Are You a Safety Clown?
When I was at school the insult often thrown about at students by teachers in High School was ‘don’t be a clown!’ It was intended to be an insult as the concept of the travelling circus was common when I was a kid, usually Ashton’s Circus (https://www.ashtonentertainment.com.au/about-ashton-circus/). Ashton’s was a household name in the 1960s-1980s and was a symbol of adventure, amazement, skill and entertainment. The concept of the clown in the circus was associated by the school teacher with being silly, seeking laughs and lacking purpose.
Bouissac in his book The Semiotics of Clowns and Clowning, Rituals of Transgression and Theory of Laughter tells a very different story of the clown (https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/the-semiotics-of-clowns-and-clowning-9781472521736/ ). The clown and fool throughout history have not been associated with being dumb and purposeless but rather the opposite. The label of clown used by those in orthodox fails to understand the use of the clown in Poetics, Literature and Culture. You can read more about the nature of the clown here: https://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbep/v10n1/2237-2660-rbep-10-01-e91658.pdf
Heidegger get’s it right when he pictures the clown as a ‘misfit’ to orthodoxies. In many ways those who question the global mantra of zero, the brutalism of safety, the fixations with object and the pettiness of process are clowns in the true meaning of the word. In many ways, those who dissent from the brutalism of safety are clowns. Like Shakespeare’s Fool (https://safetyrisk.net/are-you-a-safety-fool/) the clown comes in after the main act and explains the follies and fallibilities of life through satire. The clown and fool are the bringers of wisdom. They are the ones bold enough to pour satire on the nonsenses of orthodoxy and its preoccupation with power and perfection, Technique and Quanta.
The satire of the clown is a highly skilled enactment. It is the clown that amplifies and draws attention to the hero demonstrating its delusions. Whilst Safety adores the hero and superhero (https://safetyrisk.net/i-have-the-power-im-a-safety-hero/; https://safetyrisk.net/the-zero-hero-is-here-to-save-the-day/; https://safetyrisk.net/you-dont-need-to-be-a-hero-to-be-a-safety-leader/ ), the clown exposes the folly of such thinking and shows that fallibility is nothing to fear or hide. The clown knows that the fallible need to have a good hard look at themselves and have a laugh in the face of delusions to be heroes.
Of course the face of the clown is easily identified and a well known semiotic. It has also been transformed by Hollywood into an evil character, Batman’s Joker and the clown of Stephen King. The evil clown takes on the delusions of the hero and is attracted to its own delusions (https://www.ripublication.com/ijpss17/ijpssv2n1_01.pdf). The evil clown is the twisted psyche that brutalizes and demonises persons.
Safety needs more clowns. Those who question the delusions of orthodoxy and draw attention to its delusions for zero, absolute stasis and power through bureaucracy. The clown is the transgressor, who laughs at those who seek to legitimize brutalism as good and exposes facades and masks of power that are really up to no good.