Affirming Chance

by Dr Rob Long on November 29, 2016

in Psychology of Safety and Risk,Robert Long



Affirming Chance

Two white diceMy apologies for the perhaps heavy nature of the following blog but serves as a follow up to the previous on Innocence and Justice in Safety (https://www.safetyrisk.net/innocence-and-justice-in-safety/). So lets follow up the piece on Justice and innocence by a quote from Deleuze.

Deleuze states:

‘To abolish chance by holding it in the grip of causality and finality, to count on repetition of throws rather than affirming chance, to anticipate a result instead of affirming necessity – these are all operations of a bad player. They have their root in reason, but what is the root of reason? The spirit of revenge, nothing but the spirit of revenge’.

(Deleuze, G., (1962) Nietzsche and Philosophy, Columbia Uni Press, New York. p. 27)

As Delueze states, the necessity of life does not suppress or abolish chance. All the wishing in the world for to justice of innocence doesn’t make it so. The denial of necessity and chance by the binary logic that there is no other target than zero, is an affirmation that Safety simply cannot think. It neither understands the implications of its own zero ideology nor the trajectory that takes it to the ‘spirit of revenge’. Unfortunately, when one ‘venerates’ objects and hazards there is no other trajectory but dehumanization and the denial of necessity.

By the way, I wouldn’t go off buying the first copy of any works by Deleuze, it is the toughest read in philosophy by some margin. Deleuze is not particularly my favourite French philosopher indeed, I would rather read the works of Jacques Ellul (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Ellul, https://ellul.org/) anytime. In this regard, Ellul’s work The Ethics of Freedom (1976)is far more helpful that Deleuze on the subject of necessity and freedom. Several of Ellul’s works are free online but also a heavy read (http://uberty.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ellul-system.pdf, https://tavaana.org/sites/default/files/Ellul_Jacques_-_Propaganda.pdf, https://ratical.org/ratville/AoS/TheTechnologicalSociety.pdf, )

Ellul on alienation and necessity states:

‘Man (sic) is alienated because, once launched on the venture of exploitation in which he no longer acts justly, he is obliged to view everything with a corrupt conscience and to create an ideology which will conceal the true situation. His religion is the most complete and misleading ideology. It is here that he is most completely divested of himself. This is partly because, as in Feuerbach, he dreams up an illusory supreme being out of all that is best in himself, out of his own worth and righteousness and goodness. He transfers these to the Absolute. He thus robs himself by the projection. Partly, however, it is also because man expects liberation from someone else instead of himself. Religion is the “opium of the people” because it impedes action by causing man to transfer his own possibilities to another being’.

Alienation according to Ellul is caused by a frustration in the human search for meaning. This frustration is generated by exploitation and a created ideology that masks real meanings of existence. The assumption underpinning Ellul’s perspective is that humans cannot escape alienation in their own capabilities. He argues that alienation is a material and spiritual disorientation. Ellul argues that alienation means:

‘… being possessed externally by another and belonging to him. It also means being self-alienated, other than oneself, transformed into another. (Ellul, 1976, p. 24)’

In a curious twist this implies that alienation is developed through the handing over of oneself, ones meaning in life and ones purpose to another (person, power or ideology). This means that alienation is really self alienation or alienation from what it is to be truly human. This is what happens through the seduction of zero ideology. Ellul therefore argues that the more humans try to control their lives in self preoccupation the less they become masters of it (and therefore dehumanize others as well). Such efforts are apparent in the process of institutionalization, mechanization and technique evidenced in the archetype of Safety. He argues (Ellul, 1976, p. 29) that there are four aspects to the alienation experience. These are:

‘(1) the experience of the powerlessness of each of us in face of the world, of the society in which we are but which we can neither modify nor escape

(2) the experience of the absurd, of seeing that the events we have to live through have no meaning or value, so that we cannot find our way in them

(3) the experience of abandonment, of knowing that no help is to be expected, that neither others nor society will grant any support, the idea of dereliction which is so dear to existentialism; and finally

(4) the culminating experience of indifference to one-self, in which man is so outside himself that his destiny is no longer of interest to him and he has neither desire nor zest for life.’

So if you are still with me in this, what does this imply for an ideology of absolutes (innocence) and how such absolutes ‘self-alienate’ and deny necessity? Surely then there is no freedom in necessity (absolute justice) and some freedom in affirming the reality of chance, that there are many things in life that cannot be controlled no more than the throw of a dice can be controlled.

Does this mean we must then be fatalistic and nihilistic? Certainly not, for such is again the seduction of the binary opposition delusion (https://www.safetyrisk.net/the-tension-of-opposites-and-binaries-in-risk/). There is nothing to fear in holding in tension, the goals of excellence and also the honesty of fallibility. Indeed, the acknowledgement of such tensions and paradox in life allows one to be liberated from the ‘spirit of revenge’ embedded in the ideology of zero. This is why there are many others goals in safety (https://www.safetyrisk.net/understanding-safety-goals/) than those decided by binary numerical thinking (https://www.safetyrisk.net/calculators-matrices-and-mumbo-jumbo-risk-assessment/). Indeed, safety must get over the nonsense of valuing what it can measure rather than valuing higher order values and virtues.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

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