a dead person allegedly said there is no devil or hell, I promise you there is a special place for people who take two parking spots, and it is completely uninhabitable like the Gobi desert or Flint, Michigan.
2. Go easy on the perfume and cologne.
I recently got into an empty elevator, well not exactly empty—it was filled with sweet, sweet baby Jesus oh-so-sweet Giorgio perfume. It’s eau d’ offensive when you’re not even there and I end up smelling like you for the rest of the day.
Men, same goes for you. I used to work with a man who wore a copious amount of Brut aftershave. If you used the telephone on his desk for any reason, or he used yours, the fulminating power of Brut clung to the handset like the specter of death itself, making it impossible to make a call or answer one without gacking.
3. You never need to buy paperclips.
I shouldn’t share this one with you because once you start taking my advice I will be screwed. The deal is, look down, look around, sweep up all the loose paperclips. They are everywhere. I use many paperclips daily and haven’t bought one since 1988.
4. Trust your instincts.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Go with your gut. Do not second guess yourself. I should have listened to the voice in my head when it said “don’t marry that one, for sure don’t marry that one, the mussels do smell funny, buy Apple, and go to Froedtert Hospital; they’ll know what to do.”
The voice in my head has never been wrong. The part of my brain that thinks it’s smarter than the voice in my head has rarely been right (and has been divorced twice).
We’ve been developing and sharpening our instincts in constant human evolution. Google sense and thinking “what would a Kardashian do” are relatively new tools in our quest to thrive and remain alive, and may not be as rock solid as a skill set nature itself has been honing on our behalf for the past two million years. Seriously, trust your gut.
5. Wear purple.
My mom kept this poem on the fridge for as long as I can remember.
“When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
There will be a celebration of my mom’s life—a long life well lived, on Saturday January 14, 2017. From 2 – 4pm at the Elm Grove Women’s Club. 13885 Watertown Plank Rd, Elm Grove, WI 53122
Donations suggested to Age Related Macular Degeneration Research at the Froedtert and Medical College Eye Institute, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee WI 53226
Many of us have lost Facebook friends, real life friends, relatives and the respect of total strangers over our and/or their political beliefs. Either they’re liberals who’ve put something that is supposed to be good for us in our drinking water, or they’re conservatives who have put very bad things in the water because something has caused people to lose their damn minds. Political debate has gone from the exchange of words and ideas to nuclear fission.
People are saying stuff that is so incendiary that I go off the deep end every time my ears are open. (If you see me out somewhere and I do not respond to shouts of “PAM!” or “ANGELINA!” (seriously, I get that a lot) then tap me on the shoulder, for in all likelihood I have Beats buried deeply in my cochlea so as to prevent the mention of politics from poking the cornered wolverine in my cerebellum.
As rabidly as I believe what I believe, I realize someone with an opposing view believes what she believes just as vehemently. Nothing she tells me will change my opinion because I will not believe a word out of her mouth, and she no doubt feels exactly the same way. I say with complete candor, however, she could believe me because I get my information from a variety of credible news sources.
“How do I know if it’s fake news or real news?” you may ask. (I used to think the ultimate litmus test of B.S. was whether something I’d heard made my hair burst into flames. This no longer applies. Pretty much any day of the week you could roast marshmallows over my roots.)
If you believe American journalism and the media as a whole are corrupt, I can’t help you. I can tell you where to find the best deal on a ton of beef jerky and extra batteries for the waffle iron in your bunker. That aside, we used to be able to live by Edgar Allen Poe’s brilliant advice, “believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear,” but I don’t feel confident about those numbers at all anymore. There’s a lot of illusion going on these days. You can’t take anyone’s word for anything.
So how do we find the truth in the media? Let’s throw out the networks at the far ends of the spectrum. Don’t put all your chips on MSNBC or Fox News. Everything in between, assuming there is an actual network icon somewhere on the screen, is giving you actual news. News forgers have taken to Facebook and the internet with professional looking newsrooms and anchors who have perfect hair. They look so real! But beware. If it’s got a weird name, like One America, American News, News Today, All the Factual News You Need, TASS or al-Naba, immediately suspect everything and believe none of it.
If after spending a solid hour trying to verify something that has been presented as a fact (and you’ve managed to extinguish your hair), but you cannot find one single credible news story verifying the thing, IT IS NOT REAL. It doesn’t matter how many people have quoted it, who they are or how badly you wish for it to be true, IT IS NOT REAL. Again, bunker peeps, if you think your “news item” can’t be found because someone is editing what you can and cannot see on the internet, you’re not getting enough oxygen.
Know how they edit internet content in communist countries? They don’t allow the internet. There is no way to stop the flow of ideas, information, reality and lies available on the internet. It’s up to the individual to divine between facts, drunk uncle and wishful thinking.
There is no hope that real information, i.e. the truth, will persuade someone who opposes your ideology to come around to your way of seeing things, so if that’s the only reason you’re looking stuff up you’re wasting your time. The key benefit to knowing what’s what in this political climate is simply to reduce the amount of anxiety and fear that bubbles to the surface and threatens to bury us when someone spouts something wholly untrue, but frighteningly possible (because, you know, it’s now).
I do think people should be called on their B.S., but it would be unrealistic to think information will change opinions or behavior. When I hear there’s secret footage “they don’t want us to see” of Senator Capuchin throwing his own poop at Senator Copperhead, I think, A) well, that is odd, and B) I’m looking that shit up. Since you can’t prove a negative (such as secret footage of feces flecking does not exist), it is contingent upon the person who says the footage does exist, to prove it. Fuzzy footage that could be Nessie or Yeti does not count.
I’ve heard people spew statistics in an effort to prove the veracity of their statements. Since 9 out of 10 people make shit up on the spot, it proves nothing. All you can do is research for your own edification and sleep well because you’re basing your beliefs, to the very best of your ability, on actuality. Then sign petitions, contact your representatives or better yet, volunteer for public service yourself.