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Opinion

“Unintended consequences” is justice

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

The nightmare of every political, military, or economic strategist are unintended consequences that were never anticipated. Good planning always has a “plan B” and a “plan C”, but there are always consequences that disrupt or break down a good plan, and makes us go back to the drawing board. This is true in our own personal or life plans which may be a minor or major setback, or good luck which we have to resolve or enjoy. Unintended consequences become more important when it involves more people and affects the broader society or countries, that is why we need good leaders and good governments to progress.

In the throes of the ongoing COVID pandemic that is now on its sixteenth month, there are plenty of good and bad unintended consequences. The environmental/ecological positive effect, the moral regeneration, and the political re-alignments are prime examples. But these short-term effects have longer-term implications which are difficult to assess and may have negative consequences. My theory is that “unintended consequences” is about justice.

If we consider more recent and nearer examples like the Philippine and the US political situations, this may make more sense. While the current Duterte administration may have rightly calculated public reaction from the opposition and civil society on their stance with China and the West Philippine Sea situation, they surely underestimated the reaction of the military and retired generals, the business sector, and the academe. Or the consequences of pulling the rug under the Bong Go candidacy since a Chinese-sounding name will be a hard sell with this burning issue with China. In the US, the Republican Party’s sacking of Congresswoman Cheney to please Trump may seem a containable damage, but coupled with the many Republicans opposing the Anti-Asian-American Discrimination Law, they might just have alienated most immigrants in the US. In the case of China, their actions in Hong Kong and against the Uighurs may be explainable as internal affairs, but going after Jack Ma and other high-profile Chinese entrepreneurs is uncharted territory.

Tactical maneuvers are supposed to follow an overall strategic plan, but government authorities are winging it without the strategic direction due to vested interests and political expediency, or on what is convenient at the moment. While tactical or short-term errors are correctable, it distorts the strategic plan if there was, or makes it impossible to integrate them into the overall plan. Historical examples would be Vatican’s action on Martin Luther which could have been avoided but led to the Protestant schism. Another would be the American colonies of England which would not have revolted if parliamentary representations were granted. Injustices were the major factors that led to adverse unintended consequences.

In all religions, the moral precept of “do unto others, what others do unto you”, or “you reap what you sow” or the concept of karma are present. This is an admonition for a just human behavior for an orderly society. Justice is the necessary ingredient for peace, economic progress, and prosperity that is the objective of all governments. The same principle is true for our private and personal affairs. The businesses and enterprises that have prospered and survived for more than hundreds of years have corporate and family cultures that emphasized fairness and justice with their people and their customers.

It is injustice that leads to damaging unintended consequences, and it is justice that results in positive unintended consequences. The best laid plans of mice and men will go awry if not anchored on justice. A just life leads to a peaceful life and is a prelude to justice in heaven or hell.

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