Compassion, Helping and Wisdom in Risk and Safety

imageLanguage is a great indicator of worldview (discourse-power). Language is tied to methodology by intent and serves to indicate deep and hidden aspects of ideological bias.

Do a search across the risk and safety sector regardless of school of thought ( and search for language about compassion, helping, qual (qualitativeness) and wisdom. What do you find? Where do you find it? Then do a search for language of engineering, performance, measurement, quanta (quantitativeness) and systems (regardless of schools of thought), what do you find? Where do you find it? The fixation and obsession with systems is mind blowing. Then do a search through the discourse on systems and investigate whether the language is about open and/or closed systems. What do you find?

Similarly, do a language search through the same safety schools of thought and see what you find on: ethics, moral conversation, the unconscious, personhood, trust and faith. What do you find? Where do you find it? If you do find such discussion where is power situated in the discourse – in the person or the system/administrator of the system?

The relationship of power as a locus of control is the real dynamic that helps identify whether a school of thought is humanizing or dehumanizing.

I have been reading and researching Buddhist ethics for over 30 years and this will be a part of the International workshop in the first week of February 2020 on Transdisciplinarity and An Ethic of Risk (

A Buddhist ethic is profoundly situated and not based on anything like a Kantian or Hegelian propositional logic defined in precepts and principles of moral identity and action. In Buddhism, ethical ‘being’ is discovered through ‘wu-wei’ or what some call ‘crazy wisdom’ (Varela). Wu-wei defines a state of being by ‘not-doing’, a disposition that situates ethics in ‘bodhisattva’. Both Bodhisvatta and ‘Wu-wei’ lack equivalents in western ethical philosophy but are reflected in the ideas of Buber’s i-thou or Kierkegaard’s notion of faith. One cannot understand Wu-wei or Bodhisvatta rationally, scientifically or logically.

A Buddhist ethic doesn’t seek an ethic in abstract or objective terms as in western ethics. Nor does a Buddhist ethic seek a rationalist deductive rule-centric way of being. A Buddhist ethic has a focus on ‘knowing-how’ not ‘knowing what’ as in western ethics. A Buddhist ethic is discovered in community as a ‘know-how unconsciousness’ (Bodhisvatta). One doesn’t have to ‘try’ to be ethical in Wu-wei because it is embodied in a ‘way of being’ that is compassion.

How strange in an industry that professes to be about people being safe as a moral imperative, well being and health that you won’t find discussion of the notion of an ethic anywhere.

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.

2 Replies to “Compassion, Helping and Wisdom in Risk and Safety”

  1. Despite a not for profit caveat our peak safety bodies with their cohorts of fundamentalist acolytes are merely fiefdoms that intended doing good but have done very, very well.

    1. Bernard, despite all the focus on salvation in the industry there is simply no discourse on care, helping, compassion or wisdom anywhere to be found, nor skill development in the curriculum even for situations of crisis and event management. So, incident investigations are more than likely being managed by people who are simply not trained in the fundamentals of pastoral care.
      If one looks at the inshpo capability framework ( it is telling how the industry defines a safety person. It reads like a document prepared by engineers for managing systems as if people are somehow secondary. It even enshrines the pejorative notion of ‘soft’ skills.

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