It is often said that the "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." Taken at face value, I have always believed that it meant that we can never know the true outcomes of even the best of intentions. But it also speaks to the good intent of inaction, the sort I am all too familiar with as a perfectionist. Whether we choose to act or not, and for whatever reasons, we do so in good faith, only guessing at what may come of it. The butterfly effect warns us that even our good deeds can have the most outlandish consequences. But what is good, and why are we always so certain that we know the answer, when even the most innocuous acts can be dangerous?
It's a difficult lesson to learn, and one I feel society has harped on a lot of late. Take for instance, the story of Natasha Tynes. Yesterday, the Jordanian-American author took to social media to complain about a transit worker, a black woman, eating on the DC Metro. In DC, eating on public transit was recently downgraded to a minor offense, but Natasha's tweet was filled with such indignation that one might wonder what her true intentions were. As it goes with these sort of things, within a few hours, her Twitter account was flooded with accusations of bigotry and she is now well on her way to losing her distributor and book deal altogether. Her account no longer seems to be accessible on Twitter. All in a day's work for The Internet.
Ordinarily I wouldn't feel sorry for people under Natasha's circumstances. She went out of her way to photograph and publicly shame someone who probably isn't afforded a lot of time to eat at all. However, I do get the impulse to uphold the rules, especially when they are enforced unequally and unfairly. But something I've learned overtime, and often the hard way is that these rules are usually indicative of a bigger problem of inequality, one we don't often see when we are so busy sneering down our noses at other people in our self-righteousness. The transit worker was not harming anyone, and by all accounts, was not littering on the Metro. So why was Natasha driven to violate the worker's privacy? It's the embodiment of a dangerous precedent we face in a world where any and everyone has a camera and a microphone.
Intent and impact are not mutually exclusive. We must be very careful to weigh the realities of our choice to act or remain inert. We cannot always anticipate how our actions will be received, but we can be sure that there will always be consequences. But it seems the first truisms we learn in life are the most lasting of all; nobody likes a tattletale.