The world just witnessed the Coronation of King Charles III. Whether you are a monarchist or not doesn’t matter for the purposes of this discussion. One thing you cannot ignore about the coronation is the importance of Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gestures as the foundation and anchoring of power.
Myths are made by Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Counter-Myths, Ritual and Gestures and once instituted confirm those myths as true. Myths are not factually true but mythically true. That is, they are made true by the faith of those who believe them and use them to endorse an ideology.
There was so much of all of this in the coronation of Charles III it would be difficult to map it (https://time.com/6277382/coronation-symbolism-king-charles-iii/ ). So just for the purposes of this discussion let’s draw attention to just one myth, symbol, gesture, ritual, enactment, semiotic and icon: the secret anointing of Charles with a mystical oil from a sacred spoon (https://www.express.co.uk/news/royal/1767039/king-charles-anointment-oil-coronation-spoon-spt). Yep, you can’t make this up. This is not Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or The Fifth Element.
So, here we have leaders from all over the world for an event so overloaded with Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gestures and yet no-one will see this ‘sacred act’ of ‘consecration’ except Charles and the Archbishop. Such is the power of myth made truth.
More so, when mystery, metaphysics and myth come together. Even the mix of the oil in the consecration is secret and mystical.
It’s all about the impossible, the invisible, the eternal and sacred not dissimilar from the way the safety industry sacralises zero.
If you think there is no comparison then you only have to watch The Spirit of Zero (https://safetyrisk.net/the-spirit-of-zero/) In the Blink of an Eye (https://visionzero.global/videos ) to put that idea away.
The moment you enter into engagement with Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gesture to empower salvation (safety saves) you are in a sacred cult, ‘consecrated’ by zero!
You can easily test this assertion by suggesting that a zero company dispose of this mantra and symbol. See how you go. Listen to all the grammar and linguistic gymnastics to explain why zero is not sacred. The watch and listen as all affirm zero as indispensable for safety.
Then just read a bit of Eliade or Douglas to start to understand how this works.
Of course, safety has no interest in studying semiotics or how this works. Indeed, I am guided by behaviourists to ‘not mention the war’ in order to get more ‘traction’. Advice from ignorance with little understanding of culture as religion.
But all in safety who have never studied any of this and have no interest in this, advise that zero is NOT sacred and that safety is NOT a cult. Indeed, apparently, I need to dispose of my focus in zero and ‘don’t mention the war’ (https://safetyrisk.net/dont-mention-the-war/).
When you are fixed in the engineering and behaviourist worldview, how could you understand how zero works? When you are fixed in the engineering and behaviourist worldview, how could you understand how semiotics work? Why would any of the hundreds of symbols of the coronation not just be nonsense?.
The reality is, we witnessed a coronation that confirmed that Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gestures are foundational to power, sacredness, mystery and the collective unconscious. (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-myths/ )
We also saw how artefacts of myth (https://www.britannica.com/list/5-fascinating-british-coronation-objects) are foundational to understanding culture. If one tried to define the coronation as ‘what we do around here’ (https://safetyrisk.net/beyond-what-we-do-around-here/) you would miss all the mystery, sacredness, power, myth in ideology and cultural religious significance of the coronation. Kings are consecrated by God! Safety is consecrated by Zero!
This is why a behaviourist understanding of culture and safety doesn’t work.
This is why Safety’s best suggestion about culture is not to talk about it (Busch). The worldview of engineering cannot know through its propositions what culture is.
Such instructions to not talk about something simply helps empower the mystery and sacredness of safety myth (https://safetyrisk.net/category/safety-myths/ ).
This is why Heinrich still commands the mythology of safety. Heinrich is not true but rather made true by myth. The only way to understand ‘the way of myth’ is to study Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gestures.
· If you are in Europe and you want to do such study you can register for the workshops in Vienna in August (https://www.humandymensions.com/vienna-workshops/).
· There are workshops also available in Canberra in September on Mythology in Risk (https://spor.com.au/september-canberra-workshop/).
And if you don’t know about any of this please don’t tell me none of this works. Can you then advise the organisers of the coronation that none of it works. Can you just consult with the Archbishop of Canterbury and assure him that none of this works!
Who would have thought that after 90 years, an insurance salesman who concocted up a behaviourist linear logic of injury would still be loaded into many safety texts! This is how myth works. This is why many of the myths of safety that are believed, are made real by myth but don’t work. Indeed, many of these become an embarrassment and liability if one is ever faced in court to demonstrate how these make sense. (https://vimeo.com/showcase/3938199).
If you study Semiotics, Symbols, Icons, Myths, Ritual and Gestures you can learn how to demythologise myth and how to develop methods that work (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/it-works-a-new-approach-to-risk-and-safety/). You can even learn how safety works once your organisation gets rid of zero (https://safetyrisk.net/spor-and-disposing-of-bad-myths/; https://safetyrisk.net/moving-away-from-zero-so-that-safety-improves/).
Who knows, maybe you may even be able to dispose of this zero ‘stone of destiny’ (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/stone-of-scone-british-coronation) that hangs around the neck of safety myth and actually enact safety as if fallibility matters (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/fallibility-risk-living-uncertainty/).
Who knows, once you have disposed of zero maybe you might envision risk differently (https://www.humandymensions.com/product/envisioning-risk-seeing-vision-and-meaning-in-risk/), not as an S2 myth but as a reality with real methods, positivity and practicality that works.
Tom Beegan says
If the goal is nobody gets hurt, is that not zero?
Whats your goal if it is not, nobody to get hurt? How to get and maintain this as reality for every place of work is the challenge. Perception is reality until we are informed otherwise. The Perception of I am safe or this action is safe. It may very well be safe now but then I get hurt. My Perception was not reality. My perception as contained in the paper based policies,
risk assessment, method statement. How best to prevent anyone getting hurt is an ongoing quest. Perhaps collaboration is the best approach focused on the goal that nobody gets hurt – ZERO. The time has come to “Close the Gap”. The “Gap” between theory and practice. ” The Gap” between work as imagined its performed and how it is done in reality. To do this requires Authentic Leadership focused on a never to change goal of, nobody gets hurt. While there is no one way to achieve this, one common action is to show we actively care for each other.
Rob Long says
Tom have you seen the videos on zero from global safety? Have you some research base in semiotics? There is much more to this than just the desire for no injury, even though injury is not a measure of safety. I think perhaps some work on perception might be useful too. How can perception be reality and then not reality changed by what?
BTW, zero doesn’t seek collaboration and can’t, it is an absolute. There is no collaboration when zero is the base for perception of reality.
There is no gap between theory and practice, such is a binary construct, just as the S2 slogan of work as imagined and performed, from a sector that never discusses nor entertains the imagination or the unconscious.
I don’t think there is a ‘one way’ just as ‘authentic leadership’ is just another conditional description of leadership to demarcate from inauthentic leadership. Similarly, the notion of care and helping or learning for that matter is rarely coupled in the safety world to zero. Indeed, Zero has no interest in learning or care. You will find nowhere across the globe in the safety industry any mention of care ethics.