Hello, I’m on the gravy train
At the turn of the millennium the Australian federal government under John Howard embarked on a sinister sociopolitical and economic crusade to emasculate and eviscerate the occupational health safety framework across Australia. It received ingratiating assistance from the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which included Peter Reith (Conquest), Kevin Andrews (Famine), Tony Abbott (War) and Philip Ruddock (Death). The truly independent National Occupational Health and Safety Commission was eviscerated, transferred to Canberra and only nine employees relocated. Its entire epidemiology unit refused reallocation offers and the commission was officially dissolved in 2006. It was replaced by an administrative advisory body, the Australian Safety and Compensation Council. Workers compensation was added to the portfolio and its budget was cut by almost $4 million and remains parsimonious. Meanwhile, federal government funding for research and tertiary education establishments was brutally slashed. During the transition, a former BHP executive was appointed as interim chairman and almost two decades later, national uniformity and harmonisation remains unresolved. In November 2009, the federal labour government superficially redressed the situation and established Safe Work Australia, which is merely a statutory agency. This included endorsement of an intergovernmental agreement, which merely attenuated the standard of duty of care on behalf of corporate Australia and provided many of its brigands with a malevolent freedom to harm. It coincides with and is exacerbated by an existential threat from the rapid development of the internet and relentless abuse of antisocial media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Messenger, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp, to name just a few. The transhumanism extirpates communities of practice and is bringing societies to the brink of collapse via a ruthless assault on not just what we think but who we are, which is embodied by an addiction to smartphones with a baleful ability to rewire consciousness and reconfigure personality. Indeed, the late Sir George Martin once proclaimed….Young people have lost the habit of using their ears and listen with their eyes.
These formerly precious creations have since degenerated into a gallery of uncontrollable demons and the global experiment has distorted our existence or being and usurped social interactions. Vulnerable adolescents often feel alienated or estranged in an environment without social media and are merely used as the guinea pigs. An addiction to the slim burnished packaging and supplementary apps rigorously garners attention and kindles a collective unconscious that enables corporate predators to purvey their poison. It generates a constant necessity for social approval, which escalates insecurity and has significantly increased adolescent suicide rates, especially amongst young females.
Corporate software engineers are constantly engaged in a determined battle against an arrogance of youth, which involves stealing naïve adolescent souls, supressing virtuosity, originality or creativity and eroding existence via artificial intelligence. This is accomplished via algorithms and predictive analytics, which requires suprasurveiilance and acquisition of vast amounts of personal data. It enables social media to relentlessly manipulate and reprogram thought and emotions and whenever anything of interest is searched via Google, the hunter becomes the hunted.
Digital insurgency and surveillance capitalism has generated a social dilemma and is covertly changing what you think and do and even more forebodingly, who you are and accrues enormous profits in the process. Unique human attributes of individuality, distinctiveness and eccentricity are furtively eroded and the resultant internet zombies are systematically herded into echo chambers of self-fulfilling prophecies. Meanwhile, combative platforms such as Twitter or Messenger generate increasing confusion, distrust and confrontation and humanitarian traits such as collective coherence, empathy or integrity are excluded from the algorithm. The disinformation for profit agenda flourishes because the lumpenproletariat often find the truth boring, which allows fiction to circulate across social media platforms much faster than fact and…..….A lie travels half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.
It is often exacerbated by regulatory or policy capture with a concomitant merger of state and corporate interests, which has generated an era littered with doublespeak, binary dialogue and soundbite politics supported by one click democracy. This enables federal or state government ministers and their mandarins to rapidly seize control of the political discourse and manoeuvre or manipulate the masses accordingly, despite being somewhat economical with the truth.
The OHS Education Accreditation Board in Australia accredits OHS professional education programs and its vision is based on strong scientific, technical and evidence based concepts. This is underpinned by an ossified curricula that is complemented by the OHS Body of Knowledge, which reflects and aligns with a positivist dogma. It places an inordinate emphasis on the natural sciences, legislation, performance metrics, rational decision making and hard and soft systems change management. This often confuses or misrepresents behaviour with culture and disregards the inherent subjective nature of risk.
