Can’t buy me love
I love you twice as much as yesterday but only half as much tomorrow
Despite a net worth of approximately US$ 1.2 billion, Sir Paul McCartney is renowned amongst his immediate family for parsimony or frugality, which is reflected via the lyrics of an early smash hit co-written with the late John Lennon. In an era rapidly embracing transhumanism and artificial intelligence with an inordinate emphasis on suprasurveillance and big data, Peter Drucker’s apocryphal sophism underpins many corporate strategies. It is often compounded by a relentless pursuit of perfection using absolute fatwas such as Vision Zero and Zero Suicides or business improvement techniques including Six Sigma, the Shingo Model of Operational Excellence and One Percent Safer although the essence of humanity is that one does not seek perfection.
Indeed, what gets measured is typically manipulated via bad science and other devious corporate tactics, especially when lucrative performance bonuses are at risk. It is further exacerbated by the deification of shareholder theory and George Stigler’s concept of regulatory capture, which has generated a sinister alliance of corporate and state interests that creates a detrimental impact on research and development. Indeed, scientism has an established tradition of manipulating evidence, data and analysis to create and maintain an auspicious environment for industry at material and ideological levels. It is particularly prevalent throughout the pharmaceutical, agricultural and food processing sectors and some notorious examples include the United Distillers thalidomide scandal, the Sackler opioid crisis, the Monsanto glyphosate approval process and the Fonterra contaminated infant food. Regulatory or policy capture was also suspected in several more recent high profile incidents, which included Grenfell Tower, BP Deepwater Horizon, Upper Big Branch, Dreamworld, Boeing 737 Max airline disasters and the resurgence of black lung throughout the Appalachian and Queensland coalfields.
The unpredictability and fallibility of humans in a stochastic environment rivals Benjamin Franklin’s idiom covering death and taxes and makes it rather naïve to consider that the establishment of goals or key performance indicators is a simple and objective activity. Rather than measure what we value there remains an obstinate tendency to value what we can measure although not everything that can be counted counts and most of what counts cannot be counted.
A fixation on objects with easily measurable targets eventually debilitates and dehumanises society. It generates pettifogging on a carousel of culpability leaving behind a data cemetery full of trivia and worthless statistics. Moreover, in the current ruthless climate of casino capitalism noble attributes such as wisdom, loyalty, discernment and many other ethical qualities are often scorned and categorised as gratuitous impediments. This narrow inhumane focus destroys ethereal features such as creativity, imagination, motivation, compassion, love, care and integrity and creates many irrevocable and counterproductive consequences although an educated, healthy and confident nation is so much harder to govern.
Establishing a safety strategy and setting goals is a complex exercise which must encompass physical, psychological and cultural dimensions and it requires a diverse range of measurement techniques. Goals are interactive and competitive and normally adopt a promotional or preventive focus (see Figure 1). Lower order goals are often easier to establish and can be measured quantitatively, whereas middle order targets are typically determined semi-quantitatively. Higher order goals are invariably prodigious, aspirational and generally intangible.
During the allocation of goals it is worth reiterating some Newtonian physics and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Moreover, values are caught not taught and most behaviour is generated subliminally. Every conscious goal has an unconscious corollary, which ultimately affects human, physical and financial resources. A relentless pursuit of perfection with lower order goals often generates measurement myopia, analysis paralysis and symptoms of apophenia. This includes overfitting, gambler’s fallacy, answer shopping or confirmation bias. It also initiates indoctrination or single loop training and Pavlovian conditioning and a calculative strategy often emerges. Statistics are manipulated to meet goals and rather than evaluate what is beneficial, the emphasis transfers to trivial parameters that are easily measured and the metric gets managed at the expense of performance.
The traditional SMART approach when establishing lower order goals is conveniently disregarded in favour of aspirational, unachievable and absolute ideological targets such as zero harm or zero suicides. This perfectionist discourse with omnipotent and omniscient attributes is a recipe for depression, anxiety and frustration. It grooms failure, denies fallibility and eventually extirpates imagination, learning, wisdom and discernment………………..Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade
skies. Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes.
Over the past five decades the long march of free market fundamentalism has witnessed greed transform from a vice into a virtue. It has been expedited by the deification of the Friedman doctrine or shareholder theory and extensive regulatory or policy capture. The accumulation of extraordinary wealth is often acknowledged as the ultimate test of human achievement and compounded by the worship of power, which is exacerbated via lucrative performance bonuses to fulfil key performance indicators.
It was reflected following the recent Dreamworld theme park tragedy via deplorable crisis management protocols and woeful behaviour from a didactic chairman and an embattled celebrity chief executive officer. This involved a nefarious attempt to protect reputations and secure extraordinary performance bonuses immediately following the disaster. Despite a $3.6 million fine, the Queensland state government provided Ardent Leisure Limited with a $70 million assistance package, which enabled the organisation to reopen its theme park amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, many of the bereaved dependents encounter a tyranny of bureaucracy underpinned by delay, deny and die tactics and are left chasing smoke.
The deification of neoliberalism, laissez unfaire economics and shareholder theory is furtively supported by Safe Work Australia and our peak safety body, the Australian Institute of Health and Safety. Both organisations promote a vision with a tenuous link between safety and productivity although it is incongruous with the primary object of work health and safety legislation and could be interpreted as unethical.
Following the global financial crisis free market fundamentalists admitted their entire intellectual edifice had collapsed. Its giant festering Ponzi scheme underpinned by aggressive telemarketing and pyramid selling resembled a house of cards constructed across estuarine mudflats and it was only a matter of when and certainly not how the precarious structure toppled.
However, the protean elements of fascism, especially with the merger of corporate and state interests via regulatory or policy capture always run the risk of recrystallising into new paradigms. The disruption and subsequent crisis generated via the Covid – 1984 pandemic will be transformed into an opportunity and a more intense and dystopian version of capitalism beckons. Much of the creative destruction is evident and the replacement infrastructure and processes are already established, which include artificial intelligence, remote learning, suprasurveillance, big data, algorithms, predictive analytics, indentured servitude or peonage and a cashless society. It will be supplemented by genome editing technology with a return of eugenics, the rattling skeleton in the closet of Fabian socialists and other determinists. Meanwhile the halcyon days of the 1960s and the lyrics from Lennon & McCartney remain a distant memory:
I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright
I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright
Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love
I’ll give you all I got to give if you say you’ll love me too
I may not have a lot to give but what I got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love
Can’t buy me love, everybody tells me so
Can’t buy me love, no no no, no
Say you don’t need no diamond ring and I’ll be satisfied
Tell me that you want the kind of thing that money just can’t buy
I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love
Rob Long says
Well written Bernard. The last thing Safety wants to discuss is the ethic of personhood. This piece makes that very clear, Freedom to Harm indeed.