Dumb Down Safety, Wowserism in the 21st Century
Despite the backlash against ‘elf ‘n safety’ in both the UK and Australia (eg. Brown and Hanlon In The Interests of Safety; Tim Gill , No Fear and Long, Risk Makes Sense the Victorian regulator continues to show just why people hate safety. Safety has become the new wowserism of the 21st century. Of course a number of people don’t even call it ‘safety’ anymore, it’s called ‘zero harm’. The latest nonsense from the Victorian Regulator continues the trend in dumb down safety, the new Wowserism of the 21st century. (see Herald Sun Article)
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Wowserism refers to the killjoy protestants who railed against dancing, alcohol and gambling in the late 19th century, particularly in Melbourne. A Wowser (coined by John Norton) was a person who was a hater of fun, most associated with dancing, alcohol and gambling. Wowserism was the activity of the hype- religious, captivated by the ideology of absolutes (sound familiar?). The Wowser wanted a total ban of these activities, hmm zero tolerance (sound like any trend you know?). And we all know how effective zero tolerance is, prohibition exacerbates rather than solves any ‘wicked’ problem. Wowserism was a movement by binary opposition, evil was black and white and came in the form of easily definable activities (any parallels here?).
The trouble is, for every activity there is a by-product and trade off, tackling a ‘wicked’ problem is not black and white. If you want to know a little more about wicked problems look here. https://safetyrisk.net/there-is-always-a-risk-trade-off/. Yet, more and more we here the binary unthinking nonsense of zero being paraded as if it makes sense, zero tolerance is apparently good for everyone else except me. When I make mistakes or my relationship goes pear-shaped I want a bit of understanding and forgiveness no, but you guys can cop the absolutes, it will teach you a lesson.
The story emerges that the Victorian WorkCover Authority has launched legal action against Melbourne City Council for allowing an Australia Day cricket match on the Southbank reserve. If the case is successful we will see other councils banning sport or restricting access to parks to avoid costly litigation. What a wonderful world we will soon have – recreation parks with no recreation, you will be able to look at them but not be able to do anything. What an absurd dumb down world we are creating for our children. How wonderful will it be to have the most obese society in the western world because the Wowsers are fearful of life. OMG, let’s do everything possible to make sure people don’t get hurt, no bumps, cuts or bruises, this is the new evil of the safety Wowsers. And, of course what drives this nonsense, the ideology of zero harm that pervades our society like a virus. The article ends with the following quote Maurice Blackburn lawyer Dimi Ioannou said the case should send a warning to all councils “to make sure that they do the right thing, so that the public can enjoy the use of free facilities without the risk of getting hurt”.
No wonder people hate WHS, this over the top dumb down stuff just makes people laugh (se below). No more cricket games in the local park, you might trip on a bench seat. No more running in the park, you might trip on an uneven surface. No more kites, balls, jumping, play, dogs or fun, fun is against the sacred ideology of Wowser harm.
Well, let’s all get out our objective risk assessments, the Wowser Bible of the new era, as if a risk assessment is some kind of panacea for risk. Again more nonsense, as if a park bench would have shown up as a risk, as if we should wrap park benches in foam. Maybe, we should ban stumps because they have a sharp end that gets hit into the ground and of course ban the hammer or cricket bat used to hit that sharp stump into the ground. Of course we know this is nonsense because harm doesn’t go away with bannings or crusades for zero, it just simply shifts the by-product to somewhere that is less measured. Just ask the mining companies how good their zero is when they count the costs of FIFO, again silly calculative nonsense.
Won’t it be great when back yard cricket becomes a covert and subversive activity. If we play cricket in my back yard you will need a secret handshake to gain admission and we won’t tell the regulator.
The real problem with this story is the mindset of the regulator, when we have an intractable (wicked) problem we go binary, how easy. Just ban everything and wait for the by-products to emerge in 10 years time. It’s like the school teacher who punishes the whole class for some kid who mucks up. Someone exploits litigation with a council and now none of our kids will enjoy the delights of fun, adventure, risk and learning we had as kids, it will be back to the play station, ipad and xbox, shifting the psychological and obesity costs the next generation.