A sinister remunerative professional certification scheme complements the accreditation process but undermines the Australian Qualifications Framework. It is merely an indoctrinating data dump with a positivist ideology that promotes rational choice theory and disregards the enigmatic power of the collective unconscious. This gradually destroys communities of practice, incidental learning and disregards tacit knowledge and we know a lot more than we can tell.
The scheme cannot secure the health and safety of people at work or significantly reduce the associated risks. It will eventually be subcontracted to accredited providers and the indoctrinated acolytes will receive meaningless post nominal qualifications, which allows them to drink the AIHS brand of Kool Aid. Certification will gradually degenerate into a bureaucratic displacement activity and resemble the superficial white card construction industry induction training facade. Meanwhile, Australia’s peak safety body will receive a lucrative revenue stream to secure its fiefdom……..All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.
Over recent years the AIHS has embarked on a determined and furtive crusade to ensure its professional certification scheme is integrated into the legislative framework. This required extensive lobbying amongst federal and state governments and promotion of the scheme to relevant regulatory authorities and statutory agencies and is redolent of regulatory or policy capture. The Queensland employment and industrial relations minister is an honorary fellow with the AIHS and its incumbent chairperson is appointed as an expert representative with WorkSafe Queensland on the Work Health and Safety Board. Meanwhile, the AIHS professional certification chairperson was recently appointed as Manager Corporate Relations and Engagement with WorkCover Queensland. The incumbent deputy director general with the Queensland Office of Industrial Relations is the state government’s nominated representative with Safe Work Australia in accordance with requirements of the Safe Work Australia Act 2008.
In South Australia, the executive director with SafeWork SA is an executive member with the AIHS College of Fellows and the incumbent chair of its continuing professional development (CPD) program subcommittee. The SafeWork SA executive director is also the South Australian state government’s nominated representative with Safe Work Australia in accordance with requirements of the Safe Work Australia Act 2008.
The consanguinity is quite remarkable and there is no requirement to join any dots, it is just painting by numbers. However in an era of regulatory capture, revolving doors or golden escalators with increasingly unclear boundaries between state and commercial interests such networking with an establishment of cordial relationships would more than likely be categorised as good corporate governance and is typically rewarded with an order of chivalry.
The ordnance in this vast sewerage network of social media is afflicted with a binary adversarial dialogue that is redolent of bar parlour bore vernacular with its unique ability to slur monosyllable words. Ubiquitous exclamation marks epitomise the shouting and the discourse is typically devoid of any skerrick of discernment or critical thinking. The unrefined positivist dogma values objects over subjects, which erodes common law rights, denies fallibility and disregards the social sciences, hermeneutics and any interpretivist discourse. Critical theory is demonised and theologian virtues such as faith, hope, love and justice are often disparaged and brutally categorised as effeminate attributes, especially amidst a masculinist redneck hegemony.
This objectivism has subverted almost every contemporary education system across the globe to meet the needs and demands of industrialisation, globalisation and free market fundamentalism. It favours natural sciences based on empirical evidence over social sciences, humanities and the arts. This is further complicated by an internal hierarchy with a preference for art and music over drama and dance and the creative capacities of many aspiring adolescents are extirpated accordingly. The late Pablo Picasso once proclaimed that all infants are born artists although as they mature, precious attributes such as imagination, originality and innovation are ruthlessly denigrated. Unorthodox or different behaviour is often deemed wrong and typically ridiculed. Indeed, we don’t grow into creativity, we are educated out of it and any skerrick of defiance is chastised accordingly. Moreover, education systems have mined our minds in a similar manner to the way strip-mining plunders the planet for a particular commodity. A dystopian future beckons unless the fundamental principles of education are restructured, embodied and embrace a sophisticated ecoliterate and transdisciplinary approach.
