Some of my comments about rabid environmentalists seem to have rubbed her the wrong way, and she mentioned that in a lot of cases, people were doing what they did with good intentions.
I made a couple of comments on that subject, and even mentioned the notorious "road to hell". Alas, my voice was still suffering from the after-effects of a cold, and so was the rest of me. Thus, it wasn't until much later that I came up with a way of phrasing my point that I think hits the nail right on the head.
My partner in conversation is a new mother. If she's not sick of one particular phrase by now, she soon will be.
"I didn't mean to."
I wish I had a nickel for every broken lamp, broken window, spilled glass of milk, torn anything, stained anything, or otherwise damaged anything that phrase has been uttered over. I could retire. I could take up a hobby of collecting castles on the Rhine. I could finance Jerry Pournelle's idea of a solar power satellite.
Every child on earth has said, "I didn't mean to." Most of them have meant it. At the very least, they utter this phrase in the hope that it will make a difference. I suppose in a way, it does – it's nice to know your child didn't harbor malicious intent when he broke the lamp handed down from your great grandmother.
But the lamp remains broken, and it's just as broken as if the child had harbored the worst of intentions.
I suppose the punishment will be lighter than if the child had declared himself proud of what he'd done, but there is invaribly some sort of punishment.
Even if the child had the best of intentions.