Fallibility is not Failure
One of the fascinating results of the Zero Survey (https://spor.com.au/zero-vision-survey/) is responses to the first statement: ‘Humans are fallible, mortal and the world is random’. With over 350 respondents 4% deny this statement. My expectation was that this opening statement would get 100% agreement, in many ways a motherhood-type statement.
So as each survey form comes in I look at the 15 results that deny this statement and wonder, surely you can’t affirm the opposite? That humans are infallible, immortal and the world in not random? Otherwise one should use the undecided button in the survey. Who could think any of these three could make sense in light of the daily evidence of living in the reality of being a human? It is because humans are fallible, mortal and the world is random that we have risk!
I wrote the book Fallibility and Risk as a free download (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/) because this safety industry doesn’t know what to do with human vulnerability. You certainly won’t hear the words ‘fallibility’, ‘mortal’ or ‘random’ around the appointment of a zero harm advisor. You never hear the word anyway in safety generally. Fallibility is one of those taboo safety words like ‘helping’, ‘care’ and ‘listening’.
The reason why safety people chose to be silent about human vulnerability and fallibility is because such an admission would accept the necessity of harm for living in the real world. And in the binary safety world the acceptance of harm as a foundation for living is anathema to safety, so it’s easy just to deny reality.
A good place to understand the nature of fallibility is: Bauer, J., and Hartels, C., Eds.) (2012) Human Fallibility: The Ambiguity of Errors for Work and Learning. Springer. New York. In this easy to read text one confronts the paradox of risk/learning and human ‘being’. It is not a failure to be human, such language is nonsense in discussing what it is to be human. Indeed, the positives of being fallible are astounding. Fallibility gives us all the richness of humility, empathy, learning, love, suffering, harm, resilience, wisdom and maturity. I discuss all these facets of fallibility and its history in the first two chapters of the book.
Why are some people so uncomfortable in speaking the word ‘fallible? It’s not as if we have to go down the track of Augustine and his projected spin on the myth of Adam and Eve. All of Augustine’s projection of concupiscence and sin isn’t there in the myth. The Adam and Eve narrative simply endorses the symbolism of fallibility and confirms it. There never was perfection indeed, perfection is stasis and there is no learning in stasis. So, let’s not get lost down the track in the hermeneutics of sin, god and suffering but rather focus on the good it is to be fallible.
We don’t reject our children because they are fallible. We don’t expect them to come home from school with perfect reports about perfect behaviour and perfect scores. When they fall over and need some stiches or a broken arm mended we don’t castigate them for being harmed. We expect it, its normal. If you move in this world you will be harmed. Ah, but Zero doesn’t like that! Only Zero wants a world where humans are infallible, no mistakes, no harm , no suffering. And as a by-product no risk, no learning, no wisdom, no maturation and no humanity. No wonder Safety loves the language of ‘heroes’ so much.
Poor olde Safety, constructing a delusional world because it can’t handle binary questions. It is only Safety that believes all injury and harm can be prevented. Wouldn’t you love to see the safety zealots with a banner at the entrance to every hospital saying ‘All Harm Can be Prevented’. Just imagine what that says to every ambulance with a human inside as it drives up to the Emergency Department. And so in the Zero Survey we still have 27% of people affirming this delusional belief. ‘Safety is a choice you make’ still has 58% support by the industry. I wonder how this 58% define the word ‘accident’ without projecting blame onto the person harmed? The more Safety spruiks this nonsense language and belief, the more it proposes the delusions of infallibility.
If you love the language of ‘failure’ then as a parent you are always in failure, your children are always in failure, your relationships will always fail. Fallibility is not failure. Failure is a language that presupposes some sense of success that I am not aware of. Living human life is not a crazy Hero Cycle (Campbell) as if disappointment is some kind of surprise. If you are surprised by harm your resilience will ne zero.
If anything, life is a roller coaster of ups and downs in fallibility. Sometimes Life makes our vulnerabilities more clear to us, on other occasions we are less aware of these vulnerabilities, but they are there. But as sure as night follows day, learning to be resilient in the ups and downs is the key to living in the real world. The fantasy world we can leave to Zero/Safety.