In the industrial sector, most transnational corporate conglomerates drink from the Ayn Rand objectivism fountain and worship the Friedman doctrine or shareholder theory, which proclaims that the only duty of a corporation is to maximise profits accruing to its shareholders. This is often exacerbated by an architecture of oppression using the Deming quality management cycle supplemented by the sophism of what gets measured gets managed. It is frequently compounded by a relentless pursuit of perfection using a zero harm or defects fatwa and business improvement techniques such as Six Sigma. This sacrifices rather than satisfies integrity and even minor errors are embellished and typically stigmatised via an auto da fé or Spanish Inquisition.
The humanities and arts are the engine room of creativity although our federal government recently announced a staggering increase in the cost of a social sciences degree. Moreover funding for most education and research establishments remains parsimonious and the deficit has been bridged by sponsorship from numerous corporate brigands. Many global conglomerates such as BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Chevron and Woodside Petroleum provide support to several tertiary education establishments, which include the University of Queensland Sustainable Minerals Institute, Central Queensland University and the University of Western Australia Business School. The alumni or former students include many renowned philanthropists and the generosity is an ideal mechanism for promoting an avuncular public image whilst simultaneously laundering dirty money. Several notable omissions include Bernie Madoff, Russ Hinze (BFC), Clive Palmer (FC), Tom Domican (FAIHS, ChOHSP), Warren Anderson, Kevin Will Seymour, Graham (Senator for Kneecaps) Richardson and the enigmatic Christopher Dale Flannery.
The power of social sciences, humanities and the arts and complementary studies including poetics, music, dance and drama must never be underestimated. In the United Kingdom, most coal mining communities were represented by a colliery brass band, which established robust social relationships that enhanced community spirit amongst many oppressed miners and their beleaguered families. The resilience was skilfully depicted in Mark Herman’s highly acclaimed movie Brassed Off, which portrayed the social consequences of widespread pit closures throughout northern England following the prolonged and bitter miners’ strike during the 1980s. More recently, Billy Elliot, the fictitious British dance drama features a working class boy with a clandestine passion for ballet in a low provenance household amidst a rugged and masculinist Durham mining community.
Broken Hill in outback New South Wales is an eclectic cultural oasis and it became the first Australian city to be included on the National Heritage List. It has many literary connections and was home to Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, the Brushmen of the Bush artists. Immediate environs include the Living Desert Flora and Fauna Sanctuary, which contains the internationally acclaimed Sculpture Symposium consisting of a dozen large red sandstone sculptures. However, several city thoroughfares have the unenviable distinction of being the most contaminated residential streets in New South Wales and blood lead levels amongst many infants in the local community remains a significant public health issue.
The natural and social sciences dichotomy is hardly a new phenomenon and was raised by the late C. P. Snow during the controversial Rede Lecture entitled The Two Cultures at Cambridge University back in the late 1950s. It lamented the chasm between scientists and literary intellectuals and a subsequent book offered a more detailed critical analysis of the polemic. In 2010, the topic was rekindled by Baroness Onora O’Neill during the Aronui Lecture at Wellington in New Zealand. It continues generating extensive debate, which was recently aggravated by the Australian federal government’s decision to significantly increase fees for an arts degree and reduce costs for natural science related subjects.
The limitations, anomalies and constraints of the scientific method and technology (or more precisely technique), have been critically analysed by several notable academics including Jacques Ellul, Paul Feyerabend, Thomas Kuhn and Neil Postman. Notwithstanding Aldous Huxley’s scorn and infamous aphorism, the current global malaise and beckoning socioeconomic apocalypse cannot be solely attributed to exponential technological development, which includes artificial intelligence, internet use and addiction to social media platforms. Indeed, most of the inherent failings emerge from dominant techniques that require established methods to achieve a desired outcome or conclusion much more efficiently, which is quite a different beast than the technology. Despite the escalating condemnation, social media platforms have revolutionised communication and generated many intrinsic benefits. It often provides a deeper insight into reality and enables some dissidents to explore and anatomise the ruthless behaviour of many corporate predators and our submissive governments. During the Queensland resources boom the Lock the Gate Alliance and several independent journalists often resorted to social media and it allowed a few courageous whistleblowers to expose numerous examples of regulatory capture and corporate malfeasance.
