Continuing our series on Safety Myths – see them all here
Dylan Thomas captures the criticality of facing death, in the throes of life, in his classic poem: ‘Do not go gentle in to that good night’.
Sometimes when things cannot be stated by propositional definition they can only be spoken in Poetics. The study of Poetics is foundational to SPoR (https://safetyrisk.net/spor-and-myth/).
This poem by Dylan Thomas is about death and silence.
The inevitability of death is offensive to Safety, this is why Safety denies death in zero.
Safety doesn’t talk about death, it speaks about ‘fatality’ and counting.
When it comes to death, the denial of death in zero is the global mantra for safety.
‘The Denial of Death’ by Becker ought to be foundational reading for safety people.
Safety doesn’t talk about ‘fallibility’, such are its many silences on critical things that matter. In the face of the delusional myth of zero, Safety cannot speak the ‘f’ word. The only place you can read about fallibility and risk is in SPoR (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/).
When your mantra is zero and compliance is the ideology, the myth of civility in safety reigns supreme in its many silences. The last thing Safety wants to do is upset anyone by talking about things that are critical to personhood, ethics or helping. This is why critical thinking is demonised by Safety and any dissent is deemed ‘toxic’.
Yes, if you are going to criticise Safety, do so gently. In that way everything can stay the same and the civility myth can stay in its rightful place. When it comes to life and death, why is Safety silent on so much (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-culture-silences/)?
Poor olde Safety silent on what matters and noisy on petty issues.
However, in SPoR we are not silent on the following:
· Embodied learning
· Cultural semiotics
· Wicked problems
· Care and helping
· Common good
· Social contract
· The unconscious
· Collective unconscious
· Alternatives to closed systems
· Prophetic imagination
· Holistic ergonomics
In the poem Thomas suggests we not go gently because such is deemed by Power as acquiescence. (He wrote this at the time of his father’s death and, in the light of his own death, would be one of his last poems).
SPoR is not silent on what matters, where Safety is.
In a simple Discourse Analysis just look at what Safety talks about and doesn’t talk about.
SPoR will not go gentle into the good night.
The meaning of the poem is that death cannot be avoided but that it mustn’t go unchallenged. What Thomas warns against is the danger of civility. Silence fosters acquiescence.
Despite the inevitability of death, Thomas urges not to go gently that is, to think about death and come to terms with it. The denial of death only leads to psychosis, immaturity and delusion. Such is the myth of Zero, myth of immortality and the delusional linguistics of prediction in safety.
Thomas doesn’t suggest that we get angry at Death nor, that we ‘fight’ death but rather, not deny reality as Zero does.
The juxtaposition of this poem also puts the importance of life and being in perspective. When I used to conduct funeral and memorial services, loved ones always wanted to ‘celebrate life’. Often there would be a table set out of semiotic artefacts, a slide show and music unique to the person who had died. Such celebration in the face of death is helpful. It serves as a reminder when gathered around a coffin, that our own vulnerability and fallibility are real, and such should help us focus on what we should live for.
In the face of death, we should think of life and being. This is why we don’t get up in the morning and think ‘safety’. Such an obsession (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-as-a-mental-health-disorder-obsession/ ) is a psychosis. There is nothing more destructive to life, living and learning than safety obsession.
The other theme of this poem is the reality of time. Life is short so live life, seize the day. The last thing we need is a lecture by ‘killjoy’ safety on a crusade of superiority happy to deem others ‘complacent’.
However, the nature of this poem is pastoral. It is a poem of advice, help and care, the villanelle structure helps this effect. The structure also helps give the poem a forward motion. The poem is not about looking back in grief, though we ought to know how to grieve but, is an invocation to look out for each other. The poem is a call to humanness, to community – against the myth of civility and silence fostered by the ideology of zero.
While reading the blog I also thought that denying fallibility and death is cruel to people who lost loved ones. (This is an aspect Rob often mentioned in the past – if “Safety is a choice you make”, then “death is a choice you make”. What an insensitive view to take.
When my sister-in-law was in her last days from terminal cancer, the last time we visited her before she died, the mood around the bed was dark and sombre, and I decided to try and make it lighter with a few jokes. Very soon everyone joined in with “remember when” stories, a sufficient amount of laughs and a last visit that I will always remember as one not of despair, but of “celebrating life”. This could only have happened because we all accepted the inevitability of death.
Rob Long says
Wynand, just another of the many silences in safety.
I have the horrors wherever I see safety people venturing into the area of mental health, suicide and psychological injury. The arrogance of this industry that thinks it can venture into any area with no expertise is breathtaking. Such is the case so often in incident investigations where safety with no expertise in pastoral psychology or counselling thinks it can go in and not cause harm. Yet, there is nothing anywhere in safety in investigations methods that even countenances this as a problem. Astounding.
Yet if you criticize safety of its incompetence one is deemed anti-safety and pro-injury. What a crazy amateur industry. Silent on what matters and incompetent on what matters.
Real professionals in any area of grief, trauma, pain, harm or loss are the last to leap in or claim any expertise to tackle such a challenge.
Brent Charlton says
When it comes to mental health I’ve only been told to shut up when I point out that Safety should stay in its lane
narelle stoll says
Hi Rob no truer words have been spoken as on 10th August this year I suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed at work.i was rushed to hospital in an unconscious state where I had another seizure in A and E . I did not wake up until the next day where I found myself on the acute care ward. After a week in hospital I went home until I was readmitted for surgery .This was followed by 6 days in intensive care unit where I experienced two more seizures and I am now the Neurology unit. but can now go home tomorrow.. I have received nothing but care and compassion from all hospital staff and return have supported their cause for better and safer working conditions. On reflection being comfortable with life and death and crecognising the importance of life and death care and compassion for others as well as self, is essential for understanding yourself as a person
Rob long says
Narelle, so glad you received the care and help you needed from professionals. Indeed, this is the ethic of being professional.
Thanks too for reminding us that we are all subject to the fragility of life, and that anyone of us can have our world of comfort upturned in an instant.
It’s so important not to be silent on life and being in the face of death and I trust your experience has renewed your faith and focus.
Best wishes and love from all in this blog community
I went into cardiac arrest in recovery after an operation a couple of years ago. Somehow I remained conscious during the “code blue” and watched the flat line on the screen. Whilst there was chaos and so many did their thing around me, my most vivid memory and probably the main thing that pulled me through was a nurse who gently stroked my arm and calmly told me to “stay with us love” – i’m getting soggy eyes writing this but that was certainly a life turning point for me as well. Would I trust Safety with my life? Ummmmm…..nuh!
Rob long says
I wouldn’t trust safety with anything that needed help, care or compassion. It knows none of these.
It truly is the industry of brutalism.