This has generated a sinister paradox and the powerful tyrants at the helm of most social media corporations have responded accordingly. Under a rubric of fake news, artificial intelligence algorithms are used to rapidly refine the dialogue, which enables editors to distinguish the baby from the bathwater much more efficiently and then throw away the baby. This is reminiscent of sensationalist red top rag tabloid journalism or Murdochracy with its embarrassing, tactless and melodramatic slogans. In May 1982, The Sun newspaper published its notorious Gotcha headline following the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano during the Falklands War. Less than a decade later another callous caption entitled The Truth was emblazoned across its front page immediately following the Hillsborough stadium disaster.
In Australia, the commentary and articles covering occupational health and safety across numerous safety blogs and supplementary social media platforms provides ample evidence of the natural and social sciences dichotomy. Most safety blogs or social media platforms naively embrace a positivist perspective using a mechanistic stem paradigm. This places an inordinate emphasis on objectivism and typically propagates blame or fear, which denies fallibility via a relentless pursuit of perfection using absolute ideologies such as zero harm. It often generates a tyranny of bureaucracy with persistent pettifogging and inertia or stasis prevails.
This inordinate positivism eventually entangles the system and its processes with many of the impurities it attempts to resolve. It is a wicked problem and solutions that prove successful with simple linear cause effect relationships inadvertently generate many more toxic derivatives. There can be no absolute prediction of the future and our inherent vulnerability with a propensity for risk and necessity to learn inevitably results in some pain and suffering. Without any residual risk there is no learning or being and the denial of fallibility is a renunciation of wisdom. The prospects are somewhat daunting and often generate escalating psychosocial risks. It is frequently exacerbated by black box psychology and a mechanistic behaviourist ideology with an extremely narrow, militaristic and didactic definition of culture as……The way we do things around here.
The blogs are typically littered with SHEeple STEMspeak, pretentious intellectual cowardice and other meaningless vapid sludge from cohorts of unaccountable safety heroes, crusaders or pseudo-academics who are reluctant to shirtfront authority. A Pecksniffian editor manipulates the discourse to ensure it reflects and aligns with the prevailing ideology and the following aphorism from the late Adlai Stevenson prevails………..Newspaper editors are men who separate the wheat from the chaff and then print the chaff.
The SafetyRisk blog in Australia provides a cultural oasis from the dominant redneck masculinist paradigm of compliance and enforcement that permeates its industrial safety sector. The blog advocates a social psychological worldview that tackles the existential dialectic between the objective and subjective elements of risk. This is accomplished using a transdisciplinary approach that embraces real risk and inspires change via a leading-following dynamic with the establishment of a zone of reciprocal relationship. It repeatedly challenges the orthodoxy and intrepidly speaks the truth to power, which encourages critical thinking and discernment. Indeed, there is no leadership in micromanagement and ethics in governance is only discovered through integrity with risk and the following maxim from Jim Hightower resonates…..The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.
Most people engaged in safety roles, especially throughout the resources sector have become disenchanted with their career development prospects and many sycophants lingering in senior or middle management positions have shredded any skerrick of their remaining integrity. It is often evident via an enigmatic job title, which disguises any explicit link to occupational health and safety. Many other discredited sociopaths, especially in larger corporations and tier one contractors have found a cavity within the organisational structure and reinforce the oppressive regime accordingly.
Redemption or salvation is typically pursued via safety in numbers through membership of an insipid peak safety body supplemented by professional certification and the recurring expenses are claimed accordingly. Despite the recent scandals, even horse and greyhound racing have far more integrity and professional ethics than the alleged occupational health and safety profession, which hides behind a decorous façade of professionalisation and rubric of care and compassion.
The rapid advances in technology or more precisely, the subsequent technique may well be contributing towards the current global malaise. However, incalculable narcissism, escalating inequality and entrenched apathy are not contemporary phenomena and we have been on a dystopian trajectory over many decades, which was scornfully depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
Many of the negative aspects amongst most western democracies include social atomisation, commodification, individualism, solipsism and consumerism. An exponential increase in these undesirable traits over the past few decades has combined with population growth and several other unheeded events such as the great financial crisis, climate change with prolonged drought and devastating bush fires and the coronavirus pandemic.
This has generated a dysfunctional resonance amidst an unsustainable global economy, which is extremely dependent upon infinite growth on a constrained or finite planet and is accelerating the journey towards a socioeconomic Armageddon. It is easy although somewhat naïve to jump aboard the carousel of culpability and disparage the Silicon Valley brigands and the socially autistic geeks within the Friends of O’Reilly cult.
They are no less predatory or rapacious than many of the ruthless insurgents across the resources and other industrial and commercial sectors. These include BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Alcoa, Exxon, British Petroleum, Boeing, Shell and numerous food and beverage manufacturing and pharmaceutical companies. All of their senior executives deify the Chicago school of economics shareholder theory and drink from the McKinsey & Company fountain or embark on Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom at the Mises Institute.
Social media and artificial intelligence are indeed one of the multiple crises we can no longer ignore as chronic catabolic capitalism with its ideology of free market fundamentalism spirals towards the end of its callous crusade. In an era of casino capitalism that worships celebrity status, the accumulation of enormous wealth supplemented by trophy homes and luxury yachts has become the ultimate test of human achievement. Indeed from an economic perspective, a forest is worth far more after it has been logged or a gam of whales has a significantly enhanced financial value if the mammals are hunted and killed…….Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money.
In an era of social media with suprasurveillance, which relentlessly strip-mines are minds, we have become the commodity just like the tree or the whale. If we are texting on a new smartphone or transfixed by Angry Birds on the latest version of an Apple iPad, it provides greater value to the Silicon Valley brigands. This fatally flawed ideology is nothing more than an enormous festering Ponzi scheme, which is underpinned by pyramid selling and aggressive telemarketing. It merely resembles a house of cards built on estuarine mudflats and its fragility has been comprehensively exposed, especially during the recent global coronavirus pandemic.
Following the global financial crisis, the free market advocates admitted their entire intellectual edifice had collapsed and is time for their opponents to fill the vacuum. This requires a fundamental review of the role of government and demands resetting market and state boundaries to establish how a civilised and democratic society must treat its people.
It involves a much more sophisticated, ecoliterate and transdisciplinary approach, which accepts the coexistence of multiple contradictions and realities and explores the existential dialectic between the objective and subjective components of risk. This investigates the profound realities of complex wicked problems and attempts to liberate reason from a positivist domain. It tackles many issues that are beleaguered with paradox or ambiguity and often unfamiliar to the physical or natural sciences and aligns with Bertrand Russell’s maxim that the road to prosperity and happiness lies in an organized diminution of work.
The mask of social media’s kindliness disguises yet another ugly and sociopathic corporate culture and it does not require much critical thinking to envisage the sinister objectives of Apple or Amazon executives. Both of the technology brigands have seized control of the arts via their iTunes and Kindle social media platforms in collaboration with the incumbent government. This determines which books get published and what music gets released and the following clip and abrasive lyrics from a concert featuring Mark Knopfler and Sonny Landreth resonate:
Well they fly past the ghettos and the factories
Ridin’ on the Gravy Train
Leaving all the places that they really ought to brave
Ridin’ on the Gravy Train
Past the coal mines black and scarred
Starter houses in the loading yard
On the Gravy Train, on the Gravy Train